Paul Jennings (British author)

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Not to be confused with Australian children's writer Paul Jennings.

Paul Francis Jennings (20 June 1918 – 26 December 1989) was an English humourist. His writings include several hundred 700-word essays.[1] A collection, with a spoonerism in its title, The Jenguin Pennings, was published in 1963 by Penguin Books.

Early life and education[edit]

Paul Francis Jennings was born on 20 June 1918 in Leamington Spa.[2]


Jennings served in the Royal Signals during the Second World War.[3] In 1943 his piece "Moses was a Sanitary Officer" was published in Lilliput magazine.[4] Freelance work for Punch and The Spectator soon followed. Leaving the army with the rank of Lieutenant, he briefly worked as a scriptwriter for the Central Office of Information and then spent two years as an advertising copywriter; throughout this period his freelance work continued to be published.

In 1949 he joined The Observer, contributing a fortnightly column entitled "Oddly Enough" until 1966. After leaving The Observer, he continued to write until his death, mainly seeing print in Punch, The Times and the Telegraph magazine.


In general his articles take the form of whimsical ponderings; some are based in real life incidents, often involving his friend Harblow.[citation needed] For instance, one of his pieces, "How to Spiel Halma", concerns their attempts to establish the rules of halma from the instructions in a German set using their extremely limited knowledge of the language: [5]

The obvious meaning of this was that the Against-man must naturally again after that treat, this Stone how possibly in the own House of the Player to shut in.

His pieces are sometimes poems,[citation needed] and sometimes written in novel forms of language, such as the Romance-eschewing Anglish,[citation needed] or that of a toy 19-letter pipewipen (typewriter).[citation needed] Other articles were extended flights of fancy, such as "The Unthinkable Carrier" [6] based on the idea of cutting Britain free of the Earth's crust so that it could float around the oceans and guarantee world peace, with the Isle of Wight kept in place by a tow chain. In a late 1950s piece, "Sleep for Sale", he prefigured the concept of the Capsule hotel ("Over to you, capitalists. But remember, I thought of it first.").[7] Several of his pieces touched on the invented philosophical movement of Resistentialism, [8] a concept probably owes some of its force to the contempt that Jennings—a devout Catholic—felt for the intellectual fashion he was parodying.[citation needed]

Jennings was an admirer of James Thurber,[9] who in 1955 attended a dinner party at Jennings' house and subsequently wrote of the conversation in a New Yorker piece.[10]


Oddly Enough collections[edit]

  • Oddly Enough (Reinhardt and Evans, 1950)
  • Even Oddlier (Reinhardt, 1952)
  • Oddly Bodlikins (Reinhardt, 1953)
  • Next to Oddliness (Reinhardt, 1955)
  • Model Oddlies (Reinhardt, 1956)
  • Gladly Oddly (Reinhardt, 1958)
  • Idly Oddly (Reinhardt, 1959)
  • I said Oddly, Diddle I? (Reinhardt, 1961)
  • Oodles of Oddlies (Reinhardt, 1963)
  • Oddly Ad Lib (Reinhardt, 1965)
  • I Was Joking, Of Course (Reinhardt, 1968)
  • It's an Odd Thing, But... ( Reinhardt, 1971)

General collections[edit]

  • The Jenguin Pennings (Penguin, 1963)
  • A Prescription for Foreign Travel (Guinness, 1966)
  • Just a Few Lines (Guinness, 1969)
  • I Must Have Imagined It (M Joseph, 1977)
  • Golden Oddlies (Methuen, 1983)
  • The Paul Jennings Reader (Bloomsbury, 1990) (posthumous)

Books on British Life[edit]

  • The Living Village (Hodder and Stoughton, 1968)
  • Britain as she is Visit (M. Joseph, 1976)
  • Companion to Britain (Cassell, 1981)
  • East Anglia (Gordon Fraser, 1986)

Children's Books[edit]

  • The Hopping Basket (MacDonald & Co, 1965)
  • The Great Jelly of London (Faber and Faber, 1967)
  • The Train to Yesterday (Chambers, 1974)


  • And Now for Something Exactly the Same (Gollancz, 1977)

As editor[edit]

  • The English Difference (Aurelia Enterprises, 1974) (co-edited with John Gorham)
  • The Book of Nonsense (Macdonald, 1977)
  • A Feast of Days (Macdonald, 1982)
  • My Favourite Railway Stories (Lutterworth Press, 1982)

Personal life[edit]

Jennings lived for much of his life in East Bergholt, Suffolk, England, UK,[citation needed] with his wife, Celia, and their six children.[citation needed] Jennings died on 26 December 1989.[11]


  1. ^ Fred Inglis, Speaking Volumes, The Times Higher Educational Supplement, June 9 1995
  2. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (see index website)
  3. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  4. ^ The Paul Jennings Reader, Bloomsbury, 1990
  5. ^ Paul Jennings, How To Spiel Halma, The Observer, June 1949. Collected in Oddly Enough, Reinhardt and Evans, 1950.
  6. ^ Paul Jennings, The Unthinkable Carrier, The Observer, November 1960.
  7. ^ Paul Jennings, Sleep for Sale, in Idly Oddly, Reinhardt, 1959.
  8. ^ Paul Jennings, Report on Resistentialism, The Spectator , 23 April 1948, reprinted as Thingness of Things, The New York Times, 13 June 1948
  9. ^ Paul Jennings, Thurber, Punch, March 1965. In: The Paul Jennings Reader, Bloomsbury, 1990
  10. ^ James Thurber, The moribundant life, or, grow old along with whom?, The New Yorker. In: Alarms and Diversions, Penguin, 1957
  11. ^ The Paul Jennings Reader, Bloomsbury, 1990