Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What would Pelham do?

People who know me know I love dachshunds.  & as it happens one of my heroes also loved dachshunds.  He loved them so much that after he left England to live elsewhere, for reasons I will go into, he & his wife never returned to England together.  The reason for the split trips:  they did not want to leave their dachshunds alone in the house.  I can certainly understand that, I don't much like leaving mine alone either.

Who is this Pelham you ask? Pelham Grenville of course.  Pelham Grenville better know as P. G. Wodehouse.  That's right, the Jeeves guy. 

Wodehouse began his career in that venue I always think comedians should do a stint:  banking.  Specifically banking in Hong Kong.  I won't go into the whys & wherefores (you can read a Wikipedia entry faster than I can distill it), but while everyone, including the British think of him as very British, the fact is he is just as much American.  He married an American woman, he more or less split his time between the two shores from 1914 onwards, although as I alluded, he & his wife did not live in England together but commuted from their home in France.  Because of the dogs.  For reasons I am not entirely clear on, time spent in France counts as time not spent in the US & is therefore time spent in England...? 

Back to the dogs:  one of the great controversies of Wodehouse's life was his failure to leave France when the Germans were en route.  The only reason he ever gave for not getting when the getting was good was that his wife didn't want to leave the -you guessed it- dog behind as they could not take it to England with them.  In exchange for this, Wodehouse was interned in a German prison camp & then held under house arrest until just before his 6oth birthday.  I don't know what happened to the dog.

Being a naturally happy person (I am a mostly naturally happy person so I can tell you this is absolutely TRUE), Wodehouse struggled with not being too happy when everyone around him was miserable.  I myself once got chewed out for smiling at a funeral because apparently reminiscing about a happy moment with the deceased is bad.  Actually, Wodehouse DIDN'T struggle with it, he pretty much tried to stay happy.  He made up songs & stories & so on with the intent of keeping himself & his fellow internees happy.  What he thought was making the best of a very bad deal (no one would know how bad from him; he never talked about it) was viewed by the British populace as collaborating.  There is just no pleasing some people.  On the flip side, if that was the kind of reception he was going to get across the channel, you can sort of understand the decision to remain with the dog that got him into the whole mess to begin with.

As a result, Wodehouse was popularly identified as a Nazi collaborator & blacklisted & even banned & pretty much the only public complaint Wodehouse ever made about anything ever in his life was that the MI5 report that cleared him of living off of the Nazis (they had actually seized his accounts & doled back to him a small portion for his living expenses) was not made public while he could have benefitted from it (it was declassified years after his death).  Instead England pretty much gave him the old heave-ho & he settled permanently in the US with his US wife.  & we were delighted to have him.

I won't go into the other things he did, although his famous literary feud with A. A. Milne is hilarious, not just because Milne took himself way too seriously but also because the literary heavy weights came down on Wodehouse's side.  & not just the live-&-let-live types either; George Orwell told the British public to stick a cork in it.  I do love Winnie-the-Pooh, but it just does not compare to a library of Jeeves & Psmith & the Drones & Uncle Fred & Wodehouse Playhouse &....&...  I think I need to go read some RIGHT NOW!

I don't know what to say to that except Pip Pip!  Oh & Happy Birthday Uncle Plum

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