One of my favourite TV shows is Jeeves and Wooster. Starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, the show was based on the Jeeves stories by P.G. Wodehouse, who is also probably my all-time favourite comic author and whose works I enjoy immensely.
Back when I first began watching the show and was getting into P.G. Wodehouse, many years ago – it actually started with Carry On, Jeeves; the first Wodehouse book I ever read – I discovered The World of Jeeves and Wooster: an album of the music from the show. Seemingly sold as a limited release, it was out of print at the time of my discovery, although the years since have made the songs from the album available online and easier to acquire, including on iTunes. On iTunes the songs are individually priced at $1.29 or $11.99 (Canadian) for the whole album.
If you enjoyed listening to Bertie Wooster singing silly songs such as “Minnie the Moocher” or “Nagasaki” in the show, both of which get a backing band (an additional track, titled “Minnie the Moocher is Alive and Well and Living in Berkley Court” includes Bertie and Jeeves’ amusing call and response, see in the video below) then you might enjoy the songs on this album. You’re in for a treat!
Last year I chanced upon a BBC documentary called Wogan on Wodehouse. Broadcast in 2011, Terry Wogan pieces together P.G. Wodehouse’s life and its parallels in his writings, often brilliantly inspired. Unlike some documentaries that try to uncover supposed hidden truths or darker aspects in an author’s works through their life, the parallels only further illuminate Wodehouse’s brilliance as a wordsmith and his ability in seeing the humour in life.
I believe I was between the ages of thirteen and fourteen when I read my first Wodehouse book, Carry On, Jeeves. Since then, I’ve read more of his books and enjoy them as much as I did upon first reading them, if not more so. After reading any of his stories, I always come away with a feeling that I can only describe as rich and uplifted. How he uses language is invigorating.
Most of the enjoyment that one gets out of reading his writing is his use of simile, alliteration, and witty, sometimes irreverent, allusions and references to Shakespeare and classical studies, usually the Romantic poets, and the Bible. All of which are handled deftly. His writing is such that he is one of those very few writers in which one derives more enjoyment by reading it himself than hearing it read out loud or narrated, as when listening to an audiobook.
This is a book I’ve been waiting to read for months! I put a hold on it at my library when it was still on order, back in September of last year, and finally was able to borrow it yesterday.
It is a treat.
P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters, edited by Sophie Ratcliffe, contains several letters written by Wodehouse to family, friends, and great literary figures from back in the day such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. It isn’t just strictly letters, though, as Sophie Ratcliffe has combined correspondence with biography, thereby providing context and insight. There are also footnotes, providing further context when need be such as social or historical references.
In light of this, I shall leave you, for now, with a quote from the introduction regarding his opinion said biographical context:
Wodehouse is also a writer whose works resist a certain sort of biographical approach. He disliked investigations into his personal life and circumstances, partly because he found them intrusive. […] And he also intimated that biographical context was, to a degree, irrelevant to understanding a work of art. Writing about Shakespeare, he noted that “a thing I can never understand is why all the critics seem to assume that his plays are a reflection of his personal moods and dictated by the circumstances of his private life. You know the sort of thing I mean. They say, “Timon of Athens is a gloomy bit of work. That means Shakespeare was having a lousy time when he wrote it.” I can’t see it. Do you find that your private life affects your work? I don’t.”