- Richard Usborne
Richard Alexander Usborne (
16 May 1910– 21 March 2006), or simply Dick Usborne, was a journalist and author. He is widely regarded as the leading scholar of the life and works of British comic writer P. G. Wodehouse(1881–1975).
Background and career
After failing to enter the Indian Civil Service because of a heart murmur"Daily Telegraph" 2006, op. cit. (he lived to ninety-five), Usborne worked for many years in advertising and journalism.
Second World War, he served in the Middle East for the Special Operations Executiveand was later in the Political Warfare Executive.
In 1948, Usborne became assistant editor of the "
Strand Magazine", then edited by Macdonald Hastings(which had published, from 1891, the short stories of Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, and, from 1910, those of P. G. Wodehouse). When the "Strand" closed in 1950, Usborne wrote for a number of other newspapers and journals, including "Punch" magazine, " The Guardian", " The Times" of London, and the " Times Literary Supplement".
In 2006, Richard Usborne died on
21 March. The day after, he was eulogized in the British press.
P. G. Wodehouse
Usborne's various published works about Wodehouse included:
* "Wodehouse at Work" (1961), a wide-ranging study of
Jeeves, Bertie Wooster, Psmith, Ukridge, Lord Emsworthand other Wodehousian characters;
* "Wodehouse at Work to the End" (1976), the revised edition after Wodehouse's death in 1975;
* "Vintage Wodehouse" (1977), an
anthologywhich, among many other items, included extracts from some of the broadcasts that Wodehouse made from Berlinin 1941 after his release from internment by the Germans during the Second World War;
* "Wodehouse Nuggets" (1983), a collection of Wodehouse quotations and vignettes, with illustrations from the "Strand Magazine"; and
* "Plum Sauce" (2002) (whose title derived from Wodehouse's nickname), an illustrated companion that drew on much of Usborne's earlier material.
In 1973, Usborne contributed to "Homage to P. G. Wodehouse", a tribute edited by
Thelma Cazalet-Keir(1899-1989), a former Conservative Member of Parliament, who was sister-in-law of Wodehouse's late stepdaughter Leonora. He also annotated Wodehouse's final, unfinished novel, which was published as " Sunset at Blandings" in 1977, noting that "if the going had remained good "Sunset at Blandings" might, under another title, have been ready for Christmas 1976".Usborne, Richard (1977). "Work in Progress" in "Sunset at Blandings"
"Wodehouse at Work to the End" and "Plum Sauce" contained diverting appendices about translations of Wodehouse into French. Examples of such vocabulary included "pourvu de galette" ("oofy"), "déchiqueter" ("to tear limb from limb"), and "l'horrible drame de Steeple Bumpleigh" ("the Steeple Bumpleigh horror").
Usborne was also a devotee of
Dornford Yates, 'Sapper', and John Buchan, upper middle classnovelists whose works he had first read during childhood illnesses.. He published a study of their work, "Clubland Heroes", in 1953. Yates (pseudonym of Major William Mercer), who, as the only survivor of the trio, was living in Southern Rhodesia(now Zimbabwe), evidently resented Usborne's interest and wrote to him, through solicitors, that "never has the whip been laid to my back".
Usborne and Wodehouse
Wodehouse once referred to "a certain learned Usborne" in a conversation with journalist and broadcaster
Alistair Cooke.Usborne 1976, op. cit. Wodehouse cooperated with Usborne in the latter's preparation of "Wodehouse at Work", although he destroyed a draft chapter on his controversial wartime activities, of which Usborne had not retained a copy, and this never appeared.McCrum, Robert (2004). "Wodehouse: A Life" Their contact was almost entirely by correspondence and they met only once, when Usborne visited Wodehouse and his wife Ethel at their home on Long Island, New York, in 1971 (the year that Wodehouse reached the age of ninety).
* Usborne, Richard (1976). "Wodehouse at Work to the End".
* "Daily Telegraph" (
22 March 2006).
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