Plumtopia

Home » World of Wodehouse » Great Wodehouse Romances » A note on the Psmith-Halliday romance by K.V.K. Murthy

A note on the Psmith-Halliday romance by K.V.K. Murthy

Join 1,009 other followers

Egg, Bean & Crumpet counter

  • 85,755 old beans

Follow via Twitter

Honoria at Goodreads

About Me

honoria plum

honoria plum

My personal quest is the search for a life inspired by the literature of P.G Wodehouse. Plumtopia celebrates this quest with other Wodehouse fans.

Personal Links

Verified Services

View Full Profile →

Blogs I Follow

The Plumtopians

32-23This February’s Great Wodehouse romances series continues with another guest author, K.V.K. Murthy, known to Facebook friends as James Joyce.  His piece takes us on a walk through romantic literary history with Psmith and Eve Halliday (Leave it to Psmith).

A note on the Psmith-Halliday romance

by K.V.K. Murthy

The question of favourites is mostly subjective, and Wodehouse’s vast canvas of miniature romances doubtless provides for each taste. The Gussie-Bassett, Tuppy-Angela, Bingo-Banks and others too numerous to mention are all miniatures :a concatenation (to use Jeeves’ word) of comical situation, Edwardian silly-assness and a bit of fat-headedness thrown in for seasoning. They are the staple of drawing-room one-act plays of a certain generation, given occasional revivals in schools to round off the Annual Day shindig. Barring minor changes in detail, they are all more or less cast from the same block. Wodehouse’s success with that block – or formula – lay in the plasticity of his language: in anybody else’s hands it would have spelt tedium, a tiresomely unfunny business.

But the Psmith-Halliday romance stands out, a class apart, with little in common with the other country-house capers. To begin with, this is not a miniature sketch: it is an epic, a work conceived on classical lines working on classical allusions (‘the fruit of an expensive education,’ as Psmith himself would say). If the whole comedy of errors is Bardic, Psmith’s first encounter with Eve, and his first act of devotion is pleasingly (and appropriately) Elizabethan: Eve’s hat, the rain, the hastily produced umbrella are nothing if not throwbacks to Sir Walter Raleigh’s famous act with his cloak for his Queen(Psmith indeed mentions this parallel to the unfortunate Walderwick).

Psmith’s courting is a stately progress, like a gavotte or apas-de-deux – matched perfectly by a languid stateliness of Wodehousian idiom absent from the miniature romances, which again underscores the Master’s fine ear for symphonic form (the book can actually be visualised as a symphony in four movements: a brief adagio, followed by an allegro ma non troppo, a longish andante, and a final presto).

If the romance begins on an Elizabethan note, it also seems to advance through epochs. In his initial moves to Eve, Psmith’s demeanour has faint courtly echoes of Andrew Marvell, although without the fatalistic overtones (in a bizarre coincidence there is even a Cynthia in one of his poems) – and with this we have stepped quietly and seamlessly into the Restoration. But we don’t linger long here.

Soon, Psmith and Eve decant us, seamlessly again, and charmingly – into the Regency. It doesn’t require too overwrought an imagination to see Psmith as a latter-day Beau Brummell – his fastidious appearance alone would have earned a hat doff from that laced and cravated dandy, to say nothing of his manner of speech- and Eve as a fine Belgravia belle (even if her origins in the book, though genteel, are decidedly not West End).

Whether Wodehouse saw these associations, much less intended them to be seen is a moot point. In any case it is only critics who look for them and find them, as this one did. And I’m sure the Master wouldn’t complain. But there is one other aspect which sets the Psmith-Halliday chronicle apart from all the others: its is a complete novel in the classical sense, in the elegant Jane Austen mould, a perfect marriage of form and content.

JJ

Advertisements

10 Comments

  1. Joss Weatherby (Morten Arnesen) says:

    Not a single piece of gravel in this walk.
    Pure excellence on a story of pure eminence.

  2. Psmith is my favourite PGW character – possibly my favourite character conceived by any writer.
    In fact, when my now-husband and I were considering what name to take post-marriage, I suggested Psmith. (The Duchess of Psmith might be a bit too much to hope for.)
    Alas, the suggestion did not fly, and I had to content myself with reading all the Psmith books to my husband (so he would know what he had missed out on).

  3. ashokbhatia says:

    A (p)sterling character, Psmith. Whether in the realm of banking, love or (p)secretarial services, he reigns (p)supreme.

  4. I didn’t like Psmith being married off. Would have prefered him to have remained a free spirit.

  5. ashokbhatia says:

    May I re-blog this one, please?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Valentine’s Day

February 14th, 2016
P.G. Wodehouse died on this day 1975

P.G. Wodehouse’s Birthday

October 15th, 2016
P.G. Wodehouse was born on this day (1881)

Wodehouse Society Convention

Washington DCOctober 19th, 2017
6 months to go.
Jessica Fellowes

Author & Speaker

Adventures Of a Traveller

The Journey is the Destination

John Lagrue's Blog

Musings on life

THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT!

Sitcoms, Musicals, Films, Xena, & More

Kate Macdonald

about writing, reading and publishing

Blog in Bath

impressions of life in Bath, Somerset

Zanyzigzag's Blog

Just another WordPress.com site

ybrumro

Thoughts of a welsh brummie.

viceandvirtueblog

The London Music Hall's 1850-1939

%d bloggers like this: