Friday 24 February 2017

How England's great wit almost wound up in a noose

Hugh O'Flaherty

Anti-gay prejudice protest...Stephen Fry (right) and Peter Tatchell (left) speak to demonstrators on Whitehall, London, during a protest against Russia's anti-gay stance. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday August 10, 2013. See PA story OLYMPICS Russia. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire...A
Anti-gay prejudice protest...Stephen Fry (right) and Peter Tatchell (left) speak to demonstrators on Whitehall, London, during a protest against Russia's anti-gay stance. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday August 10, 2013. See PA story OLYMPICS Russia. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire...A

I had a friend, a Christian Brother called Patrick Dineen, who had secured an advanced degree in old Irish from University College Galway. He was also a kinsman of Father Dineen, of the Irish dictionary fame. Aside from his Irish - and indeed classical - scholarship, Brother Dineen was a devoted fan of PG Wodehouse and always referred to him reverently as the Master.

So who was PG Wodehouse? Born in 1881, he died in 1975. Best known for his Jeeves and Wooster characters, he wrote up to 100 books. Some credit him with creating the Broadway musical: he collaborated with Jerome Kern, Cole Porter and George Gershwin, among others. He was the greatest comic writer of the 20th century.

Stephen Fry, who played Jeeves in the TV adaptation of Wodehouse's stories, noted: "The word 'reputation' (as a comic writer) does not begin to describe the adoration, admiration, addiction and deep, deep affection in which the works, and therefore the man, have been held by so many around the world." As his biographer Robert McCrum wrote: "his fans range from the idolatrous to the merely obsessed". They transcended all national and political boundaries.

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