(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

From the moment Lord Emsworth sticks his head out the window of his library in Blandings Castle in the opening scene, the plot of Leave It to Psmith proceeds as surely and inevitably as the rows of plantings in the manicured garden which is Emsworth’s only preoccupation.

Broke and inept, Freddie Threepwood approaches his uncle, Mr. Keeble, hoping to wheedle from him a thousand pounds to offset his losses at the track and to invest in a bookmaking operation. A good-hearted soul, Keeble is distressed by his inability to help his stepdaughter and her husband buy a small house in the country: Keeble’s wife, Lady Constance, is as tightfisted and inflexible as her husband is generous; she has never forgiven the young girl for marrying for love rather than money and has forbidden Keeble to send the young couple a check.

Always the opportunist when borrowing money is at stake, Freddie offers a simplemindedly melodramatic solution to the problem: Arrange to steal Lady Constance’s famous necklace, replacing it with a new one and meanwhile selling the stolen one and sending the money to Keeble’s stepdaughter. Freddie will keep a thousand pounds as a reward for his management of the affair. Keeble agrees and Freddie proceeds.

He answers a strange “position wanted” advertisement in a London newspaper. A person named Psmith the “p” is silent has offered his services for any job, in any capacity, “provided it has nothing to do with fish,” and has urged his reader in all the self-assurance of bold type to “Leave It to Psmith!”

As instructed, Psmith meets Freddie in the lobby of a London hotel, and the deal to steal the necklace is struck. While in London, Psmith goes to his club, The Drones, where Lord Emsworth, also a member, wrongly takes him to be the fashionable poet Ralston McTodd, whom Lady Constance has invited to Blandings.

Far from disabusing Emsworth of his mistake, Psmith quietly listens to the old gentleman rhapsodize on his garden. While listening, he sees from the window pretty Eve Halliday running among the shops as she gets caught in a sudden downpour. Leaving Emsworth, who never notices, Psmith steals an umbrella, gives it to Eve, and...

(The entire section is 910 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Leave It to Psmith is both a Psmith novel and a Lord Emsworth/Blandings Castle tale. It opens with Rupert Baxter, the overly efficient secretary, completely in charge of Blandings because of Lord Emsworth’s obsession with his garden. Lord Emsworth also dares not diminish Baxter’s power for fear of annoying Lady Constance, the sister who dominates him. Joseph Keeble, Lady Constance’s husband, is also intimidated by her, even allowing her complete control of his money. His beloved stepdaughter Phyllis has recently married the poor Mike Jackson, and he longs to help them get started. Freddie Threepwood, Lord Emsworth’s flighty son, suggests that they steal Lady Constance’s diamond necklace, give Phyllis the money she needs from what his wife gives Joe to buy a new necklace, and replace it with a reset version of itself.

Ronald Eustace Psmith, broke since the death of his father, has placed an advertisement claiming he will perform any task, legal or illegal, for a fee. Freddie goes to London to attempt to hire Psmith, who is not interested until he discovers that the lovely Eve Halliday is going to Blandings to catalog the library. When Lord Emsworth mistakes Psmith for the Canadian poet Ralston McTodd, whom Lady Constance has invited to Blandings, Psmith is given the means to be near Eve.

Psmith knows nothing about poetry and is not even remotely artistic but is such a charmingly convincing liar that he fools everyone—with...

(The entire section is 538 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Orwell, George. Critical Essays, 1946.

Usborne, Richard. Wodehouse at Work, 1961.

Wodehouse, P. G. Author, Author!, 1962.