H. G. (Herbert George) Wells.

Kipps, the story of a simple soul online

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Books by H. G. Wells


Twelve Stories and a Dream
The Plattner Story and Others
Tales of Space and Time
The Stolen Bacillus and Other Stories


The Food of the Gods
The Wonderful Visit
The War of the Worlds
The Invisible Man
The Time Machine
The First Men in the Moon
The Sea Lady
The Island of Dr. Moreau


Love and Mr. Lewisham
The Wheels of Chance


A Modern Utopia
Mankind in the Making.





"Those individuals who have led secluded or isolated lives, or have
hitherto moved in other spheres than those wherein well-bred people
move, will gather all the information necessary from these pages to
render them thoroughly conversant with the manners and amenities of

_Manners and Rules of Good Society_

_By a Member of the Aristocracy_



I. The Little Shop at New Romney 3
II. The Emporium 36
III. The Wood-Carving Class 64
IV. Chitterlow 88
V. "Swapped" 117
VI. The Unexpected 128



I. The New Conditions 169
II. The Walshinghams 201
III. Engaged 218
IV. The Bicycle Manufacturer 245
V. The Pupil Lover 259
VI. Discords 282
VII. London 309
VIII. Kipps Enters Society 354
IX. The Labyrinthodon 380



I. The Housing Problem 395
II. The Callers 424
III. Terminations 443






Until he was nearly arrived at adolescence it did not become clear to
Kipps how it was that he was under the care of an aunt and uncle instead
of having a father and mother like other boys. Yet he had vague memories
of a somewhere else that was not New Romney - of a dim room, a window
looking down on white buildings - and of a some one else who talked to
forgotten people, and who was his mother. He could not recall her
features very distinctly, but he remembered with extreme definition a
white dress she wore, with a pattern of little sprigs of flowers and
little bows of ribbon upon it, and a girdle of straight-ribbed white
ribbon about the waist. Linked with this, he knew not how, were clouded
half-obliterated recollections of scenes in which there was weeping,
weeping in which he was inscrutably moved to join. Some terrible tall
man with a loud voice played a part in these scenes, and either before
or after them there were impressions of looking for interminable periods
out of the windows of railway trains in the company of these two

He knew, though he could not remember that he had ever been told, that
a certain faded, wistful face, that looked at him from a plush and gilt
framed daguerreotype above the mantel of the "sitting-room," was the
face of his mother. But that knowledge did not touch his dim memories
with any elucidation. In that photograph she was a girlish figure,
leaning against a photographer's stile, and with all the self-conscious
shrinking natural to that position. She had curly hair and a face far
younger and prettier than any other mother in his experience. She swung
a Dolly Varden hat by the string, and looked with obedient respectful
eyes on the photographer-gentleman who had commanded the pose. She was
very slight and pretty. But the phantom mother that haunted his memory
so elusively was not like that, though he could not remember how she
differed. Perhaps she was older, or a little less shrinking, or, it may
be, only dressed in a different way....

It is clear she handed him over to his aunt and uncle at New Romney with
explicit directions and a certain endowment. One gathers she had
something of that fine sense of social distinctions that subsequently
played so large a part in Kipps' career. He was not to go to a "common"
school, she provided, but to a certain seminary in Hastings that was not
only a "middle-class academy," with mortar boards and every evidence of
a higher social tone, but also remarkably cheap. She seems to have been
animated by the desire to do her best for Kipps, even at a certain
sacrifice of herself, as though Kipps were in some way a superior sort
of person. She sent pocket-money to him from time to time for a year or
more after Hastings had begun for him, but her face he never saw in the
days of his lucid memory.

