The touching friendship between crime writer Agatha Christie and Jeeves creator PG Wodehouse formed in their twilight years can be revealed in correspondence published for the first time today.
And poignantly, in what proved to be her farewell letter dated January 14, 1975 – just a month before Wodehouse died aged 93 – she signed off: ‘Goodbye for now and thanks for all the laughs.’
In the letter, the Poirot author also reveals her secrets for longevity, saying: ‘One eats and drinks what one likes, – occasionally short periods resting in bed and reading one’s favourite books like those of PG Wodehouse.’
Woman of letters: Dame Agatha and PG Wodehouse began corresponding late in life
The letters from Dame Agatha are part of an archive of Wodehouse papers which have now been loaned to the British Library by his estate.
In one letter, the crime writer reveals her antipathy towards her public and their demands.
Writing on May 24, 1971, Dame Agatha says she welcomed how a postal strike had left her cut off from the outside world.
The ‘sweet’ consequence of the dispute was the complete absence of ‘fan mail… begging letters’ and ‘requests that you should send articles of personal wear (?? Really! Disgusting idea!) to charity sales’.
Dame Agatha was 79 when she began corresponding with 88-year-old Wodehouse in 1969.
Perhaps not surprisingly given their respective ages, the veteran authors were preoccupied with health matters.
In a letter dated May 13, 1970, Dame Agatha lampoons the pretensions of clueless doctors who dole out antibiotics ‘until one of them does the trick or alternatively lays you in your coffin!’
She also celebrates the loss of four stone ‘as a good result’ of the heart attack she suffered in 1969.
PG Wodehouse, pictured above in 1968
She writes: ‘Only nuisance has been that slimmer hips has resulted in a tendency to lose my skirt when I cross a street. Have to be held together by safety pins.’
The letters between the two highlight a shared admiration for each other’s work – as well as a mutual distrust of the publishing business which made their names.
Dame Agatha tells Wodehouse she is frequently infuriated by proof-readers who insist on ‘correcting’ the grammar of her characters’ dialogue.
She says: ‘It really does enrage me, because few people I have ever met do talk grammatically and this includes myself.’
Dame Agatha also quickly tired of the numerous national celebrations in 1970 to mark her 80th birthday, writing: ‘Why should people congratulate one for being 80 years old – no damned merit in it.’
Wodehouse died on February 14, 1975. Dame Agatha died aged 85 on January 12, 1976.
‘Let’s make Jeeves sexy’
PG Wodehouse considered sexing-up his best-loved creation Jeeves for the theatre.
In a letter to producer Guy Bolton from February 5, 1951, Wodehouse said of a possible comedy to feature the valet and his gentleman master Bertie Wooster: ‘We ought to write a completely new play starring Jeeves – something a bit risky with a lot of sex in it.
‘My type of story is apt to be a bit thin on stage… So why don’t we try to get something sexy for a Jeeves play?’
The idea of sexing-up Jeeves – perhaps in an attempt to attract an American audience – will surprise readers who know the character only for impeccable manners and unfailing acumen.
Eventually, Wodehouse and Bolton wrote the comedy Come On, Jeeves – first performed in 1954.