Friday, July 29, 2011

PG Wodehouse and Christian readers

Suzannah at the delightful In Which I Read Vintage Novels has been observing "Favorite Novelists Week" and today comes PG Wodehouse, about whom she finds virtues above and beyond superb writing and wonderful entertainment:
....It has long been my firm belief that Wodehouse's books are as much a product of Christendom as is Westminster Cathedral—and in much the same tradition. There are clues everywhere. Kindly clergy. Benificent bishops (addressed by the plucky young curate-hero as “Bish”). Rollicking revival meetings. Sweet young Salvation Army officers. Bertie Wooster's Bible Knowledge prize and the resultant proliferation of quotes from the Authorised Version of the Bible. The Reverend Harold “Stinker” Pinker, a lovable curate who must be seen to be believed on the rugby field. Even the interior decorating of Wodehouse's country estates is Biblical in tone:
I could see that she was looking for something to break as a relief to her surging emotions ... and courteously drew her attention to a terra-cotta figure of the Infant Samuel at Prayer. She thanked me briefly and hurled it against the opposite wall. --The Code of the Woosters
Plot points and jokes from Wodehouse's works further anchor his books within Christendom. Engagements and marriages end each successful romance, all of which are squeaky clean. When a girl turns up to stay at Bertie Wooster's lonely country cottage at midnight, the unfortunate but chivalrous Bertie tries to get a rest first in his motor-car and then in his garden-shed. When Monty Bodkin's prospective father-in-law refuses to let his daughter Gertrude marry a young man who doesn't work for a living, the independently wealthy Bodkin immediately gets a job as a secretary, anxious to qualify properly. Although not all of them are very bright, Wodehouse's young men are often physically courageous and always, always scrupulously chivalrous and honourable. Masculine Christianity (such as the Rev. Stinker's) is favourably compared with melting, emotional sentimentalism (such as Madeline Basset's, whose theology fails to extend beyond a firm belief that the stars are God's daisy chain). And the delightful subplot to The Mating Season tells the touching story of a devout housemaid separated from the man she loves by his staunch atheism. .... [more]
In Which I Read Vintage Novels: Favourite Novelists: PG Wodehouse and What He Taught Me