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Diary

Catherine Merridale: Ethnography Time in Russia

5 April 2001
... policemen, who had come along to make sure that the car was roadworthy, but one of them also had a question for me. It was not about my passport. Oksana had been reading a second-hand edition of P.G.Wodehouse in English. The paperback was in her coat pocket at the time of the accident. The younger policeman, noticing the cover, mistook it for another of his favourites, Agatha Christie, and soon he and ...

Great Thoughts

E.S. Turner

7 May 1981
The Macmillan Treasury of Relevant Quotations 
edited by Edward Murphy.
Macmillan, 658 pp., £3.95, August 1980, 0 333 30038 6
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... in its presentation. To the question ‘Relevant to what?’ we are given no answer, for there is no preface, foreword, introduction or blurb, and nothing about the compiler. After the title-page come three impacted pages of copyright acknowledgments and then we are plunged straight into Ability, Abnegation, Abnormality and Abortion. However, if one seeks out the hardback edition, published ...

Uncle William

E.S. Turner

13 June 1991
The Passing of Barchester: A Real-Life Version of Trollop 
by Clive Dewey.
Hambledon, 199 pp., £14.95, April 1991, 1 85285 039 6
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... Without a doubt it is a field in which much curious information, not necessarily edifying, has been lost, and most of us know no more of what went on than is to be found in the pages of P.G.Wodehouse. Meanwhile, Dewey’s conclusion is: ‘The most powerful motive that the 19th century knew worked in the Church of England’s favour. Not sex, not money, not even religious enthusiasm, but the ...

Simply too exhausted

Christopher Hitchens

25 July 1991
Edwina Mountbatten: A Life of Her Own 
by Janet Morgan.
HarperCollins, 509 pp., £20, July 1991, 0 00 217597 5
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... to India, leaving her standing tight-lipped and dry-eyed in the moonlight outside the old Manor. And her little dog has crawled up and licked her hand, as if he understood and sympathised.’ P.G.Wodehouse, Best-Seller At half past nine that evening Edwina’s body was brought to Broadlands. Commander North had asked the staff to come to the house if they wished; everyone was there, lined up, waiting ...
4 September 1997
The Fu Manchu Omnibus: Vol. II 
by Sax Rohmer.
Allison and Busby, 630 pp., £9.99, June 1997, 0 7490 0222 0
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... he has an Englishman’s sense of honour and always keeps his word. But every villain has his unaccountable flaw. Dr Fu Manchu also suffers from that ‘fatal excess of ingenuity’ discerned by P.G.Wodehouse in all his kind: as, for example, a tendency to employ a poisonous monster centipede on a long leash when a quick bullet would have done the job. In addition the Doctor has woman trouble, in the ...

Diary

A.J.P. Taylor: An Unexpected Experience

6 December 1984
... Godfrey Smith’s taste is wide: towns, shops, sports, epochs, writers, eatables. Public Schools come next to Pubs, and Sex next to Shakespeare, both of which are appropriate neighbours. P.G.Wodehouse comes in often, which is also appropriate. This book gave me great entertainment as I worked steadily through it. I got a surprise when I reached T. There was my own name. Examining more carefully, I ...

Holy Terrors

Penelope Fitzgerald

4 December 1986
‘Elizabeth’: The Author of ‘Elizabeth and her German Garden’ 
by Karen Usborne.
Bodley Head, 341 pp., £15, October 1986, 0 370 30887 5
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Alison Uttley: The Life of a Country Child 
by Denis Judd.
Joseph, 264 pp., £15.95, October 1986, 0 7181 2449 9
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Richmal Crompton: The Woman behind William 
by Mary Cadogan.
Allen and Unwin, 169 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 04 928054 6
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... friends, but no one else, speak Cockney) is inhabited by furious colonels, difficult aunts, maiden ladies, vicars, nice little girls – the victims of Agatha Christie’s murders, the cast of P.G.Wodehouse. The mystery is that the series should have succeeded in so many countries, but never in America. William rapidly established himself, so firmly that Richmal’s loyal illustrator, Thomas Henry ...
5 December 1985
The Diaries of Auberon Waugh: A Turbulent Decade 1976-1985 
edited by Anna Galli-Pahlavi.
Private Eye/Deutsch, 207 pp., £4.95, September 1985, 0 233 97811 9
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... and barbarians. There are still, perhaps, a hundred thousand intelligent people left in England, Waugh would say: he can tell the exact figure by checking the sales of books by John Betjeman and P.G.Wodehouse, or by the turn-out for a West End revival of The Pirates of Penzance. And, out of town, there are still a few pockets of decency and calm; there are still a few country churches where the priest ...

