For most of his 93 years, PG Wodehouse, the “performing flea” of English literature, was also an elephant of productivity. Up to his final hours, he wrote every day, accumulating a manuscript mountain: letters to friends, writers and composers, from Evelyn Waugh to George Gershwin, light verse, journals and journalism, libretti, short stories, plays and novels such as Right Ho, Jeeves, and The Code of the Woosters. At the peak of his career in the 1930s, he complained to a friend: “I have become a writing machine.”
Now the Observer can reveal that this lifetime of literary work has reached a remarkable climax. On Thursday, the British Library will announce that the Wodehouse archive is about to join its 20th-century holdings, a collection that includes the papers of Arthur Conan Doyle, Evelyn Waugh, Mervyn Peake, Virginia Woolf, Harold Pinter, Ted Hughes, Beryl Bainbridge, JG Ballard and Angela Carter.
The British Library’s acquisition of his archive marks a milestone in the Wodehouse drama. British Library curator Kathryn Johnson, who has tracked these documents for more than a decade, told the Observer that “we are so glad that this priceless collection is now safely in public hands, where we can look after it for the nation”. Johnson sees this reconciliation as part of a larger re-evaluation of Wodehouse as a writer. “People are coming to acknowledge,” she says, “that he was a truly great English stylist.” Johnson recognises the aura of controversy that surrounds the Wodehouse name. “We will of course handle items like his wartime diary and the related correspondence with the greatest care and discretion,” she said.
National Libraries: “PG Wodehouse Secures Redemption as British Library Acquires Priceless Archive”
Filed by November 26, 2016on