P. G. Wodehouse was born on October 15, 1881, in Hong Kong, where his father was stationed as a member of the British civil service. He was sent to England along with his older brothers for his schooling in 1884. He attended Elizabeth College and Malvern House, a naval preparatory school. At the age of 12, he began his most important educational experience at Dulwich College. His six years at Dulwich were a major influence on his life and work. His first payment for writing came during his last year there when one of his essays was published in the Public School Magazine.
Wodehouse knew early that he wanted to be a writer, but his father did not believe that writing was a sensible occupation. He was forced to become a bank clerk at the London branch of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. However, he wrote during the evening and sold 80 stories and articles while he worked at the bank. Ultimately, he quit working there and became a journalist for The Globe in 1903, first writing and then editing the ‘‘By the Way’’ column. In 1904, he made the first of frequent visits to the United States and immediately fell in love with American culture. On one of his visits, he met the widow who would become his wife, Ethel Newton Rowley. They were married on September 30, 1914.
Wodehouse began writing lyrics for the musical stage in 1904. In1906, his first collaboration with Jerome Kern, The Beauty of Bath, was produced for...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Pelham Grenville Wodehouse was born in Guildford, Surrey, on October 15, 1881, the third of four sons born to Henry Ernest and Eleanor Deane Wodehouse. Wodehouse’s father was a member of the English civil service and spent most of his working years in Hong Kong; indeed, it was a mere chance that Wodehouse was not born in Hong Kong. Whether it was miscalculation or the event was premature, his birth occurred during one of his mother’s rare and rather brief visits to England.
Wodehouse was reared away from his parents; they were, he often remarked, like distant aunts and uncles rather than parents. Wodehouse entered Dulwich College at the age of twelve and remained there for the next six years. The school was not prominent in the sense that Harrow and Eton were prominent; it was simply a good middle-class school. The headmaster was the most impressive figure, and he may have served as the model for Wooster’s nemesis, the Reverend Aubrey Upjohn. The headmaster was not impressed with his student; he once wrote to Wodehouse’s parents: “He has the most distorted ideas about wit and humour.One is obliged to like him in spite of his vagaries.” The vagaries, apart from the student’s drawing stick figures in his classical texts, are unrecorded. In those final years at Dulwich, Wodehouse found his vocation. He was appointed editor of the school paper and sold his first story to a boys’ weekly, The Public School Magazine. The story won first...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (WOOD-hows) was born October 15, 1881, in Guildford, Surrey, England, the third of four sons of Henry Ernest and Eleanor Deane Wodehouse. His father spent his career in the Hong Kong civil service, rising to a judgeship. Wodehouse lived only one year in Hong Kong, spending the remainder of his childhood in England with friends and relatives, when not in school. This upbringing accounts for the inordinately large number of aunts and uncles in his fiction.
Wodehouse, known lifelong to his friends as “Plum,” followed his brother Armine to school at Dulwich and distinguished himself in Latin and Greek composition, football, and cricket and by writing comic verses for the school magazine, of which he was editor. Wodehouse’s school days were perhaps his happiest, the camaraderie of school being celebrated often in his fiction, where “old boys” never let each other down. Seven of his first dozen books are school novels inspired by his Dulwich experiences, most notably Mike: A Public School Story (1909; also known as Enter Psmith, Mike at Wrykyn, and Mike and Psmith), which examines the disadvantages of joining an older brother at school. More important, at Dulwich Wodehouse discovered writers, such as Charles Dickens, W. S. Gilbert, Rudyard Kipling, and Arthur Conan Doyle, who profoundly...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
While the books that P. G. Wodehouse produced over his last decade do not match the earlier ones in vitality, his fiction was amazingly consistent in quality over much of his uniquely long career. Working so many variations on the same types of characters and situations is truly a remarkable achievement. Even if such an England as he presents never existed, Wodehouse convinces his readers that it should have. His is the sublimest of escapist literature.
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (WOOD-hows) is a name that conjures up the most lighthearted and sunniest of comic worlds described by a master stylist of the English language. Born on October 15, 1881, in Guildford, England, he was the third son of a British civil servant serving in Hong Kong. To give their children an English education, his parents sent them to England; there they attended various boarding schools and visited relatives during the summer holidays. Wodehouse’s upbringing explains the relative scarcity of parental figures and the corresponding preponderance of aunts in his most popular works, especially in those featuring Bertie Wooster and Jeeves. Bertie is firmly ruled by the strength of will of his female relatives, whether as likable as Aunt Dahlia or as terrifying as Aunt Agatha—both characters based on Wodehouse’s own aunts, undoubtedly an affectionate tribute to these important figures from his childhood.
Wodehouse, who early acquired the lifelong nickname “Plum,” claimed that he started writing stories when he was five years old. His father, however, wanted his son to have a more secure future and obtained a position for Wodehouse as a clerk in the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. To please his father, Wodehouse remained with the bank for two years, all the while writing short pieces for magazines. Then he landed a much more...
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Before World War II Wodehouse made a fortune—largely in the United States—from genial stories about English upper- class dimwits, and from his writing for Broadway and Hollywood. In 1940 he happened to be living in France when it was occupied by the German army and was captured and interned as an enemy alien. After a campaign to release him was mounted in America, he was removed to a hotel in Berlin, Germany, where he naïvely agreed to make a series of broadcasts to America over German radio.
Wodehouse’s talks consisted of light-hearted descriptions of life in internment camps, but the mere fact of his consenting to broadcast under German auspices made him a traitor in British eyes. He was widely denounced in the British media, but a number of supporters also spoke out in his defense. The most prominent—and perhaps the most improbable—of these was the left-wing social critic and novelist George Orwell, who published an essay defending Wodehouse as a politically innocent dupe guilty of nothing worse than poor judgment.
After Germans released Wodehouse, he went to Paris. When France was liberated by the Allies, orders were issued to arrest him and return him to Britain for trial. He instead went to the United States, where he became an American citizen. He remained there for the...
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