The Battle of White Plains

Welcome to Part Seventeen of our latest audio entertainment: Psmith, Journalist, a bit of post-Election Day escapism by P G Wodehouse that nevertheless has strange topical resonances of America’s present situation.

Just ahead of tonight’s thrilling instalment, our Latin pronunciation diversion continues to attract comment. Gareth Roberts, a First Weekend Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club from Bristol in south-west England, chimes in:

That reminds that the BBC TV series I, Claudius had a title sequence with ‘I CLAVDIVS’ in marble (well, it looked like marble). Many of us started calling him Clavdivs.

Ol’ Clav Divs was quite a guy. If you enjoyed (as who did not), Livia in I, Claudius, our chum Siân Phillips can be found here, and rather less seasonably here.

In tonight’s episode of Psmith, Journalist, our hero finds himself kidnapped at gunpoint …and driven north:

They were off Manhattan Island now, and the houses were beginning to thin out. Soon, travelling at their present rate, they must come into the open country. Psmith relapsed into silence. It was necessary for him to think. He had been talking in the hope of getting the other off his guard; but Mr. Parker was evidently too keenly on the look-out. The hand that held the revolver never wavered. The muzzle, pointing in an upward direction, was aimed at Psmith’s waist. There was no doubt that a move on his part would be fatal. If the pistol went off, it must hit him. If it had been pointed at his head in the orthodox way he might have risked a sudden blow to knock it aside, but in the present circumstances that would be useless. There was nothing to do but wait.

The cab moved swiftly on. Now they had reached the open country. An occasional wooden shack was passed, but that was all. At any moment the climax of the drama might be reached. Psmith’s muscles stiffened for a spring. There was little chance of its being effective, but at least it would be better to put up some kind of a fight. And he had a faint hope that the suddenness of his movement might upset the other’s aim…

By “open country” Wodehouse means White Plains, “a village distant but a few miles from New York”. These days White Plains is rather more than “an occasional wooden shack”, and in fact has a weekday daytime population of a quarter-million people. But back when Wodehouse wrote his tale it was about 14,000 – not really village-size but still with plenty of “open country” useful for dumping bodies…

Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear Part Seventeen of our tale simply by clicking here and logging-in. Earlier episodes can be found here.

Our headline, by the way, refers to the Battle of White Plains in 1776 between the armies of General Washington and General Howe. The forces are considerably shrunken for this more modest Round Two, but they are between, so to speak, representatives of the same belligerents …and, for those who know their Revolutionary War history, with similar results.

We’ll be right back here on Tuesday evening with the penultimate instalment of Psmith, Journalist. If you’re minded to join us in The Mark Steyn Club, you’re more than welcome. You can find more information here. And, if you have a chum you think might enjoy Tales for Our Time (so far, we’ve covered Conan Doyle, H G Wells, Dickens, Conrad, Kipling, Kafka, Gogol, Jack London, Baroness Orczy, Victor Hugo, O Henry, John Buchan, Scott Fitzgerald and more), we have a special Gift Membership that makes for a great and very distinctive Christmas present.

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