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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)
P.G. Wodehouse

(Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, 1881–1975, KBE 1975)
Comic writer with a notably idiosyncratic style, and creator in Jeeves and Wooster of a pair of characters rivalled in English literature only by Holmes and Watson. The humour of his fiction derives partly from the farcical muddles which afflict the idle young men of the Drones Club and their vacuous girlfriends, threatened always by a desperate shortage of funds and by hordes of terrifying elderly aunts.

Equally important are the constant surprises in Wodehouse's use of English, whether in its vocabulary ('if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled') or in its imagery ('small, shrivelled chap – looks like a haddock with lung-trouble'). Bertie Wooster, innocent and gullible, and his manservant Jeeves – nobody's fool behind the formal deference – first appeared in a collection of short stories in 1917, The Man with Two Left Feet. Another favourite corner of the Wodehouse world is Blandings Castle, home of Lord Emsworth – the proud owner of a prize sow, the Empress of Blandings.

Early in his career Wodehouse wrote the lyrics for several successful American musical comedies, and from 1909 he lived mainly in the USA until settling in 1934 in France. He and his wife were captured there by the Germans in 1940 and were interned until 1941. On his release from prison he made five broadcasts to the USA, in his usual comic vein – an ill-judged action, even though the content was entirely non-political, and one that caused him to be seen in official circles in Britain as a traitor. Partly for this reason he returned to the USA after the war, becoming an American citizen in 1955, but peace was formally declared in the last year of his life with the offer and acceptance of a knighthood.

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