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Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, KBE (15 October 1881 – 14 February 1975)

Rereading books one has enjoyed can be enormous fun. Sadly, due to some sort of residual streak of puritanism, a feeling that one should be getting on with new things, this is not a pleasure I often allow myself.

Fortunately a collection of circumstances last week allowed for a change of perspective. First was the need to read again a novel by Galsworthy, which turned out to be particularly illuminating. Second was a bad attack of flu, convalescence from which required activity that was not too demanding. And finally, there was a decision to bring out a book based on these essays, which endowed preparation for them with the sanctity of productive work. Since I had less to occupy myself with currently than at any time over the last few years, rereading Wodehouse and others of that ilk seemed then positively a virtue.

Wodehouse, I must admit, has not been someone who commanded my devotion, as he does that of others with more distinguished literary credentials than my own. It was Yasmine Gooneratne who first suggested that I include Wodehouse in this series, and she has kindly supplied me with a draft chart of links between the various characters who appear in the Jeeves books.

Jeeves, for those very few who might not have read Wodehouse but are still interested in this series, is the endlessly resourceful manservant of Bertie Wooster, the narrator and principal character of fourteen Wodehouse books. Bertie is a classic upper class twit, who has no ambitions and little intellect, but is full of loyalty to his friends, chivalry towards ladies, and a healthy appetite for good food and much drink. He made his first appearance in 1923 and hardly changed in the fifty years that passed before the last book in which he features, ‘Aunts aren’t Gentlemen’.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

July 2010
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