Adamantly pseudonymous British critic, essayist, historian, and novelist best known for his Village Tales novels. Equal parts Eton, Oxbridge (Oxford, not The Other Place, thank you), tweed, and unabashed Straight Gay. (Word of God: Sensible Places: essays on time, place, & countryside: "[Of visiting a Labour-grandee, ex-Civil-Service aunt in Edgbaston one summer, when he was going up to Oxford as a fresher later that year] The first thing she did on my arrival was cast an assessing gaze over me, ring up one of her twenty-something gay protégés, and pack me off to Hurst Street for the evening. In that I'd then not yet fully determined that my schoolboy homosexuality was not wholly situational, this struck me then and strikes me now as remarkable on far too many levels.") Gaydar ensues.
Has a Signature Style compounded of equal parts literary allusion (often including a Literary Allusion Title) from The Book of Common Prayer; s(n)arky Oxbridge donnish humo(u)r; Cricket references and in-jokes; and the dread Pun.
Works with a page on this wiki:
- The Village Tales series of novels, to date:
Other works include:
- The Confidence of the House: May 1940 (the Parliamentary history of the fall of the Chamberlain government and the installation of Winston Churchill in Downing Street)
- Sensible Places: essays on time, place, & countryside
- When That Great Ship Went Down: the legal and political repercussions of the loss of RMS Titanic (with Markham Shaw Pyle)
- '37: the year of portent (with Markham Shaw Pyle)
- The Complete Mowgli Stories, Duly Annotated (with Markham Shaw Pyle)
- The Annotated Wind in the Willows, for Adults and Sensible Children (or, possibly, Children and Sensible Adults) (with Markham Shaw Pyle)
Wemyss' works with their own trope pages have their tropes listed there, or on the Village Tales page for universal tropes.
Other works by Wemyss tend to center upon many of the same tropes, most of them shared with the novels:
- A Day in the Limelight: The "little folks" and Other Ranks are neither nameless nor voiceless.
- A Death in the Limelight: And, naturally, often end up named on a War Memorial.
- Arcadia: With the "et ego" very much in one's face: the man is seriously dedicated to the British countryside, as witness Sensible Places: essays on time, place, & countryside. Otherwise known, naturally, as
- Barsetshire: Particularly in Sensible Places: essays on time, place, & countryside, which lightly obscures, on a No Communities Were Harmed basis, his beloved Wiltshire."If you cannot attend the parish jumble April, as a rule and have no good excuse, you may as well pack now and call the removal chaps to bring the pantechnicon, as you now have no future in village life."
- Bilingual Bonus: Inevitable in the Smart People Know Latin times he deals with, but also slips in in slyly humorous narration.
- Creator Provincialism: And not perceptibly embarrassed by it. He and his American writing partner have a pretty clear division of labor. It's evident in When That Great Ship Went Down: the legal and political repercussions of the loss of RMS Titanic, particularly, where Wemyss clearly takes the pen when dealing with Parliament and the Board of Trade, and Pyle does the US Senate and US Supreme Court sections.
- Footnote Fever: Probably unavoidable both in annotating classics and in writing history. But he seems to enjoy it, judging by the occasional snark. Okay, more than occasional.
- Gaydar: Although a very straight-ish Straight Gay (per Word of God in Sensible Places), he is not shy of calling out subtext when he sees it (or casting a beady eye on some historical figures), and calling bullshit when he sees otherwise. Lampshaded in often dueling footnotes when his co-author goes all Only Sane Man and just says, basically, "Oooohhkay. Anyway. Back at Shibe Park, it was the bottom of the ninth, even as Congress took up the amendments to the Bill...."
- Gratuitous Latin: Given the times written of, and lawyers' Latin, and Pan in The Wind in the Willows, this is pretty much unavoidable.
- Hurricane of Puns: Has a weakness for them. Often in footnotes.
- Mundane Made Awesome: The point of annotating Edwardian classics (and the mundane details of a now-vanished world and mindset) and Wemyss' evident view of history, Great Men notwithstanding. (It's the squaddies and the backbenchers who do the real work, after all....)
- Narrative Filigree: The histories delve into the (mundane but awesome. Ahem) details of daily life and the daily round of people who don't know what looms over them. Not infrequently setting up terrible ironies:
- '37: The year of portent: In Britain, the hoardings shouted the merits of Cadbury's and Guinness, Lucozade, Ribena, Hovis, Quality Street sweets and Cowan's Whisky. Peek, Frean and Ovaltine; Sanatogen Tonic Wine, Virol, Bovril for beef-tea, and Marmite; Roberston's, appallingly, not only used Golliwog in everything, including its marmalade adverts Golden Shred but for its 'Golliberry' jam, blackberry jam, bramble. These were the years of Morris Motors and Senior Service cigarettes, Sunlight soap and Hornby trains.... The Bermaline loaf was sliced for a Scots tea. Huntley and Palmers for biscuits; Palethorpe's for bangers. It all moved by rail, just as the post did, the down postal train, the Night Mail celebrated the year prior by Auden and Britten in a classic short film. This was why men dug coal and died at Holditch. [ ] Those whose care and duty it was to feed Britain on full loaves might have considered the implications of submarine attacks upon a country that could not feed itself, of itself.
- Real-Place Background: Not only in Sensible Places: essays on time, place, & countryside; he also spends time locating the precise canal Mr. Toad was thrown into, and determining where exactly in Maharashtra, adjacent to Madhya Pradesh, is "where the trooping blackbuck go." And the histories give more attention to villages than palaces.
- Shown Their Work: In some ways the purpose of annotating classics or writing history. And done to a turn.
- Slice of Life: In spades. And not only in Sensible Places: essays on time, place, & countryside: see Narrative Filigree and its uses for subversion. Subverted like Philip Larkin in "MCMXIV," actually.
- Small Reference Pools: The aversion of this is the whole point of the annotated classics. Both footnote the Linnean names of every species mentioned; but, more to the point, The Complete Mowgli Stories, Duly Annotated footnotes influences on and by and from the text from The Bible to J K Rowling to J. R. R. Tolkien, to the then political situation between Britain and Germany and to Hebridean Gaelic tapus; and The Annotated Wind in the Willows, for Adults and Sensible Children (or, possibly, Children and Sensible Adults) does likewise, ranging from Sherlock Holmes to The Hobbit to, yes, Kipling, to Stevie Winwood and Traffic. And Sayers, and Gilgamesh.
- Talk About the Weather: Well, the British do.. On land, this reflects British Weather and the military situation. As regards RMS Titanic, well, the reason's obvious.
- The Dead Have Names: And he won't let you forget it.
- War Memorial: Most people who matter most in the histories end up on one or were involved in the wars commemorated, after all.