V.S. Pritchett: a last word on Wodehouse (?)

I’ve found a review of Benny Green’s centenary biography of P.G. Wodehouse, A Literary Life, by the distinguished critic, V.S. Pritchett, writing in The New York Review of Books in 1981.  Pritchett presents what I think is a full and very sensible evaluation of Plum’s comedy, putting it into the historical context of “English Light Humour” … which includes Restoration Comedy, Gilbert and Sullivan, etc.  Nothing especially new for us, except for the elegant and insightful way Pritchett writes.  A couple of brief examples:

The age of lightheaded imperial innocence began to vanish after 1914 and we have grown up in the black laughter of outrage, enhanced by the obsession with sex. One can only say that laughter for its own sake [my emphasis] is never passé for very long: we still laugh at Goldsmith and Restoration comedy after a spell of sneering at their subjects, their oaths and delivery. …

The strength of Wodehouse lies not in his almost incomprehensibly intricate plots – Restoration Comedy again – but in his prose style and there, above all, his command of mind-splitting metaphor. To describe a girl as “the sand in civilization’s spinach” enlarges and decorates the imagination [my emphasis].

It’s a short review (four pages) and, I think, a quick read.

VS Pritchett on Wodehouse, NYRB Dec 1981

Note:  Pritchett refers to a comedic novel, Zuleika Dobson, by Max Beerbohm (1872-1956), an Edwardian satirist who was a little older than Plum. Below is some information about him and his book:

About Max Beerbohm (from Penguin-Random House)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s