Thursday, 5 June 2014

Joy in the Morning

After the thing was all over, when peril had ceased to loom and happy endings had been distributed in heaping handfuls and we were driving home with our hats on the side of our heads, having shaken the dust of Steeple Bumpleigh from our tyres, I confessed to Jeeves that there had been moments during the recent proceedings when Bertram Wooster, though no weakling, had come very near to despair.

"Within a toucher, Jeeves."

"Unquestionably affairs had developed a certain menacing trend, sir."

And so another classic begins. The books of the inimitable P G Wodehouse sucked me in as soon as I set eyes on them and I've never tired of the great man's strangely near yet impossibly distant world. Impossibly distant socially too, but that doesn't seem to matter either.

Some years ago I picked up a few first editions. I think it was the dust jackets as much as the books, the above pic being an example. That and the faultlessly genial writing. 

"You!" he said, with a kind of gasp, like some strong swimmer on his agony. "What the devil are you doing here?"

"Just sauntering."

"Then go and saunter somewhere else, damn it."

The Woosters are quick to take a hint, and are generally able to spot when our presence is not desired. Reading between the lines, I could see that he was wishing me elsewhere.

Delightful stuff and it never, ever lapses into something less genial. It never stoops to anything bitter, sardonic or tinged with with the corrosive cynicism of experience. As Santayana wrote in another context, it's the intrinsic beauty of all symbols bred in a genial mind.

Wodehouse had his critics of course, but even his response to a critic could be genially devastating. From Wikipedia.

A certain critic—for such men, I regret to say, do exist—made the nasty remark about my last novel that it contained 'all the old Wodehouse characters under different names'. He has probably by now been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the prophet Elijah; but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against Summer Lightning. With my superior intelligence, I have outgeneralled the man this time by putting in all the old Wodehouse characters under the same names. Pretty silly it will make him feel, I rather fancy.


Sackerson said...

We're fans too, of course. Read Psmith?

A K Haart said...

Sackers - yes I've read Psmith. I think I've read all the novels, but over many years so I could probably read them all again.

Demetrius said...

"Wooster" was the old local way of saying "Worcester". Plum spend a lot of time in that area. Elgar, Britten and Rattle too all have local connections. Sir Simon does at times seem like a Tuppy Glossop. In 1881 there was a Bertram Wooster, son of a small farmer, in Buckinghamshire.

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - we like Worcestershire and I can see how it could have influenced him.

James Higham said...

Reading between the lines, I could see that he was wishing me elsewhere.

Know the feeling. ;-)

A K Haart said...

James - in a virtual sense I assume.