Goodbye, Mr. Chips

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Goodbye, Mr. Chips
GoodbyeMrChips.jpg
Cover of the UK first edition
AuthorJames Hilton
IllustratorEthel 'Bip' Pares
GenrePsychological fiction
PublisherLittle, Brown (USA)
Hodder & Stoughton (UK)
Publication date
June 1934 (1934-06) (USA)
October 1934 (1934-10) (UK)
OCLC8462789
 
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Goodbye, Mr. Chips
GoodbyeMrChips.jpg
Cover of the UK first edition
AuthorJames Hilton
IllustratorEthel 'Bip' Pares
GenrePsychological fiction
PublisherLittle, Brown (USA)
Hodder & Stoughton (UK)
Publication date
June 1934 (1934-06) (USA)
October 1934 (1934-10) (UK)
OCLC8462789

Goodbye, Mr. Chips (originally, Good-bye, Mr. Chips) is a novella about the life of a schoolteacher, Mr. Chipping, written by the English writer James Hilton, first published by Hodder & Stoughton in October 1934. The novel has been adapted into two films and two television adaptations.

History[edit]

The story had originally been issued as a supplement to the British Weekly, an evangelical newspaper, in 1933 but came to prominence when it was reprinted as the lead piece of the April 1934 issue of The Atlantic. The success of the Atlantic Monthly publication prompted a book deal between the author and Little, Brown and Company. Little, Brown published the first printing of this story in book form in June 1934. The Great Depression had elevated business risks for most publishing houses, and Little Brown was no exception. They carefully released a small first printing. Public demand for more was immediate, and Little, Brown went into an almost immediate reprinting the same month. Public demand remained strong, and Little, Brown continued to reprint the book in cautious lots for many months, with at least two reprintings per month.

The first printing of the British edition was in October 1934. This edition was published by Hodder & Stoughton who had the benefit of observing the success of Little, Brown in the United States, and they released a much larger first printing. Even with this benefit, Hodder & Stoughton found themselves going into reprints as the reading public's demand for the book was enormous. After the huge success of this book, James Hilton became a 'best-selling author.'[1]

Plot summary[edit]

The novel tells the story of a much-beloved schoolteacher, Mr. Chipping, and his forty-three-year-long tenure at Brookfield Grammar School, a fictional second-rate British boys’ public boarding school located in the fictional village of Brookfield, situated in the Fenlands. Mr. Chipping has a rigidly orthodox personality; conventional in manner and beliefs, very pedantic about education, and (an unpopular) disciplinarian with students. Brookfield's headmaster and faculty call him Chips, while the boys call him Ditchy (short for ditchwater). He conquers his inability to connect with his students, as well as his initial shyness, when he marries Katherine, a young woman whom he meets on holiday, and who quickly picks up on calling him by his nickname, "Chips". Katherine charms the Brookfield faculty and Headmaster with her personality, and quickly wins the favor of Brookfield's students, who call her Mrs Chips. Despite Chipping's own mediocre academic record, and the sense that Greek and Latin (his academic subjects) are becoming obsolete, he goes on to have an illustrious career as an inspiring educator -- still demanding, but fair -- at Brookfield. In his later years, his sense of humour blooms into a quaint richness that pleased everyone, but was without any malice.

Although the book is unabashedly sentimental, it also depicts the sweeping social changes that Chips experiences throughout his life: he begins his tenure at Brookfield in September 1870, at the age of 22, as the Franco-Prussian War was breaking out and lay on his deathbed shortly after Adolf Hitler's rise to power, in November 1933, at the age of 85. He was seen as an individual who was able to connect to anyone on a human level, beyond what he (by proxy of his late wife) viewed as petty politics, such as the strikers, the Boers, and a German friend.

The work evinces a nostalgia for the Victorian social order that had faded rapidly after Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 and whose remnants were destroyed by the First World War. Indeed, a recurring motif is the devastating impact of the war on British society. When World War I broke out, Chips, who had retired the year before at age 65, agreed to come out of retirement to fill in for the various head-masters who had entered military service. During the war, when he heard of the first Old Brookfieldian’s death while fighting with the French, he recollected, that a hundred years ago, Brookfieldians had died, fighting against Napoleon and the French; and thought of it to be strange in a way, that how the sacrifices of one generation had so cancelled out those of the other. At one point, Chipping laments that educators instructing the younger generations should pause to ask at times like this,"... whether we have ever really taught anyone anything at all."


Despite his being taken for a doddering fossil, it was Chipping who showed presence of mind and kept his wits about him during an air raid, averting mass panic and sustaining morale, even finding for the students an amusing incident in the story of Julius Caesar's battles against Germania. Countless former students and masters died on the battlefields of World-War I, and the latter part of the story involves Chips’ response to the horrors unleashed by the war, though most of it takes place in the post-war time of peace. At one point, he read aloud a long roster of the school's fallen alumni, and, defying the modern world he saw as soulless and lacking transcendent values of honour and friendship, dared to include the name of a German former Brookfield master who had died fighting for Germany. His inclusion of the late German master in the tragic list was just considered one of Chips’ ideas, something not taken very seriously. During the War, he earned the moniker ‘pre-war’ due to his old, queer, anti-War ideas.

Mr. Chips is portrayed as a strong conservative; a person who wants to preserve the past, and who despised everything 'modern' which was obliterating that past. Two important contacts with modernity are depicted in the novel; one, the encounter with the progressive-minded, girl-wife, Mrs. Katherine Bridges and the second with the hard-liner, anti-conservative personality, Mr. Ralston, the third headmaster of the school.

