February 14, is the death anniversary of PG Wodehouse. His books continue to interest readers and make them smile.

I was nine years old when I first set my eyes on a Wodehouse book. It was an ancient, dog-eared copy of Life at Blandings, gifted to my mother long ago by a school friend.

I was spending a somewhat boring, lazy summer vacation at home, and so I decided to forage the fat stack of books gathering dust in the loft for entertainment. The cover of the book caught my eye: it was a picture of an old, distinguished-looking gentleman on a huge balcony, aiming an air rifle at a gentleman’s rather well-endowed posterior.

Now, that I look back upon the many hours I spent in the world of Penham Grenville Wodehouse, I realise that the picture on that first book I read summarises, quite well, why I found that world so entertaining and fascinating.

Muddling magic

Wodehouse has widely been described and praised as a comic writer of unparalleled literary skill; he builds complicated plots, and his prose can easily be described as sesquipedalian. But for me, the appeal of his novels lies in the childish simplicity of humour in his stories. It is not dark, nor sarcastic; rather, it appeals to the child in everyone, using bizarre characters that get into unfortunate muddles, and the best part is that there is always a happy ending.

His characters could almost be cartoons! To begin with, you have Lord Emsworth, the forgetful ninth earl of Blandings, who loves gardening, and his prize pig, the most honourable Empress of Blandings. This queen among pigs keeps getting kidnapped, and has quite a few adventures of her own. Then, you have Bertie Wooster, the well-meaning gentleman of private means who has an unfortunate tendency to fall in love with all sorts of women. They take advantage of his gullibility to make him play pranks that wind up getting him into trouble, and the only friend who faithfully rushes to his rescue every time is his imperturbable, tactful butler Jeeves. And there are a host of others — Mulliner, Piccadilly Jim, Beach the butler, and the list goes on — each with quirks of their own.

In the words of Evelyn Waugh, “Mr. Wodehouse's idyllic world can never stale.” No matter how old, or how young you are, pick up one of his books and escape into the world where people take revenge by shooting people in their backsides with air-rifles; where the love for golf helps timid men win the hearts of statuesque, Amazonian women; and where men in love end up burning a house down by tossing a cigarette amongst their pile of discarded love-poems.

A sample of Bertie’s mischief is apparent in the story where he is made to creep up to a fellow guest’s room in the middle of the night with a darning needle, tied to a pole, to burst the guest’s hot-water bottle and soak his bed...but ah, you should ask Wodehouse himself to tell you the story sometime.

Brief history

Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse was born on October 15, 1881. He is known for his books that showcase the quintessential British humour. His novels, short stories and plays are still popular with the avid reader. Wodehouse wrote during pre and post World War I and his books featured people from the English upper class society, reflecting his birth and education.

Wodehouse has been acknowledged as a master of prose and has been admired by authors including Evelyn Waugh, Rudyard Kipling, Stephen Fry and J.K. Rowling. He is best known for his character Bertie Wooster and his butler Jeeves and of course Blandings Castle.

He died on February 14, 1975.

P.G. Wodehouse is one of the most well-known writers in the genre of humour. His prose writing and characterisation of protagonists such as the idle, rich gentleman Bertie Wooster and his valet scampering about to pull him out of difficult situations make his books easy and enjoyable to read for people across all age groups. His writings were published over seven decades of his life. Pick up his book — this is the right time to start…

Keywords: PG Wodehouse