That said, Psmith in the City does provide for useful reflection on some of the differences between Psmith s and Uncle Fred s volubility They are both good at talking their way out of situations in which they are caught misbehaving, but they do it in opposite ways Uncle Fred lies, to an absurd degree His talent is in being able to instantly make up stories that explain why it s alright for him to be doing what he s doing As others enter the situation, he just makes up and absurd lies, which somehow all hang together and get him out of trouble in the end Psmith s talent is completely different When he s caught misbehaving, he never lies Rather, he takes control of the situation by granting that he s been misbehaving He then launches into a prolonged account of why his own sort of misbehavior is particularly insidious, thereby making it pointless for anyone else to offer a critique of him I think what I like most about Psmith is the way in which his complete ironic detachment makes him impervious to many of the trials and tribulations of life It provides him with a complete immunity to criticism from others Gotta love that.
The meeting was in excellent spirits when Mr Bickersdyke rose to address it.
The effort of doing justice to the last speaker had left the free and independent electors at the back of the hall slightly limp The bank manager s opening remarks were received without any demonstration.
Mr Bickersdyke spoke well He had a penetrating, if harsh, voice, and he said what he had to say forcibly Little by little the audience came under his spell When, at the end of a well turned sentence, he paused and took a sip of water, there was a round of applause, in which many of the admirers of Mr Harry Lauder joined.
He resumed his speech The audience listened intently Mr Bickersdyke, having said some nasty things about Free Trade and the Alien Immigrant, turned to the Needs of the Navy and the necessity of increasing the fleet at all costs This is no time for half measures, he said We must do our utmost.
We must burn our boats Excuse me, said a gentle voice.
Mr Bickersdyke broke off In the centre of the hall a tall figure had risen Mr Bickersdyke found himself looking at a gleaming eye glass which the speaker had just polished and inserted in his eye.
The ordinary heckler Mr Bickersdyke would have taken in his stride He had got his audience, and simply by continuing and ignoring the interruption, he could have won through in safety But the sudden appearance of Psmith unnerved him He remained silent How, asked Psmith, do you propose to strengthen the Navy by burning boats The inanity of the question enraged even the pleasure seekers at the back Order Order cried the earnest contingent Sit down, fice roared the pleasure seekers.
Psmith sat down with a patient smile.
Mr Bickersdyke resumed his speech But the fire had gone out of it He had lost his audience A moment before, he had grasped them and played on their minds or what passed for minds down Kenningford way as on a stringed instrument Now he had lost his hold.
He spoke on rapidly, but he could not get into his stride The trivial interruption had broken the spell His words lacked grip The dead silence in which the first part of his speech had been received, that silence which is a greater tribute to the speaker than any applause, had given place to a restless medley of little noises here a cough there a scraping of a boot along the floor, as its wearer moved uneasily in his seat in another place a whispered conversation The audience was bored.
Mr Bickersdyke left the Navy, and went on to general topics But he was not interesting He quoted figures, saw a moment later that he had not quoted them accurately, and instead of carrying on boldly, went back and corrected himself Gow up top said a voice at the back of the hall, and there was a general laugh.
Mr Bickersdyke galloped unsteadily on He condemned the Government He said they had betrayed their trust.
And then he told an anecdote The Government, gentlemen, he said, achieves nothing worth achieving, and every individual member of the Government takes all the credit for what is done to himself Their methods remind me, gentlemen, of an amusing experience I had while fishing one summer in the Lake District In a volume entitled Three Men in a Boat there is a story of how the author and a friend go into a riverside inn and see a very large trout in a glass case They make inquiries about it, have men assure them, one by one, that the trout was caught by themselves In the end the trout turns out to be made of plaster of Paris.
Mr Bickersdyke told that story as an experience of his own while fishing one summer in the Lake District.
It went well The meeting was amused Mr Bickersdyke went on to draw a trenchant comparison between the lack of genuine merit in the trout and the lack of genuine merit in the achievements of His Majesty s Government.
There was applause.
When it had ceased, Psmith rose to his feet again Excuse me, he said Mike had refused to accompany Psmith to the meeting that evening, saying that he got too many chances in the ordinary way of business of hearing Mr Bickersdyke speak, without going out of his way to make So Psmith had gone off to Kenningford alone, and Mike, feeling too lazy to sally out to any place of entertainment, had remained at the flat with a novel.
