Goodbye, Mr. Chips: A Novel

Goodbye, Mr. Chips: A Novel

by James Hilton


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The modern classic about an idealistic British schoolmaster’s influence on his students: “A minor miracle” ( The New York Times ).

Throughout his forty-three-year tenure at Brookfield, “a good public school of the second rate” in eastern England, Arthur Chipping has been Mr. Chips to his students. From his unpolished first years during the Franco-Prussian War through the radical changes of the twentieth century and the outbreak of the First World War, Mr. Chips has shaped many young lives. But Chips has been inspired as well—by the unremarkable and the extraordinary alike, by his colleagues, by a woman who will change him forever, and not least, by his children, “thousands of them, all boys.”

Since it was first published in 1934 to international success, Goodbye, Mr. Chips has never been out of print. It was followed by a collection of stories, To You, Mr. Chips , and provided the basis for two award-winning feature films, a stage musical, a radio play, and two television adaptations. Based on author James Hilton’s experiences as a student at the Leys School, Cambridge, this short novel endures as a revelation of the difference one good teacher can make, and “what the better emotions do toward making people important” ( Kirkus Reviews ).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504058872
Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media LLC
Publication date: 08/13/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 100
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)
Age Range: 9 - 12 Years

About the Author

James Hilton (1900–1954) was a bestselling English novelist and Academy Award–winning screenwriter. After attending Cambridge University, Hilton worked as a journalist until the success of his novels Lost Horizon (1933) and Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1934) launched his career as a celebrated author. Hilton’s writing is known for its depiction of English life between the two world wars, its celebration of English character, and its honest portrayal of life in the early twentieth century.

Read an Excerpt

Goodbye, Mr. Chips

By James Hilton


Copyright © 1962 Alice Hilton
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-4046-5


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. It was like that for Chips as the autumn term progressed and the days shortened till it was actually dark enough to light the gas before call-over. For Chips, like some old sea captain, still measured time by the signals of the past; and well he might, for he lived at Mrs. Wickett's, just across the road from the School. He had been there more than a decade, ever since he finally gave up his mastership; and it was Brookfield far more than Greenwich time that both he and his landlady kept. "Mrs. Wickett," Chips would sing out, in that jerky, high-pitched voice that had still a good deal of sprightliness in it, "you might bring me a cup of tea before prep, will you?"

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.

He was getting on in years (but not ill, of course); indeed, as Doctor Merivale said, there was really nothing the matter with him. "My dear fellow, you're fitter than I am," Merivale would say, sipping a glass of sherry when he called every fortnight or so. "You're past the age when people get these horrible diseases; you're one of the few lucky ones who're going to die a really natural death. That is, of course, if you die at all. You're such a remarkable old boy that one never knows." But when Chips had a cold or when east winds roared over the fenlands, Merivale would sometimes take Mrs. Wickett aside in the lobby and whisper: "Look after him, you know. His chest ... it puts a strain on his heart. Nothing really wrong with him—only anno domini, but that's the most fatal complaint of all, in the end."

Anno domini ... by Jove, yes. Born in 1848, and taken to the Great Exhibition as a toddling child—not many people still alive could boast a thing like that. Besides, Chips could even remember Brookfield in Wetherby's time. A phenomenon, that was. Wetherby had been an old man in those days—1870—easy to remember because of the Franco-Prussian War. Chips had put in for Brookfield after a year at Melbury, which he hadn't liked, because he had been ragged there a good deal. But Brookfield he had liked, almost from the beginning. He remembered that day of his preliminary interview—sunny June, with the air full of flower scents and the plick-plock of cricket on the pitch. Brookfield was playing Barnhurst, and one of the Barnhurst boys, a chubby little fellow, made a brilliant century. Queer that a thing like that should stay in the memory so clearly.

Wetherby himself was very fatherly and courteous; he must have been ill then, poor chap, for he died during the summer vacation, before Chips began his first term. But the two had seen and spoken to each other, anyway.