Against it

Ross McKibbin

24 February 1994
For the Sake of Argument 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Verso, 353 pp., £19.95, May 1993, 0 86091 435 6
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... close studies of the inner workings of the American and British political systems; others still devoted to writers and artists – Goya, James Baldwin, Updike, Greene, George Eliot and, alas, P.G.Wodehouse. None of the essays is uninteresting and many of them have the virtues of the best kind of journalism – they tell you things you did not know and are unlikely to find out in more conventional ...

Madame, vous fatiguez les singes

E.S. Turner: The Tower Menagerie

24 July 2003
The Tower Menagerie: Being the Amazing True Story of the Royal Collection of Wild and Ferocious Beasts 
by Daniel Hahn.
Simon and Schuster, 260 pp., £15.99, March 2003, 0 7432 2081 1
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... the Tower staff jumped at the chance to try out an iron diet on it. A post-mortem found more than eighty undigested nails in its body. Is this misapprehension now extinct? Not in the works of P.G.Wodehouse: ‘He gazed at the girl like an ostrich goggling at a brass doorknob.’ When the 19th century dawned, the Tower Menagerie had to compete with multiple attractions, for which Hahn finds the ...

Bright Blue Dark Blue

Rosemary Hill: ‘Weatherland’

5 November 2015
Weatherland 
by Alexandra Harris.
Thames and Hudson, 432 pp., £24.95, September 2015, 978 0 500 51811 3
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... horse-hair stuffing. Their weather is always grey and wet. Shrubberies drip and aspidistras gather dust behind thick lace curtains. When it comes to architecture Harris is of the same mind as P.G.Wodehouse, who said: ‘Whatever may be said in favour of the Victorians, it is pretty generally admitted that few of them were to be trusted within reach of a trowel and a pile of bricks.’ After Pugin, she ...

Never Not Slightly Comical

Thomas Jones: Amit Chaudhuri

1 July 2015
Odysseus Abroad 
by Amit Chaudhuri.
Oneworld, 243 pp., £12.99, February 2015, 978 1 78074 621 0
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... exacerbated’ instead of exasperated – these are precision tools misapplied. But the pedantry and pomposity, deliberate or not on Chaudhuri’s part, are in character: Ananda’s a fan of P.G.Wodehouse as well as Keats. When he eventually makes it out of the house Ananda goes to see his tutor, Nestor Davidson, an affectionate portrait of the late Dan Jacobson, who taught Chaudhuri at UCL. ‘It ...

Closely Observed Trains on a Sea Coast in Bohemia

Christopher Tayler: Rushdie’s Latest

16 November 2017
The Golden House 
by Salman Rushdie.
Cape, 370 pp., £18.99, September 2017, 978 1 78733 015 3
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... his exceptional wife’ about to enter the White House, he is in his mid-twenties and in search of a subject for a screenplay he plans to write. René’s subject presents itself on the opening page. In the course of Obama’s inauguration, ‘the enigmatic septuagenarian we came to know as Nero Julius Golden’ installs himself and his three adult sons in the Gardens’ biggest mansion. Nero is ...
22 May 1980
On the Edge of the Cliff 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Chatto, 179 pp., £4.95, February 1980, 0 7011 2438 5
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The Tale Bearers: Essays on English, American and Other Writers 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Chatto, 223 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 7011 2435 0
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... describe could just as easily have taken place in, say, post-war Cheltenham. ‘Look at that. Another bomb in Belfast,’ murmurs Mrs Baum in ‘The Worshippers’. When in the last Jeeves novel P.G.Wodehouse started dutifuly noting the sit-ins and demos he saw in the London streets, the effect was disastrous, even blasphemous. As Evelyn Waugh observed, Wodehouse wrote of an unfading, green world, a world ...
25 October 1979
A Midsummer Night’s Dream 
edited for the Arden Shakespeare series by Harold Brooks.
Methuen, 164 pp., £8, September 1979, 1 903436 60 5
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... This​ is the new Arden edition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and it is splendid to have the old series still coming out. Full information, and a proper apparatus at the foot of the page: where else would you find that? It has got a bit stiff in the joints; the Introduction is so long and so full of standard doctrine that it is hard to pick out the plums; but the sobriety itself is a ...

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