Saturday, 15 October 2016

Remembering the Master

PG Wodehouse, c. 1939

Six-score and fifteen years ago, on this date was born the late, great, Pelham Grenville Wode...

Oh wait, hang on a minute. That's not how you get to the start of a tribute to P G Wodehouse, is it?

I mean, you know how it is. You read stuff by other authors, you read “Great War Speeches” by Churchill and it's beaten into your head that Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is the greatest speech ever, and you start to believe that, and...then you read Right Ho, Jeeves, come to the part where Gussie Fink-Nottle (not Fitz-Wattle), gives a speech to the inhabitants of Market Snodsbury, and you wonder. You think. You reflect. And then you scoff. THIS, gentlemen, is the finest speech ever given. If you don't believe me, a mere sample is given below:

"Boys," said Gussie, "I mean ladies and gentlemen and boys, I do not detain you long, but I suppose on this occasion to feel compelled to say a few auspicious words; Ladies—and boys and gentlemen—we have all listened with interest to the remarks of our friend here who forgot to shave this morning—I don't know his name, but then he didn't know mine—Fitz-Wattle, I mean, absolutely absurd—which squares things up a bit—and we are all sorry that the Reverend What-ever-he-was-called should be dying of adenoids, but after all, here today, gone tomorrow, and all flesh is as grass, and what not, but that wasn't what I wanted to say. What I wanted to say was this—and I say it confidently—without fear of contradiction—I say, in short, I am happy to be here on this auspicious occasion and I take much pleasure in kindly awarding the prizes, consisting of the handsome books you see laid out on that table. As Shakespeare says, there are sermons in books, stones in the running brooks, or, rather, the other way about, and there you have it in a nutshell."

Well, the book is available at any online bookstore, including the one linked above. But the point is, the magic of his writing is such, that trying to pay a written tribute to The Plum, will always be rather like trying to paint an appreciation of Van Gogh or compose a paean to Mozart.

It matters not. He was the ultimate Performing Flea, and through his prose – ever perfect, ever elegant, ever the epitome of style – he gave us the most convoluted plots, gentle satires on the aristocracy, and to every reader, their own moment in the gentle sun of Edwardian England, a place where all sorrows abate, and there is only Summer Moonshine, Joy in the Morning and finally, a Sunset at – where else, but Blandings. A world which has inspired some of our finest living writers and performers and who knows how many lingusitically-challenged hacks like me.


So Thank You, maestro. Thank you for the addle-brained Emsworth, the Efficient Baxter, the garrulous Mulliner, the enterprising Ukridge, the batty Basset and the terrifying Aunt Agatha. Oh, and also for Uncle Dynamite and Gally Threepwood, for Mike and Psmith, for the Golf stories and the Cricket stories....and lastly, forever locked in their intellectually mismatched battles, Jeeves and Wooster.

Hugh Laurie as Wooster and Stephen Fry as Jeeves







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