Personal life 6) Lifestyle

Personal life

6) Lifestyle

– Orwell was a heavy smoker, rolling his own cigarettes from strong shag tobacco, in spite of his bronchial condition. He undermined his health with a penchant for the rugged life which often put him in cold and damp situations both in the long term as in Catalonia and Jura, and short term, for example in motorcycling in the rain and a shipwreck of his own creation. His love of strong tea was legendary — he had Fortnum & Mason‘s tea brought to him in Catalonia and in 1946 published «A Nice Cup of Tea» on how to make it. He appreciated English beer, taken regularly and moderately, despised drinkers of lager and wrote about an imagined, ideal pub in his 1946 newspaper article «The Moon Under Water». Not being particular about food, he enjoyed the wartime «Victory Pie» extolled canteen food at the BBC and once ate the cat’s dinner by mistake. However he preferred traditional English dishes such as roast beef and kippers and reports of his Islington days refer to the cosy afternoon tea table.

His dress sense was unpredictable and usually casual. In Southwold he had the best cloth from the local tailor, but was equally happy in his tramping outfit. His attire in the Spanish Civil War, along with his size 12 boots was a source of amusement. David Astor described him as looking like a prep school master, while according to the Special Branch dossier, Orwell’s tendency of clothing himself «in Bohemian fashion» revealed that the author was «a Communist».

Orwell’s confusing approach to matters of social decorum—on the one hand expecting a working class guest to dress for dinner, and on the other hand slurping tea out of a saucer at the BBC canteen helped stoke his reputation as an English eccentric.


Personal life 5) Social interactions

Personal life

5) Social interactions

– Orwell was noted for very close and enduring friendships with a few friends, but these were generally people with a similar background or with a similar level of literary ability. Ungregarious, he was out of place in a crowd and his discomfort was exacerbated when he was outside his own class. Though representing himself as a spokesman for the common man, he often appeared out of place with real working people. His brother-in-law Humphrey Dakin, a «Hail fellow, well met» type, who took him to a local pub in Leeds, said that he was told by the landlord: «Don’t bring that bugger in here again». Adrian Fierz commented «He wasn’t interested in racing or greyhounds or pub crawling or shove ha’penny. He just did not have much in common with people who did not share his intellectual interests». Awkwardness attended many of his encounters with working class representatives as with Pollitt and McNair. but his courtesy and good manners were often commented on. Jack Common observed on meeting him for the first time «Right away manners, and more than manners — breeding — showed through».

In his tramping days, he did domestic work for a time. His extreme politeness was recalled by a member of the family he worked for; she declared that the family referred to him as «Laurel» after the film comedian. With his gangling figure and awkwardness, Orwell’s friends often saw him as a figure of fun. Geoffrey Gorer commented «He was awfully likely to knock things off tables, trip over things. I mean, he was a gangling, physically badly co-ordinated young man. I think his feelings that even the inanimate world was against him…» When he shared a flat with Heppenstall and Sayer, he was treated in a patronising manner by the younger men. At the BBC, in the 1940s, «everybody would pull his leg» and Spender described him as having real entertainment value «like, as I say, watching a Charlie Chaplin movie». A friend of Eileen’s reminisced about her tolerance and humour, often at Orwell’s expense.

One biography of Orwell accused him of having had an authoritarian streak. In Burma, he struck out at a Burmese boy who while «fooling around» with his friends «accidentally bumped into him» at a station so that he «fell heavily» down some stairs. One of his former pupils recalled being beaten so hard he could not sit down for a week. When sharing a flat with Orwell, Heppenstall came home late one night in an advanced stage of loud inebriation. The upshot was that Heppenstall ended up with a bloody nose and was locked in a room. When he complained, Orwell hit him a crack across the legs with a shooting stick and Heppenstall then had to defend himself with a chair. Years later, after Orwell’s death, Heppenstall wrote a dramatic account of the incident called «The Shooting Stick» and Mabel Fierz confirmed that Heppenstall came to her in a sorry state the following day.

However, Orwell got on well with young people. The pupil he beat considered him the best of teachers, and the young recruits in Barcelona tried to drink him under the table — though without success. His nephew recalled Uncle Eric laughing louder than anyone in the cinema at a Charlie Chaplin film.

