Open Letter from Tom Weldon, CEO of Penguin Random House UK

Tom Weldon
An image of orange Penguin book spines in a row

Dear Everyone

Last week, a national newspaper reported that Penguin has ‘censored’ and ‘purged’ some of PG Wodehouse’s classic novels.

That account is inaccurate and misleading, and we have made a formal complaint seeking a correction. Meantime, I wanted to make a couple of points about our approach to the complex issues around publishing classic books for contemporary readers. 

The report is about new 2022 editions of Thank You, Jeeves and Right Ho, Jeeves. Though the books are described as being rewritten and worse, the reality is that we removed one irrefutably offensive, outdated and racist word. This change was made by our editorial team with the full support of the author’s literary estate.

These books are a good example of how we tackle the difficult questions that arise when we produce new editions of works that were conceived in very different social and cultural contexts. In general our default position is to leave classic works in their original state; to explain rather than to edit. We do this via explanatory notes and contextualisation, often from leading academics, and where appropriate by flagging potentially offensive or harmful content.

Sometimes our publishing teams will make exceptions to that general position and the racist word that we edited from these books is one example. Others might relate to specific requests from an author estate or to our particular responsibilities when publishing for young children. At the same time, our publishing teams are expanding and diversifying our classics lists, pushing for more representative ranges of voices and stories.

We appreciate that changes to much-loved stories may be controversial and sometimes fiercely contested. These are challenging issues that publishers have been tackling for many years and we will continue to navigate that responsibility to ensure our publishing remains relevant and dynamic for generations to come.

With best wishes


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