PG Wodehouse was born on this day, 15 October 1881, in Guildford England. I make no apology for mentioning it each year as an occasion to celebrate, because, as his latest biographer Paul Kent puts it:
…his 100 or so books must represent one of the largest-ever bequests to human happiness by one man, at least in literature.
in Pelham Grenville Wodehouse Volume 1: ‘This is jolly old fame’
Five of these gifts to humanity were, like Wodehouse himself, also published on 15 October – in four different decades.
1925 – Sam the Sudden
Published on P.G. Wodehouse’s 44th birthday, this hidden gem is much loved by Wodehouse fans.
For a moment Kay stared speechlessly; then, throwing her head back, she gave out a short, sharp scream of laughter which made a luncher at the next table stab himself in the cheek with an oyster fork. The luncher looked at her reproachfully. So did Sam.
1954 – Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit
Published on Wodehouse’s 73rd birthday, it features a moustached Bertie Wooster, Aunts A and D, Florence Craye, Stilton Cheesewright, Jeeves (of course) and a cast of extras that includes the memorably named Lemuel Gengulphus Trotter.
‘Well, there it is,’ I said, and went into the silence. And as he, too, seemed disinclined for chit-chat, we stood for some moments like a couple of Trappist monks who have run into each other by chance at the dog races.
1961 – Service With A Smile
Published on Wodehouse’s 80th birthday, this was a particularly special gift to humankind – a Blandings novel featuring Uncle Fred.
I suppose if the scruples I’ve overcome in my time were laid end to end, they would reach from London to Glasgow.
1971 – Much Obliged, Jeeves
Published on Wodehouse’s 90th birthday, this was Jeeves and Bertie’s penultimate outing. I’d be sad, if it wasn’t so good.
By what I have always thought an odd coincidence he paused at this point and asked me why I was looking like something the cat brought in, precisely as the aged relative had asked me after my interview with Ma McCorkadale. I don’t know what cats bring into houses, but one assumes that it is something not very jaunty, and apparently, when in the grip of any strong emotion, I resemble their treasure trove.
1973 Bachelors Anonymous
Published on Wodehouse’s 92nd birthday. It’s damned good stuff for a nonagenarian.
…he saw now that Mr Llewellyn was simply one of those lovable characters who readily explode but whose explosions, owing to their hearts being in the right place, are sound and fury signifying nothing. He had met them before, and he knew the type. They huffed and they puffed, but you just sat tight and waited till they blew over. As for throwing porridge at the breakfast table, that was a mere mannerism, easily overlooked by anyone broad-minded. He anticipated a happy association with his future employer.
I like to imagine each of these 15 October publication days added a dash of joy to Wodehouse’s birthday. He deserved it!
Volume 1 of Paul Kent’s new Wodehouse biography is available to order now.