His aunt and uncle were already high on the hill of life when first he
came to them. They had married for comfort in the evening or at any rate
in the late afternoon of their days. They were at first no more than
vague figures in the background of proximate realities, such realities
as familiar chairs and tables, quiet to ride and drive, the newel of the
staircase, kitchen furniture, pieces of firewood, the boiler tap, old
newspapers, the cat, the High Street, the back yard and the flat fields
that are always so near in that little town. He knew all the stones in
the yard individually, the creeper in the corner, the dustbin and the
mossy wall, better than many men know the faces of their wives. There
was a corner under the ironing-board which by means of a shawl could,
under propitious gods, be made a very decent cubby-house, a corner that
served him for several years as the indisputable hub of the world; and
the stringy places in the carpet, the knots upon the dresser, and the
several corners of the rag hearthrug his uncle had made, became
essential parts of his mental foundations. The shop he did not know so
thoroughly - it was a forbidden region to him; yet somehow he managed to
know it very well.

His aunt and uncle were, as it were, the immediate gods of this world;
and, like the gods of the world of old, occasionally descended right
into it, with arbitrary injunctions and disproportionate punishments.
And, unhappily, one rose to their Olympian level at meals. Then one had
to say one's "grace," hold one's spoon and fork in mad, unnatural ways
called "properly," and refrain from eating even nice sweet things "too
fast." If he "gobbled" there was trouble, and at the slightest _abandon_
with knife, fork, and spoon, his aunt rapped his knuckles, albeit his
uncle always finished up his gravy with his knife. Sometimes, moreover,
his uncle would come, pipe in hand, out of a sedentary remoteness in the
most disconcerting way, when a little boy was doing the most natural and
attractive things, with "Drat and drabbit that young rascal! What's he
a-doing of now?" And his aunt would appear at door or window to
interrupt interesting conversation with children who were upon unknown
grounds considered "low" and undesirable, and call him in. The
pleasantest little noises, however softly you did them, - drumming on
tea-trays, trumpeting your fists, whistling on keys, ringing chimes with
a couple of pails, or playing tunes on the window-panes, - brought down
the gods in anger. Yet what noise is fainter than your finger on the
window - gently done? Sometimes, however, these gods gave him broken toys
out of the shop, and then one loved them better - for the shop they kept
was, among other things, a toy shop. (The other things included books to
read and books to give away and local photographs; it had some
pretensions also to be a china shop, and the fascia spoke of glass; it
was also a stationer's shop with a touch of haberdashery about it, and
in the windows and odd corners were mats and terra-cotta dishes, and
milking-stools for painting; and there was a hint of picture-frames, and
fire-screens, and fishing tackle, and air-guns, and bathing suits, and
tents: various things, indeed, but all cruelly attractive to a small
boy's fingers.) Once his aunt gave him a trumpet if he would _promise_
faithfully not to blow it, and afterwards took it away again. And his
aunt made him say his Catechism and something she certainly called the
"Colic for the Day" every Sunday in the year.

As the two grew old while he grew up, and as his impression of them
modified insensibly from year to year, it seemed to him at last that
they had always been as they were when, in his adolescent days, his
impression of things grew fixed. His aunt he thought of as always lean,
rather worried-looking, and prone to a certain obliquity of cap, and his
uncle massive, many-chinned, and careless about his buttons. They
neither visited nor received visitors. They were always very suspicious
about their neighbours and other people generally; they feared the "low"
and they hated and despised the "stuck-up," and so they "kept themselves
_to_ themselves," according to the English ideal. Consequently little
Kipps had no playmates, except through the sin of disobedience. By
inherent nature he had a sociable disposition. When he was in the High
Street he made a point of saying "Hello!" to passing cyclists, and he
would put his tongue out at the Quodling children whenever their
nursemaid was not looking. And he began a friendship with Sid Pornick,
the son of the haberdasher next door, that, with wide intermissions, was
destined to last his lifetime through.

