Wodehouse at the British Library

The good news is that the British Library will be presenting (from November 27th to February 24th) a small exhibition P.G. Wodehouse: the Man and his Work. It will be in the rather rarefied space, the  Sir John Ritblat: Treasures Gallery. The last exhibition I saw there was about Karl and Eleanor Marx. This one will probably be jollier.The even better news is that the exhibition is based on the long-term loan of Wodehouse manuscript and other material that has been in the possession of the Cazalet family.  (Thanks to Honoria Plum for this information.) This presumably means that the manuscripts will be available for scholars to study. I’d certainly like to take a look, if only to see how much hard work went in to making the prose seem so effortless. Wodehouse’s process for writing a novel was to produce a detailed scenario of the plot first, and then to do the actual writing. Probably a technique learned from his background in musical comedy, where plot structure has to be firm enough to hold together a lot of disparate elements. has anybody yet written a Ph. D. on this writing process, with detailed comparisons between scenario and novel. they ought to. it would be fun.

When I’ve finished with Rose Allatini, and I will soon, I promise, I must get back to my Wodehouse material. I completed a draft last year of a short book about ‘Honeysuckle Cottage’,  based on the discovery that it was Ludwig Wittgenstein’s favourite Wodehouse story. I got some encouraging feedback from people to whom I showed this draft, but wasn’t totally happy with it. I shall now have another bash.

I’m stimulated by further proof of Wittgenstein’s enthusiasm for Wodehouse. It was my birthday recently, so my present to myself was a new paperback, Portraits of Wittgenstein, a huge collection of memoirs of the man by those who knew him.

wittgenstein portraits

Desmond Lee knew him at Cambridge between 1929 and 1931, and writes:

He read very little, or said he did. And what he read was largely for relaxation. I think he used to read detective stories: he certainly read P.G. Wodehouse, and I remember an argument about whether the Bishop who took Mulliner’s Buck-u-uppo painted the statue blue or green.

Good question. I must re-read the story to discover the answer.


  1. Tom Deveson
    Posted October 3, 2018 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Thank you, George. This makes a cheerful early morning read.

    Yes, please bring the Honeysuckle Cottage book out soon. I enjoyed it tremendously and learned a lot from it.

  2. Tom Deveson
    Posted October 3, 2018 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    ‘…The bishop slept late on the following morning, and partook of his frugal breakfast in bed. The day, which so often brings remorse, brought none to him. Something attempted, something done had earned a night’s repose: and he had no regrets — except that, now that it was all over, he was not sure that blue paint would not have been more effective. However, his old friend had pleaded so strongly for the pink that it would have been difficult for himself, as a guest, to override the wishes of his host.
    Still, blue would undoubtedly have been very striking….’

    • Posted October 3, 2018 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      So, neither blue nor green, but pink. This raises some deep Wittgensteinian questions, as though his favourite picture had been neither a duck nor a rabbit, but actually a walrus.

      • Tom Deveson
        Posted October 3, 2018 at 3:23 pm | Permalink


        More puzzling evidence –

        ‘…” What we ought to do is to wait till twelve o’clock or so, till there’s no one about, and then beetle out and paint that statue blue.”

        ” Why not pink ? ”

        ” Pink, if you prefer it.”

        ” Pink’s a nice colour.”

        ” It is. Very nice.”

        ” Besides, I know where I can lay my hands on some pink paint.”

        ” You do ? ”

        ” Gobs of it.”

        ” Peace be on thy walls, Catsmeat, and prosperity within thy palaces,” said the bishop. ” Proverbs cxxi. 6.”…’

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