Without any shade of doubt, for me, Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse was the best writer in the English language. Evelyn Waugh called him, “The Master” and we, his fans from all over the world, rejoice in his writings nearly 40 years after he, to use a phrase he was fond of, “handed in his dinner pail.”I was looking for some trivia about Plum as Wodehouse was affectionately known and came across this article in the Canberra Times which said he used his second-hand Monarch typewriter for all of 26 years till 1935! Considering the amount of writing ( or should that be typing?) he did, you can imagine the battering that machine stood up to. Today’s world is full of endorsements. Celebrities endorse one product or another. It would be amusing to see Plum speak of his good old Monarch. Would he have said, “I just sit at the type writer and curse a bit” as he did when asked how he wrote so much.
Wodehouse was, by any standards, an immensely prolific writer. Consider the fact that for some 70 years he lived from his substantial earnings from his writing. Over time, he published 70 novels, 20 plays and hundreds of short stories and lyrics. His popularity as a writer, nearly 40 years after his death continues to grow, especially in India, if not so much as in the UK where he spent his early years and the US where he lived for most of his life.
“P G Wodehouse, A Life In Letters” edited by Sophie Ratcliffe gives us insights to his life, more elaborately than before as they are based on his correspondence with friends, family and others associated with his trade. Her Majesty The Queen Mother ( consort of King George VI) was a big fan of Wodehouse. She presented her daughter Elizabeth ( the current reigning Queen Elizabeth II) in 1941 when she was 15 with a collection of 18 books she felt she must read, all by Wodehouse.
His wit comes through in his letters just as much as they d in his books. Once some one from Denmark sent him a parcel and he wrote to a friend, “Also a Dane (unknown to me) has sent us an enormous parcel, the only trouble being that all the contents are labeled in Danish, so we don’t know what they are. There are three large tins which I hold contain bacon, but Ethel, who is in a pessimistic mood today owing to a bad night, says that they are stuff for cleaning floors. But surely even the most erratic Dane wouldn’t send us stuff for cleaning floors.”