P. G. Wodehouse

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What ho, Wodehouse!

Ineffectual gentry, cunning servants, horrendous aunts -- all these were contributed to the Genteel Interbellum Setting by Pelham Grenville Wodehouse ("Plum" to friends -- and the last name is prounounced "Woodhouse," not "Woadhouse") (1881-1975), a prolific writer of light comedies, who was also responsible for many early Broadway musicals.

Beginning his career in the earliest years of the 20th century as a writer of topical verse for the newspapers, he first made a name as an author mainly of boys' school stories. Wodehouse soon moved into the more lucrative field of light romance, and finally, in the late Twenties, settled on the pure comedies he preferred, and which he continued writing up to his last book (published posthumously as Sunset at Blandings). He additionally wrote the book to several long-running Broadway musicals, adapted some others to the stage, and rewrote Cole Porter's Anything Goes.

After Wodehouse had been captured and released again by German forces in France, it was erroneously reported in the UK that he had broadcast enemy propaganda (he actually wrote radio broadcasts that supported the Allies). He was denounced as a traitor, and went into self-imposed exile on Long Island, NY, never to return to his native England, even to receive the knighthood that was granted him by Queen Elizabeth II in 1975. He died the same year at the age of 93.

Wodehouse's stories are generally tangles of zany schemes motivated by frustrated love. For example, say a young Mr. Reggie Worthington wants to be engaged to Betty Harte, but first must (a) disengage himself from Wilhelmina "Billie" Wreckham by pairing her up with Cyril "Bunny" Rabbington-Vole; (b) match Cyril's jealous fiancée, Edith Pilsworth, with Billie's equally green-eyed brother Freddie, who has been trying to keep all men away from his sister, and (c) blackmail Aunt Geraldine into allowing the engagements by holding hostage her prized 17th Century silver MacGuffin. Naturally, Betty, Billie, Cyril, Edith and Freddie all have devised their own zany schemes, each flawlessly assured to land our Reggie example in the soup. Mistaken identities, misinterpretations of events, secrets, blackmail, theft, ludicrous bets, accidental engagements, and, of course, True Love also contribute. A typical Wodehouse novel, as nonsensical and as breezy as it strives to be, is actually very tightly plotted, with many examples of Chekhov's Gun and all its related tropes.

Although Wodehouse penned several overlapping series, among them the "Oldest Member" golf stories, Mr. Mulliner's tall tales, the ongoing adventures of Psmith, and the ever-hopeful scheming of Stanley Ukridge, today he is best remembered for two -- Jeeves and Wooster and Blandings Castle:

Wodehouse's most famous Upper Class Twit, Bertram Wilberforce "Bertie" Wooster, is the character who probably best embodies Wodehouse's gift for language. Bertie expresses himself with a loopy eloquence, giving this series its much-beloved Cloudcuckoolander sense of humor. His Servile Snarker valet (not butler), Reginald Jeeves, is as capable as Bertie is ineffectual. With, apparently, the same effort most people put into buttoning their cuffs, Jeeves rescues Bertie and/or his friends from their entanglements and restores the status quo.

Blandings, meanwhile, a castle which "has impostors the way other places have mice", is the home of the elderly and ineffectual Earl of Emsworth, which is routinely used by his many domineering sisters to imprison nieces or nephews intent on an unsuitable marriage. The would-be fiance has to infiltrate the castle in disguise, often with help from the Earl's ne'er-do-well brother Galahad Threepwood, and capable, sporting butler Sebastian Beach (who actually is a butler), or less often his good friend Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, Earl of Ickenham, who aims always to spread sweetness and light, and persuade Emsworth to overrule his sister.

Wodehouse's books have been the basis for a number of films and television series. The Blandings series has seen Clive Currie and Horace Hodges as Lord Emsworth in movie versions, and Fritz Schultz (in German), Sir Ralph Richardson, and Peter O'Toole on television, although many regard the BBC radio Lord Emsworth, Richard Vernon (who also lent his voice to Slartibartfast), as definitive. Arthur Treacher was well-known as the embodiment of Jeeves in the 1930s, with David Niven (!) taking the part of Bertie Wooster; in the Sixties, Ian Carmichael (also known for playing Lord Peter Wimsey and the BBC radio Galahad Threepwood) as Bertie and Dennis Price as Jeeves. (It is on record that Wodehouse did not care much for any of these adaptations.) Wodehouse himself appeared in the last year of his life to introduce episodes of the well-regarded BBC Wodehouse Playhouse, which brilliantly adapted many of the Mulliner and the Golf stories.

