Pelham Grenville Wodehouse was born in Guildford, Surrey, the son of a British magistrate who was resident in Hong Kong. P. G. spent the first two years of his life in Hong Kong before being sent to England together with his two elder brothers to be looked after first by a nanny and then by his maternal grandparents. He attended a preparatory school in Croydon for three years and went on to Dulwich College where he was very happy. On leaving school, because his parents could not afford to send him to university, he got a job with Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank but found himself unsuited to the work and left after two years. Whilst there he had articles published in several magazines.
In 1901, with the help of a former master from Dulwich, he was taken on by the Globe newspaper as a humorous columnist to write its By The Way column. The position was temporary at first but became permanent later. He stayed until 1909 and during his time there he completed eight novels and also fulfilled a cherished ambition to visit New York. He also became the resident lyricist at the Aldwych Theatre in 1906. After leaving the Globe he devoted his time to writing the novels for which he has become best known, namely, The Blandings, Psmith, and Wooster and Jeeves stories.
In 1914 he married Ethel May Wayman, an English widow, who already had a daughter Eleanora, whom Wodehouse legally adopted and to whom he became devoted. She worked as his secretary and he was devastated when she died some years later after a routine operation. Ineligible for military service because of poor eyesight he spent the whole of WWI in New York where he became involved in writing Broadway musicals. He returned to England in 1920 but continued to visit the United States, working for two years as a Hollywood scriptwriter.
In the mid-1930’s he and his wife decided to move to France primarily for tax reasons, buying a house near Le Touquet. When WW2 broke out, he unsuccessfully tried to leave the country but he and his wife were interned by the occupying Germans. He was persuaded to make some broadcasts to America who at that point had not entered the war and this naturally led to some deep resentment in Britain with his being labelled a traitor. After the war he narrowly evaded prosecution, it being concluded that his conduct had been naive and unwise rather than treasonous.
In 1947 he and his wife moved to Southampton on Long Island in the United States. He became a US citizen in 1955 and never set foot in England again. He was knighted in 1974, the year before he died at the age of 93. During his lifetime he wrote 90 books, 30 plays and musical comedies and 20 film scripts. He also wrote a significant number of poems. He was a brilliant wordsmith, a keen observer of human nature and frailty and is justly regarded as one of England’s best loved writers of comic novels and verse.