Better than Downton

photo-1Hey Downton Abbey fans! Were you sad when Sybil died? Bummed to see Matthew crash his roadster and make Lady Mary a widow? Confused about why, when we’ve said goodbye to so many stellar characters, we still have to put up with poor Edith each week?

If you’re like me, you find yourself watching the show—loving the costumes, hanging on the drama both above and below stairs, waiting for the next pearl to drop from the Dowager Countess—and then, at the end of each episode, longing for something more. Something…uplifting. Something happy.

P.G. Wodehouse is your answer! Like Downton creator Julian Fellowes, Wodehouse is thoroughly British (Fellowes is a member of the House of Lords; Wodehouse was a knight), thoroughly accomplished (both penned best-selling novels), and thoroughly versed in the social trials and tribulations of those who totter around in castles and dress for dinner. (Ever heard of Jeeves, the butler? Pure Wodehouse.)

Both are talented men, but I have to give the nod to Wodehouse. He is funny. As in, really funny. The London Times called him a “brilliantly funny writer—perhaps the most consistently funny the English language has yet produced.” (Granted, the Brits are not really known for guffawing, and Wodehouse’s literary peers were folks like T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf, but still…) His characters bear names such as Stilton Cheesewright and J. Chichester Clam, and on the roster of women his leading man—Bertram Wooster—has nearly married, we find Honoria Glossop (a confirmed back-slapper whose laugh was “like a steam-riveting machine”) and Florence Craye, “one of those intellectual girls, steeped to the gills in serious purpose, who are unable to see a male soul without wanting to get behind it and shove.”

Wodehouse’s satire bears no meanness. Rather, his goal seems to be to inspire hope; no matter how tricky the situation, you get the sense that things will somehow sort themselves out. Throw in Wodehouse’s liberal use of biblical allusions (Bertram Wooster wonders whether Jeeves may have come up with the phrase, “Joy cometh in the morning,” which is—he says—a “dashed good” expression, and after the guest house they inhabit burns down, they are reluctant to retrieve Wooster’s suitcase since the cottage “was still something which only Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego could have entered with any genuine enjoyment.”)

So here’s the bottom line. If you like Downton, you’ll love Wodehouse. And with more than 90 books to his credit, you’ll never have to worry about that dreaded “final” episode.

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