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Wodehouse, P(elham) G(renville)

goof stories short jerome

(British, 1881–1975)

Wodehouse is the greatest English comic writer of the twentieth century. Starting with The Pothunters in 1902, he wrote more than ninety novels and collections of short stories, as well as journalism, plays, and musicals. All his work shows an exuberant capacity for humorous invention, and a brilliant command of language—fans enjoy swapping examples of Wodehouse's funniest similes. A genial man, whose work was designed to do no more than bring amusement and delight, Wodehouse is an unlikely figure of controversy: but, as a result of being interned by the Germans during the Second World War and injudiciously making broadcasts for them, he was unable to return to Britain thereafter, and spent the remainder of his life in America. Political naïvety is the most likely explanation for his behaviour—the appeal of his work lies in a blithe sunniness. Certainly, no one who has read The Code of the Woosters (1938), which has great fun at the expense of a character based on the British fascist Oswald Mosley, could suspect Wodehouse of having been sympathetic to Hitler's regime.

Wodehouse's most popular works are those featuring Bertie Wooster, an amiable goof, and his preternaturally able butler Jeeves. Delightful, too, are the stories—among them Summer Lightning (1929)—set at Blandings Castle, the proprietor of which, Lord Emsworth, is besotted with his prize pig; and The Clicking of Cuthbert (1922) and The Heart of a Goof (1926), short stories reflecting Wodehouse's love of golf.

Jerome K. Jerome, Stella Gibbons, George Grossmith. See HUMOUR  NC

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