In the 36 years since Wodehouse died, there has been a steady stream of books about him or his works, a stream that shows no sign of drying up. In this bibliography, I've listed all the works that I'm aware of, and, for those that I own or have read, my assessment of their usefulness. The edition cited is usually the one I have: there may be an earlier (or later) edition in some cases.
For ease of reference, I've divided this page into four sections — biographies; literary criticism; reference works; and miscellaneous — though there's some overlap between them (for example, Benny Green's book is described as "A literary biography" and though I list it under "Biographies", it could as easily have been included under "Literary Criticism").
Connolly, Joseph, P G Wodehouse: An Illustrated Biography
Orbis, London, 1979
With lots of illustrations, but not much detail, this is useful only for those who have neither the time nor the inclination to read a full biography.
Davis, Lee, Bolton and Wodehouse and Kern
James H Heineman, Inc, New York, 1993
A fascinating account of the collaboration of the "trio of musical fame", or, as the book's sub-title describes them, "The Men Who Made Musical Comedy". Although Davis does give an account of the lives of all three men from birth to death, the bulk of his book deals with the period between the two wars and is the most detailed account of an aspect of Wodehouse's career that is still surprisingly under-rated.
Day, Barry, P G Wodehouse: In His Own Words
Hutchinson, London, 2002
I borrowed this one from the library, not considering it worth buying. Although presented as being Wodehouse's life told in his own words, it's really nothing of the sort, being no more than a collection of quotations from his writings, loosely strung together in chronological sequence and interspersed with brief (in some instances, very brief!) biographical comments.
Donaldson, Frances, P G Wodehouse: The Authorized Biography
Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London, 1982
Lady Donaldson was a friend of Wodehouse's adopted daughter, Leonora, and acknowledges assistance given to her by Leonora's son, Edward Cazalet. This, presumably, accounts for the epithet "Authorized" in the sub-title, a description that has, for some reason, been dropped from later editions. Like many "authorized" biographies, the book lacks impartiality but, coming as it did, when Wodehouse's reputation was still very much under a cloud as a result of the Berlin broadcasts, it helped to redress the balance. The author confesses to never having been a fan of Wodehouse's work, and, though she claims to have read all his books and much else besides in preparing the biography, many so-called fans take her admission as a reason for denigrating the book. This is, in my opinion, unjust: though now superseded by other biographies, this was, for a long time, the best available, and is still worth reading, if only for the 35-page Introduction, which provides interesting insights into Wodehouse's humour that could, perhaps, only have been written by someone who was not a fan.
Hichens, Mark, The Inimitable P G Wodehouse: The Story of His Life and a Treasury of His Wit
Book Guild Publishing, Sussex, 2009
I don't have this one and, if I rely on the reviews that I've read I shan't be buying it: "cursory", "superficial" and "high density of errors" are not exactly recommendations!
More recent biographies cover Wodehouse's life in more detail, and correct some of the inaccuracies in earlier works (Donaldson, for example, seems to have overlooked one of Ethel Wodehouse's two earlier marriages!) but none connects the life with the works (theatrical and well as literary) quite so well as Green's. One can quibble with some of the details and disagree with some of his conclusions, but he's never less than interesting.
Jasen, David, P G Wodehouse: A Portrait of a Master
Garnstone Press, London, 1975
David Jasen knew Wodehouse and his wife and this, paradoxically, was both a strength and a weakness when it came to writing the first full-length biography; a strength because, alone among the major Wodehouse biographers, Jasen could draw on personal knowledge of his subject's later years; a weakness because he was inclined to believe everything Wodehouse told him! Jasen is particularly strong on Wodehouse's Broadway years and his appendices contain a lot of useful information, but he's weak on the British side of Wodehouse's life.
