Mike (novel)

Mike (novel)
1st edition
Author(s) P. G. Wodehouse
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Comic novel
Publisher A & C Black
Publication date 15 September 1909
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Followed by Psmith in the City

Mike is a novel by P. G. Wodehouse, first published on 15 September 1909 by Adam & Charles Black, London. The story first appeared in the magazine The Captain, in two separate parts, collected together in the original version of the book; the first part, originally called Jackson Junior, was republished in 1953 under the title Mike at Wrykyn, while the second half, called The Lost Lambs in its serialised version, was released as Enter Psmith in 1935 and then as Mike and Psmith in 1953 – this marks the first appearance of the popular character of Psmith.


Plot introduction

The first half of the story, found in Mike at Wrykyn, introduces Michael "Mike" Jackson. Mike is the youngest son of a renowned cricketing family. Mike's eldest brother Joe is a successful first-class player, while another brother, Bob, is on the verge of his school team. When Mike arrives at Wrykyn himself, his cricketing talent and love of adventure bring him success and trouble in equal measure.

The second part, also known as Enter Psmith or Mike and Psmith, takes place two years later. Mike, due to take over as cricket captain at Wrykyn, is withdrawn from the school by his father and sent to a lesser school, called Sedleigh. On arrival at Sedleigh, he meets the eccentric Rupert Psmith, another new arrival from the superior school of Eton. Becoming fast friends, the two eschew cricket and indulge in all manner of high-jinks and adventures.

Plot summary

Part 1: "Mike at Wrykyn", or, "Jackson Junior"

Mike's family are excited to see him off to Wrykyn; his sisters are hopeful of him breaking the record and getting into the school team his first year, although his brother Bob and Saunders, the pro, are sceptical. On the train down to Wrykyn, Mike is joined by a stranger; seeing the lad get off the train without his bag, Mike throws it out onto the platform, but the boy returns at the next stop, having left to get chocolate. It turns out that he is "Gazeka" Firby-Smith (so called because he looks like one), head of Wain's house, which Mike is to join. He hears Bob and "Gazeka" talk of Wyatt, Wain's stepson, and when Mike is left to find his way to the school by himself, he meets and befriends Wyatt.

Wyatt shows Mike to his dorm, which the two of them are to share and which has removable bars on the windows, and introduces him to Burgess, the cricket captain. Mike shows what he can do in some nets, and impresses Burgess; he is soon on the list for the third team. His early success, along with Bob's clumsy attempts at looking after him, leave him in a rather anti-authoritarian spirit. Bob warns him about Wyatt, who he feels is something of a loose cannon, but soon, having been forbidden by Wyatt to join him on a night-time prowl rounds the gardens, Mike is exploring the house, raiding Mr Wain's dining room and playing gramophone records.

Trevor and Clowes, two boys in Donaldson's house, are worried about Mike and Wyatt, sure they – Mike and Wyatt – will soon get themselves into serious trouble. They warn Bob, but he tells them not to worry, as he has asked Firby-Smith to keep an eye on Mike. Wyatt is involved in a fight between twenty or so boys – a gang from Wrykyn town – which ends up with a policeman falling into a pond. When the poliecman exaggerates the incident to the headmaster, claiming several hundred boys had thrown him into the water, he punishes the whole school by cancelling a forthcoming unofficial holiday.

In retaliation, Wyatt organises a mass walk-out, taking most of the school with him on a day out at a nearby town, in what becomes known as "The Great Picnic". Next day, the head makes much of Wrykyn town out-of-bounds to the boys, claiming an outbreak of chicken-pox, a punishment the boys think lenient. They later realise this is not the punishment at all; while the younger boys are caned, the older boys are all given "extra" during a cricket match against the M.C.C.; with three of the first team unable to play, Wyatt persuades Burgess to let Mike play.

Mike plays well in a close match, against a team that includes both Mike's brother Joe and the pro Saunders, advancing his cricketing career at the school nicely, but Firby-Smith, in addition to being patronising, gets Mike run-out in a house game, which leads Mike to insult his head of house. An angry Firby-Smith insists that Mike be punished, but Bob soon calms the waters. Grateful to his brother, when Mike finds he has squeezed Bob out of the team, he feigns an injury to give up his place, knowing that should Bob play well he may not get another chance that year. Mike's Uncle John visits, and insists on examining Mike's wrist; he hears the story, and when they see Bob has indeed scored well, he tips Mike generously.

