P.G. Wodehouse – What ho!: The Best of P.G. Wodehouse (Arrow, 2000)

We Raiters have always ranked ourselves among the most discriminating of readers. So when we describe a book as capital, it can be taken as just that. And that is precisely the term I might employ when describing the works of Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse.

It is not, I acknowledge, the writing most taxing upon a man’s intellect, however any fellow that might disdain it for just this reason would be, by universal admission, a nincompoop.

Wodehouse’s writing is hilarious and What ho! seems to be a fine place to sample it. After reading the introduction by Stephen Fry expectations are (justifiably) high as one launches into shorts of Wodehouse’s most celebrated creations. Among them are the utterly aloof Clarence, ninth earl of Emsworth, with his consuming passion for pigs, the forgivable Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge (pronounced Fanshawe Ewkridge), ever up against matters of life and death, such as the unwelcome visit of an aunt or a desperate shortage of tobacco, and Bertie Wooster, who lives off the unorthodox resourcefulness of his butler Jeeves and the honour of having won the Scripture memory prize in elementary school. There is a degree of commonality in all of Wodehouse’s leading men. They represent the peerage of the old land, who have been spared life’s darkest travails and are thereby free to be overwhelmed by rather less dramatic vexations. Never do we see any real harm done.

There is something refreshing in spending an hour or two in the world of Wodehouse. Here there be no dragons, nor malice of any sort. The Wodehouse prose is so sprightly, playful and downright fun that, were the plot to disappear entirely, one can hardly imagine missing it. I often regretted that I had no-one sitting beside me with whom to share its finest moments (though sometimes I would call my little sister in from the other room to be hear a particularly delightful paragraph). I prefer these snappy short stories to the full-length Wodehouse novel, which has a more settled feel.

Having given such praise, I think the best I can do for you is simply to redirect you immediately to a short excerpt of the Wodehouse genius: The Crime Wave at Blandings.