George Ponderevo grows up in the shadow of Bladesover House, where his mother is the housekeeper. In that Edwardian atmosphere, the boy soon becomes aware of the wide distinctions between English social classes, for the neighborhood around Bladesover is England in miniature, a small world made up of the quality, the church, the village, the laborers, and the servants. Although George spends most of his time away at school, he returns to Bladesover for his vacations. During one of his vacations, he learns for the first time about the class of which he is a member—the servants.
His lesson comes as the result of the arrival at Bladesover House of the Honorable Beatrice Normandy, an eight-year-old child, and her snobbish young half brother, Archie Garvell. Twelve-year-old George Ponderevo falls in love with the little aristocrat that summer. Two years later, their childish romance ends abruptly when George and Archie fight each other. George is disillusioned because the Honorable Beatrice does not come to his aid. In fact, she betrays him, abandons him, and lies about him, depicting George as an assailant of his social betters.
When George refuses flatly to apologize to Archie Garvell, he is taken to Chatham and put to work in the bakery owned by his mother’s brother, Nicodemus Frapp. George finds his uncle’s family dull, cloddish, and overreligious. One night, in the room he shares with his two cousins, he tells them in confidence that he does not believe in any form of revealed religion. Traitorously, his cousins report George’s blasphemy to their father. As a result, George is called upon in a church meeting to acknowledge his sins. Humiliated and angry, he runs away, going back to his mother at Bladesover House.
Mrs. Ponderevo then sends him to live with another uncle, his father’s brother, Edward Ponderevo, at Wimblehurst, in Sussex. There George works in his uncle’s chemist’s shop, or pharmacy, after school. Edward Ponderevo is a restless, dissatisfied man who wants to expand his business and make money. His wife, Aunt Susan, is a gentle, patient woman who treats George kindly. George’s mother dies during his years at Wimblehurst.
George’s pleasant life at Wimblehurst is eventually brought to a sudden end. Through foolish investments, Edward Ponderevo loses everything of his own, including the chemist’s shop, as well as a small fund he had been holding in trust for George. Edward and Susan Ponderevo are forced to leave Wimblehurst, but George remains behind as an apprentice with Mr. Mantell, the new owner of the shop.
At the age of nineteen, George goes to London to matriculate at the University of London for his bachelor of science degree. On the trip, his uncle, now living in London, shows him the city and first whispers to him the name of Tono-Bungay, an invention on which the older Ponderevo is working. Instead of...
(The entire section is 1185 words.)