PG Wodehouse to now carry trigger warning as cancel culture of classic English literature spreads

​​Stephen Mangan as Bertie Wooster (left) and Matthew MacFadyen as Jeeves in 2013

Stephen Mangan as Bertie Wooster (left) and Matthew MacFadyen as Jeeves in 2013

Sam Montgomery

By Sam Montgomery

Published: 13/06/2023

- 16:58

Jeeves and Wooster series amongst books censored for ‘outdated language, themes or characterisations’

PG Wodehouse is the latest literary great to be targeted by cancel culture, as the publisher Penguin announces text removals and a trigger warning for all new editions of Wodehouse books.

While Penguin maintains that removals "do not affect the story," the publisher has faced backlash for its decision to blue-pencil PG Wodehouse's works.

Each Wodehouse new addition will now come complete with the following trigger warning: “Please be aware that this book was published in the 1920s and may contain language, themes, or characterisations which you may find outdated.”

The latest editions of Leave it to PSmith and Something Fresh will be published with a caution over obsolete attitudes, despite them neither having been flagged for potentially offensive language or racist terminology.

Stephen Fry who played Jeeves in the ITV adaptation pictured above PG Wodehouse's blue plaque


The controversial move comes following the publisher’s April announcement that any ‘unacceptable’ prose would be removed from Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster books.

A note in the reissue of Thank You, Jeeves explained that publishers “sought to edit, minimally, words that we regard as unacceptable to present-day readers.”

From now on, Wodehouse fans will have to scrounge around second hand stores or comb the internet for prized unedited copies of the first Jeeves and Wooster full-length work.

Jeeves and Wooster were portrayed by Hugh Lawrie and Stephen Fry in a 1990s ITV adaptation of Wodehouse’s books.

Man reading a first edition of Jeeves Omnibus

Punters are likely to flock to the unedited originals


Another book in the series, Right Ho, Jeeves, has carried a cautionary warning since last year for containing the term ‘minstrel of the old school’.

Wodehouse’s hamstringing is the latest in a long and growing line of censorship that includes Ian Fleming, Roald Dahl and Agatha Christie.

Novels from Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple series are to be rewritten and in some cases have sections removed by publisher HarperCollins to avoid causing offence.

Descriptions on characters, insults and references to characters’ ethnicities have all been changed or removed in an attempt to prevent causing offence to modern readers.

\u200bBertie Wooster and Jeeves in "Scoring off Jeeves" illustrated by A. Wallis Mills

Bertie Wooster and Jeeves in "Scoring off Jeeves" illustrated by A. Wallis Mills

Wikimedia/Arthur Wallis Mills

A whole passage in Christie's Dead on the Nile, which described a British tourist venting her frustration at a group of children, has been removed from a recent issue.

Descriptions of characters’ teeth, smiles, and physical appearances have also been taken out.

Meanwhile, all of the James Bond novels have been rewritten by sensitivity experts to remove racist language.

Each of the books will now include a prominent paragraph which reads: “This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace.

“A number of updates have been made in this edition, while keeping as close as possible to the original text and the period in which it is set.”

Earlier this year, the decision to rewrite Roald Dahl books caused outcry, as even the prime minister attacked the censorship.

A spokesperson for the Roald Dahl Story Company said: "We want to ensure that Roald Dahl's wonderful stories and characters continue to be enjoyed by all children today.

"When publishing new print runs of books written years ago, it's not unusual to review the language used alongside updating other details including a book's cover and page layout.

"Our guiding principle throughout has been to maintain the storylines, characters, and the irreverence and sharp-edged spirit of the original text."

The decision caused David Starkey to clash with Rebecca Reid on GB News.

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