Pornick, the haberdasher, I may say at once, was, according to old
Kipps, a "blaring jackass"; he was a teetotaller, a "nyar, nyar,
'im-singing Methodis'," and altogether distasteful and detrimental, he
and his together, to true Kipps ideals, so far as little Kipps could
gather them. This Pornick certainly possessed an enormous voice, and he
annoyed old Kipps greatly by calling, "You - Arn" and "Siddee," up and
down his house. He annoyed old Kipps by private choral services on
Sunday, all his family "nyar, nyar-ing"; and by mushroom culture; by
behaving as though the pilaster between the two shops was common
property; by making a noise of hammering in the afternoon, when old
Kipps wanted to be quiet after his midday meal; by going up and down
uncarpeted stairs in his boots; by having a black beard; by attempting
to be friendly; and by - all that sort of thing. In fact, he annoyed old
Kipps. He annoyed him especially with his shop doormat. Old Kipps never
beat his mat, preferring to let sleeping dust lie; and, seeking a motive
for a foolish proceeding, he held that Pornick waited until there was a
suitable wind in order that the dust disengaged in that operation might
defile his neighbour's shop. These issues would frequently develop into
loud and vehement quarrels, and on one occasion came so near to violence
as to be subsequently described by Pornick (who read his newspaper) as a
"Disgraceful Frackass." On that occasion he certainly went into his own
shop with extreme celerity.

But it was through one of these quarrels that the friendship of little
Kipps and Sid Pornick came about. The two small boys found themselves
one day looking through the gate at the doctor's goats together; they
exchanged a few contradictions about which goat could fight which, and
then young Kipps was moved to remark that Sid's father was a "blaring
jackass." Sid said he wasn't, and Kipps repeated that he was, and quoted
his authority. Then Sid, flying off at a tangent rather alarmingly, said
he could fight young Kipps with one hand, an assertion young Kipps with
a secret want of confidence denied. There were some vain repetitions,
and the incident might have ended there, but happily a sporting butcher
boy chanced on the controversy at this stage, and insisted upon seeing
fair play.

The two small boys under his pressing encouragement did at last button
up their jackets, square and fight an edifying drawn battle, until it
seemed good to the butcher boy to go on with Mrs. Holyer's mutton. Then,
according to his directions and under his experienced stage management,
they shook hands and made it up. Subsequently, a little tear-stained
perhaps, but flushed with the butcher boy's approval ("tough little
kids"), and with cold stones down their necks as he advised, they sat
side by side on the doctor's gate, projecting very much behind,
staunching an honourable bloodshed, and expressing respect for one
another. Each had a bloody nose and a black eye - three days later they
matched to a shade - neither had given in, and, though this was tacit,
neither wanted any more.

It was an excellent beginning. After this first encounter the attributes
of their parents and their own relative value in battle never rose
between them, and if anything was wanted to complete the warmth of their
regard it was found in a joint dislike of the eldest Quodling. The
eldest Quodling lisped, had a silly sort of straw hat and a large pink
face (all covered over with self-satisfaction), and he went to the
National School with a green baize bag - a contemptible thing to do. They
called him names and threw stones at him, and when he replied by
threatenings ("Look 'ere, young Art Kipth, you better _thtoppit_!") they
were moved to attack and put him to flight.

And after that they broke the head of Ann Pornick's doll, so that she
went home weeping loudly - a wicked and endearing proceeding. Sid was
whacked, but, as he explained, he wore a newspaper tactically adjusted
during the transaction, and really it didn't hurt him at all.... And
Mrs. Pornick put her head out of the shop door suddenly, and threatened
Kipps as he passed.


"Cavendish Academy," the school that had won the limited choice of
Kipps' vanished mother, was established in a battered private house in
the part of Hastings remotest from the sea; it was called an Academy for
Young Gentlemen, and many of the young gentlemen had parents in "India,"
and other unverifiable places. Others were the sons of credulous widows,
anxious, as Kipps' mother had been, to get something a little "superior"
to a board school education as cheaply as possible; and others again
were sent to demonstrate the dignity of their parents and guardians. And
of course there were boys from France.

Its "principal" was a lean, long creature of indifferent digestion and
temper, who proclaimed himself on a gilt-lettered board in his front
garden George Garden Woodrow, F.S.Sc., letters indicating that he had
paid certain guineas for a bogus diploma. A bleak white-washed outhouse
constituted his schoolroom, and the scholastic quality of its carved and
worn desks and forms was enhanced by a slippery blackboard and two large
yellow out-of-date maps, one of Africa and the other of Wiltshire, that
he had picked up cheap at a sale. There were other maps and globes in
his study, where he interviewed inquiring parents, but these his pupils
never saw. And in a glass cupboard in the passage was several
shillingsworth of test tubes and chemicals, a tripod, a glass retort,
and a damaged Bunsen burner, manifesting that the "Scientific
laboratory" mentioned in the prospectus was no idle boast.

