Faulks Wodehouse or faux pas?

Carry On, Jeeves? No way, not when the Master is dead.

The devotees are crying blue murder, aghast at the forthcoming tale about Wooster and Jeeves not written by PG Wodehouse himself .

They are astounded by the audacity of Sebastian Faulks, who is adding a sequel to the canon of the late, great Wodehouse.  The New Statesman summed up the outrage bluntly. “The hubris of Sebastian Faulks: trying to imitate the inimitable PG Wodehouse,” harrumphed the headline.


Cuppa and other words first used by P.G. Wodehouse

P.G. Wodehouse
P.G. Wodehouse

When you think of P.G. Wodehouse, you think of pigs, aunts, potty earls and dapper younger brothers, unflappable omniscient butlers, goofy young men and irresistible young women – and a language that’s absolutely unique, peppered with words and phrases as funny  and bizarre as the situations the characters get into. Wodehouse uses words and expressions such as “oojah-cum-spiff’, “rannygazoo”  and “twenty-minute egg”.  Colourful, outlandish, memorable.

But did you know he was the first writer known to have used  the word “cuppa” ? It’s such a common word. Yet, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the first evidence of the word comes from him.  The OED has 1,756 quotations from Wodehouse.  Here are the 22 words which, according to the OED, first appeared in the writings of Wodehouse.  Here are the words, in alphabetical order, followed by the quotations from Wodehouse. The entries are all from the OED.

  • Billiken: A small, squat, smiling figure used as a mascot.
    1914   P. G. Wodehouse Man Upstairs 257   When you send a girl three bouquets, a bracelet, and a gold Billiken with ruby eyes, you do not expect an entire absence of recognition
  • Crispish: Somewhat crisp.
    1930   P. G. Wodehouse Very Good, Jeeves vi. 142   When not pleased Aunt Dahlia, having spent most of her youth in the hunting-field, has a crispish way of expressing herself.

PG Wodehouse and the Garden of Eden

Wodehouse_aug172009 Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong invoked the Garden of Eden while talking about the racial and religious harmony that exists in Singapore. (See previous post.)

I love Singapore but never thought of it in those terms. For what is the Garden of Eden but a paradise lost? I am sorry I can't help being literal-minded.

But there is another reason why I can't think of Singapore as a Garden of Eden. For there is one Garden of Eden I know, into which I can easily escape every time I pick up a book by PG Wodehouse.

Evelyn Waugh compared his wonderfully comic, romantic Blandings sagas to the Garden of Eden.

"For Mr. Wodehouse there has been no fall of Man, no 'aboriginal calamity,' " Waugh wrote. "His characters have never tasted the forbidden fruit. They are still in Eden. The gardens of Blandings Castle are that original garden from which we are all exiled."

Waugh was right. Every time I pick up a Wodehouse novel, I forget all my cares – and laugh and laugh and laugh. The silly japes, the schoolboy pranks and Wodehouse's breezy, inimitable language are a pure delight.

Unfortunately, I could not find any of the Blandings stories available online for free, but there is one Jeeves novel and several other Wodehouse stories available here and on Project Gutenberg which should have anyone rolling with laughter. Just read Chapter 17 of Right Ho, Jeeeves, where a thoroughly plastered Gussie Fink-Nottle, one of Bertie's friends, officiates at the prize-giving ceremony at the Market Snodsbury grammar school. 

Granted it's not the Eden described in the Book of Genesis or Milton's Paradise Lost, Book 4. Everyone dresses for dinner, no young woman is ever seen in the nude. And you have curates instead of God. But there is no serpent either – only vile pignappers like the irascible Duke of Dunstable and Roderick Spode and his fascist Black Shorts. Even the name sounds funny – Black Shorts instead of the Nazi Brown Shirts.

It's the Garden of Eden updated into a sunny, carefree, populous world full of fun and laughter.