I’m a great admirer of P. G. Wodehouse, but I don’t seem to have said much about him here except to call him “immortal” in this brief post (about the influence of “Babu English” on him); what, after all, is there to say other than that he was a master of English prose and perhaps the most consistently funny writer the language has produced? All you can really do is to quote him endlessly, and now there is a tool that enables you to do just that: the Wodehouse quote generator. Keep refreshing and you’ll have as many Wodehouse quotes as you like; I just got:

‘Unhappily,’ said the bishop, ‘my wife has instructed me to give the vacant vicarage to a cousin of hers. A fellow,’ he added bitterly, ‘who bleats like a sheep and doesn’t know an alb from a reredos.’
  The Bishop’s Move (1927)

Via this MetaFilter post, with a surprise guest appearance by the guy who created the site (who goes by the moniker of phliar)—he says “people send me their favourite quotes and I just add them to the list.” I will take this opportunity to say, as I did in that thread, that I wish I could see again the BBC show that introduced me to Wodehouse many, many years ago, The World of Wooster (1965–1967), of which only the opening titles seem to have been preserved.


  1. The _Jeeves & Wooster_ series of 1990–93, with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, is to my mind one of the best TV adaptations of anything, ever.

  2. Well, perhaps you are excluding poets and playwrights from the set of “writers” here, but otherwise (though I yield to no one in my admiration for the Great Plum) I still think W. S. Gilbert the consistently funniest. See the Edith Hamilton bit I quoted here, or the following anecdote:

    It’s said that a gentleman was asking Gilbert about his new operetta, which he referred to as ”Bloodygore”. After enough repetitions, Gilbert said testily “It’s Ruddigore, if you don’t mind.” “It’s the same thing,” mumbled the gentleman. Gilbert snapped: “That’s like saying ‘I like your blooming countenance’ is the same as ‘I like your ruddy cheek.’ Well, it isn’t and I don’t.”

    Comprehensive G & S site; all libretti on a single page; Fifty Bab Ballads (Gilbert’s selections). I learned “The Rhyme of the Nancy Bell” literally at my father’s knee, and I can still recite it complete with all his and my deviations, in accordance with Seeger’s Law of Oral Tradition.

  3. Rodger C says

    I’m reminded of the clergyman in one of Lawrence Durrell’s novels who was described by a very campy character as “waving an apse or something.”

  4. Electric Dragon says

    Some further information is available here: http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/478555/ , along with clips and the sole remaining episode* – which unfortunately I can’t see, because I’m not a student or an academic ( http://www.screenonline.org.uk/help/register.html#restrictions ).
    * All the rest were wiped by the BBC in the 60s and 70s, keen to recycle expensive videotape and sure that no-one could *possibly* be interested in ephemera like this. Fools. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiping#BBC )

  5. Class assignment: compare and contrast these scenes from Thank You, Jeeves, 1936, and Dutiful but Dumb, 1941.

  6. They also wiped a hell of a lot of early Doctor Who episodes (mentioned in a recent thread). Sometimes these things turn up in people’s attics, at car boot sales or in foreign archives, but don’t hold your breath. There was a crazy rumour that Robert Mugabe was sitting on a stash of lost BBC TV programmes just to spite people, but unfortunately it’s not true.

  7. dearieme says

    The Fry and Laurie series was tremendously well done – it even had a magnificently stylish title sequence.

  8. Back then the beancounters at the BBC simply couldn’t budget for the costs of archiving all those old movies and programs.
    In the late 80s I produced a corporate brochure that contained some half-dozen images derived from 4″ x 5″ transparencies and another 20 or 30 images derived from 35mm transparencies. As each 35mm transparency required 20 megabytes of storage, the complete digital file likely weighed in at a gigabyte. Hard-drive space was so expensive then that the shop doing the pre-press filmwork would not store the file for more than a month or two after printing.
    Here, at the top of the page, is a photo of an early hard drive that stored 2.52 gigabytes. The ones at the pre-press shop were about half that size.

  9. marie-lucie says

    Very interesting, Paul!

  10. There was a crazy rumour that Robert Mugabe was sitting on a stash of lost BBC TV programmes just to spite people, but unfortunately it’s not true.
    I love the idea of Mugabe sitting there watching old Dr Who episodes.

  11. I’m sorry to hear they lost the Ian Carmichael series. However, I seem to remember seeing it around the early 1970s or so. It makes me wonder if some copies might be lurking around in some colonial archive. I really enjoyed them, and I had read many of the books by that time.
    Aside from being nice adaptations in their own right, it gave an added thrill when a few years later Ian Carmichael started playing Lord Peter Wimsey.

  12. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    Around 1970 I was asking about something or other at the computer centre at Berkeley, and was told that what I wanted wasn’t possible because they didn’t have the storage capacity. However, they hoped it would be better in a few months, as they were planning to instal a second disk, which would increase the capacity by about 1 Mbyte. I saw the existing disk, which was about the size of a refrigerator. They didn’t call them hard disks at that time, because floppies were still in the future.
    As for The World of Wooster, I don’t think the BBC archived anything before the late 1960s — the early episodes of The Avengers have suffered the same fate.

  13. Here I was expecting to see Ian Carmichael in color. Why? Because he and Mr Price featured on the cover of the first Wodehouse books I ever read back in the sixties. (Carmichael also did audio books of Wodehouse.)
    Fry and Laurie should have been better, but they would fiddle with the story lines. I mean to say, Jeeves in drag? Oh dear. (Fry also made the colossal mistake as well of emulating the Wodehouse style in one of his own novels. V. Bad idea.)

  14. Carmichael also did audio books of Wodehouse.
    I happen to be listening in my car at the moment to Jonathan Price reading Wodehouse. I too was introduced to Wodehouse through the Dennis Price & Ian Carmichael tv series. Now I feel that Carmichael, at least, was MUCH too old. You want someone of about twenty-three for that role.

  15. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    Camichael looks far too old in the book cover that BWA links to. I agree that Bertie should be no more than about 23.

  16. Since this will inevitably (d)evolve into everyone sharing their favorite Wodehouse quotations, I’ll get the ball rolling with one I ran across last night, from Right Ho, Jeeves. I call it “Bertie Wooster Describes a Summer Evening”: “What with all this daylight-saving stuff, we had hit the great open spaces at a moment when twilight had not yet begun to cheese it in favour of the shades of night. There was a fag-end of sunset still functioning. Stars were beginning to peep out, bats were fooling round, the garden was full of the aroma of those niffy white flowers which only start to put in their heavy work at the end of the day.”

  17. Those would be night-scented stocks, probably. They’re very good to have close to a doorway, so you can smell them on the way in and out of the house.

  18. The Avengers, by the way, was not BBC but ATV.

  19. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    The Avengers, by the way, was not BBC but ATV.
    Yes. Silly of me, as I know that perfectly well.

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