Soon after, a boy strays into the town, and brings the chicken-pox back to the school. The outbreak takes out one of the first-team players, giving Mike another chance; he plays reasonably in a poor game. Bob tells him he thinks the first-team place is now Mike's, but next day Mike misses early morning fielding practice for the house, incurring Firby-Smith's rage once more. Wyatt gives Mike some wise words, but when Burgess hears Firby-Smith's story, he decides to pass Mike over in favour of Bob. Bob is happy, until a letter from his sister reveals all about Mike's injury-faking. Bob discusses the issue with Burgess, to little avail.

Neville-Smith, a bowler who has taken the other place in the team, plans a party at his house (he is a day boy) in celebration of his placement, and Wyatt sneaks out of school to attend. On his way out he is spotted by a master, who reports it to his father Mr. Wain; the housemaster waits in Mike's room until Wyatt returns, and tells him he is to leave the school at once, to take a job in a bank. Mike takes his place in the team, and persuades his father to find Wyatt more interesting work, via his connections in Argentina.

Wrykyn go into the match against their biggest rivals, Ripton, short on bowling but with both Jacksons. The wicket is sticky from rain and Ripton notch up a good score, and taking the field reveal they having a strong bowler of googlies. After a bad start, Wrykyn's fortunes look up when the brothers bat together. Bob gets out, but has given Mike time to settle in; with the tail of the team accompanying him, he deftly collars the bowling; in a hugely tense finale, Wrykyn scrape to victory.

Home for the holidays, Mike has a letter from Wyatt, who is enjoying himself hugely in the wild and exciting new world.

Part 2: "Mike and Psmith", or, "The Lost Lambs"

Mike has been at Wrykyn for another two years and is due to become cricket captain next term, but during the Easter holidays, his father, enraged by a report saying Mike's performance in school has been even poor last term, removes him from Wrykyn and sends him instead to Sedleigh, a far smaller school.

Arriving at Sedleigh in a bitter mood, he first meets first Mr Outwood, the head of his house. Mike then meets a well-dressed boy with a monocle, who introduces himself as Psmith. He is an ex-Etonian whose family lives near Mike's, and like Mike is a new boy. They decide to avoid cricket and instead join Mr Outwood's archaeological society. They move into a study, to the distress of Spiller, the boy who expected to take it over; they impress Mr Outwood, but a feud starts with Spiller and his friends, battling to regain his study.

Having made friends with a boy called Jellicoe, the three take a dormitory together, and on the first night their room is attacked by Spiller and his cronies, who they chase away successfully. Next day, they meet Adair, school cricket captain and all-round hero, and house-master Mr Downing, both of whom are disappointed by the new boys' refusal to play cricket. Both Psmith and Mike claim ignorance of cricket: a decision which Mike comes to regret somewhat as time goes by.

Bored by their archaeology trips, they wander off one day, and Mike runs into an old cricketing friend, who offers him a place in a local village team – Lower Borlock. Mike enjoys the games – scoring 75 his first game – but keeps his village cricket career a secret. One day, after breaking up a meeting of the Fire Brigade – a Sedleighan club – with a clockwork rat and Sammy the dog, Mike is unfairly put in detention by Mr Downing – head of the Fire Brigade. Stone and Robinson, earlier friends of Spiller, approve of Mike's prank and come to tea. Mike reveals his cricketing history – not just Lower Borlock but Wrykyn – and the Outwood house captain suddenly puts two and two together: M Jackson of the sporting papers is Mike Jackson sitting in front of him. Mike is persuaded to play in an upcoming house match as revenge against Mr Downing who unfairly favours his-own house.

Surprise him he does, playing superbly and destroying Downing's bowling. After lunch, under pressure from Stone and Robinson, the captain agrees not to declare, but to carry on as revenge against Downing and the house he always favours. The scheme is a huge success, with Mike ending the day on 277 not out, and Downing's not getting an innings at all. Downing was completely thumped and is, unfairly, in a foul mood with Mike next day.

Meanwhile Jellicoe, who has borrowed money from both Mike and Psmith and seems in a miserable mood, borrows from Mike again. At an Old Boys match, Dunster – an Old Boy – accidentally incapacitates Jellicoe when the youth is hit in the ankle with a cricket ball. Jellicoe is over-wrought. He meant to leave the school grounds that day to pay a debt but can not now and Jellicoe fears that he is certain to be sacked. Jellicoe tells Mike he owes the money to a pub landlord. Mike knows the fellow from his village cricketing. Mike agrees to deliver the five pounds that night although it means breaking out of school on a borrowed bike. He makes his way to the inn, only to find the whole affair was a joke by Barley the landlord. Returning to school, Mike successfully replaces the borrowed bike but knocks something in the bike shed. Mike is spotted climbing a drainpipe and chased off. Mike escapes to rest in the cricket pavilion. Near the cricket pavilion, he meets Adair, sent out to fetch a doctor for a sick boy. Mike then returns to his house, Outwood's, for another attempt to get in but is spotted by Downing, now waiting outside for Adair's return. Being chased by a furious Downing, Mike thinks quickly and recalls Downing's popular fire drills. Mike has enough of a lead that he makes it to the school fire bell and rings it like mad. The entire horde of boys are drawn outside and Mike escapes in the confusion.