In the wake of his most famous works, he attracted many uncritical hangers-on, but many others who sought him found him aloof and even dull. With his soft voice, he was sometimes shouted down or excluded from discussions. At this time, he was severely ill; it was wartime or the austerity period after it; during the war his wife suffered from depression; and after her death he was lonely and unhappy. In addition to that, he always lived frugally and seemed unable to care for himself properly. As a result of all this, people found his circumstances bleak. Some, like Michael Ayrton, called him «Gloomy George», but others developed the idea that he was a «secular saint».


Personal life 4) Political views

Personal life

4) Political views

– Orwell liked to provoke argument by challenging the status quo, but he was also a traditionalist with a love of old English values. He criticised and satirised, from the inside, the various social milieus in which he found himself – provincial town life in A Clergyman’s Daughter; middle-class pretention in Keep the Aspidistra Flying; preparatory schools in Such Such were the Joys; colonialism in Burmese Days, and some socialist groups in The Road to Wigan Pier. In his Adelphi days he described himself as a «Toryanarchist«.

The Spanish Civil War played the most important part in defining Orwell’s socialism. He wrote to Cyril Connolly from Barcelona on 8 June 1937: «I have seen wonderful things and at last really believe in Socialism, which I never did before». Having witnessed the success of the anarcho-syndicalist communities, for example in Anarchist Catalonia, and the subsequent brutal suppression of the anarcho-syndicalists, anti-Stalin communist parties and revolutionaries by the Soviet Union-backed Communists, Orwell returned from Catalonia a staunch anti-Stalinist and joined the Independent Labour Party, his card being issued on 13 June 1938. Although he was never a Trotskyist, he was strongly influenced by the Trotskyist and anarchist critiques of the Soviet regime, and by the anarchists’ emphasis on individual freedom. In Part 2 of The Road to Wigan Pier, published by the Left Book Club, Orwell stated: «a real Socialist is one who wishes – not merely conceives it as desirable, but actively wishes – to see tyranny overthrown». Orwell stated in «Why I Write» (1946): «Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.» Orwell was a proponent of a federal socialist Europe, a position outlined in his 1947 essay «Toward European Unity», which first appeared in Partisan Review. According to biographer John Newsinger,

the other crucial dimension to Orwell’s socialism was his recognition that the Soviet Union was not socialist. Unlike many on the left, instead of abandoning socialism once he discovered the full horror of Stalinist rule in the Soviet Union, Orwell abandoned the Soviet Union and instead remained a socialist — indeed he became more committed to the socialist cause than ever.»

In his 1938 essay «Why I joined the Independent Labour Party», published in the ILP-affiliated New Leader, Orwell wrote:

For some years past I have managed to make the capitalist class pay me several pounds a week for writing books against capitalism. But I do not delude myself that this state of affairs is going to last forever … the only régime which, in the long run, will dare to permit freedom of speech is a Socialist régime. If Fascism triumphs I am finished as a writer – that is to say, finished in my only effective capacity. That of itself would be a sufficient reason for joining a Socialist party.

Towards the end of the essay, he wrote: «I do not mean I have lost all faith in the Labour Party. My most earnest hope is that the Labour Party will win a clear majority in the next General Election.»

Orwell was opposed to rearmament against Nazi Germany — but he changed his view after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the outbreak of the war. He left the ILP over its pacifism and adopted a political position of «revolutionary patriotism». In December 1940 he wrote in Tribune (the Labour left’s weekly): «We are in a strange period of history in which a revolutionary has to be a patriot and a patriot has to be a revolutionary.» During the war, Orwell was highly critical of the popular idea that an Anglo-Soviet alliance would be the basis of a post-war world of peace and prosperity. In 1942, commenting on journalist E. H. Carr‘s pro-Soviet views, Orwell stated: «all the appeasers, e.g. Professor E. H. Carr, have switched their allegiance from Hitler to Stalin.»

On anarchism, Orwell wrote in The Road to Wigan Pier: «I worked out an anarchistic theory that all government is evil, that the punishment always does more harm than the crime and the people can be trusted to behave decently if you will only let them alone.» He continued, however and argued that «it is always necessary to protect peaceful people from violence. In any state of society where crime can be profitable you have got to have a harsh criminal law and administer it ruthlessly.»

In his reply (dated 15 November 1943) to an invitation from the Duchess of Atholl to speak for the British League for European Freedom, he stated that he didn’t agree with their objectives. He admitted that what they said was «more truthful than the lying propaganda found in most of the press» but added that he could not «associate himself with an essentially Conservative body» that claimed to «defend democracy in Europe» but had «nothing to say about British imperialism». His closing paragraph stated: «I belong to the Left and must work inside it, much as I hate Russian totalitarianism and its poisonous influence in this country.»

