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P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters

P.G. Wodehouse

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Published by Hutchinson, part of Cornerstone Publishing

Format: Hardback


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EAN: 9780091796341
Published: 3 Nov 2011


About the book


This is the definitive edition of P.G. Wodehouse's letters, edited with a commentary by Oxford academic Sophie Ratcliffe.

One of the funniest and most admired writers of the twentieth century, P. G. Wodehouse always shied away from the idea of a biography. A quiet, retiring man, he expressed himself through the written word. His letters - collected and expertly edited here - provide an illuminating biographical accompaniment to legendary comic creations such as Jeeves, Bertie Wooster, Psmith and the Empress of Blandings.

Drawing on hitherto unpublished sources, these letters give an unrivalled insight into Wodehouse, covering his schooldays at Dulwich College, the family's financial reverses which saw his hopes of university dashed, life in New York working in musical comedy with Jerome Kern and George and Ira Gershwin, the years of fame as a novelist, and the unhappy episode in 1940 where he was interned by the Germans and later erroneously accused of broadcasting pro-Nazi propaganda.

It is a book every lover of Wodehouse will want to possess.

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What the critics say

Wodehouse said letters make 'a wonderful oblique form for an autobiography,' and Sophie Ratcliffe's expertly edited collection amply proves the point.
- Spectator

Anybody requiring evidence of how much work PG Wodehouse put into his comic prose should read his letters. In her introduction to this definitive compendium of Wodehouse's correspondence, Sophie Ratcliffe warns that [the letters] display only on occasions the extraordinary stylistic elan that one finds in fiction. Indeed they do, although when the extraordinary elan bubbles briefly to the surface, it is worth waiting for. But Wodehouse was a dedicated craftsman. He wanted his published words to make people laugh, and he devoted hour after hour to making them fit that purpose. One suspects his personal epistles were often a happy relief from that discipline.
- Scotland on Sunday

The great catastrophe of his life was of course, his broadcasting from Berlin in 1941, a slur on his reputation that never quite went goes away however often it is expunged. The whole saga is unravelled again here in Sophie Ratcliffe's excellent linking narrative.
- Daily Mail

Filtered by some excellent editing, [these letters] are full of interest
- Mail on Sunday

Sophie Ratcliffe has done an exemplary job in editing these letters
- Sunday Telegraph

Ratcliffe sees him through to the end with affection. Hers is a model edition, tracing the rise and fall of a writer who allowed his imagined world to eclipse the real
- Sunday Times

This authoritative edition of generous selections - from 'Plum's' prolific pen, from schooldays at Dulwich College in 1899 throughout his long Anglo-American career as a novelist and musical comedy lyricist to his last letters from Long Island in 1975 - is acutely attuned to his contradictions of character and his desire to please at the expense of absolute veracity. The letters, gossipy in the kindliest, amused/bemused manner, bear true witness to the wide-ranging influences on Wodehouse's' best-known novels and best-loved characters.
- The Times

In this new collection . . . Sophie Ratcliffe has rolled up her sleeves and waded into the fray . . . she has succeeded marvellously. When it comes to the world of Wodehouse, Ratcliffe knows her stuff. She has embroidered this plump selection of letters with an illuminating but unobtrusive critical apparatus.
- Literary Review

A lovely new book
- Daily Mail

An intriguing picture of a great 20th-century writer . . . In its peculiar English way, it has a strange intimacy, the perverse fruit of Wodehouse's instinctive, Jeevesian, discretion.
- Guardian

They give real insight into the man behind Jeeves­ ­­and Wooster
- Sunday Express (Book of the Year)

He wrote letters every day, about money and work mostly, and one also wonders what isn't said in all the noise? The Twitter age, one suspects, would have suited him perfectly.
- Independent

Here, we get the inside story of the big scandal of his life. Captured by the Nazis in 1940, he was the victim of propaganda from both sides. Later, he went to America and never came back. Moving and sad.
- Evening Standard

About the Author

The author of almost a hundred books and the creator of Jeeves, Blandings Castle, Psmith, Ukridge, Uncle Red and Mr Mulliner, P.G. Wodehouse was born in 1881 and educated at Dulwich College. After two years with the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank he became a full-time writer, contributing to a variety of periodicals including Punch and the Globe. He married in 1914. As well as his novels and short stories, he wrote lyrics for musical comedies with Guy Bolton and Jerome Kern, and at one time had five musicals running simultaneously on Broadway. His time in Hollywood also provided much source material for fiction.

Sophie Ratcliffe is a tutor in English at Christ Church, Oxford, specialising in nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature. She also reviews fiction and criticism for the national press.

She lives in Oxford with her husband and young son.

P.G. Wodehouse

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