The Kaiser Chuckles

Robert McCrum’s life of Wodehouse is full of good stuff, but I was particularly struck by this vignette of life in 1918:

The war in Europe was now over. The defeated Kaiser went into exile in Holland. There, it was said, he discovered the works of P. G. Wodehouse and would read them aloud to his mystified staff, chuckling over and rereading the best bits.

Wodehouse was a consolation in defeat, not only to the Kaiser, but also to his foe, the British Prime Minister who had declared war on him. In 1927 Wodehouse dedicated the story collection Meet Mr Mulliner to the politician who:

had let it be known that he had consoled himself after his general election defeat of 1924 by reading Jill the Reckless.

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5 Comments

  1. Roger
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    Did the Kaiser read Wodehousw in English or in German translation?

    An interesting alternative history- the Kaiser acquires a taste for Wodehouse in 1908…

    • Posted December 3, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

      I think he was quite good at reading English. I don’t know when Wodehouse was translated into German.

      Another alternative history:
      The other day, parliament was discussing royal inheritance, and allowing an older female to take precedence in the line of succession over a younger male. It was pointed out that had this change occurred before 1900, Kaiser Wilhelm (inheriting through his mother) would have become King of England. It’s intriguing to consider how that would have altered the balance of power in Europe…

  2. Posted December 11, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Wodehouse was a consolation in defeat, not only to the Kaiser, but also to his the British Prime Minister who had declared war on him.

    Couldn’t he have been speaking about Ramsay MacDonald? I should stress that I have absolutely no idea – it’s just that to me MacDonald ‘lost’ the 1924 election more than Asquith did (he was, after all, ejected from office as a result).

    • Posted December 11, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      No, it was Asquith; ‘Meet Mr Mulliner’ was dedicated ‘To the Earl of Oxford and Asquith’.

      • Posted December 11, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

        Ah, OK. Wasn’t clear from the initial post.


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