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Johan I. Borgos

In 1963 I had to spend ten days on a little Swedish hospital after a car accident. The only thing I could do to pass the time before they kicked me out was reading. The hospital had a little library, everything in Swedish (which most Norwegians can read without difficulty), but most of the books looked rather boring. However, one title caught my eye: "Svinhugg går igen", written by a P.G. Wodehouse. Some laughter-filled hours later the book and Mr. Wodehouse had caught me.

Back in Norway I started to comb every bookstore for more Wodehouse books, this time in Norwegian, of course. Four years later I dicovered a double gold mine in Trondheim while studying mathematics there. First discovery: "J. Bruuns Bokhandel" had a wide wall covered with book-shelves filled with Penguin paperbacks, among them a lot of Wodehouse writings. Second discovery: After reading my first buy I realized that you have to read him in English. No translator can do his language and style full justice. He isn't untranslatable, but a lot of Wodehouse disappears when transferred to another language.

What can P.G. Wodehouse teach todays writers? Very much, I guess, and first of all the value of solid craftmanship. At his best he tells the story very economically, but sometimes he doesn't manage to hide his "plot frame" completely, or he tries to cover it with just talk. The next lesson he can show us is his inventiveness in using the language. He was one of the greatest Masters of the English language.

You can find a lot of information about Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (1881-1975) on the Net. It's unnecessary to give any links, just Google him. This page doesn't add any new information about him, it's more my impressions after reading a lot of his books. He wrote 96 or close to that. I have at hand more than eighty, and I've read them all, some of them many times, and they're still fun to read.

I have grouped the books in the same way that I have sorted them in my library, and for every group I have added a few comments. The tables should be easy to understand. The coloumn "Year" shows when the book was first published (according to Richard Usborne in "Wodehouse at Work to the End"), and under "Lang" you'll find a code telling the language of my copies - E (English), N (Norwegian) or S (Swedish).

School short stories:

Tales of St. Austins 1903 E These short stories are well written, but as a Norwegian I lose too much of the fun because I'm ignorant about the life at the English schools a hundred years ago.


Mike and Psmith 1909 E Psmith is one of P.G.'s many fast-talking characters. The first book is a school novel, the happenings in the other two take place in other settings. These novels show Wodehouse making the transition from writing for kids and youths to writing for a much wider public. I have put two other Psmith books, "Something Fresh" and "Leave it to Psmith", at the start of the Blandings Castle saga.
Psmith in the City 1910 E
Psmith, Journalist 1915 E


Love Among the the chickens 1906 E The Ukridge short stories may be the most underrated part of the Wodehouse writings. He has created a little universe of very funny characters and comic plots, and the main theme is Ukridges shortness of money. (There are more Ukridge stories in other Wodehouse books.)
Ukridge 1924 E

Non-saga novels:

A Gentleman of Leisure 1910 E The heading "Non-saga novels" means that these books have no main characters in common. However, some minor characters and also places appear in more than one book. Wodehouse used Valley Fields as an action place in several novels, and among the recurrent characters are: An American swindler-couple, in some books called Gordon (Oily) and Gertrude (Sweetie) Carlisle, in other named Thomas (Soapy) and Dorothy (Dolly) Molloy, but more or less the same characters; another swindler, Alexander (Chimp) Twist, who also calls himself J. Sheringham Adair; and the nostalgic Mr. Cornelius of Valley Fields.

These books are of different types, but the majority can be classified as "light comedy". Some are plays transferred into novels, and it shows a little too clearly. "The little Bachelor", however, became a high-quality Wodehouse novel from a play. One of the books, "The little Nugget", is a school novel, but also one of the best among Wodehouses light comedies - and perhaps the most sentimental. Another book, "The Coming of Bill", is by far the most serious novel P.G. wrote.

The quality varies more than in the saga books and in short stories. In my opinion Wodehouse wrote his best non-saga novels between 1917 ("Uneasy Money") and 1940 ("Quick Service"), but "Ice in the Bedroom" from 1961 chould be counted among them. My personal favourite is "Hot Water" from 1931. The plot is complex and very satisfying, it contains some of the funniest situastions Wodehouse ever conceived, and the dialogues never get stuck in empty and repating talk, as they often do in Wodehouses weaker novels. From the first to the last page this book seems to be written on a flow of inspiration.

After "Hot Water" Wodehouse wrote his non-saga novels more and more as farces. The dialogues grew longer and became more theatre-like, the "story-world environment" was reduced from a "landscape" to a "theatre", and well-rounded character were replaced by standardized types. At that time Wodehouse wrote both for the scene and for the book-stands, and this two-lined production may explain this development.

