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Wodehouse letters reveal self-doubts and regrets
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The Daily Telegraph 24 April 2001

Wodehouse letters reveal self-doubts and regrets

Will Bennett

P G WODEHOUSE, the creator of Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves, often suffered from writer's block and had to reread his own books to check whether he had already used his story ideas.

The British novelist was also an arch-reactionary who regretted that charm or sporting prowess alone no longer guaranteed a place at Oxford and Cambridge and who deplored the loss of cricket's amateur status.

Wodehouse's self-doubts as a writer and his regret that the world of his youth was vanishing are revealed in letters that he wrote to his friend Billy Griffith, the Sussex and England cricketer, over more than 40 years.

The letters, which are expected to fetch £8,000 to £12,000 when they are auctioned at Christie's South Kensington in London in June, are being sold by Griffith's son, Mike.

In one letter in 1953 Wodehouse confessed to Griffith: "The devil of it is that every time I get a particularly good idea, I have to reread all the other Jeeves books to make sure I haven't used it before." In another, four years later, he admitted: "At present I haven't a clue what to write about next but I always go through this phase."

Wodehouse was as snobbish as some of the characters in his novels and told Griffith he objected to Len Hutton's appointment as England cricket captain in 1954 because of his social ineptitude. "Surely he will be a total loss on the social, speech-making side," he wrote.

In a sideswipe at professional cricket, he added: "Almost any pro would be bad enough and H is such a dour, silent pro." Wodehouse lived abroad for much of his life partly because he was branded as a traitor after making some ill-judged although essentially harmless broadcasts for the Germans during the Second World War.

But he remained homesick for England, scouring newspapers for cricket scores and eagerly seeking news of Dulwich College, south London, his old public school.

In one letter he said he would like a house next to Lord's cricket ground in London. "I've always thought that's where I should like to live, with a garden gate opening on the ground," he wrote.

Wodehouse's letters, mostly signed "P G" or "Plum", begin in 1932 and are full of reminiscences about schoolboy cricket. He once said his days at Dulwich College were "so like heaven that I feel everything since has been an anti-climax".

Griffith also went to Dulwich but they were a generation apart, the novelist leaving in 1900 and the cricketer in 1933. Mike Griffith, Wodehouse's godson, said: "P G used to watch Dulwich rugby matches and write them up for the school magazine. My father was playing at that time and that is how they first got to know each other.

"P G never came back to this country after the war and most of the relationship was by letter. It is extraordinary that he took the trouble to write such fantastic letters - his output was amazing." Wodehouse's friendship with Griffith, who later became secretary and then president of the MCC, lasted until the novelist's death aged 94 in 1975.

Rupert Neelands of Christie's said: "This ranks as a major archive, particularly important because it is unpublished and existing Wodehouse biographers have not had access to it."

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