Magazine article The Spectator

Wodehouse at the Crease

Magazine article The Spectator

Wodehouse at the Crease

Article excerpt

THE WORK of P.G. Wodehouse is a triviality wrapped up in a frivolity inside a nugacity. And the same goes for cricket. If cricket and Wodehouse actually mattered, they would lose all their point, all their glory, all their greatness.

Suitable text to begin a piece on cricket in a week in which another Ashes series is lost to Australia, and to celebrate a book, Wodehouse at the Wicket, edited by a kind of Henry James Australian, a Melbournian Londoner named Murray Hedgcock. This is a book for which the world has no need, which makes it a delight and leader in the race for the cricket book of the year.

`Reginald Humby was one of those men who go in just above the byes, and are to tired bowlers what the dew is to parched earth at the close of an August afternoon.' Then Wodehouse trumps his own ace with his next sentence: `When a boy at school he once made nine not out in a house match, but after that he went all to pieces.'

Hedgcock has collected a good deal of Wodehouses's cricket writing, including three of the Mike stories and the aforementioned gem, `Reginald's Record Knock'. Wodehouse created his Edwardian nevernever-land on a dream of Englishness, but did so in a strangely un-English fashion.

This was hard commercial sense - he moved to America and had an American audience to please - but it was also a certain taste for universality. Wodehouse wrote of the besieged class of an island race, but he did so without the smallest trace of insularity. Had he stayed in England there would doubtless have been many more cricket stories, and he would have out-de Selincourted the sentimental cricket person's favourite cricket story, `The Cricket Match'. But we would not have had Blandings and Bertie. These things needed distance and foreign soil.

The book also contains a few agreeable cricket poems and a little cricket journalism, including a match report for his school magazine. …

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