Nikhil Krishnan:

If political-minded readers are disappointed that Wodehouse doesn’t care more for justice, they might remind themselves that he cared even less for revenge: most of us have a hard time telling the desire for fairness apart from the desire to get even.

We live in a world anxious again to divide people into goodies and baddies, their views into liberal and conservative. Wodehouse was unusual in seeing that it is enough to divide them into “all right” and “bad coves” — in other words, those we like and those we could learn to live with. If that didn’t make him sound like a more solemn figure than in fact he was, you might even call that the deep insight behind his comedy. The message — if that’s not too pompous a thing to ascribe to Wodehouse — is: it takes all sorts to make a world. The right word for the author’s ethic — such as it was — is not “liberalism”, which is the label for a political philosophy; the imputation of any such thing would indeed have made him seriously ill. What he possessed was a rarer, more precious thing: the virtue of liberality.

Wodehouse’s world is one in which the monocled dandy can be friends with the school jock. (A great lover of American English, he would not have protested the Americanism.) And both can live, eventually if not right off the bat, in harmony with the idealist and the prig. Is that an ethical ideal? Not, perhaps, in a sense that Orwell would have recognised. But that only tells us that some people have too narrow a view of the ethical. Whatever those words — ethical, political — mean, they must have something to do with living together with other people. The desire to transform other people so that they live up to our own ideal is at the root of so much political violence. The idea, especially at Christmas, of a writer who doesn’t want to change you — or anyone or anything — is all the more attractive, for just that reason.
Merry Christmas!