As for the critics: “I have an idea for a thoughtful thesis on the subject of Literary Criticism entitled ‘Back to Whiskers’ — my argument being that the soppiness and over-enthusiasm of modern literary criticism is due to the fact that critics are now clean shaven instead of wearing full-size whiskers, as in the brave old days when authors and critics used to come to blows. What we need is a return to the old foliage and acid reviews.”
Wodehouse kept right on writing straight through the most difficult time of his life, his internment by the Nazis during World War II, first in Berlin and then in Paris. It must have been terribly hard for him to maintain his morale, and there were moments when slippage was visible, not merely because of the war but because he could see his own world ending, as he wrote to a friend from Paris in June 1945:
(W.W. Norton) - ’P. G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters’ by P. G. Wodehouse and Sophie Ratcliffe
“I have had a long spell of inaction since finishing a novel at the end of March. I suppose I shall get another plot some day, but nothing seems to stir as yet. . . . My trouble is that I already have five novels waiting to be published in England, so that anything I write now will presumably appear round about 1950, and I find it very hard to imagine what the world will be like then. I mean, it seems a waste of time to write about butlers and country houses if both are obsolete, as I suppose they will be. I can’t see what future there is for Blandings Castle, and I doubt if Bertie Wooster will be able to afford a personal attendant with the income tax at ten shillings in the pound. It looks to me as if the only one of my characters who will be able to carry on is Ukridge. His need for making a quick touch will be all the greater in an impoverished world, though I don’t see who is going to be in a position to lend him the ten bob he is always wanting.”
Well, of course Wodehouse was wrong as wrong can be. Bertie, Jeeves, Lord Emsworth, the Empress of Blandings and — of course! — Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, fifth Earl of Ickenham, and all the rest of them are eternal. They are beyond time and place, in a universe all their own that will, I devoutly believe, continue into the unknown to bring readers not only delight but also the bracing reassurance that whatever the stupidities we humans commit, there are places in the universe that remain unclouded by them.