Despite the fact that both of these modernists disapproved of the old ways of Mr. Chips, the contact with Kathie proved to be a healthy influence on him, due to her tolerant, loveable, understanding, and persuasive nature. Initially meeting her at a place with ties to antiquities serves as a literary device, linking and synthesizing something new (their marriage) by drawing from the glories of an extinct culture (which fascinates Chipping) and those of the modern world, which equally fascinate Katherine. They share a love of 'great ideas', and a disdain for 'petty politics.'

Ralston, by contrast, tries to impose modernity upon Chipping by forcing him to follow modern teaching methods, and not caring about Chipping's deep understandings of history, cultures, and ideas. In the novel, Ralston is obsessed with the 'petty politics' within Brookfield, and not concerend with the external trends and events (political, economic, military) that could render Brookfield irrelevant. The result was a quarrel between Ralston and Chips, which Chips eventually won. This quarrel can be best described as a clash of conservativeness and unconventionality, where old ideas ultimately prevailed due to their successful perseverance in many prior conflicts.

Inspiration[edit]

The setting for Goodbye Mr. Chips is probably based on The Leys School, Cambridge, where James Hilton was a pupil (1915–18). Hilton is reported to have said that the inspiration for the protagonist, Mr. Chips, came from many sources, including his father, who was the headmaster of Chapel End School. However, Mr. Chips is also likely to have been based on W.H. Balgarnie, one of the masters at The Leys (1900–30), who was in charge of the Leys Fortnightly (in which Hilton's first short stories and essays were published). Over the years, old boys have written to Geoffery Houghton, a master of The Leys for a number of years and a historian of the school, confirming the links between Chipping and Balgarnie, who eventually died at Porthmadog at the age of 82.[2] He had been linked with the school for 51 years and spent his last years in modest lodgings opposite. Again, like Mr. Chips, Balgarnie was a strict disciplinarian, but would also invite boys to visit him for tea and biscuits.[3]

Hilton wrote upon Balgarnie's death that "Balgarnie was, I suppose, the chief model for my story. When I read so many other stories about public school life, I am struck by the fact that I suffered no such purgatory as their authors apparently did, and much of this miracle was due to Balgarnie."[3] Furthermore, the "mutton chop" facial hair of one of the masters at The Leys earned him the nickname "Chops", a likely inspiration for Mr Chips’ name.[3]

In Hilton's final novel, Time and Time Again (1953), protagonist Charles Anderson bears clear biographical similarities to Hilton himself.[citation needed] Early in the novel, Anderson briefly reminisces about attending Brookfield and knowing "Chips".

Adaptations[edit]

1939 film[edit]

This is the best known screen version,[citation needed] starring Robert Donat, Greer Garson, Terry Kilburn, John Mills and Paul Henreid. Donat won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in the lead role, beating Clark Gable, James Stewart, Laurence Olivier and Mickey Rooney.

While some of the incidents depicted in the various screen adaptations do not appear in the book, this film is generally faithful to the original story.[citation needed]

The exteriors of the buildings of the fictional Brookfield School were filmed at Repton School,[4][5] an independent school (at the time of filming, for boys only), located in the village of Repton, in Derbyshire, in the Midlands area of England, whilst the interiors, school courtyards and annexes, including the supposedly exterior shots of the Austrian Tyrol Mountains, were filmed at Denham Film Studios,[6] near the village of Denham in Buckinghamshire. Around 200 boys from Repton School stayed on during the school holidays so that they could appear in the film.[7]

1939 radio[edit]

A 1939 radio adaptation of the story, starring Laurence Olivier and Edna Best, was presented by Cecil B. DeMille on Lux Radio Theatre, Hollywood.

1969 film[edit]

In 1969, a relatively unsuccessful musical film version appeared, starring Peter O’Toole and Petula Clark, with songs by Leslie Bricusse and an underscore by John Williams. This version moved the timeline forward,[citation needed] with Chips’ career beginning in the early 20th century and later career covering World War II, rather than World War I. O’Toole and Clark were widely praised for their performances. At the 42nd Academy Awards, O’Toole was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, and he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy.

1982 stage[edit]

A stage production based on the 1969 film, and using largely the same music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, was mounted at the Chichester Festival and opened on 11 August 1982. The book was by Roland Starke and the production was directed by Patrick Garland and Christopher Selbie. Among the Chichester Festival cast were John Mills as Mr. Chips, Colette Gleeson as Kathie, Nigel Stock as Max, and Michael Sadler and Robert Meadmore in supporting roles.

1984 serial[edit]

In 1984, it was adapted as a television serial by the BBC. It starred Roy Marsden and Jill Meager and ran for six half-hour episodes. Many scenes were filmed at Repton School, Derbyshire in an effort to remain faithful to the original film.[8]

2002 TV film[edit]

Another television adaptation, a TV film, was produced by STV Productions (then known as "SMG TV Productions") in 2002. It aired on the ITV Network in Britain and on PBSMasterpiece Theatre in the United States. It starred Martin Clunes and Victoria Hamilton with Henry Cavill, William Moseley, Oliver Rokison and Harry Lloyd.[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "''Atlantic'' on education". The Atlantic. Retrieved 11 April 2011. .
  2. ^ "Milestones". Time. 30 July 1951. Retrieved 27 September 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c Timothy Carroll (9 December 2002). "Who was the real Mr Chips?". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 April 2011. 
  4. ^ "Movies made in the Midlands". Sunday Mercury. Retrieved March 2011. 
  5. ^ "Repton, Derbyshire". greatbritishlife.co.uk. Retrieved March 2011. 
  6. ^ Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939) at the Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 11 April 2011
  7. ^ "1930s: A year of tragedy and war worries". youandyesterday.com. Retrieved March 2011. 
  8. ^ Other scenes were filmed at Christ College, Brecon; with many of the school's pupils taking roles in the production. BBC Derby
  9. ^ Goodbye, Mr. Chips (2002 TV) at the Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 11 April 2011