McCrum, Robert, Wodehouse: A Life
Viking, London, 2004
The latest biography, and, to judge by the media hype surrounding its publication, destined to become the standard by which others are judged, though I still prefer Phelps's book. Each author has a pet thesis, but while Phelps marshals facts to support his case, McCrum relies far too much (for my taste) on unproven (and unprovable!) psychological speculations, both about the effect of Wodehouse's childhood on his character and in support of his thesis that Wodehouse's life from 1945 to his death 30 years later was blighted by the consequences of the Berlin broadcasts. Sadly, any merits in the writing are overshadowed by shoddy production: the paper is very poor quality and my hardback copy is so badly bound that the pages threaten to part company with the spine each time I open it (which, in consequence, is not very often!).
In my opinion, the most readable and entertaining biography. Phelps makes a very plausible case that Wodehouse was, by nature, a gregarious and sociable person and that the remote, aloof persona that he cultivated in later life was a way of dealing with the criticisms levelled against him for his Berlin broadcasts.
Ring, Tony, You Simply Hit Them with an Axe
Porpoise Books, Maidenhead, 1995
I don't have this one, which is an account, by a tax specialist, of Wodehouse's difficulties with the taxman.
Sproat, Iain, Wodehouse at War
Milner and Co Ltd, London, 1981
Not a full-blown biography, but a very detailed examination of the circumstances surrounding the Berlin broadcasts by a Conservative MP who had attempted to get Prime Minister Edward Heath to award Wodehouse a knighthood. The book includes official transcripts of the broadcasts by the German Foreign Office.
Wind, Herbert Warren, The World of P G Wodehouse
Hutchinson & Co Ltd, London, 1981
A brief profile based on an article that the author had written for The New Yorker Magazine in 1971 and which was, in turn, based on a series of interviews that Wind had conducted at Wodehouse's home on Long Island.
Easdale, Roderick, The Novel Life of P G Wodehouse
Cyhoeddwyr y Superscript Ltd, Newtown, Wales, 2004
A slender literary biography, interesting as an overview but comprehensive neither as a biography nor as a work of criticism.
Edwards, Owen Dudley, P G Wodehouse: A Critical and Historical Essay
Martin Brian & O'Keefe, London, 1977
Edwards wrote in his preface: "This book attempts to explore some of the ways in which historians should turn to Wodehouse to learn about the past. . . I am not by profession a critic, but a historian has to look at his evidence with some of the tools of the literary critic . . ." I'm not at all convinced that he achieves his stated aim, but he does make some interesting points, especially about racial attitudes in Wodehouse and about the manner in which Wodehouse often revised his material: in a fascinating Appendix, Edwards examines in detail the penultimate chapter of Leave it to Psmith, as it appeared in a magazine serialisation and later in book form.
French, R B D, P G Wodehouse
Oliver and Boyd Ltd, Edinburgh and London, 1966
This slender study (only 120 pages) appeared in a "Writers and Critics" series and is notable only because it was one of the first full-length studies of Wodehouse by a literary academic.
Hall, Robert A, Jr The Comic Style of P G Wodehouse
Archon Books, Hamden, Connecticut, 1974
An academic's attempt to answer the question "why is he so funny?". Those who think humour is ruined by being analysed will wish to avoid this surprisingly readable book; others may find, as I did, that it enhances their appreciation of a master craftsman.
Maha Nand Sharma Wodehouse the Fictionist
Prakashan, New Delhi, 1980
A fascinating work by an Indian academic who examines the structure of the novels, the chronology of the main sagas, and the connections between them, as well considering Wodehouse's humour from the separate perspectives of western and Indian aesthetic traditions.
Thompson, Kristin Wooster Proposes, Jeeves Disposes
James H Heineman, Inc, New York, 1992
A detailed examination of the literary tradition in which the Jeeves and Wooster stories developed and the manner in which the characters evolved during Wodehouse's literary career.
A revised and updated version of a book first published in 1961, as Wodehouse at Work, this is not an exercise in academic literary criticism, so much as an evaluation, with copious quotations, of Wodehouse's major characters. As such, it's by far the best non-technical overview of Wodehouse's works (but see below).
