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No Bottom to This Barrel
P. G. Wodehouse (David Jasen (ed.)), The Uncollected Wodehouse (International Polygonics, 1999)
When the insatiable reader encounters The Uncollected So-and-So, he is wise, however fervently he may admire So-and-So's tales and sketches, to be wary and keep a tight grip on his billfold. That which has gone uncollected may have been left lying about for good reason and perhaps should have been placed in the hands of a "collector" of a kind other than literary.
Happily, P. G. Wodehouse inspires no such fears. One might say that, while some Wodehouse is better than others, none is worse. Though falling largely into the second class, the pieces in this modest volume lack nothing of the familiar Plumsian delight.
The historically minded will find the very first writing for which Plum received pay ("Some Aspects of Game-Captaincy", in which the terms "blot" and "excrescence" are coupled in the way that would someday rolling trippingly off the tongues of Bertie Wooster's aunts), his first appearance in Punch ("An Unfinished Collection", the prelude to many a future collecting mania), his first published short story ("When Papa Swore in Hindustani", where, not for the last time, a recalcitrant father learns the hidden virtues of his daughter's beau) and his first butler story ("The Good Angel", whose Keggs misplaces his h's and lacks Jeeves' nobility of spirit but nonetheless applies a keen understanding of the psychology of the individual to reunite young hearts separated by an interloping poet).
There are, in all, fourteen stories, none likely to be familiar to even the most assiduous Wodehousian, and fifteen occasional items from newspapers, including a couple of poems. The non-stories ("nonfiction" would be distinctly not le mot juste) are very slight (averaging only two pages each), and some depend on topical references for their humor. They are best enjoyed as bon-bons between the more substantial fare.
Wodehouse - alas - was not like Jeeves and Bertie Wooster in being ageless and immortal. Editors must now fish into the barrel for new entertainments. It is our good fortune that this particular barrel has no bottom.
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