Title: Goodbye, Mr. Chips.
Author: James Hilton.
Genre: Literature, fiction, novella, boarding schools, WWI lit, historical fiction.
Publication Date: 1934.
Summary: Full of enthusiasm, young English schoolmaster Mr. Chipping came to teach at Brookfield in 1870. It was a time when dignity and a generosity of spirit still existed, and the dedicated new schoolmaster expressed these beliefs to his rowdy students. Nicknamed Mr. Chips, this gentle and caring man helped shape the lives of generation after generation of boys. He became a legend at Brookfield, as enduring as the institution itself.
My rating: 8.5/10.
♥ When you are getting on in years (but not ill, of course), you get very sleepy at times, and the hours seem to pass like lazy cattle moving across a landscape. ... When you are getting on in years it is nice to sit by the fire and drink a cup of tea and listen to the school bell sounding dinner, call-over, prep., and lights out. Chips always wound up the clock after that last bell; then he put the wire guard in front of the fire, turned out the gas, and carried a detective novel to bed. Rarely did he read more than a page of it before sleep came swiftly and peacefully, more like a mystic intensifying of perception than any changeful entrance into another world. For his days and nights were equally full of dreaming.
♥ A great joke, this growing old - but a sad joke, too, in a way. And as Chips sat by his fire with autumn gales rattling the windows, the waves of humour and sadness swept over him very often until tears fell, so that when Mrs. Wickett came in with his cup of tea she did not know whether he had been laughing or crying. And neither did Chips himself.
♥ She had no parents and was married from the house of an aunt in Ealing. On the night before the wedding, when Chips left the house to return to his hotel, she said, with mock gravity: "This is an occasion, you know - this last farewell of ours. I feel rather like a new boy beginning his first term with you. Not scared, mind you - but just, for once, in a thoroughly respectful mood. Shall I call you "sir" - or would "Mr. Chips" be the right thing? "Mr. Chips," I think. Good-bye, then - Good-bye, Mr. Chips..."
(A hansom clop-clopping in the roadway; green-pale gas-lamps flickering on a wet pavement; newsboys shouting something about South Africa; Sherlock Holmes in Baker Street.)
"Good-bye, Mr. Chips..."
♥ And then came this astonishing girl-wife whom nobody had expected - least of all Chips himself. She made him, to all appearances, a new man; though most of the newness was really a warming to life of things that were old, imprisoned, and unguessed.
♥ What a host of little incidents, all deep-buried in the past - problems that had once been urgent, arguments that had once been keen, anecdotes that were funny only because one remembered the fun. Did any emotion really matter when the last trace of it had vanished from human memory; and if that were so, what a crowd of emotions clung to him as to their last home before annihilation! He must be kind to them, must treasure them in his mind before their long sleep.
♥ And it had been like that, with other incidents, for centuries. He had a sudden vision of thousands and thousands of boys, from the age of Elizabeth onwards; dynasty upon dynasty of masters; long epochs of Brookfield history that had left not even a ghostly record. Who knew why the old fifth-form room was called "The Pit"? There was probably a reason, to begin with; but it had since been lost - lost like the lost books of Livy. And what happened at Brookfield when Cromwell fought at Naseby, near by? How did Brookfield react to the great scare of the forty-five? Was there a whole holiday when news came of Waterloo? And so on, up to the earliest time that he himself could remember - 1870...
♥ And there he was, dreaming again before the fire, dreaming of times and incidents in which he alone could take secret interest. Funny and sad, comic and tragic, they all mixed up in his mind, and some day, however hard it proved, he would sort them out and make a book of them...
♥ ". . .Lancaster, Latton, Lemare, Lytton-Bosworth, MacGonigall, Mansfield. . ."
Where had they all gone to, he often pondered; those threads he had once held together, how far had they scattered, some to break, others to weave into unknown patterns? The strange randomness which never would, so long as the world lasted, give meaning to those choruses again.