Almost all the non-saga novels centers around a love story, and sometimes several couples get each other at the end. The oldest books are quite romantic, even a little sentimental, but as the farce factor got the upper hand the romances faded into little more than "boy-meet-girl, boy-and-girl get each other". Still fun, but no longer love stories.

All in all, the non-saga novels show some of the best creations by P.G. Wodehouse as well as some of his weakest efforts. But one have to take into account that they were written during the sixty years from 1913 til 1973, and very few writers have been able to keep the standard so high for so long time.
The little Nugget 1913 E
Uneasy Money 1917 E
Picadilly Jim 1918 E
A Damsel in Distress 1919 E
The Coming of Bill 1920 E
The Indiscretions of Archie 1921 E
Jill the Reckless 1921 E
The Girl on the Boat 1922 E
The Adventures of Sally 1922 E
Bill the Conqueror 1924 E
Sam the Sudden 1925 E
Handlingens mann
(Sam the Sudden)
1961 N
The small Bachelor 1927 E
Money for Nothing 1928 E
Big Money 1931 E
Penger som gress
(Big Money)
1951 N
If I were You 1931 E
Dr. Sally 1932 E
Hot Water 1932 E
Laughing Gas 1936 E
Summer Moonshine 1938 E
Quick Service 1940 E
Money in the Bank 1946 E
Spring Fever 1948 E
The Old Reliable 1951 E
Barmy in Wonderland 1952 E
French Leave 1956 E
Ice in the Bedroom 1961 E
Gjemt men ikke glemt
(Ice in the bedroom)
1963 N
Frozen Assets 1964 E
Company for Henry 1967 E
Du Butlers Burgle Banks? 1968 E
The Girl in Blue 1970 E
Bachelors Anonymous 1973 E

Short stories:

The Man Upstairs 1914 E The short stories of P.G. Wodehouse are among his very best writings. The quality is very high, and they're always funny. Perhaps this was a format that suited Wodehouse well, but it should be noted that he wrote most of his short stories before the WW2, when he was at the top as a writer.

The two first collections (1914 and 1917) are written in a traditional style. In 1922 he wrote his first golf stories, and he must have realized at once that here he had found a promising field for much fun. The golf tales are told by The oldest member, a man completely without any humorous sense, and his pompous style makes his story-telling even more funny.

In 1927 Wodehouse published his first collection of Mulliner stories. Mr. Mulliner tells "tall stories" about the experiences of his relatives, and he never tells a dull story. This group of short stories shows Wodehouse at his very best. The "Drones" stories, beginning in 1936, are masterfully written, they too.
The Man with Two Left Feet 1917 E
The Clicking of Cuthbert 1922 E
The Heart of a Goof 1926 E
Meet Mr. Mulliner 1927 E
Mr. Mulliner Speaking 1929 E
Mulliner Nights 1933 E
Young Men in Spats 1936 E
Eggs, Beans and Crumpets 1940 E
Nothing Serious 1950 E
A Few Quick Ones 1959 E
Plum Pie 1966 E

Monty Bodkin:

The Luck of the Bodkins 1935 E The first part of the two-part saga of Monty Bodkin and Gertrude Butterwick was published in 1935. The last one came 36 years later, when Wodehouse obviously felt that 91 years old he had to tell the rest.
Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin 1972 E

Lord Ickenham (uncle Fred):

Uncle Fred in the Springtime 1939 E Frederick Altamont Cornwallis, fifth Earl of Ickenham, is the main character in three novels (left) and in several short stories. Wodehouse called the lord "a sort of elderly Psmith", but that must be an understatement. The short story "Uncle Fred Flits By" (in "Young Men in Spats", 1936) shows a far more dynamic and creative character than Psmith. It is also one of the best things that Wodehouse wrote. If Lord Ickenham is in some way related to other Wodehouse characters it must be to Galahad Threepwood, the brother of Lord Emsworth in the Blandings Castle sagas. And Lord Ickenham even visits Blandings Castle in one book.
Uncle Dynamite 1948 E
Cocktail Time 1958 E
(Cocktail Time)
1967 S

The Bertie and Jeeves saga:

The inimitable Jeeves 1923 E This saga started with short stories, but from "Thank You, Jeeves" full-length novels give us the rest of the Bertie and Jeeves story. Perhaps it's better to call it the Bertie and Jeeves universe, populated with aunts and uncles, a lot of friends and not fewer girls, policemen and judges, an aspiring dictator and a superb chef, school masters and even a nerve specialist - everyone involved in entanglements that Bertie sets off and Jeeves sorts out.

