Leave it to Psmith – P G Wodehouse

Leave it to Psmith has one of the most convoluted plots of any Wodehouse novel I’ve read so far. I lost count of the number of impostors, jewel thieves, amazing coincidences & overturned flower pots at Blandings Castle but it was a lot of fun trying to work out who was trying to do what to whom.

Psmith (the P is silent) is a young man who wants to get out of the fish business. His uncle got him in to it & now Psmith is tired of standing up to his knees in cold, wet fish all day. So, he puts an advertisement in the papers, offering his services for any task, crime not excepted (Providing It has Nothing To Do With Fish). The Hon Freddie Threepwood, second son of the Earl of Emsworth sees the ad & decides that Psmith is the man for him. Freddie  has just had to be bailed out again because of his gambling debts & his father won;t give him any more money. He needs £1000 to get a share in a bookies business & he concoct a scheme with his uncle, millionaire Joe Keeble, to steal his aunt, Lady Constance Keeble’s, diamond necklace.

Joe wants to steal his wife’s necklace because the formidable Lady Constance won’t agree to Joe’s pleas to help his stepdaughter, Phyllis, with £3000 to help her & her husband buy a farm. Lady Constance has disowned Phyllis because she refused to marry the man of Lady Constance’s choice. Joe plans to steal the necklace, sell it so he has money to help Phyllis & then buy his wife another necklace. He’s a little dubious about Freddie as he’s not very intelligent but Freddie decides to employ Psmith to help him. Psmith, it turns out, is a great friend of Phyllis’s husband, Mike Jackson, & he agrees to help with the heist. Getting Psmith into Blandings Castle looks like being the only problem.

Lord Emsworth is sent to London by his sister, Constance, to collect Ralston McTodd, a Canadian poet who has been invited to stay. While lunching at his Club, Lord Emsworth offends McTodd by wittering on about his flower garden & the bad tempered poet storms out. When Lord Emsworth returns from a nearby florist’s to find Psmith at his table, he assumes this is McTodd & Psmith finds himself on a train to Market Blandings that same afternoon. Luckily for him, the girl he’s just fallen in love with, Eve Halliday, is also going to Blandings to catalogue the library. Unluckily for Psmith, she thinks he’s McTodd, the cad who has just married & abandoned Cynthia, her best friend from school. Eve is also a friend of Phyllis Jackson & when she tackles Joe Keeble about his refusal to help her firend, he tells her the whole story & she agrees to help Freddie (who’s in love with her & keeps proposing at every opportunity) steal the necklace.

By this time, there are at least two other impostors in the Castle, both of them after the necklace. Psmith has attempted to help Beach, the butler, with his upset stomach & Lord Emsworth’s secretary, the Efficient Baxter, has been locked out of the Castle in the middle of the night wearing lemon-coloured pyjamas & overturning flower pots. On the night of Psmith’s (as McTodd) poetry reading, the necklace is stolen & goes through the hands of nearly every jewel thief at the Castle before the story ends happily for nearly everyone except Baxter who loses his job & Freddie who loses the girl he loves.

Leave it to Psmith is a hoot. It’s the first of the Psmith books I’ve read & I hadn’t realised that Psmith is involved with the Blandings crowd. I need to find a list of all the series & how they are connected. Lord Emsworth was obsessed with his flower garden rather than his magnificent pig, the Empress of Blandings. She must come along later. He was just as vague though & Lady Constance was as bossy as ever. It was the perfect way to spend a cold afternoon.

14 thoughts on “Leave it to Psmith – P G Wodehouse

  1. This is the first Psmith book I read too! And my first foray into Blandings. BBC are making a tv programme of Blandings, which was the reason I wanted took up the books!

    I do love Wodehouse!

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  2. Oh dear, I was introduced to Jeeves and Wooster many years ago, and we did not get along at all… so Blandings is unknown territory, and I have never met Psmith. People keep telling me I should read Wodehouse, and I keep promising I will… but I have lots of other books to read first. Perhaps this would be a good one to start with – what do people think?

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  3. This is one of my favourite Wodehouse books. I found Baxter's flowerpot throwing hilarious. Eileen Peavey (if I remember the name right), the poetess and thief is one of my favourite Wodehouse villains.

    Ed

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  4. Claire, I se that i can download the other Psmith books from Manybooks for free so I will be doing just that. I wasn't sure I liked him at first but he grew on me!

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  5. Thanks for the news about the TV series, Jo. I hadn't heard about it. Timothy Spall as Lord Emsworth & Jennifer Saunders as Connie sounds wonderful. I can't wait!

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  6. Christine, I had a similar experience with Benson's Mapp & Lucia. I read the first book in the series & I just didn't think they were funny at all. I disliked nearly every character & I haven't been brave enough to go back for a second try when I have so many other books to read. I think LITP is definitely a good place to start as you meet the Blandings crowd as well.

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  7. I think it's the lemon-coloured pyjamas that make it so funny. You're right about Miss Peavey. It only makes it funnier that she really did write her poetry.

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  8. I have a whole stack of Wodehouse unread but I don't own any Psmith though I do have Galahad at Blandings. I've never read any Psmith or Blandings yet but this sounds like an absolute hoot. Summer is a good time for silly reads like this. Might be just the thing for a break between my Victorians!

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  9. Karen, the Blandings books are wonderful. The Castle is always full of imposters & the Earl is always being bullied by his sister or the latest pig man. Galahad is the Earl's brother & he's wonderful. I think you'd enjoy him. I've started listening to my first Mulliner book, Mulliner Nights. Another new character!

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  10. Timothy Spall … good grief! Absolutely the last person I'd imagine as Lord Emsworth. Totally the wrong shape. Still, he's a terrific actor, and he's good at doing the sort of amiable cluelessness that defines the 9th Earl, so let's see. It's great news that the BBC are doing Wodehouse at all.

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  11. Well, I think Spall is such a good actor that maybe he can convince us! Can't wait to see what they make of it. I think it's a shame that so little Wodehouse has been made for TV. Only Jeeves & Wooster & Wodehouse Playhouse, I think.

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