P.G. Wodehouse is best known for his contribution to literature, as a novelist and short story writer, but for much of his long career, Wodehouse spread his writing efforts widely, in fields as diverse as journalism, musical theatre, and Hollywood screen writing.
One of Wodehouse’s early associations (circa 1901 -1910) was as a contributor, and later editor, of The Globe‘s By The Way column. Apart from a By The Way Book (1908), his work on that column has never before been collected – until earlier this year, when group of Wodehouse experts formed the P. G. Wodehouse Globe Reclamation Project. This massive undertaking is an exciting new development of great interest to Wodehouse readers who wish to delve deeper into the seemingly endless output of this prolific writer.
Such an undertaking may have been difficult during Wodehouse’s lifetime (1881-1975). As Frances Donaldson observed (in P.G.Wodehouse: The Authorized Biography), Wodehouse was critical of his own early work and had little interest in seeing it revived. In a 1955 letter to Richard Usborne (included in Sophie Ratcliffe’s P. G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters), Wodehouse discussed the book in which he used to record the payments he received for his early writing:
‘…I find it slightly depressing as it shows the depths I used to descend to in order to get an occasional ten-and-six. Gosh, what a lot of slush I wrote!’
‘But I hope you aren’t planning to republish any of the stuff I wrote then. What a curse one’s early work is.’
Frances Donaldson gives this example (which I rather like) from the By The Way Book (which Wodehouse called an ‘awful production’) in her biography.
‘Sea-sickness is a universal scourge. We read in Keats that ‘Stout Cortez stared with eagle eyes at the Pacific.’ In those days they leaned over the side. – Sir Thomas Lipton *
*Lipton, who founded Lipton tea, was also famous as a yachtsman in his day.
While Wodehouse’s work for the Globe may not have been the best writing of his career, Wodehouse fans eagerly await to see what will be unearthed by theP. G. Wodehouse Globe Reclamation Project –and any new insights they might provide into the work we are already familiar with.
It is a terrific undertaking, and Wodehouse fans are indebted to the members of this group who have devoted hours of their time to unearthing new nuggets of Wodehousian delight for our enjoyment. You can follow their exploits via the excellent Madame Eulalie website, which has been another much appreciated resource for Wodehouse lovers for some years.
How wonderful it is to be a Wodehouse fan.