Bertie doesn't lack intelligence, it's just that he isn't trained to use it. Even so he is a superb story teller in his naïve way. Jeeves isn't his valet or butler. He is Berties "personal gentleman", or perhaps his puppet-master. Together they constitute a remarkable duo, one of the best and most well-known in the so-called "light literature". But the eminent writing processes that made these sagas were far from light. Bertie and Jeeves are the creations of a genius.

The Bertie and Jeeves universe - or story-world, to use a newer and better phrase - is English Upper Class in the early 1900"'. Wodehouse doesn't give us a realistic picture of it, it is more a caricature, but never a malicious depiction. He makes good-hearted fun of young men with so much money that they don't have to work - they're gentlemen of leisure.

The Bertie and Jeeves books must be read chronologically, because this story-world also have a time-line with themes that develop from book to book, and make the saga a serial.
Carry On, Jeeves 1925 E
Very Good, Jeeves 1930 E
Thank You, Jeeves 1934 E
Roght Ho, Jeeves 1934 E
The Code of the Woosters 1938 E
Joy in the Morning 1947 E
The Mating Season 1949 E
Ring for Jeeves 1953 E
Ring på Jeeves!
(Ring for Jeeves)
1962 S
Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit 1954 E
Jeg stoler på Jeeves
(Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit)
1956 N
Jeeves in the Offing 1960 E
Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves 1963 E
Friskt mot, Jeeves!
(Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves)
1965 N
Much Obliged, Jeeves 1971 E
Aunts Aren't Gentlemen 1974 E

The Blandings Castle saga:

Something Fresh 1915 E The Blandings Castle saga begins with two Psmith books. After that Wodehouse started writing novels and short stories about Lord Emsworth and his castle, and gave us another magnificent story-world. The main characters in the Bertie and Jeeves saga come from the English Upper Class, in the Blandings Castle stories they mostly belong to the British nobility. And one more thing: Berties world is fundamentally urban, Lord Emsworths is rural.

Lord Emsworth is a very absent-minded man who most of all wants to be alone with his interests - overseeing his pig-breeding or reading books about the same. But there are always commanding sisters and fussing secretaries and annoying guests and pennyless impostors and girls-in-love-with-the-wrong-man around to spoil his day and make him confused.

Blandings Castle seems to be the perfect place for romantic couples to get each other in spite of the wishes and commands of Lord Emsworths sisters. As a rule the Lord doesn't understand much of what's going on around him, but now and than he raises his voice and do a little commanding himself. Then he always takes the side of the young and romantic.

Wodehouse was writing a new chapter in the Blandings Castle saga when he died in 1975. It is published as "Sunset at Blandings".
Leave it to Psmith 1923 E
Summer Ligthning 1929 E
Blandings Castle 1935 E
Heavy Weather 1933 E
Lord Emsworth and Others 1937 E
Full Moon 1947 E
Pigs Have Wings 1952 E
Svinhugg går igen
(Pigs Have Wings)
1961 S
Service with a Smile 1962 E
Svin på skogen
(Service with a Smile)
1964 N
Galahad at Blandings 1965 E
A Pelican at Blandings 1969 E
Sunset at Blandings
1977 E

Biographic writings:

Performing Flea 1953 E I have theese three books in a one-volume edition. Wonderful reading, but don't expect to learn much about his writing methods, and he tells nothing about how he was able to create so much fun and joy during more than seventy very productive years.
Bring on the Girls 1954 E
Over Seventy 1957 E

Books I haven't got:

The Pothunters
A Prefect's Uncle
The Gold Bat
William Tell Told Again
The Head of Kay's
The White Feather
Not George Washington
By the Eay Book
The Swoop
1902-1909 E School books, at least the first six. After reading "Tales of St. Austin's" I guess they're well written, but not up to the later Wodehouse standard. Well well, if I find a used copy ...
The Prince and Betty 1912 E Some of this history also appears in "Psmith, Journalist", which I have in my library.
My Man Jeeves 1919 E Eight short stories, four of them about Jeeves and Bertie. Those four I have in other collections.
Louder and Funnier 1932 E A collection of articles that Wodehouse wrote for the Vanity Fair magazine.
Something Fishy 1957 E A light novel or farce. I really should like to have it.

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