Leave it to Psmith!

I said ‘P-smith’ to a fellow Wodehouse fan the other night and about died. It slipped out before I could catch it. Wodehouse did an admirable thing with that name. It’s not soon forgettable, that is. All writers admire a good name. Some of us take it too far; myself included, though I think I’ve tamed my thirst for crazy names. It can be a little overwhelming to have a family of nine who all are graced with the most incredible names. ‘Bersch’ anyone? I digress.

The Book

Psmith Will Help You
Psmith is Ready For Anything
Someone To Manage Your Affairs?
Someone To Handle Your Business?
Someone To Take The Dog For a Run?
Someone To Assassinate Your Aunt?
(Provided It Has Nothing To Do With Fish)
Address Applications To ‘R. Psmith BOX 365’

And so does The Hon. Freddy Threepwood, young and in need of money. He appeals to his uncle Joseph Keeble, but it happens that he is in the very same predicament. Freddy conspires.

It starts with an umbrella; an act of kindness, albeit warped. From there, Ronald Eustace Psmith seeks employment. Following a mixup involving a chrysanthemum and a prospective client, Psmith goes to lunch and gets mistaken for a poet by the elderly Earl Emsworth, who has lost his glasses. Next thing, he is on his way to Blandings Castle in the guise of a poet, but truly in quest of Lady Constance Keeble’s necklace.

Seeing that Psmith has no objection to crime, Freddy and his uncle devise a plan to garner twenty thousand pounds  while preserving the jewelry. Psmith must ‘steal’ it and give it to Mr, Keeble, who will allocate £20,000 to replace it, and have the original stones set in a new necklace. Freddy will have two grand for his wishes, Joe Keeble will have money to give his niece for a farm, pay Psmith for his trouble, and have some to spare. But Rupert Baxter is suspicious, and he will see to it that the necklace goes absolutely nowhere – unless Psmith and his growing band of allies cannot keep it from those at Blandings Castle who truly are thieves.

My Thoughts

Initially, I didn’t care for Leave it to Psmith as much as A Damsel in Distress. I struggled with justifying Psmith’s lack of scrupulousness. After all, if Joseph Keeble had been the leader of his family, his money would have been at his disposal, at his discretion, without having to hire third parties and sneak behind his wife’s back. But, of course, if the matter were perfect, there would be no story to tell.

I was also struck with the similarity of the settings between the two. Perhaps I happened to get the most similar, but I thought I noticed a pattern. Both featured weak earls who like gardening but are under the thumb of a heavy-handed female relative who devotes her life in keeping the flower-loving gentleman away from his roses or hollyhocks or whatever it is he likes best. However, the conflict worked well for both stories. At least they were not poorly written, and the plots were different enough to be interesting.

(Also, I understand my poor mother’s difficulty with my introducing all nine family members in the first chapter of a story.  Make a list, or something, to help you keep track, in the case that you read this book. And like A Damsel in Distress, there is some language.)

 Despite my scruples and the similar settings and onslaught of characters, Wodehouse told his story well. The chrysanthemums! The glasses! The flowerpots! I look forward to reading more of both Psmith’s and Blanding’s dramas.


3 thoughts on “Leave it to Psmith!

  1. Hello Lydia. I am so glad you discovered Psmith. I wonder if your initial reaction might be because Psmith is a character with history, and Leave it to Psmith is (sadly) his last appearance. He first appears as a school boy in the earlier Wodehouse story Mike and Psmith. In that story, Psmith proves himself capable of out-thinking (and talking) even the toughest boyhood opponents and school masters. He takes audacious risks, which pay off in the end. Psmith was such a strong character that Wodehouse followed his post-school progress in adult settings — first a London bank (in Psmith in the City), then a New York magazine desk (Psmith, Journalist). Psmith, while technically an adult, still feels and behaves much as he did in school — taking risks typical of an adventurous boy. A critic might argue that Psmith doesn’t develop as a character. I suggest this is one of the reasons Wodehouse fans love him so much — Psmith’s unique and irrepressible spirit isn’t crushed (as ours so often are) by the adult world.

    Forgive my long reply, but I love this book so much. I do hope you find more Wodehouse to enjoy. Happy reading.


    1. Oh, I don’t mind your long comment. Part of being a bibliophile is being ready for long, deep discussion, right? 🙂 I did think it interesting that Leave it To Psmith should be my first introduction. It was a double whammy, since it features Blandings Castle as well. I was surprised to find it was the last; I read it with the blind impression that it was the first. Whoops! 🙂 I suppose will have to find the others and read them to have a well rounded impression of Psmith.


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