Wodehouse memorial at Westminster Abbey is criticised

21 June 2019

ISTOCK

THE author P. G. Wodehouse is to be honoured with a memorial stone in Westminster Abbey, despite incidents in his life which caused controversy.

This week, it emerged that the outgoing Dean of Westminster, the Very Revd John Hall, had decided to grant the memorial to Wodehouse “for his contribution to 20th-century English literature”.

During the Second World War, Wodehouse was interned in Germany, and made five radio broadcasts to the United States from Berlin, for which he was criticised in the UK.

The Revd Alexander Faludy, a former Vicar of Wallsend, said: “Wodehouse has been accused of being a Nazi collaborator. I think that is probably going too far, but he was certainly naïve, credulous, vain, and self-interested. He allowed himself to be used in a terribly damaging way.”

Gyles Brandreth, the former Conservative MP and television personality, told The Daily Telegraph that “Through naïvety, P. G. Wodehouse undoubtedly gave comfort to the enemy during the darkest days of the war. He broadcast gently amusing, non-political talks from Berlin, giving the impression that, if he was fine, and, by implication, that, if he was fine, all was fine in Nazi Germany.”

Mr Faludy said: “Unlike T. S. Eliot, he [Wodehouse] wasn’t a convinced, open, and active anti-Semite. Eliot has had a plaque in since 1967. That is so, despite his often overlooked, and entirely voluntary advocacy for the French far-right Actiones Francaise movement in the interwar period.”

Wodehouse was knighted in 1975, which the Abbey said was “significant in assessing the value of his work”.

Mr Brandreth said: “Perhaps it is time to forgive and move on: the Abbey is a place for forgiveness, after all. He is of course a comic genius — that’s not in question.”

The director of investigations and enforcement at the organisation Campaign Against Antisemitism, Stephen Silverman, said last week: “P. G. Wodehouse was a literary genius who has long been considered to be amongst Britain’s greatest authors, but he was also an odious anti-Semite.

“There is nothing wrong with admiring his works, but that is very different from admiring their author. It is not for the Church to forgive and forget his lifelong unrepentant hatred of Jews. This honour should be withdrawn.”

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