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Kipps

Manners and Rules of Good Society, Kipps, Half a Sixpence, The Wealth of Mr Waddy

survives stage drapery novel

a novel by H. G. Wells, published in 1905. This romantic comedy, drawing on Wells's early experiences as a draper's assistant, established its author as one of the leading Edwardian novelists. Today it survives principally as a period piece. The opening chapters, in which the young, illegitimate Artie Kipps enters Shalford's emporium in Folkestone, contain Well's fullest and bitterest description of the apprentice's life. The drapery trade is represented as a lifelong dead end, but Kipps escapes miraculously when it turns out that he is heir to a fortune. He then embarks on a comic journey through the English class system, living the life of a gentleman as prescribed by a contemporary etiquette book, Manners and Rules of Good Society. He tries to amend his uncouth behaviour and accent, and becomes engaged to the genteel Helen Walshingham, unwisely entrusting his investments to her crooked brother. Just as snobbery and social pretension seem to have ensnared him as effectively as the drapery had done, he rebels and returns to his childhood sweetheart, Ann Pornick. He ends up comfortably as a small bookseller. The most memorable of a large cast of minor characters is the bohemian Chitterlow, who becomes a successful playwright. Kipps, a deliberate melodrama, was itself adapted for the stage in 1912, and filmed in 1922 and 1941. A later musical version, Half a Sixpence, appeared on both stage and screen. Wells described the novel as a fragment of a much larger design, part of which survives in draft form; this was published posthumously as The Wealth of Mr Waddy (1969).

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