Usborne, Richard, A Wodehouse Companion
Elm Tree Books, London, 1981
I don't have this one: see the next entry.
If Usborne deserved criticism it was for his Wodehousean habit of recycling the same material under different titles. Well over half of this book is reprinted from Wodehouse at Work to the End and the remainder is, as I understand, reprinted from A Wodehouse Companion. But the opportunity to have all the material between one set of covers makes this an invaluable book.
Usborne, Richard, After Hours With P G Wodehouse
Hutchinson, London, 1991
A somewhat eclectic collection of essays on Wodehousean themes.
Voorhees, Richard J, P G Wodehouse
Twayne Publishers Inc, New York, 1966
Issued in Twayne's English Authors Series, this book appeared in the same year as French's study. Of the two, Voorhees is, I feel, the more perceptive critic, though both he and French fall into the trap of accepting Wodehouse at face value.
A long-awaited publication that finally brings together all of Wodehouse's contributions to the musical theatre.
Garrison, Daniel H, Who's Who in Wodehouse
2nd (revised) edition, International Polygonics Ltd, New York, 1989
A truly indispensible reference tool for those who wish to know whether the Colonel Wyvern who appears in Ring for Jeeves is the same character as the Colonel Wyvern who had appeared 25 years earlier in Money for Nothing (he isn't), or who have forgotten Jeeves's first name (Reginald). There are some annoying omissions, however: for example, we are not told that Millie Ukridge, who is the wife of Ukridge in Love Among the Chickens, is the same character as Millie Lakenheath, whom Ukridge courts in the short story "Ukridge Rounds a Nasty Corner".
Guides to the two main Wodehouse sagas, consisting of dictionary-style entries or short essays on characters and incidents from the stories. Only those who are already familiar with the stories will be able to discern when the compiler is serious (rarely) and when he is being facetious. The facetious style is best illustrated by a thread that runs through one of the books, from "Awash: see blotto" to "Woozled: see awash".
Jasen, David, The Theatre of P G Wodehouse
Batsford, London, 1979
This slim volume collects together illustrations and programme notes for all the theatrical productions with which Wodehouse was involved; it is a useful companion to Day's book.
Jasen provides, for each book, publication details for the first editions in UK and US, a brief note of any textual differences between UK and US editions, and lists of characters and significant places in each book or story. Of very little interest except to the true devotee, for such it's an indispensible reference work.
The title does not lie. At just under 500 pages, this is as comprehensive a bibliography as we are ever likely to see. And yet, for reasons explained elsewhere, even this monumental work of scholarship is incomplete and contains the occasional error. It is, nonetheless, indispensable for collectors and scholars, but, with secondhand copies fetching several hundred dollars, is likely to remain beyond the reach of the average Wodehouse fan.
In July 2001, Tony Ring, on behalf of The International Wodehouse Association, published An Addendum to McIlvaine, which runs to 52 pages; although a lot of the information concerns material that post-dates McIlvaine, it also includes a number of corrections / additions to the original, though it lacks the depth of detail that characterises McIlvaine's work.
Wodehouse fan and scholar Arthur Robinson has performed an invaluable service by setting up a web page, "Errata in McIlvaine, section D", in which he lists amendments / corrections that have come to light even since Tony Ring's Addendum.
This is an affectionate, if slightly tongue-in-cheek, attempt to answer such puzzles as Bertie Wooster's age, what college he attended at Oxford, and the location of Market Blandings. Morris also discusses the chronology of the Blandings saga and the Threepwood family tree, as well as a number of more trivial matters, drawing his evidence and conclusions from the books and short stories.
