A tragic book in which perhaps only one character is true to himself- and that figure, Paul Gate, a Mr. Chips without recognition. Retiring at 70 from a lowly post in a third rate private school in northeast England, he is content with one achievement in his shabby, colorless life- the success of his one important pupil, Gregory Mott. That he had suffered material privations to make it possible for Gregory to go on to a provincial university was unrecognized, even by Gregory, orphaned and unaware that to Gate he was a ""son of the spirit"". When Gate makes his sole journey to London, to see Gregory's splendor for himself, the Motts condescend to include him in one of their grand dinner parties -- and alas, he sees through the facade of Gregory's pretensions, slips quietly away and back to his anonymity. But it takes many buffets of Fate before others in Gregory's exalted milieu begin to see the cracks in the surface. And in the process, their own flaws show up in the stark light of truth. Gregory seemed to himself untouchable; his novels were widely acclaimed, he held a post of power and honor in a richly endowed institute of the arts, he had married money and position, he could afford to do what he chose. And then he made the one slip which his basically callous and soul had not counted on -- and it gave his enemies their chance. It is a sorry tale, and at its close Gregory faces himself, and he is stripped of all he had thought permanent trappings. That his wife, Beatrice, and her brother are revealed with their emptiness; that his associate, Lambert Corry, has succeeded in paying off old scores only to be left with a hollow honor; that the people Gregory could have helped are betrayed; that only from necessity has he repaid his debt to the son he could never claim, all this and more leaves his world naked in its meaninglessness, hypocrisy in the down the drain. And Gregory knows that the one last gesture before he becomes anonymous must be a return to the town of his boyhood for the funeral of the man who thought he had started him towards fame. A strangely compelling and too often bitter book.