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"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 PG Wodehouse. A dandyish figure with a monocle, 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.
- Affectionate Parody: The sequence in Leave It to Psmith where Psmith applies for work and meets up with Freddie Threepwood is a spoof of the opening of Bulldog Drummond.
- Batman Gambit: Psmith's occasional modus operandi. In Psmith in the City, he stays in his job by cultivating a rapport with his supervisor, despite his occasional flagrant disregard of the rules.
- Boarding School: The setting of Mike and Psmith.
- Breakout Character: Psmith 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.
- Carry a Big Stick: In Psmith, Journalist, Psmith uses his walking stick to fend off a group of New York City thugs. When one of the thugs shouts, "He's got a big stick!" Psmith mutters to himself, "I am become Theodore Roosevelt."
- Cloudcuckoolander: Psmith pretends to be one because it amuses him and throws people off their guard; nevertheless, he is always aware of and in control of the situation.
- 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.
- 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.
- High-Class Glass: One of Psmith's trademarks.
- High School Hustler: Psmith's original role. Even after he leaves school, his interactions with authority figures retain some of the same style.
- Intrepid Reporter: Billy Windsor in Psmith, Journalist.
- Last-Name Basis: Everyone addresses Psmith by his last name.
- 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.
- Motor Mouth: Psmith.
- My Nayme Is: When pressed, Psmith admits that his family name is really "Smith", and the silent P is his own innovation to be a bit distinctive.
- 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.)
- Psmith Psyndrome: The Trope Namer. Even though the P is silent, Psmith can tell when someone pronounces his name without it.
- Smoky Gentlemen's Club: Psmith is a member of at least two: 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.
- Stiff Upper Lip: Psmith takes this to Fearless Fool-level extremes.
- Upper Class Wit: Psmith.
- The Wonka: Psmith.
- Zany Scheme: Psmith is king of this.