He was deep in this, when there was the sound of a key in the latch, and shortly afterwards Psmith entered the room On Psmith s brow there was a look of pensive care, and also a slight discoloration When he removed his overcoat, Mike saw that his collar was burst and hanging loose and that he had no tie On his erstwhile speckless and gleaming shirt front were number of finger impressions, of a boldness and clearness of outline which would have made a Bertillon expert leap with joy Hullo said Mike dropping his book.
Psmith nodded in silence, went to his bedroom, and returned with a looking glass Propping this up on a table, he proceeded to examine himself with the utmost care He shuddered slightly as his eye fell on the finger marks and without a word he went into his bathroom again He emerged after an interval of ten minutes in sky blue pyjamas, slippers, and an Old Etonian blazer He lit a cigarette and, sitting down, stared pensively into the fire What the dickens have you been playing at demanded Mike.
Psmith heaved a sigh That, he replied, I could not say precisely At one moment it seemed to be Rugby football, at another a jiu jitsu seance Later, it bore a resemblance to a pantomime rally However, whatever it was, it was all very bright and interesting A distinct experience Have you been scrapping asked Mike What happened Was there a row There was, said Psmith, in a measure what might be described as a row At least, when you find a perfect stranger attaching himself to your collar and pulling, you begin to suspect that something of that kind is on the bill Did they do that Psmith nodded A merchant in a moth eaten bowler started warbling to a certain extent with me It was all very trying for a man of culture He was a man who had, I should say, discovered that alcohol was a food long before the doctors found it out A good chap, possibly, but a little boisterous in his manner Well, well Psmith shook his head sadly He got you one on the forehead, said Mike, or somebody did Tell us what happened I wish the dickens I d come with you I d no notion there would be a rag of any sort What did happen Comrade Jackson, said Psmith sorrowfully, how sad it is in this life of ours to be consistently misunderstood You know, of course, how wrapped up I am in Comrade Bickersdyke s welfare You know that all my efforts are directed towards making a decent man of him that, in short, I am his truest friend Does he show by so much as a word that he appreciates my labours Not he I believe that man is beginning to dislike me, Comrade Jackson What happened, anyhow Never mind about Bickersdyke Perhaps it was mistaken zeal on my part Well, I will tell you all Make a long arm for the shovel, Comrade Jackson, and pile on a few coals I thank you Well, all went quite smoothly for a while Comrade B in quite good form Got his second wind, and was going strong for the tape, when a regrettable incident occurred He informed the meeting, that while up in the Lake country, fishing, he went to an inn and saw a remarkably large stuffed trout in a glass case He made inquiries, and found that five separate and distinct people had caught Why, dash it all, said Mike, that s a frightful chestnut Psmith nodded It certainly has appeared in print, he said In fact I should have said it was rather a well known story I was so interested in Comrade Bickersdyke s statement that the thing had happened to himself that, purely out of good will towards him, I got up and told him that I thought it was my duty, as a friend, to let him know that a man named Jerome had pinched his story, put it in a book, and got money by it Money, mark you, that should by rights have been Comrade Bickersdyke s He didn t appear to care much about sifting the matter thoroughly In fact, he seemed anxious to get on with his speech, and slur the matter over But, tactlessly perhaps, I continued rather to harp on the thing I said that the book in which the story had appeared was published in 1889 I asked him how long ago it was that he had been on his fishing tour, because it was important to know in order to bring the charge home against Jerome Well, after a bit, I was amazed, and pained, too, to hear Comrade Bickersdyke urging certain bravoes in the audience to turn me out If ever there was a case of biting the hand that fed him Well, well By this time the meeting had begun to take sides to some extent What I might call my party, the Earnest Investigators, were whistling between their fingers, stamping on the floor, and shouting, Chestnuts while the opposing party, the bravoes, seemed to be trying, as I say, to do jiu jitsu tricks with me It was a painful situation I know the cultivated man of affairs should have passed the thing off with a short, careless laugh but, owing to the above mentioned alcohol expert having got both hands under my collar, short, careless laughs were off I was compelled, very reluctantly, to conclude the interview by tapping the bright boy on the jaw He took the hint, and sat down on the floor I thought no of the matter, and was making my way thoughtfully to the exit, when a second man of wrath put the above on my forehead You can t ignore a thing like that I collected some of his waistcoat and one of his legs, and hove him with some vim into the middle distance By this time a good many of the Earnest Investigators were beginning to join in and it was just there that the affair began to have certain points of resemblance to a pantomime rally Everybody seemed to be shouting a good deal and hitting everybody else It was no place for a man of delicate culture, so I edged towards the door, and drifted out There was a cab in the offing I boarded it And, having kicked a vigorous politician in the stomach, as he was endeavouring to climb in too, I drove off home Psmith got up, looked at his forehead once in the glass, sighed, and sat down again All very disturbing, he said.
