In a letter to The Times (headed “Wodehouse’s World”) arising from reports of the archiving of the papers of P G Wodehouse at the British Library (see earlier post), a reader has added Evelyn Waugh to the list of those who rose to Wodehouse’s defense when it was a less popular act to do so:
Sir, George Orwell was not the only British literary figure to rally to the defence of PG Wodehouse (News, Dec 28, and letter, Dec 29). Evelyn Waugh observed in 1961 that Wodehouse’s world “can never stale” and that he would “release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own”.
When held in literal captivity, Wodehouse’s naivety certainly caused him to misjudge the timbre of his wartime broadcasts. However that same quality was the origin of written works that have continued to give successive generations such unalloyed delight. In Wodehouse’s exquisite descriptions of worlds that never really existed, the reader escapes beyond the often bleaker nature of those that do.
The quote comes from a broadcast on the BBC Home Service on 15 July 1961 that was reprinted in the Sunday Times the next day. It is collected in Essays, Articles and Reviews, pp. 561-68.