Next morning, Sammy the dog (Mr. Downing's dog) turns up, covered in red paint. Downing is enraged and proceeds to investigates. First, Downing finds that a boy from Outwood's was seen abroad that night. Second, Downing spots some spilled red paint in the bike shed, with a footprint in it. He gets Psmith to show him round Outwood's house, searching for boots with red paint on them; he finds one of Mike's with paint on it, and goes to the headmaster. But, Psmith has switched the shoe for a clean one in a clever sleight-of-hand.

Psmith returns to his study, and locks the original shoe in a cupboard, just before Downing arrives for another search. He demands Psmith fetch Outwood, but Psmith refuses, and Downing is forced to go for him; Psmith switches the shoe again, lowering the paint-stained one out of the window on a string, putting a different one in the cupboard and another up the chimney. Downing returns with Outwood, smashes the cupboard and rummages up the chimney, covering himself with soot and only finding two clean shoes. Downing is scuppered, but the next day, when Mike attends class in his gym shoes, Downing's suspicions are enhanced.

Meanwhile, Stone and Robinson, not pleased with Adair's proposal to hold an early-morning cricket practice, decide they can safely skip it. Adair has other ideas, and fights Stone, bullying them both into playing. He then visits Mike and pulls the same trick; Psmith redirects their fight outside. Adair, despite being the better boxer, is ruled by anger and loses a fast and vicious battle, which ends with Mike knocking him out cold. The fight clears the air between them. Psmith, also has a surprise, and persuades Mike to play in the forthcoming M.C.C. match by saying that he himself will be playing. Psmith was shamming dislike of cricket himself and was a very good bowler at Eton. On the other hand, Adair will not be playing having sprained a wrist in the fight during an unfortunate encounter with Mike's elbow.

The match is rained off and Mike and Adair, now friends, decide to try and get a game with Wrykyn instead. Downing, still on Mike's trail, presents his evidence and requests a confession. While Mike is being grilled by the headmaster, Downing gets his confession – from Psmith. While Downing is reporting this to his superior, Adair arrives with the news that Dunster, the old boy who was visiting that weekend – and who had accidentally injured Jellicoe – has written to Adair and confessed to painting the dog red.

Sedleigh get to play Wrykyn, and after a nervous start, they scrape a well-earned victory, mostly thanks to sterling work from Mike, Psmith and Adair, and the school's fortunes begin to look up.

Characters in "Mike"

  • Michael "Mike" Jackson, our hero, a 15-year-old cricket ace in Part I and an 18-year-old cricket ace in Part II.

"As the Blue-Eyed Hero he would have been a rank failure. Except on the cricket field, where he was a natural genius, he was just ordinary. He resembled ninety per cent. of other members of English public schools. He had some virtues and a good many defects... He was good-natured as a general thing..."(End of Chapter XLI "The Singular Behaviour of Jellicoe".)

  • Bob Jackson, Mike's older brother, a student at Wrykyn
  • Trevor and Clowes, two friends of Bob Jackson, both cricketers
  • "Gazeka" Firby-Smith, head of Mike's house at Wrykyn
  • Mr Wain, master of Mike's house
  • Burgess, Wrykyn cricket captain
  • Neville-Smith, a Wrykyn day-boy and good bowler, who throws parties
  • Rupert Psmith, a new boy joining Sedleigh at the same time as Mike
  • Mr Outwood, amiable master of Mike's house at Sedleigh
  • Spiller, a boy in Outwood's who hopes to get a study
  • Stone, another boy in Outwood's, a confirmed ragger
  • Robinson, another boy in Outwood's, Stone's henchman
  • Tom Jellicoe, a giggling boy in Outwood's house
  • Mr Downing, unpopular master of another house
  • Adair, Sedleigh's very keen cricket captain
  • Dunster, a Sedleigh old boy and famed ragger
  • Sergeant Collard, portly school sergeant as Sedleigh

Related stories

Both Mike and Psmith feature in several later novels by Wodehouse:

Wrykyn school had previously appeared in two novels:

Several shorts are also set at Wrykyn, some of which are listed here.

Wodehouse reused the scene with the paint-splashed shoe (from chapter 49) in Something New (1915) (chapter 9): although the setting and characters are different, the scenes is essentially the same as in Mike. This scene was omitted from the UK edition, Something Fresh.

External links

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