Any resemblance of the above to a certain Presidential candidate s election rallies is purely coincidental, as Wodehouse wrote this novel in the last century.
My first Psmith book and probably like a schoolboy s first week in a new school, I felt myself missing the crazy world of Bertie and Jeeves That aside, the book was still a humor of elastic bands a stretch.
Mike Jackson, a brilliant cricketer and a Cambridge aspirant, ends up working at the New Asiatic Bank postal department due to family situation The good thing is that his onfield partner PSmith too joins him there to teach a few things to their manager Bickersdyke Bonding with comrades over Manchester United, Socialism, Long tea breaks and Sauna baths, PSmith becomes an absolute pain to manager who is also running the elections We also get to see a Lord s cricket match which seals Mike s future.
The book had some really funny parts Psmith s grandiose speeches makes him not so likeable and even a bit thickheaded, even if he is our hero Jack for his part was the crowd favorite Psmith s dad makes quite an impression as the cricket scion and a man of wealth The descriptions and subtle humor are trademark Wodehouse The ending quite contrived Warm quick read.
Comfort reading par excellence I think this is the pslashiest of the Psmith books Interesting for the stuff about class I think it was TFV said that when Wodehouse was writing the school stories he hadn t yet achieved the complete detachment from reality you see in his later works, and that s true for the Psmith books as well.
I hadn t realised when I first read this how strongly autobiographical it is the New Asiatic Bank is HSBC Cambridge is Oxford Dulwich College is, well, Dulwich College Found Mike on the Dulwich playing fields very touching And Mike is Plum shy, very bad at expressing his feelings, but essentially sympathetic I suppose Psmith is also Plum all the clever things he would ve liked to say, the Holmesesque friend he would have liked to have be.
How presumptuous all this musing is Anyway I love this book It s less problematic than Psmith, Journalist which has some dreffly dodgy race stuff and it is SO SLASHY and I love Mike and Psmith and Wodehouse.
I was glad to find that Mike Jackson was still with Psmith in this And I must have absorbed some cricket terminology during the first book in the series as I immediately recognized lbw as leg before wicket whatever that is, I know it s some sort of out or foul Psmith is much funnier in this second book in the series the way he needled the head of the bank Comrade Bickersdyke was priceless.
Jonathan Cecil was again excellent in his narration.
Entertaining, but not the best Wodehouse.
Note that, whatever his vagaries, Wodehouse never converted to belief in any sort of work ethic He was a prolific writer, but he tended to regard writing as work in the Pravic sense, in which work is equated with play He was always strongly opposed to the industrial definition of work, which he quite rightly associated with drudgery Many of his books deal with trickster figures who cleverly manipulate the system to avoid drudgery.
Psmith is one of the exemplars of this tradition He has a rich, eccentric father, so he s not irrevocably committed to any job or career, This is a real advantage in his own work as a mitigator of the evils of work.
I should point out that the New Asiatic Bank is, by current standards, overstaffed Because the London office is a sort of nursery and academy for the Imperial bank, people are started at work that doesn t need doing, even if there was less staff It s kind of odd that, given this redundant staff, the managers are so obsessed with details like punctuality and attendance.
The immaculate, verbose, eminently patronising Psmith finds himself, at the tender age of nineteen, entereing Commerce in order to indulge a whim of his father and not perhaps coincidentally bring joy and light into the life of his school friend Mike, exiled to work in the same Bank by his own family losing its money Psmith indeed spends joy and light everywhere, and it would be most unkind to call him impertinent or accuse him of blackmail, manipulation, or causing chaos He also interests himself in politics, like the staunch Socialist he is, and particularly in his unlikable employer s attempts to be elected as a Conservative candidate.
In this novel inarticulate, kind and loyal Mike and the monocled vision that is his best friend Psmith graduate from the Wodehouse school stories to the adult world, and the result is utterly delicious This is probably the best of the early Wodehouse stories, mostly due to Psmith, who moves with devastatingly unhurried grace through the bleak grey world of London like a juvenile Earl of Ickenham.
Standard Wodehouse fare, and very good This was different, however, in that it contained no Wodehouse female of any description no aunts and no battleaxes and no pippins.