This prospectus, which was in dignified but incorrect English, laid
particular stress on the sound preparation for a commercial career given
in the Academy, but the army, navy and civil service were glanced at in
an ambiguous sentence. There was something vague in the prospectus about
"examinational successes" - though Woodrow, of course, disapproved of
"cram" - and a declaration that the curriculum included "art," "modern
foreign languages" and "a sound technical and scientific training." Then
came insistence upon the "moral well-being" of the pupils, and an
emphatic boast of the excellence of the religious instruction, "so often
neglected nowadays even in schools of wide repute." "That's bound to
fetch 'em," Mr. Woodrow had remarked when he drew up the prospectus. And
in conjunction with the mortarboards it certainly did. Attention was
directed to the "motherly" care of Mrs. Woodrow - in reality a small
partially effaced woman with a plaintive face and a mind above cookery;
and the prospectus concluded with a phrase intentionally vague, "Fare
unrestricted, and our own milk and produce."

The memories Kipps carried from that school into after life were set in
an atmosphere of stuffiness and mental muddle; and included countless
pictures of sitting on creaking forms bored and idle, of blot licking
and the taste of ink, of torn books with covers that set one's teeth on
edge, of the slimy surface of the laboured slates, of furtive
marble-playing, whispered story-telling, and of pinches, blows, and a
thousand such petty annoyances being perpetually "passed on" according
to the custom of the place, of standing up in class and being hit
suddenly and unreasonably for imaginary misbehaviour, of Mr. Woodrow's
raving days, when a scarcely sane injustice prevailed, of the cold
vacuity of the hour of preparation before the bread-and-butter
breakfast, and of horrible headaches and queer, unprecedented, internal
feelings resulting from Mrs. Woodrow's motherly rather than intelligent
cookery. There were dreary walks, when the boys marched two by two, all
dressed in the mortarboard caps that so impressed the widowed mothers;
there were dismal half-holidays when the weather was wet and the spirit
of evil temper and evil imagination had the pent boys to work its will
on; there were unfair, dishonourable fights and miserable defeats and
victories, there was bullying and being bullied. A coward boy Kipps
particularly afflicted, until at last he was goaded to revolt by
incessant persecution, and smote Kipps to tolerance with whirling fists.
There were memories of sleeping three in a bed, of the dense leathery
smell of the schoolroom when one returned thither after ten minutes'
play, of a playground of mud and incidental sharp flints. And there was
much furtive foul language.

"Our Sundays are our happiest days," was one of Woodrow's formulæ with
the inquiring parent, but Kipps was not called in evidence. They were to
him terrible gaps of inanity - no work, no play, a drear expanse of time
with the mystery of church twice and plum duff once in the middle. The
afternoon was given up to furtive relaxations, among which "Torture
Chamber" games with the less agreeable, weaker boys figured. It was from
the difference between this day and common days that Kipps derived his
first definite conceptions of the nature of God and heaven. His instinct
was to evade any closer acquaintance as long as he could.

The school work varied, according to the prevailing mood of Mr. Woodrow.
Sometimes that was a despondent lethargy; copy-books were distributed or
sums were "set," or the great mystery of bookkeeping was declared in
being, and beneath these superficial activities lengthy conversations
and interminable guessing games with marbles went on while Mr. Woodrow
sat inanimate at his desk heedless of school affairs, staring in front
of him at unseen things. At times his face was utterly inane, at times
it had an expression of stagnant amazement, as if he saw before his eyes
with pitiless clearness the dishonour and mischief of his being....

At other times the F.S.Sc. roused himself to action, and would stand up
a wavering class and teach it, goading it with bitter mockery and blows
through a chapter of Ann's "First French Course," or "France and the
French," or a Dialogue about a traveller's washing, or the parts of an
opera-house. His own knowledge of French had been obtained years ago in
another English private school, and he had refreshed it by occasional
weeks of loafing and mean adventure in Dieppe. He would sometimes in
their lessons hit upon some reminiscence of these brighter days, and
then he would laugh inexplicably and repeat French phrases of an
unfamiliar type.