The Jeeves stories were also the basis and inspiration for an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Jeeves, which was released in 1975 and failed so spectacularly both critically and commercially that it's still thought of as Webber's only real flop. However, in 1996 the musical was reworked, rewritten and re-released as By Jeeves, which was far more successful and got generally positive reviews.

Most recently, and perhaps most famously, the Jeeves stories formed the basis of the popular early '90s series Jeeves and Wooster, starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, respectively.

In 2008, a josei manga adaptation of the Jeeves novels, called Please, Jeeves and drawn by Bun Katsuta, began serialization in Hana to Yume's Melody.

Works by P. G. Wodehouse with their own trope pages include:

P. G. Wodehouse provides examples of the following tropes:

Sacksby: Have you ever been to Jerusalem?
Nanny Bruce: No, sir.
Sacksby: Ah. You must tell me about it sometime.

  • Cool Old Guy: The Wodehouseverse has a fair few of 'em. Uncle Fred and the Honourable Galahad are perhaps the best examples, regularly helping their younger acquaintances out of trouble, often with rather impressive Zany Schemes.
    • Don't forget "The Oldest Member". Herewith, his famous counsel to a young golfer:

Oldest Member: Do you love her?
Young Man: Madly.
Oldest Member: And how do you find it affects your game?
Young Man: I've started shanking a bit.
Oldest Member: I am sorry, but not surprised. Either that or missing short putts is what happens on these occasions. I doubt if golfers ought to fall in love. I have known it to cost men ten shots in a medal round.

"... I'm rather sorry we agreed to keep clear of personalities, because I should have liked to say that, if ever they have a skunk-show at Madison Square Garden, you ought to enter -- and win the blue ribbon. Still, of course, under our agreement my lips are sealed, and I can't even hint at it. ..."

