Death Announced of Wodehouse Society Founder

Lt-Col Norman Murphy, who founded the British branch of the P G Wodehouse Society, has died at the age of 83. According to the Telegraph, Murphy was

a literary sleuth whose researches over four decades showed that Wodehouse’s 98 comic novels were not solely the fruit of his romantic imagination, as claimed by Evelyn Waugh and others; they were based on real people, places and incidents…Tracing his way through a cocktail of fact and fiction Murphy showed that the innocent Bertie Wooster was a mixture of the steeplechase jockey Lord Mildmay of Flete and the actor George Grossmith; that Lord Emsworth was the probably the pig-loving 6th Earl of Dartmouth; and the scapegrace Ukridge an amalgam of two schoolfriends at Dulwich and a sponger who ran a chicken farm.

Unrelated to his Wodehouse researches, Murphy once made a note of  “the cameo appearance of the 17th Duke of Norfolk as a gardener sweeping leaves in the film of Waugh’s A Handful of Dust.”

The obituary in the Times makes a similar observation:

Establishing himself as the foremost Wodehousian sleuth, Murphy disproved claims by Evelyn Waugh and George Orwell that the settings of Pelham Grenville’s novels were fictional. Murphy insisted that the whimsical world of loveable, aristocratic reprobates actually existed and proceeded to prove it by revealing the real-life name and location of practically every Wodehouse character and scene. “They are all based on fact, he just made it funnier,” he said…His sleuthing yielded instant results. Blandings Castle, for example, was revealed to be Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire, the resting place of Katherine Parr. Blandings’ gardens were based on Weston Park in Shropshire, of which he said: “There are no other places in England with the lake, the terraces, the Greek temple, the pond and the kitchen garden, the cottage in the wood laid out exactly as he described it.”

After founding the British outpost of the Wodehouse Society in 1997, Murphy married the president of the American branch four years later. The wedding took place, appropriately enough, on Long Island.

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