"One can date exactly the first moment when [Wodehouse] was touched by the sacred flame. It occurs halfway through Mike ... Psmith appears and the light is kindled which has burned with growing brilliancy for half a century."
Psmith (the p is silent, as in psychic) features in four novels by P. G. Wodehouse. A dandyish figure with a monocle, an elaborate way of speech, and a knack for navigating wild adventures and emerging unruffled, he was introduced as a supporting character to Mike Jackson, but took over the series to the extent that Mike is now invariably remembered as Psmith's supporting character. The adventures of Mike and Psmith bridge the school stories of Wodehouse's early writing and the elaborately-plotted comedies for which he is more generally known in series like Blandings Castle; in fact, the last Psmith novel is also one of the earliest of the Blandings series.Mike Jackson, schoolboy cricketing ace, was introduced in "Jackson Junior", serialised in The Captain magazine in 1907. A sequel the following year, "The Lost Lambs", sees Mike transferred by his father to a new school, where he meets and befriends Psmith, another recent arrival to the school under similar circumstances. These two serials were published in book form together as Mike in 1909, and separately as Mike at Wrykyn and Mike and Psmith in 1953. (The latter was also published separately as Enter Psmith in 1935.)The adventures of Mike and Psmith continue in Psmith in the City (1910; originally serialised in The Captain under the title "The New Fold", but by the time the book came out it was clear who the star was). Mike, having finished school but prevented by financial difficulties from proceeding to university, takes a job at the New Asiatic Bank, and finds that he once again has a fellow-sufferer in Psmith. After various adventures that demonstrate neither is cut out for the world of finance, Psmith finds a way for them both to attend Cambridge, and they resign just in time to avoid being fired.In Psmith, Journalist (serial, 1909; book, 1915), Psmith accompanies Mike to America, where Mike's cricket team is touring, and becomes side-tracked into a series of adventures involving gangsters, slum landlords, lost cats, crooked boxing, and an intrepid journalist reduced to working for a magazine called Cozy Moments.In Leave It to Psmith (serial, 1923; book, with revised ending, 1923), Psmith's family fortunes suffer a serious reversal, leaving him facing the horrible prospect of having to get a real job. (Mike, newly-married and facing his own financial difficulties, appears early on to explain why he can't help, then disappears from the plot.) Salvation appears in the form of Freddie Threepwood, who is willing to pay Psmith for help with his latest contribution to Blandings Castle's chronic Zany Scheme problem; Hilarity Ensues — and so, to Psmith's uncharacteristic befuddlement, does romance.Not to be confused with PSmIth.
This series provides examples of:
Aerith and Bob: The final published title for Psmith's first appearance, Mike and Psmith.
Class Clown: Practically the entire fire brigade in Mike and Psmith; most members join for the pure joy of getting on the headmaster's nerves.
Commonality Connection: Psmith and Mike initially bond over mutual loathing for Sedleigh, the boarding school to which both have been transferred.
Contrived Coincidence: Quite a few in the last two books. For instance, in Psmith, Journalist, a gunman gets Psmith into a taxi and takes him into the country so he can shoot him where no one will hear. The day is saved because the taxi happens to break down exactly where one of Psmith's allies has been staying.
"People sometimes want to know why I didnít go on with Psmith. But I donít think that the things that made him funny as a very young man would be funny in an older man. He had a very boring sort of way of expressing himself. Called everybody comrade and all that sort of thing. I couldnít go on with him. I donít think heíd have worked as a maturer character."
Defeat Means Friendship: After Mike beats Adair in Mike and Psmith, he suddenly realizes that Adair's not such a bad guy after all, and they become fast friends.
Distressed Dude: Mike in the first two books; Psmith at at least one point in the third.
The Ditz: Jellicoe in Mike and Psmith. In Psmith in the City Psmith eulogizes him as "perhaps the supremest of all the blitherers I have ever met".
El Spanish O: In Psmith, Journalist, this is how the office boy attempts to make himself understood by an Italian.
Pugsy as interpreter was energetic but not wholly successful. He appeared to have a fixed idea that the Italian language was one easily mastered by the simple method of saying "da" instead of "the", and tacking on a final "a" to any word that seemed to him to need one.
Fleeting Passionate Hobbies: Psmith's dad in Psmith in the City. As a matter of fact, he can't really commit to anything, to the point where Psmith is justifiably concerned about his own future (Mr. Smith has the power to set his son on whatever path he himself is currently interested in, which changes weekly). Psmith himself is only a slightly milder example, developing fleeting obsessions with things like running a newspaper.
Friendship Moment: In Mike and Psmith, Mike gets the blame for a prank he wasn't responsible for, and can't defend himself because it would mean admitting he was out of school at night; his usually diffident best friend Psmith owns up, even though he didn't do it either and it means probable expulsion.
Holding Hands: Psmith makes a lot of references to himself and other people (mostly Mike) doing things "hand in hand". It appears to merely be Psmith-speak for "together".
Golf Clubbing: When Psmith is told he has to subdue an insane Baxter, he makes sure to bring Freddie Threepwood's golf club (however, since it turns out Baxter has collapsed on the ground, all he does is poke him with it).
Meet Cute: Psmith and Eve in Leave It to Psmith; he sees her caught in the rain, and chivalrously offers her an umbrella — having first had to find an enterprising solution to the problem of not owning an umbrella to offer.
Nice Hat: Psmith seems to have quite a collection. In addition, Eve in Leave it to Psmith is broke because she bought a gorgeous and expensive hat, then had to buy the whole outfit to match.
The Nicknamer: Bristow in Psmith in the City, who calls Psmith "Smithy" and Mike "Mr. Cricketer". Also Psmith himself, to a certain extent; he's fond of making up names for strangers or people whose first name he doesn't know.
Non-Indicative Name: Psmith, Journalist gives us two; a scathing exposť journal called "Cosy Moments" (it was a family magazine before Psmith took it over) and the slummy set of unlivable tenements which make up "Pleasant Street".
One Steve Limit: At the beginning of the series, Psmith gives his first name as Rupert, but in Leave It to Psmith he's become a Ronald, probably because the Blandings series already contained a Rupert Baxter. (Psmith technically has a prior claim to the forename, but as he's Psmith to all and sundry he was less attached to it.)
OOC Is Serious Business: In Mike and Psmith, it's pointed out that Psmith always walks at a leisurely pace; when he starts running, something is most definitely afoot.
Pass the Popcorn: In Psmith, Journalist, Psmith and Billy climb onto a roof to fend off the gangsters who are attacking them. The resulting scene draws a crowd of spectators, mostly Fighting Irish, who perch on the roof of a house nearby to watch the show. This is also Psmith's attitude toward humanity in general.
Smoky Gentlemen's Club: Psmith is a member of six thanks to his father—and that's after some of them drop him when he loses his money—though he doesn't spend a lot of time in most of them. Two in particular are featured: the Senior Conservative Club, mostly the preserve of older men like his father and his boss in Psmith in the City, and the Drones Club, whose other members include Freddie Threepwood, Bertie Wooster, and most of Wodehouse's other foolish young heroes.
Stating the Simple Solution: In a scene in Mike and Psmith, Psmith decides to handle some dormitory invaders by employing Napoleon's strategic tactics...which he quickly expands to include Mike's suggested solution of tripping them up with string.