Mr. Crabtree has just arrived to take over as headmaster at Weatherhill, an English public school whose reputation is on the decline, and with the help of his meddlesome wife and odious daughter, he is determined to turn things around. But Crabtree is totally devoid of either sympathy or understanding and his misguided efforts lead to hilarious disasters, such as when he invites a girls' school for tea to try to woo the boys from their 'unnatural ways'.
Meanwhile, Mrs Crabtree is infatuated with the chaplain, whose sermons about 'the burning fire' are a source of constant merriment to the boys, and Dr. Kingsly is arranging the annual school play, not thinking of how the homophobic Crabtree will react to seeing the boys dressed as girls.
Yet mixed with the comedy are two private tragedies: Eric Ashley, a brilliant young teacher, is struggling to come to grips with his homosexuality, and Carleton, a senior boy, finds himself strangely drawn to Allen, a fellow member of the cricket team. It all moves inexorably towards a tremendously funny and heartbreakingly sad final day of the school year, when the titular hymn will be sung and more than one character will leave Weatherhill forever....
Widely praised on its initial publication, Lord Dismiss Us (1967) is reprinted here for the first time in three decades.