Penguin described the book on the front cover as "Who's Really Who and What's Really Where—The Facts Behind the Wodehouse Fiction", which makes it seem like a ghastly tabloid exposé. In fact, it's an interesting account, occasionally conjectural, of the links between places and characters in the books and places and people that Wodehouse knew. But while Lt-Col Murphy offers some plausible suggestions as to the real-life model for Blandings Castle, and is able to show that many of the Blandings characters are named after places in Hampshire and Norfolk that Wodehouse knew, the one name for which he is unable to identify a source is Blandings itself.
The Handbook, sub-titled "The World and Words of P G Wodehouse", consists of two weighty volumes. In the first (The World of Wodehouse), Murphy expands the scope of his earlier In Search of Blandings to cover the world in which Wodehouse lived and the way in which he used his experiences in his books. In the second volume (The Words of Wodehouse), to quote the publishing blurb, "Norman Murphy explains the many references to people, places and events that were appreciated by contemporary readers but are often mystifying today". In other words, it is a book of annotations, much like the ones on this site. But while I only cover a handful of books, Murphy's researches encompass the entire canon. Which is not to say that my site is superfluous (well, what else would I say!). In the first place, my annotations range more widely: for example, the Handbook does not cover cricket or golf terminology which are, for many readers, just as baffling as references to Cassandra or Pliny the Elder. And, because space is not a limitation, my annotations can be more discursive and detailed than those in the Handbook. Also, where the text is in the public domain, I am able to hyperlink my annotations to the text, something that is not possible within the pages of a printed book. And, finally, some of Murphy's explanations are questionable or, as in the case of the frequently-recurring phrase "give it the miss in baulk", just plain wrong.
Norman Murphy has been conducting "Wodehouse Walks" in London since the 1980s. Now he has produced this little guide to cover three areas of London with which Wodehouse and his characters are associated: Bertie Wooster's West End; the London of Gally Threepwood and Stanley Ukridge; and Valley Fields (aka Dulwich). If you are unable to accompany Col Murphy on one of his walks, this is the next best thing.
Vol 1 - Wodehouse in the Clubhouse
Vol 2 - Wodehouse at the Anglers' Rest
Vol 3 - Wodehouse Goes to School
Vol 4 - Wodehouse Among the Chickens
Vol 5 - Wodehouse at Blandings Castle
Vol 6 - Wodehouse in Woostershire
Vol 7 - Wodehouse with Old Friends
Vol 8 - Wodehouse with New Friends
Not a concordance in the usual sense, these volumes are a revised, expanded version of the work of Geoffrey Jaggard (who is credited, posthumously, as co-author). The style and layout are essentially as in Jaggard's volumes and the same criticism applies, with the addition that the price will deter all but the hardened collector. Wodehouse Goes to School includes two essays by Dr Jan Piggott, former Keeper of Archives at Dulwich College, on "Wodehouse and Dulwich College" and "Writing from Experience": the former is invaluable for the wealth of detail it contains about Wodehouse's time at Dulwich; the latter would have benefited from the heavy hand of an editor. Perhaps the most useful feature in each book is the preface, in which Tony Ring, whose Wodehouse collection is probably unrivalled, provides a wealth of bibliographic detail.
Subtitled "Screenwriting, Satires and Adaptations", this is as comprehensive an account of Wodehouse's association with Hollywood as one could wish for. It includes a detailed list of Wodehouse's stories and articles about Hollywood, and a complete filmography of motion picture and television works to which he contributed or which were based on his stories.
Cazalet-Keir, Thelma, (ed) Homage to P G Wodehouse: A Critical and Historical Essay
Barrie & Jenkins Ltd, London, 1973
Published to mark Wodehouse's 90th birthday, this is a collection of contributions from a dozen Wodehouse admirers, among them golf commentator Henry Longhurst, poet Sir John Betjeman, broadcaster and essayist Malcolm Muggeridge, novelist Sir Compton Mackenzie, and essayist and journalist Auberon Waugh.
Gould, Charles E, Jr What's in Wodehouse?
James H Heineman, Inc, New York, 1992
A collection of quizzes and puzzles about Wodehouse's works and characters.