Brookfield Revisited

The Golden Year of the Golden Age of Hollywood was, perhaps, 1939. Amongst its many films that have since become classics—including Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights, Stagecoach, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame—was the first (and best) version of James Hilton's novel Goodbye, Mr. Chips. The film (like the book) tells the story of the three loves in its hero's life: the boys he teaches, the wife he marries, and the school he serves for a lifetime and whose values he comes to represent. As he ages, Mr. Chips looks back on, and champions, what he thinks of as the golden years of the English public school. It is precisely this era that is covered, as fact, by Letters Between a Victorian Schoolboy and His Family. The fictional Mr. Chipping would have been beginning the third of his five decades as a master at the imaginary Brookfield School when the very real—and very small—Tankred Tunstall-Behrens arrived as a boarder at Clifton College, near Bristol, and encountered the Victorian public school myth for himself.

Letters is a remarkable book. David Crane has assembled the complete correspondence between Tankred and his parents, other Letters that passed between the family and the school, and a host of associated documents and ephemera including reports, examination papers, and contemporary magazine articles....

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