Orwell joined the staff of Tribune as literary editor, and from then until his death, was a left-wing (though hardly orthodox) Labour-supporting democratic socialist. According to Newsinger, although Orwell «was always critical of the 1945–51 Labour government’s moderation, his support for it began to pull him to the right politically. This did not lead him to embrace conservatism, imperialism or reaction, but to defend, albeit critically, Labour reformism.» Between 1945 and 1947, with A. J. Ayer and Bertrand Russell, he contributed a series of articles and essays to Polemic, a short-lived British «Magazine of Philosophy, Psychology, and Aesthetics» edited by the ex-Communist Humphrey Slater.

Writing in the spring of 1945 a long essay titled «Antisemitism in Britain», for the Contemporary Jewish Record, Orwell stated that anti-Semitism was on the increase in Britain, and that it was «irrational and will not yield to arguments.» He argued that it would be useful to discover why anti-Semites could «swallow such absurdities on one particular subject while remaining sane on others.» He wrote: «For quite six years the English admirers of Hitler contrived not to learn of the existence of Dachau and Buchenwald. … Many English people have heard almost nothing about the extermination of German and Polish Jews during the present war. Their own anti-Semitism has caused this vast crime to bounce off their consciousness.» In Nineteen Eighty-Four, written shortly after the war, Orwell portrayed the Party as enlisting anti-Semitic passions against their enemy, Goldstein. Nevertheless, he opposed the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, taking an anti-colonialist stance against Zionism.

Orwell publicly defended P.G. Wodehouse against charges of being a Nazi sympathiser, a defence based on Wodehouse’s lack of interest in and ignorance of politics.

The British intelligence group Special Branch maintained a file on Orwell for more than 20 years of his life. The dossier, published by The National Archives, mentions that according to one investigator, Orwell had «advanced Communist views and several of his Indian friends say that they have often seen him at Communist meetings». MI5, the intelligence department of the Home Office, noted: «It is evident from his recent writings—’The Lion and the Unicorn’—and his contribution to Gollancz’s symposium The Betrayal of the Left that he does not hold with the Communist Party nor they with him.»


Personal life 3) Religious views

Personal life

3) Religious views

– Orwell was a communicant member of the Church Of England, he attended holy communion regularly, and allusions to Anglican life are made in his book A Clergyman’s Daughter. He was married according to the rites of the Church of England in both his first marriage at the church at Wallington, and in his second marriage on his deathbed in University College Hospital. He left instructions that he was to receive an Anglican funeral. However his belief in religion was ambiguous; Stephen Ingle wrote that it was as if the writer George Orwell «vaunted» his atheism while Eric Blair the individual retained «a deeply ingrained religiosity». He accepted the finality of death, while living and advocating a moral code based on Judeo-Christian beliefs: «the worst of both worlds; Anglican Christianity without the prospect of paradise».


Personal life 2) Relationships

Personal life

2) Relationships

– Buddicom and Blair lost touch shortly after he went to Burma, and she became unsympathetic towards him. She wrote that it was because of the letters he wrote complaining about his life, but an addendum to Eric & Us by Venables reveals that he may have lost sympathy through an incident which was at best a clumsy seduction.

Mabel Fierz, who later became his confidante, said «He used to say the one thing he wished in this world was that he’d been attractive to women. He liked women and had many girlfriends I think in Burma. He had a girl in Southwold and another girl in London. He was rather a womaniser, yet he was afraid he wasn’t attractive.»

Brenda Salkield (Southwold) preferred friendship to any deeper relationship and maintained a correspondence with Blair for many years, particularly as a sounding board for his ideas. She wrote «He was a great letter writer. Endless letters, And I mean when he wrote you a letter he wrote pages.» His correspondence with Eleanor Jacques (London) was more prosaic, dwelling on a closer relationship and referring to past rendezvous or planning future ones in London and Burnham Beeches.

When Orwell was in the sanitorium in Kent his wife’s friend Lydia Jackson visited. He invited her for a walk and out of sight «an awkward situation arose.» Jackson was to be the most critical of Orwell’s marriage to Eileen O’Shaughnessy but their later correspondence hints complicity. Eileen at the time was more concerned about Orwell’s closeness to Brenda Salkeld. Orwell was to have an affair with his secretary at Tribune which caused Eileen much distress, and others have been mooted. In a letter to Ann Popham he wrote: ‘I was sometimes unfaithful to Eileen, and I also treated her badly, and I think she treated me badly, too, at times, but it was a real marriage, in the sense that we had been through awful struggles together and she understood all about my work, etc.’, Similarly he suggested to Celia Kirwan that they had both been unfaithful. There are several testaments that it was a well-matched and happy marriage.