Chips often thought, as he sat by the fire at Mrs. Wickett's: I am probably the only man in the world who has a vivid recollection of old Wetherby.... Vivid, yes; it was a frequent picture in his mind, that summer day with the sunlight filtering through the dust in Wetherby's study. "You are a young man, Mr. Chipping, and Brookfield is an old foundation. Youth and age often combine well. Give your enthusiasm to Brookfield, and Brookfield will give you something in return. And don't let anyone play tricks with you. I—er—gather that discipline was not always your strong point at Melbury?"

"Well, no, perhaps not, sir."

"Never mind; you're full young; it's largely a matter of experience. You have another chance here. Take up a firm attitude from the beginning—that's the secret of it."

Perhaps it was. He remembered that first tremendous ordeal of taking prep; a September sunset more than half a century ago; Big Hall full of lusty barbarians ready to pounce on him as their legitimate prey. His youth, fresh-complexioned, high-collared, and side-whiskered (odd fashions people followed in those days), at the mercy of five hundred unprincipled ruffians to whom the baiting of new masters was a fine art, an exciting sport, and something of a tradition. Decent little beggars individually, but, as a mob, just pitiless and implacable. The sudden hush as he took his place at the desk on the dais; the scowl he assumed to cover his inward nervousness; the tall clock ticking behind him, and the smells of ink and varnish; the last blood-red rays slanting in slabs through the stained-glass windows. Someone dropped a desk lid. Quickly, he must take everyone by surprise; he must show that there was no nonsense about him. "You there in the fifth row—you with the red hair—what's your name?" "Colley, sir." "Very well, Colley, you have a hundred lines." No trouble at all after that. He had won his first round.

And years later, when Colley was an alderman of the City of London and a baronet and various other things, he sent his son (also red-haired) to Brookfield, and Chips would say: "Colley, your father was the first boy I ever punished when I came here twenty-five years ago. He deserved it then, and you deserve it now." How they all laughed; and how Sir Richard laughed when his son wrote home the story in next Sunday's letter!

And again, years after that, many years after that, there was an even better joke. For another Colley had just arrived—son of the Colley who was a son of the first Colley. And Chips would say, punctuating his remarks with that little "umph-um" that had by then become a habit with him: "Colley, you are—umph—a splendid example of—umph—inherited traditions. I remember your grandfather—umph—he could never grasp the Ablative Absolute. A stupid fellow, your grandfather. And your father, too—umph—I remember him—he used to sit at that far desk by the wall—he wasn't much better, either. But I do believe—my dear Colley—that you are—umph—the biggest fool of the lot!" Roars of laughter.

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 humor 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.


Across the road behind a rampart of ancient elms lay Brookfield, russet under its autumn mantle of creeper. A group of eighteenth-century buildings centred upon a quadrangle, and there were acres of playing fields beyond, then came the small dependent village and the open fen country. Brookfield, as Wetherby had said, was an old foundation; established in the reign of Elizabeth, as a grammar school, it might, with better luck, have become as famous as Harrow. Its luck, however, had been not so good; the School went up and down, dwindling almost to nonexistence at one time, becoming almost illustrious at another. It was during one of these latter periods, in the reign of the first George, that the main structure had been rebuilt and large additions made. Later, after the Napoleonic Wars and until mid-Victorian days, the School declined again, both in numbers and in repute. Wetherby, who came in 1840, restored its fortunes somewhat; but its subsequent history never raised it to front-rank status. It was, nevertheless, a good school of the second rank. Several notable families supported it; it supplied fair samples of the history-making men of the age-judges, members of parliament, colonial administrators, a few peers and bishops. Mostly, however, it turned out merchants, manufacturers, and professional men, with a good sprinkling of country squires and parsons. It was the sort of school which, when mentioned, would sometimes make snobbish people confess, that they rather thought they had heard of it.

But if it had not been this sort of school it would probably not have taken Chips. For Chips, in any social or academic sense, was just as respectable, but no more brilliant, than Brookfield itself.

