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 prize for fiction in that year.
Following graduation in 1900, Wodehouse went to work for the London branch of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. His work there was not a complete disaster for the banking industry, but very nearly so. Wodehouse was no good at checks and balances and served only as an unpleasant distraction for those who were. At night, he continued to...
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