  • Crush Blush: In Jill The Reckless.
  • Dances and Balls
  • Damsel in Distress: A Damsel In Distress.
  • The Ditz: The majority of Wodehouse's heroes.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Quite a few of his heroes: see the short stories "The Best Sauce" and "Ruth in Exile" for two good examples.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Many members of the Drones Club go by nicknames, often for excellent reasons.
    • Also, poor Pelham Grenville Wodehouse himself. Rumour has it he refused knighthood for years to keep it a secret. One of his characters, a Mr. Trotter, avoids knighthood for much the same reason -- fear of becoming "Sir Lemuel."
      • W. N. Connor, who publicly denounced Wodehouse at the behest of the Ministry of Information, made a point of sneering at Wodehouse's high-falutin' given names. To his credit, he apologised to Wodehouse after the war; to his credit, Wodehouse forgave him, but insisted on calling him "Walpurgis"("Walp" for short) thereafter. (Connor's actual first name was "William.")
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: In The Head of Kay's it's mentioned in passing that Fenn's name is Robert Mowbray, "the second of which he had spent much of his time in concealing."
  • Evil Matriarch: The horrendous aunts.
  • Expy: Certain character types recurr in novel after novel.
  • External Retcon: Of Tom Brown's Schooldays. In "The Tom Brown Question", Wodehouse puts forward a theory that the second half of the book was rewritten by The Secret Society For Putting Wholesome Literature Within The Reach Of Every Boy And Seeing That He Gets It to conform to contemporary standards of uplifting morality.
  • Extreme Doormat: Ukridge's friend and faithful chronicaller "Corky" Corcoran lets himself be talked into just about anything, although at least as a writer he is able make a bit of money selling the resulting narratives.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Used on several occasions.
  • Food Fight: A frequent occurrence at the Drones Club.
  • The Fool: Many of Wodehouse's protagonists.
  • Framing Device: Wodehouse had several series of short stories that used this, including the Mr. Mulliner series, the Drones Club stories, and most of the golfing stories.
  • A Friend in Need: Many characters help others through their intrigues.
  • Genre Savvy: Reading mysteries in Hot Water.
    • In "Honeysuckle Cottage", a manly-man detective novelist moves into his Romance Novel-writing aunt's cottage as a condition of her will. He gradually realizes, to his horror, that he's becoming the hero of a romance novel, and is powerless to do anything about it despite recognizing all the tropes involved as they come up.
    • In Jill the Reckless, Mrs. Barker recognizes lovers' problems from her reading.
  • Genteel Interbellum Setting: In an 1958 interview (around 2:20) he said that nowadays he's writing "historical novels".
    • However, as Christopher Hitchens and other critics point out, the attitudes and actions of Wooster & Co. are actually reflections of Edwardian comedy and mores (as in the stories of Saki) rather than the post-WWI era. Wodehouse himself addressed the accusation of his works being Edwardian in the (highly entertaining) preface to Joy In The Morning.
    • The novel Ring For Jeeves was released in 1953, and clearly set in the '50s -- World War II is mentioned, and the post-war social change which caused the aristocrats to seek employment is a major plot point.
    • There is also the Bingo Little short story, "Bingo Bans The Bomb." Wodehouse never intended his novels to be read as period pieces, and would update them from time to time, adjusting dates, commodity prices, and so on. The novels only seem Edwardian because Wodehouse himself was -- an Edwardian gentleman who survived well into the late Twentieth century.
    • In Cocktail Time the characters not only discuss their service during World War II, but make it clear that no-one would like to see a World War III.
  • Gold Digger: Claire in Uneasy Money, though played somewhat sympathetically.
  • Grande Dame: Wodehouse (very likely under the inspiration of W.S. Gilbert) may well claim to be the patron saint of this trope, for well over sixty years he devised every variation imaginable, from the lovable Aunt Dahlia to the truly horrible Heloise, Princess von und zu Dwornitzchek (a Rich Bitch who is not even funny). Perhaps the most typical is the formidable Lady Constance (she is, of course, the sister of the many-sistered Lord Emsworth in the "Blandings Castle" saga), but the apotheosis is Bertie's Aunt Agatha, who "chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth."
  • Great White Hunter: Major Brabazon Plank.
  • Hair of Gold: Jill in Jill the Reckless.
  • Happily-Failed Suicide: "A Sea of Troubles".
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Parodied with Rose Maynard in "Honeysuckle Cottage".
  • I Can Change My Beloved: The wrong girl often thinks she can turn her fiance into a cultured man.
  • Idle Rich: The majority of his characters.
  • Impoverished Patrician: In Summer Moonshine, Uneasy Money, and many others -- particularly later works.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Packy in Hot Water. George in A Damsel in Distress. Elizabeth in Uneasy Money.
  • I Will Find You: Maud has to be kept at Belpher Castle to prevent this in A Damsel in Distress.
  • Last Girl Wins: If the focus character or a close friend has been pursuing the same girl across multiple books, it's almost a given he'll run off with the cook in the last installment. Monty Bodkin is a prime example.
  • Licked by the Dog: James Rodman in "Honeysuckle Cottage". Although he greatly dislikes the dog in question, it ends up saving him from a bad engagement and becomes his Canine Companion.
  • Love At First Sight: In almost every story. Usually the likeable male lead falls for a girl and it takes her a while to return his affections.
  • MacGuffin: This is very often a diamond or pearl necklace, though perhaps the most famous is the Seventeenth-Century English (not Modern Dutch!) Silver Cow-Creamer, the attempted theft of which starts off an entire multi-book uproar in Bertie's love life. The Empress of Blandings herself and the French chef Anatole often serve as Living MacGuffins.