It had taken him some time to realize this, at the beginning. Not that he was boastful or conceited, but he had been, in his early twenties, as ambitious as most other young men at such an age. His dream had been to get a headship eventually, or at any rate a senior mastership in a really first-class school; it was only gradually, after repeated trials and failures, that he realized the inadequacy of his qualifications. His degree, for instance, was not particularly good, and his discipline, though good enough and improving, was not absolutely reliable under all conditions. He had no private means and no family connections of any importance. About 1880, after he had been at Brookfield a decade, he began to recognize that the odds were heavily against his being able to better himself by moving elsewhere; but about that time, also, the possibility of staying where he was began to fill a comfortable niche in his mind. At forty, he was rooted, settled, and quite happy. At fifty, he was the doyen of the staff. At sixty, under a new and youthful Head, he was Brookfield—the guest of honor at Old Brookfeldian dinners, the court of appeal in all matters affecting Brookfield history and traditions. And in 1913, when he turned sixty-five, he retired, was presented with a check and a writing desk and a clock, and went across the road to live at Mrs. Wickett's. A decent career, decently closed; three cheers for old Chips, they all shouted, at that uproarious end-of-term dinner.

Three cheers, indeed; but there was more to come, an unguessed epilogue, an encore played to a tragic audience.


It was a small but very comfortable and sunny room that Mrs. Wickett let to him. The house itself was ugly and pretentious; but that didn't matter. It was convenient—that was the main thing. For he liked, if the weather were mild enough, to stroll across to the playing fields in an afternoon and watch the games. He liked to smile and exchange a few words with the boys when they touched their caps to him. He made a special point of getting to know all the new boys and having them to tea with him during their first term. He always ordered a walnut cake with pink icing from Reddaway's, in the village, and during the winter term there were crumpets, too—a little pile of them in front of the fire, soaked in butter so that the bottom one lay in a little shallow pool. His guests found it fun to watch him make tea—mixing careful spoonfuls from different caddies. And he would ask the new boys where they lived, and if they had family connections at Brookfield. He kept watch to see that their plates were never empty, and punctually at five, after the session had lasted an hour, he would glance at the clock and say: "Well—umph—it's been very delightful—umph—meeting you like this—I'm sorry—umph—you can't stay...." And he would smile and shake hands with them in the porch, leaving them to race across the road to the School with their comments, "Decent old boy, Chips. Gives you a jolly good tea, anyhow, and you do know when he wants you to push off...."

And Chips also would be making his comments—to Mrs. Wickett when she entered his room to clear away the remains of the party. "A most—umph—interesting time, Mrs. Wickett. Young Branksome tells me—umph—that his uncle was Major Collingwood—the Collingwood we had here in—umph—nought-two, I think it was. Dear me, I remember Collingwood very well. I once thrashed him—umph—for climbing on to the gymnasium roof—to get a ball out of the gutter. Might have—umph—broken his neck, the young fool. Do you remember him, Mrs. Wickett? He must have been in your time."

Mrs. Wickett, before she saved money, had been in charge of the linen room at the School.

"Yes, I knew 'im, sir. Cheeky, 'e was to me, generly. But we never 'ad no bad words between us. Just cheeky-like. 'E never meant no harm. That kind never does, sir. Wasn't it 'im that got the medal, sir?"

"Yes, a D.S.O."

"Will you be wanting anything else, sir?"

"Nothing more now—umph—till chapel time. He was killed—in Egypt, I think.... Yes—umph—you can bring my supper about then."

"Very good, sir."

