Code of the Wokesters: Publisher Censors PG Wodehouse’s ‘Jeeves’ Novels for ‘Unacceptable’ Language

Comic actors Hugh Laurie (L) and Stephen Fry in character as Bertie Wooster and Reginald Jeeves in the period comedy Jeeves And Wooster, circa 1990. (Photo by TV Times via Getty Images)
TV Times via Getty Images

In the latest censorious assault on English literature, PG Wodehouse’s celebrated comic ‘Jeeves and Wooster’ novels have reportedly been rewritten by publishers to remove “unacceptable” passages and prose.

Following the international row over the decision to issue censored copies of the children’s books of Roald Dahl to conform with modern woke sensibilities, it has emerged that the whimsical novels of English novelist PG Wodehouse have become the next target for failing to align with the politically correct code of current publishers.

According to a report from The Telegraph, several Wodehouse novels featuring the famed character ‘Jeeves’ — the “gentleman’s personal gentleman” character which inspired the Ask Jeeves search engine website (now — have had their prose changed or outright removed for new editions set to be published by Penguin Random House.

A trigger warning at the beginning of the 2023 edition of Thank You, Jeeves states:  “Please be aware that this book was published in the 1930s and contains language, themes and characterisations which you may find outdated.

“In the present edition, we have sought to edit, minimally, words that we regard as unacceptable to present-day readers.”

The censors also targeted the 2022 edition of Right Ho, Jeeves, which is tagged with the same trigger warning. In addition, the comedic novel had a racial phrase to describe a “minstrel of the old school” purged from the book. According to the British broadsheet, racial terms have been removed from multiple Wodehouse novels.

Penguin went on to reportedly remove numerous racial references from Thank You, Jeeves, the first full-length novel in the Jeeves and Wooster series which centres around the performance of a minstrel troupe, which was common feature of England during the era in which the novel was set.

Wodehouse, born in 1881 in Surrey, England, wrote over 90 books during his lifetime and was hailed as Britain’s premier comedic writer. His works inspired many adaptations, including the heralded 1990s series Jeeves and Wooster starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.

The works of Wodehouse, which often play with the language of pre-World War One Edwardian England in conjunction with slang from America, have been held up as some of the finest examples of comedic prose in the English language, with The Code of the Woosters writer often being compared to other literary giants such as Jane Austin and William Shakespeare.

A contemporary of Wodehouse’s, Brideshead Revisited author Evelyn Waugh remarked in 1961: “For Mr Wodehouse there has been no fall of Man; no ‘aboriginal calamity.’ His characters have never tasted the forbidden fruit. They are still in Eden. The gardens of Blandings Castle are that original garden from which we are all exiled. The chef Anatole prepares the ambrosia for the immortals of high Olympus. Mr Wodehouse’s world can never stale. He will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own. He has made a world for us to live in and delight in.”

English writer P. G. Wodehouse (1881 - 1975), 7th September 1928. (Photo by Sasha/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

English writer P. G. Wodehouse (1881 – 1975), 7th September 1928. (Photo by Sasha/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Douglas Adams, the author of The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy series said of Wodehouse: “It matters not one whit that he writes endless variations on a theme of pig kidnappings, lofty butlers, and ludicrous impostures. He is the greatest musician of the English language, and exploring variations of familiar material is what musicians do all day.”

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