Cars in books, February 1992

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In about the best biography there is about the author PG Wodehouse, creator of Jeeves, Bertie Wooster, Psmith and Lord Emsworth, etc, who was still writing good books after the age of 90, we learn from this book, PG Wodehouse by Frances Donaldson (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1982), that Wodehouse bought a car, a Darracq, in 1905 and after one driving lesson from Seymour Hicks, from whom he had bought it, for £450, he set off for Emsworth, presumably from London. Wodehouse got almost to his destination when just outside this Hampshire/Sussex village he ran into a ditch. He left the car, took a train to London, and never drove again.

When war broke out in 1939 the Wodehouses were living at Le Touquet. Before being arrested by the Germans they had tried to escape, in their two little cars, a tiny Lancia — probably an Aprilia or an Augusta — which Mrs Wodehouse drove, and another unnamed car. The Lancia, which had been involved in an accident some time beforehand, broke down after 15 miles and was abandoned in a field. Friends with a large Ford, no doubt a V8, then took them abroad, using petrol from tins buried in the garden, but this only got as far as the golf club when it, too, broke down.

They returned home and Wodehouse was duly interned and made those controversial broadcasts from Germany. for which he was eventually forgiven, WB