A pleasant, placid life, at Mrs. Wickett's. He had no worries; his pension was adequate, and there was a little money saved up besides. He could afford everything and anything he wanted. His room was furnished simply and with schoolmasterly taste: a few bookshelves and sporting trophies; a mantelpiece crowded with fixture cards and signed photographs of boys and men; a worn Turkey carpet; big easy-chairs; pictures on the wall of the Acropolis and the Forum. Nearly everything had come out of his old housemaster's room in School House. The books were chiefly classical, the classics having been his subject; there was, however, a seasoning of history and belles-lettres. There was also a bottom shelf piled up with cheap editions of detective novels. Chips enjoyed these. Sometimes he took down Vergil or Xenophon and read for a few moments, but he was soon back again with Doctor Thorndyke or Inspector French. He was not, despite his long years of assiduous teaching, a very profound classical scholar; indeed, he thought of Latin and Greek far more as dead languages from which English gentlemen ought to know a few quotations than as living tongues that had ever been spoken by living people. He liked those short leading articles in the Times that introduced a few tags that he recognized. To be among the dwindling number of people who understood such things was to him a kind of secret and valued freemasonry; it represented, he felt, one of the chief benefits to be derived from a classical education.

So there he lived, at Mrs. Wickett's, with his quiet enjoyments of reading and talking and remembering; an old man, white-haired and only a little bald, still fairly active for his years, drinking tea, receiving callers, busying himself with corrections for the next edition of the Brookfeldian Directory, writing his occasional letters in thin, spidery, but very legible script. He had new masters to tea, as well as new boys. There were two of them that autumn term, and as they were leaving after their visit one of them commented: "Quite a character, the old boy, isn't he? All that fuss about mixing the tea—a typical bachelor, if ever there was one."

Which was oddly incorrect; because Chips was not a bachelor at all. He had married; though it was so long ago that none of the staff at Brookfield could remember his wife.


There came to him, stirred by the warmth of the fire and the gentle aroma of tea, a thousand tangled recollections of old times. Spring—the spring of 1896. He was forty-eight—an age at which a permanence of habits begins to be predictable. He had just been appointed housemaster; with this and his classical forms, he had made for himself a warm and busy corner of life. During the summer vacation he went up to the Lake District with Rowden, a colleague; they walked and climbed for a week, until Rowden had to leave suddenly on some family business. Chips stayed on alone at Wasdale Head, where he boarded in a small farmhouse.