Among the commoner exercises he prescribed the learning of long passages
of poetry from a "Poetry Book," which he would delegate an elder boy to
"hear," and there was reading aloud from the Holy Bible, verse by
verse - it was none of your "godless" schools! - so that you counted the
verses up to your turn and then gave yourself to conversation - and
sometimes one read from a cheap History of this land. They did, as Kipps
reported, "loads of catechism." Also there was much learning of
geographical names and lists, and sometimes Woodrow in an outbreak of
energy would see these names were actually found on a map. And once,
just once, there was a chemistry lesson - a lesson of indescribable
excitement - glass things of the strangest shape, a smell like bad eggs,
something bubbling in something, a smash and stench, and Mr. Woodrow
saying quite distinctly - they thrashed it out in the dormitory
afterwards - "Damn!" followed by the whole school being kept in, with
extraordinary severities, for an hour....

But interspersed with the memories of this grey routine were certain
patches of brilliant colour - the holidays, his holidays, which in spite
of the feud between their seniors, he spent as much as possible with
Sid Pornick, the son of the irascible black-bearded haberdasher next
door. They seemed to be memories of a different world. There were
glorious days of "mucking about" along the beach, the siege of
unresisting Martello towers, the incessant interest of the mystery and
motion of windmills, the windy excursions with boarded feet over the
yielding shingle to Dungeness lighthouse - Sid Pornick and he far adrift
from reality, smugglers and armed men from the moment they left Great
Stone behind them - wanderings in the hedgeless reedy marsh, long
excursions reaching even to Hythe, where the machine guns of the Empire
are forever whirling and tapping, and to Rye and Winchelsea, perched
like dream-cities on their little hills. The sky in these memories was
the blazing hemisphere of the marsh heavens in summer, or its wintry
tumult of sky and sea; and there were wrecks, real wrecks, in it (near
Dymchurch pitched high and blackened and rotting were the ribs of a
fishing smack flung aside like an empty basket when the sea had devoured
its crew); and there was bathing all naked in the sea, bathing to one's
armpits and even trying to swim in the warm sea-water (spite of his
aunt's prohibition), and (with her indulgence) the rare eating of dinner
from a paper parcel miles away from home. Toke and cold ground rice
pudding with plums it used to be - there is no better food at all. And
for the background, in the place of Woodrow's mean, fretting rule, were
his aunt's spare but frequently quite amiable figure - for though she
insisted on his repeating the English Church Catechism every Sunday,
she had an easy way over dinners that one wanted to take abroad - and his
uncle, corpulent and irascible, but sedentary and easily escaped. And

The holidays were indeed very different from school. They were free,
they were spacious, and though he never knew it in these words - they had
an element of beauty. In his memory of his boyhood they shone like
strips of stained glass window in a dreary waste of scholastic wall,
they grew brighter and brighter as they grew remoter. There came a time
at last and moods when he could look back to them with a feeling akin to

The last of these windows was the brightest, and instead of the
kaleidoscopic effects of its predecessors its glory was a single figure.
For in the last of his holidays, before the Moloch of Retail Trade got
hold of him, Kipps made his first tentative essays at the mysterious
shrine of Love. Very tentative they were, for he had become a boy of
subdued passions, and potential rather than actual affectionateness.

And the objects of these first stirrings of the great desire was no
other than Ann Pornick, the head of whose doll he and Sid had broken
long ago, and rejoiced over long ago, in the days when he had yet to
learn the meaning of a heart.


Negotiations were already on foot to make Kipps into a draper before he
discovered the lights that lurked in Ann Pornick's eyes. School was
over, absolutely over, and it was chiefly present to him that he was
never to go to school again. It was high summer. The "breaking up" of
school had been hilarious; and the excellent maxim, "Last Day's Pay

Online LibraryH. G. (Herbert George) WellsKipps, the story of a simple soul → online text (page 1 of 26)