My journey with P G Wodehouse continues abd I make it a point to read at least 2-3 pages of his compendium of work that I have downloaded on my kindle. In fact, my kindle tells me that currently I have just finished 12% of the total contents and it’s going to be a slow but long roller coaster ride with the Master.
What makes his work exuding old world charm is not the mere fact that most of it was written in the early part of last century in colonial Britain, but that he uses words that are no longer in use- quaint English words. Dictionary itself says for many such words as being used colloquially in Britain or quaint English no longer in use! Moreover, most of his stories cannot be thought of and concocted in today’s scenario when the technology , especially the mobile and internet, rules the roost. Although his main character Bertie’s extended family stays in suburbs or upcountry places drivable within a couple of hours from London today ( in those days when there were no metros, speed trains or expressways, it would take much longer), the only mode of communication in those times was telegram ( I think even personal landlines were rare in those days) and therefore, the surprise element of an event having occurred or not that was possible then would be totally out of place today, when people are connected on real time basis.
To elaborate the above point further, the story I am currently reading has Aunt Agatha announcing expulsion of Bertie’s two cousins from college for their acts of omission and commission and that decision had been taken to onboard them on to the next ship to Johannesburg, South Africa, a British colony for them to start their life afresh there. For that the cousins would be coming a night before to London from their upcountry residence to be spending a night with Bertie so that they could catch the ship next enroute Johannesburg. How these young ruffians spent their last night in London, fell in love ( with the same girl) and deceive each other and Aunt Agatha by not having caught the ship, but staying back much to Bertie’s chagrin is another story and how Aunt Agatha would react to this act of disobedience and irresponsibility of Bertie in not facing ensured that his younger cousins were on their way to Johannesburg , I am sure, is going to make up for an interesting story as I read it further.
But in today’s milieu the above kind of humour or story is not possible. The two cousins needn’t have come a day in advance to fall for London’s charm but started early morning on the day of journey by a fast mode to board their ship. They couldn’t have ditched their ride as they would have been caught in no time based on their mobile and GPS. The humour is quaint as it’s based on telegrams, tram cars, ships and laid back life of British nobility and this can be savoured only by reading the likes of PGW. The humour is subtle, situational and classy and not loud or crass.