♥ Because always, whatever happened and however the avenues of politics twisted and curved, he had faith in England, in English flesh and blood, and in Brookfield as a place whose ultimate worth depended on whether she fitted herself into the English scene with dignity and without disproportion. He had been left a vision that grew clearer with each year - of an England for whom days of ease were nearly over, of a nation steering into channels where a hair's-breadth of error might be catastrophic. He remembered the Diamond Jubilee; there had been a whole holiday in Brookfield, and he had taken Kathie to London to see the procession. That old and legendary lady, sitting in her carriage like some crumbling wooden doll, had symbolised impressively so many things that, like herself, were nearing an end. Was it only the century, or was it an epoch?
♥ "Well, well, perhaps I shall write it, some day. But I'd rather tell you about it, really. I remember... I remember... but chiefly I remember all your faces. I never forget them. I have thousands of faces in my mind - the faces of boys. If you come and see me again in years to come - as I hope you all will - I shall try to remember those older faces of yours, but it's just possible I shan't be able to - and then some day you'll see me somewhere and I shan't recognise you and you'll say to yourself - "The old boy doesn't remember me." (Laughter.) "But I do remember you - as you are now. That's the point. In my mind you never grow up at all. Never"
♥ He was a grand success altogether. In some strange way he did, and they all knew and felt it, help things. For the first time in his life he felt necessary - and necessary to something that was nearest his heart. There is no sublimer feeling in the world, and it was his at last.
♥ "On the Western Front, Chips said. Does that mean he was fighting for the Germans?"
"I suppose it does."
"Seems funny, then, to read his name out with all the others. After all, he was an enemy."
"Oh, just one of Chips's ideas, I expect. The old boy still has 'em."
Chips, in his room again, was not displeased by the comment. Yes, he still had 'em - those ideas of dignity and generosity that were becoming increasingly rare in a frantic world. And he thought: Brookfield will take them, too, from me; but it wouldn't from anyone else.
♥ His life... and what a life it had been! The whole pageant of it swung before him as he sat by the fire that afternoon. The things he had done and seen; Cambridge in the sixties, Great Gable on an August morning; Brookfield at all times and seasons throughout the years. And, for that matter, the things he had not done, and would never do now that he had left them too late - he had never travelled by air, for instance, and he had never been to a talky show. So that he was both more and less experienced than the youngest boy at the School might well be; and that, that paradox of age and youth, was what the world called progress.
♥ "Good-bye, my boy."
And the answer came, in a shrill treble: "Good-bye, Mr. Chips..."
Chips sat by the fire again, with those words echoing along the corridors of his mind. "Good-bye, Mr. Chips..." An old leg-pull, to make new boys think that his name was really Chips; the joke was almost traditional. He did not mind. "Good-bye, Mr. Chips..." He remembered that on the eve of his wedding-day Kathie had used that same phrase, mocking him gently for the seriousness he had had in those days. He thought: Nobody would call me serious to-day, that's very certain...
Suddenly the tears began to roll down his cheeks - an old man's failing; silly, perhaps, but he couldn't help it. He felt very tired; talking to Linford like that had quite exhausted him. But he was glad he had met Linford. Nice boy. Would do well.
Over the fog-laden air came the bell for call-over, tremulous and muffled. Chips looked at the window, greying into twilight; it was time to light up. But as soon as he began to move he felt that he couldn't; he was too tired; and anyhow, it didn't matter. He leaned back in his chair. No chicken - eh, well - that was true enough. And it had been amusing about Linford. A bear score off the jokers who had sent the boy over. Good-bye, Mr. Chips... odd, though, he should have said it just like that...
♥ But it wasn't sleep, and it wasn't quite wakefulness, either; it was a sort of in-between state, full of dreams and faces and voices. Old scenes and old scraps of tunes - a Mozart trio that Kathie had once played in - cheers and laughter and the sound of guns - and over it all, Brookfield bells, Brookfield bells.