Oh, Lionel!

Christopher Hitchens

  • P.G. Wodehouse: Man and Myth by Barry Phelps
    Constable, 344 pp, £16.95, October 1992, ISBN 0 09 471620 X

We know from his immense correspondence that P.G. Wodehouse was at once omnivorous and discriminating in his reading (garbage in; synthesis out – a good maxim for any young reader-for-pleasure setting out on life’s road). He cited authors as various as Lion Feuchtwanger and Rudyard Kipling, and didn’t bluff about a book he hadn’t read. And we know that he was excessively fond of the theatre. But he never alluded to the author of these ensuing lines, which come from Act One, Scene One of an imperishable stage moment, when the young master is discovered by his manservant while trying out the piano:

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