Was PG Wodehouse the most underrated romantic writer ever?

Be honest. What is it that you expect from a romantic book?

Is it tragedy? Like Romeo and Juliet? Or do you prefer a tale of heartbreak like Scarlet O’Hara’s in Gone with the wind? Perhaps you crave for a clashing of two strong willed, fiercely independent souls like Jane Eyre and Edward Fairfax Rochester?

Is Romance for you drama, tension and desperate optimism of tragic heroes and heroines? Do you like the feeling of drowning melancholy when it is clear that the time has come to say good by and good luck? Would you rate a book depending upon the number of pages that were soiled by your overflowing tears?

Annoying voice in the background:“Stop blabbering!”

Excuse me. But sometimes all this drama drains away my life force. I feel a bit restless and acutely aware of that churning feeling in the belly that telegraphs to my senses it’s unfulfilled desire to digest food since 6 in the morning.

I mean to say it’s quite sad that Scarlet and Rhett could never live happily ever after but one has to move on in life. It’s also quite tragic that Edward had to to almost go blind before he could come to his senses and accept the fact that Jane was the chosen one for him. But we must admit that we’re all powerless in the hands of fate.

Do tell though, are all romantic stories supposed to be sad and droopy? Could there not be a tale of love that is uplifting,optimistic and full of life?

Annoying voice in the background: “No! impossible”

Shut up! where was I? Ah, I was saying why can’t there be love stories with laughter and joy instead of thunder and lightning.

“You know how it is with some girls. They seem to take the stuffing right out of you. I mean to say, there is something about their personality that paralyses the vocal cords and reduces the contents of the brain to cauliflower.”

That question has kept me awake on many a nights pacing up and down in my balcony. Wasn’t there a saying, by Freud or someone equally brainy, about a fellow being able to see the stars when it gets pitch dark?

Any way what I mean to say that during one of these torturous, sleepless nights I stumbled upon the work of PG Wodehouse. I hadn’t heard of the fellow before. And to be honest his name didn’t make much of an impression on me. It wasn’t very writer-ly if you know what I mean?

Annoying voice in the background: “I don’t”

Well consider the name Shakespeare. You come across his book and you immediately say to yourself “There that’s a writer I’ve heard about! All of my friends have read his books. My teachers had his books on their shelves. Any book by him must be good”

But when you gaze upon one of Wodehouse’s books you are at a loss to make any sense out of it

And it does not help when you’ve got quotations like these littered across the internet.

” I remember when I was a kid at school having to learn a poem of sorts about a fellow named Pig-something–a sculptor he would have been, no doubt–who made a statue of a girl, and what should happen one morning but that the bally thing suddenly came to life. A pretty nasty shock for the chap, of course.”

It’s no use feeling bad about it. On the surface the books of PG wodehouse seem to be nonsensical. But if you’re willing to dive in a little deeper, if you can look past all the absurdity, you’ll discover in PG Wodehouse one of the greatest Romantic writers of our times. Granted that his words don’t evoke that sense of quiet suffering as Charlotte Bronte’s and maybe his plot wasn’t as dramatic as Shakespeare’s but he was the best at creating this warm glowing feeling that left you happy at the end of each chapter.

“I felt like one of those chappies in the novels who calls off the fight with his wife in the last chapter and decides to forget and forgive.”

PG Wodehouse had his own style of course. Don’t go in expecting poetic declarations of love and rosy descriptions of beloveds. Often you’d have an eligible bachelor running away from female interest. This is especially true in Jeeves and Wooster stories where Bertie does not take kindly to his aunts’ insistence to set him up with a partner. Of course the situation isn’t helped in anyway by Jeeves who outright refuses to to work for a married couple being, as he called himself, a bachelor’s butler.

“Honoria, you see, is one of those robust, dynamic girls with the muscles of a welterweight and a laugh like a squadron of cavalry charging over a tin bridge. A beastly thing to face over the breakfast table. Brainy, moreover.”

This difference of opinion between the characters form the crux of plot in Wodehouse’s stories. The situation would be something like a fellow going into a restaurant, ordering a cheese sandwich and expecting a nice conventional breakfast that he’d like to have peacefully, but is served banana peel salad instead because the chef thinks that he’d be pleasantly surprised by the Sunday morning special delicacy.

There might be some folks who enjoy these kind of things but in Wodehouse’s stories such behaviour is not looked upon with affection and gratitude despite the polite reassurances offered.

“Contenting myself, accordingly, with a gesture of loving sympathy, I left the room. Whether she did or did not throw a handsomely bound volume of the Works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, at me, I am not in a position to say. I had seen it lying on the table beside her, and as I closed the door I remember receiving the impression that some blunt instrument had crashed against the woodwork, but I was feeling too pre-occupied to note and observe.”

Tiffs between sweethearts were handled with delicacy. Even though the love was not reciprocated at all times, there was never all that sobbing and breaking of perfectly good wine glasses that causes one to break a cold sweat just at the thought of approaching a temperamental romantic interest.

“Jeeves, I’m engaged.” “I hope you will be very happy, sir.” “Don’t be an ass. I’m engaged to Miss Bassett.”

If you’re tired of all those heavy, brooding love stories that leave you with a sinking feeling, once they end, give PG Wodehouse a try. Romance can be funny.

Red hair, sir, in my opinion, is dangerous



  • On January 22, 2015