Excerpted from Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton. Copyright © 1962 Alice Hilton. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Good-Bye, Mr. Chips 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well-written, with an authentic feel for the time a d place.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
More of a pamphlet than a book at only 77pages. The movie with Robert Donat added many additional detailsmissing from this short story. A good short read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In this mess of a world we live in today, how wonderful to read something clean and wholesome. We can never go back but perhaps we can learn from and yet yearn for the days when literature and journalism were honorable and worthy of our time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Goodbye, Mr. Chips BantamStarfire,1983,115pages, $0.20 James Hilton ISBN 0553273273213 It is not surprising that Mr. Chips, a teacher, is the main character of this book. As time goes on he becomes more amusing; however, throughout the book he has problems. Fortunately, Mr. Chips always thinks of a way to solve his problems. The person who changes Mr. Chip¿s life is Katherine, his wife. She makes his life easier for him by bringing more humor into his life. This book is funny, adventurous, and even though it is such an old book, it keeps you going. My favorite chapter in the book is the chapter with Ralston. Some parts of the book are hard to understand, but, if you are a really good reader, I would recommend this book to sixth graders and up.
usnmm2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A joy to read. A real feel good story
jeffome on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
nice simple little tale of a well-loved gentleman whose entire adult life was devoted to a private school where he held a teaching inspirational look at the value of character and how it can trump all else in our lives.....a theme that seems to not get nearly enough attention these days.....i enjoyed.....
_Zoe_ on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of an old British schoolteacher reflecting on his life and career. I love boarding school stories, so I was interested in reading one from a teacher's point of view, and I wasn't disappointed. This is a short but powerful book, though I found it almost painfully sad at times. Mr. Chips is an average, even mediocre, teacher, and it was difficult to be faced with the combination of his mediocrity and personal tragedy. Of course, this also makes it very real. I'm just glad that he could reflect with satisfaction on his achievements in the end, and remember happy times without focusing on what was lost. Anyway, this is not always an easy book to read, but it's certainly worth the time.
bkwurm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book tells the story of Mr. Chipping, a retired schoolteacher from the English boarding school of Brookfield. The story is told as a series of flashbacks and remembrances from Mr. Chipping's (affectionately referred to as "Chips") point of view, and covers 6 decades, including his early years as a teacher, his brief but life-changing marriage, more than 3 headmasters, many political movements, wars, and much more.This was a light and charming story, but too short. The time span is so great, and the length of the book so short, that it was hard to get any sense of depth. Additionally, the memoir style of storytelling--dipping into memories and then pulling back--prevented me from truly losing myself in the book. Still, it is a delightful story, and Mr. Chips is a fun and memorable character. I recommend this book if you're in the mood for some light weekend reading.
bookappeal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A simple story about a young English schoolmaster who becomes an established figure at Brookfield school in the late 1800s. Though the character is certainly appealing, little happens in this novel and no themes are particularly explored. How the book became a "classic" remains a mystery.
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's the gentle story of a man who taught in a British private boys' school for many decades. I love the way Chips starts out as a very average sort of person and teacher. It's the experiences of life---the death of his wonderful wife, the tragedies of the war, the days, years spent teaching children---that transform Chips into a thoughtful, clever, and exemplary human being.
FrkFrigg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It¿s a funny little book. It¿s sort of slow, laid back in the pace. I don¿t really know what to think of it. Nothing much happens, and yet an entire world unravels before your eyes. You don¿t really get to know most of the characters, yet it feels like you were there yourself, both on the boarding school, Brookfield, and in the house of Mrs. Wickett¿s, listening to Mr. Chips telling those charming stories about his life as a teacher.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Gretchen1 More than 1 year ago
This book was made into a terrific movie in 1939, with the late great Robert Donat playing Chips, and is a delightful book to read. Some might think it's slow, but it's not. Granted the earlier movie version expanded upon this book, but it's just nice to read it. Oh, please, skip the AWFUL musical version that came out in the late 1960's. It did NOT do the book justice, and Mr. Hilton must spin in his grave everytime it's shown anywhere.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found the book though slow paced, very beautiful. Very simply it describes the story. But if you think over it, it just shows the greatness simplicity has..Beautiful is the apt word to describe it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you're tired of a fast-paced, me first world, take an afternoon off with Mr. Chips and the other characters of this story. If you've come to a place in life where you can appreciate life's joys and treasure them, you'll love this book. Even if you haven't traveled the path of life very long, you can still enjoy the book if you let it show you how to value life's joys and live well, as a person of character and generosity, while you are still young. Also, I recommend the film of this novel starring Greer Garson and Robert Donat.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked this book because it has a lot of surprises. If you like adventure stories, this book is for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't recommend this book to anyone, really. As Christina said, I found the book to be very confussing, the years are mixed up and one min. your reading about one topic and the next min. your reading about something else. Which makes it very hard to understand and comprehend.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best books I have read over the summer. It takes us back to the school days. Mr. Chips was an interesting character in this story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was very boring to me. Its about an old man that used to teach school and has memories of his school teaching. Its supposed to be funny I think. I like books that have more action. The reason I read it was for a book report.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great novel that takes you back to the turning of the century. In this fun-filled, romantic, and enjoyable novel, you will find yourself unable to stop. Read this book for a report or for pleasure. You'll be glad-umph-that you did!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was so boring that it took me ten days to read. I mean talk about boring! This book was so boring that when I had trouble sleeping i just started reading this to put me to sleep! I swear I was asleep in 2 min. flat!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This classic novel, penned by the incomparable James Hilton, takes the reader back to a simpler time. The story of Mr. Chips is a pleasant and most enjoyable experience. Truly, this will touch the heart of every reader.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think that if you want to read heartwrenching stories, this is not the one to read. It is so boring, the years are all mixed up, first they are in one place, than another, and then he dies with no point. Big boring thing. I shouldn't even give the book one star, maybe a quarter of a star.