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March 21, 2004
Wodehouse and Monkhouse both went to Dulwich

I've been loafing about today, not working, or blogging. But I have recently discovered that one of the posher schools in London, Dulwich College, produced the following two ex-Dulwichians (?): P. G. Wodehouse, and Bob Monkhouse. Coincidence I wonder? Probably.

PG I got from a book of biographical pieces of his called Wodehouse on Wodehouse, and Monkhouse I got from watching a TV show about him earlier this evening.

Most comedians of the Monkhouse generation were born with dirty shovels in their mouths, and milked their miseries for the rest of their lives. Fair enough. But that wasn't Monkhouse. He had no miseries to boast about. He prevailed in the comedy universe by applying the skills of a highly educated man to the business of producing jokes in the manner of a factory turning out cars, or perhaps a better metaphor might be: supplying jokes for audiences like perfectly fitted suits, because he was a great judge of an audience. (Most of the criticism he suffered was because he did a lot of TV, and with TV you can aim your stuff at this or that audience all you like but there will still be members of quite different audiences also watching, and not like it nearly so much. TV made Monkhouse rich, but it also got him a lot of criticism.)

Wodehouse also worked very hard, and harder than he liked to pretend. (I recall him using the word "loafing" to describe what he did with the first few years of his life.) But he too churned the stuff out. If he got less complaint than Monkhouse this was because people who didn't and don't want to read his books never did so merely because they couldn't be bothered to switch over to another book, or to switch off. Books are not read nowadays except by the entirely willing.

This is straying into the territory of my Culture Blog, but I am leaving it here, as today's educational effort.

What I'm trying to say is: here were two very successfully educated people, which says to me that Dulwich College may have been and may still be a very good place to be educated.

Certainly when you live in London and you ask about good schools, Dulwich always crops up as a money-no-object peak in the mountain range of educational goodness. I seem to recall I even gave a talk there once, which passed off smoothly and politely enough.

I've just googled to the effect that this guy also went to Dulwich. Monkhouse started out as a comic artist. The two of them were mates there, apparently.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:24 PM
Category: Famous educations

Brian, another former Dulwich boy was Raymond Chandler, who of course churned out all those Philip Marlowe private detective novels of the 40s and 50s. And it seems that quite a few of my former and current colleagues are ex-Dulwich students.

I have also played a few games of cricket there. Excellent ground.

Comment by: Tom Burroughes on March 22, 2004 08:51 PM


Thanks for that. Is there a pattern here? Of both "creativity" (i.e. arts or entertainment) and "churning out"?

Could the link be humility? I am convinced that humility is the virtue you most need in order to "churn out", because you have to believe that hard work is not beneath you.

Do your Dulwich colleagues churn out their stuff, a la Monkhouse/Wodehouse/Chandler?

The whole question of what, if anything, these "good" schools somehow impart to their pupils is fascinating, I think. Maybe it's that the ethos attracts those who already function in a certain way, and they flourish and get a flying start in life, their pre-existing virtues confirmed and encouraged?

Comment by: Brian Micklethwait on March 23, 2004 10:43 AM
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