It couldn't be done. Damn it all, a feller had his code. "Meh nee pan kong bahn rotfai" about summed it up.
Ring for Jeeves, ch 1
P G Wodehouse is widely regarded as the master of the English comic novel. Many writers — among them, Evelyn Waugh, George Orwell, Hilaire Belloc, V S Pritchett, Tom Sharpe, Douglas Adams and Joe Keenan — have rated him as one of the finest English prose writers of the twentieth century.
I’ve been an admirer of Wodehouse’s work for over 30 years and in these pages I hope to share some of my enthusiasm for his work.
Wodehouse’s stories can be enjoyed just as they are, and many fans prefer it that way. But one of the characteristics of Wodehouse’s style is the way in which he uses quotations — from the Bible, Shakespeare, the English classics, popular fiction, even from popular songs of his day — often mangling them in a manner that is uniquely his own. Only those who can recognise the very many allusions and quotations with which his work is packed can fully appreciate his comic talent.
For the modern reader, this presents a problem. Even readers who have had an English education are unlikely to share his cultural background. And for Wodehouse’s many admirers in other countries, the difficulties must be even greater. This is a pity, because it means much of his humour passes unnoticed. With this in mind, a few years ago, some members of the Blandings group began a project to annotate the books, our aim being to identify and trace the sources of the many quotations and to explain some of the historical and other references; to date, about 20 books have been annotated.
While much of this work is only accessible to members of the Blandings group, I have created this site to give wider circulation to the annotations for which I have been responsible. I also plan to broaden the scope of my work to include plot synopses, lists of characters, and profiles of the major characters.
If you want information about a particular book written by Wodehouse, follow the link to Books, which is a summary bibliography of all Wodehouse’s books. From here you can:
- click on the name of the book to go to pages giving a synopsis of the plot, a list of characters, detailed annotations, etc. [This information is, as yet, only available for a few books]; or
- click on the number of the book to go to a detailed bibliography which lists such details as the contents (for short story collections), earlier magazine printings, and where (if at all) the book fits into one of the main ’sagas’.
- If you are interested in books about Wodehouse (biographies, literary criticism, reference books), I have compiled an annotated bibliography, based on my own fairly comprehensive collection.
- For profiles of major Wodehouse characters, start at the Characters page. So far, there are very few entries here. One day . . .
There are also a few pages of general information:
- For the newcomer to Wodehouse, I have written a brief biography: established fans will probably find nothing new here.
- For those who want to understand Wodehouse’s golf stories, there is a glossary of the golfing terms that appear in the stories. Wodehouse wrote most of his golf stories in the 1920s, since when the game, and particularly its jargon, has changed greatly.
- A Google search for "P G Wodehouse" yields over 600,000 results, the vast majority linking to sites that want to sell you something. Most of the rest are unreliable or worthless. Those that I consider useful additions to cyberspace are on my Links page.
In 1903, Wodehouse contributed 19 poems to a series which is collectively known as “The Parrot”. The full text of all 48 poems has been available for some time at Madame Eulalie’s Rare Plums, a site which all Wodehouse fans should have among their bookmarks. Not realising what I was letting myself in for, I agreed to provide annotations for these poems, which, as satires on political events of their day, contain many cryptic references to personalities and events that have long since been consigned to the history books.
As my annotations progressed, the project rapidly took on a life of its own, and when it reached the stage that the poems were no longer the primary focus I decided the best place for most of the material would be in a separate section here. A condensed version of the annotations is available at Madame Eulalie, where they will, I hope, add to readers’ enjoyment of the poems without taking too much attention from the texts. The annotations here are much more extensive and include, for example, copious extracts from the speeches and press reports that are alluded to in the poems.
In addition, I have provided far more background information than would have been appropriate at Madame Eulalie’s Rare Plums, together with a great deal of related material—newspaper cartoons, press reports, and other parodies of the same political events. The new section can be found by clicking on the parrot in the sidebar menu.
Keeping up to date
I’d love to be able to work on this site full-time, but the real world keeps calling! For those who wish to stay abreast of the intermittent changes and additions, there’s a What’s New page; alternatively, if you use an RSS aggregator, you can subscribe to my webfeed.