RogerBW's Blog

Leave It to Psmith, P. G. Wodehouse 04 April 2022

1923 comedy. Psmith finds himself at Blandings, impersonating a squalid but trendy Canadian poet.

And although in reality the War had changed everything, there's absolutely no sign of it here; that wasn't what people wanted to read about for light relief, so Wodehouse simply ignores it. If anything there is a transition in the other direction – from the world of Psmith, which at least touched on problems of the real world (in Psmith, Journalist in particular) if only for Psmith to put them all to rights, to the world of Blandings, with its mixture of those who form the obstacle course and those who have to pass through it in their quest for a happy ending.

(There are some characters, like Baxter, whose sole purpose in life is to be the butt of the joke, to be set up so that it seems reasonable to them to do the silly thing and end up looking stupid. It's part of Wodehouse's genius that I can enjoy reading about them.)

I was slightly surprised that a couple of crooks didn't really get an ending at all – clearly they weren't going to be allowed to succeed in their endeavours, but I'd have liked to see some suggestion that they were still out there bickering and running complicated plots rather than simply being dropped from the book once they'd been bested.

There is chivalry, and harmless amiable dottiness, and if there's any common factor between those who prevail in the end it's a willingness to be flexible and take matters as they come rather than to try to force one's standards on other people. There are many worse messages for an author to squeeze in among the jokes.

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