  • Meaningful Name: Wodehouse had his own Naming Conventions. Men with simple one or two-syllable first names, such as Bill or Jimmy, are likely to be the hero, especially in his early romances; likewise, heroines will have simple one or two-syllable names like Joan or Betty. Girls with two-syllable masculine sounding names ending in -y or -ie, like Billie or Corky, are likely to be perky, fun-loving, and rather dangerous to their male attachments. Males with two-syllable names ending in -ie, like Freddie or Reggie, are generally silly asses -- and males with nicknames, e.g., Barmy or Bingo, are not to be taken seriously even by the silly asses. Young men with names like serious romantic heroes, such as Desmond or Derek, are often heels, as are men whose names end in -o, like Orlo or Rollo; young women with poetic or pretentious names like Kathrynne or Melusine are usually pills.
  • Meet Cute: Averted surpisingly often when you consider that each book typically has three or four couples. However, it does happen sometimes:
    • Maud ducking into George's cab to hide from her brother in A Damsel in Distress, for example.
    • Barmy accidentally setting Dinty Moore's hat on fire in Barmy in Wonderland.
  • Mistaken for Servant: The Earl of Marshmoreton (A Damsel in Distress), mistaken for the gardener.
  • Mock Millionaire: "Oily" Carlisle, among quite a few other Wodehouse characters, pulls this as a scam.
  • The Munchausen: Mr. Mulliner.
  • My Beloved Smother: Lady Underhill in Jill the Reckless.
  • My Nayme Is: Something of a Running Gag.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Jill in Jill the Reckless. Recklessly, in fact.
  • Noodle Incident: What happened to/with/by Uncle Fred and Pongo "that day at the dog-races".
  • Not with Them for the Money: Uneasy Money.
  • Oblivious to Love: Packy in Hot Water, as soon as his engagement with Beatrice is over and he sees Jane, realizes he has been this.
  • Old Flame Fizzle: In A Damsel In Distress.
  • One Steve Limit: Enforced by the author, to the extent that, if two previously-established characters with the same first name later appear in the same book, he'll change one.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: A regularly-appearing plot development.
  • Passed Over Inheritance: In Uneasy Money.
  • Pink Elephants: Nutty assumes this in Uneasy Money when he sees a monkey, and Elizabeth encourages him.
  • Pity the Kidnapper: "Helping Freddie".
  • Plato Is a Moron: In "The Clicking of Cuthbert," Russian novelist Vladimir Brusiloff opines that no novelists anywhere are any good besides himself, though Tolstoy and P.G. Wodehouse are "not bad."
  • The Pollyanna: Jill and her uncle in Jill the Reckless.
  • Psmith Psyndrome: The Psmith series is the Trope Namer, but it also shows up in the Mr. Mulliner story "A Slice of Life" with a man named ffinch-ffarrowmere.
  • Race For Your Love: Uneasy Money.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Makes adapting Wodehouse's work to TV or film no easy task.
  • Rich Boredom: in Summer Moonshine.
  • The Roaring Twenties
  • Second Love: In Jill The Reckless.
  • Secretly Wealthy: "The Man Upstairs".
  • Shout-Out: In his short story "Honeysuckle Cottage", Wodehouse called his soupy heroine "Rose Maynard" as a tribute to W.S. Gilbert, whose plots he freely admitted to admiring more than Shakespeare's.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Many, and many inversions, though the goodness is often nothing more than being reasonably brave, truthful, kind, and sporty.
  • Smoky Gentlemen's Club: The Drones is one of the archetypical examples.
  • Sophisticated As Hell: A staple of Wodehouse's writing.
  • Springtime for Hitler: In the Mr. Mulliner story Those in Peril on the Tee.
  • Strictly Formula: Wodehouse's plots are very formulaic, but most readers don't mind, due to his highly entertaining style.
  • Talk About the Weather: In Hot Water, one character's timidity is described as he would talk about the weather.
  • Talks Like a Simile: Comedic similes are a staple of his writing.
  • Take That: After Wodehouse had been denounced by the orders of the Minister of Information, Alfred Duff Cooper, he was lambasted in the newspapers by his fellow-author, AA Milne. In The Mating Season, written while Wodehouse was being held by the Germans, Gussie Fink-Nottle on being arrested gives his name as "Duff Cooper"; in the same novel, Bertie Wooster is sickened by the prospect of reading Milne's "Christopher Robin" poems publicly. Wodehouse returned to the attack in "Rodney Has A Relapse", in which reformed vers libre poet Rodney Spelvin writes smarmy poems about his toddler son, "Timothy Bobbin".
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Played with and ultimately averted in Jill the Reckless. Jill's impulsiveness is frowned upon by quite a few characters and even causes her fiancé to break off the engagement. However, it turns out that the fiancé wasn't such a great guy anyway, and Jill's Second Love understands that her recklessness is one of her finest qualities.
  • Trans-Atlantic Equivalent: Wodehouse and S. J. Perelman were frequently compared to each other.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: Uneasy Money.
  • Unprovoked Pervert Payback: "A Sea of Troubles.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Mr. Mulliner.
  • Upper Class Twit: Could be considered the Trope Codifier.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: In Jill the Reckless
  • Weakness Turns Her On: Sometimes used to explain how an Upper Class Twit can still be a Chick Magnet; a man who's sufficiently ditzy and helpless awakens a girl's maternal instinct.
  • What Does She See in Him?: Barker's opinion in Jill The Reckless
  • Wrong Guy First: Many a Wodehouse character has been engaged to the wrong character before the start of the novel.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: What Gally and Uncle Fred usually have to resort to.