Orwell was very lonely after Eileen’s death, and desperate for a wife, both as companion for himself and as mother for Richard. He proposed marriage to four women, and eventually Sonia Brownell accepted.


Personal life 1) Childhood

Personal life

1) Childhood

Jacintha Buddicom‘s account Eric & Us provides an insight into the Blair’s childhood. She quoted his sister Avril that «he was essentially an aloof, undemonstrative person» and said herself of his friendship with the Buddicoms «I do not think he needed any other friends beyond the schoolfriend he occasionally and appreciatively referred to as ‘CC'». Cyril Connolly provides an account of Blair as a child in Enemies of Promise. Years later, Blair mordantly recalled his Prep School in the essay «Such, Such Were the Joys«, claiming among other things that he «was made to study like a dog» to earn a scholarship, which he alleged that was solely to enhance the school’s prestige with parents. Jacintha Buddicom repudiated Orwell’s schoolboy misery described in the essay, stating that «he was a specially happy child».

Connolly remarked of him as a schoolboy, «The remarkable thing about Orwell was that alone among the boys he was an intellectual and not a parrot for he thought for himself». At Eton, John Vaughan Wilkes his former headmaster’s son recalled, «…he was extremely argumentative — about anything — and criticising the masters and criticising the other boys…. We enjoyed arguing with him. He would generally win the arguments — or think he had anyhow.» Roger Mynors concurs: «Endless arguments about all sorts of things, in which he was one of the great leaders. He was one of those boys who thought for himself….»

Blair liked to carry out practical jokes. Buddicom recalls him swinging from the luggage rack in a railway carriage like an orang-utang to frighten a woman passenger out of the compartment. At Eton he played tricks on John Crace, his Master in College, among which was to enter a spoof advertisement in a College magazine implying pederasty. Gow, his tutor, said he «made himself as big a nuisance as he could» and «was a very unattractive boy». Later Blair was expelled from the crammer at Southwold for sending a dead rat as a birthday present to the town surveyor. In one of his As I Please essays he refers to a protracted joke when he answered an advertisement for a woman who claimed a cure for obesity.

Blair had an enduring interest in natural history which stemmed from his childhood. In letters from school he wrote about caterpillars and butterflies. and Buddicom recalls his keen interest in ornithology. He also enjoyed fishing and shooting rabbits, and conducting experiments as in cooking a hedgehog or shooting down a jackdaw from the Eton roof to dissect it. His zeal for scientific experiments extended to explosives — again Buddicom recalls a cook giving notice because of the noise. Later in Southwold his sister Avril recalled him blowing up the garden. When teaching he enthused his students with his nature-rambles both at Southwold and Hayes. His adult diaries are permeated with his observations on nature.

Literary career

3) Influence on language and writing

In his essay Politics and the English Language (1946), Orwell wrote about the importance of honest and clear language and said that vague writing can be used as a powerful tool of political manipulation. In Nineteen Eighty-Four he described how the state controlled thought by controlling language, making certain ideas literally unthinkable. The adjective Orwellian refers to the frightening world of Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which the state controls thought and misinformation is widespread. Several words and phrases from Nineteen Eighty-Four have entered popular language. Newspeak is a simplified and obfuscatory language designed to make independent thought impossible. Doublethink means holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously. The Thought Police are those who suppress all dissenting opinion. Prolefeed is homogenized, manufactured superficial literature, film and music, used to control and indoctrinate the populace through docility. Big Brother is a supreme dictator who watches everyone.

From Orwell’s novel Animal Farm comes the sentence, «All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others», describing theoretical equality in a grossly unequal society. Orwell may have been the first to use the term cold war, in his essay, «You and the Atom Bomb», published in Tribune, 19 October 1945. He wrote: «We may be heading not for general breakdown but for an epoch as horribly stable as the slave empires of antiquity. James Burnham‘s theory has been much discussed, but few people have yet considered its ideological implications;— this is, the kind of world-view, the kind of beliefs, and the social structure that would probably prevail in a State which was at once unconquerable and in a permanent state of ‘cold war’ with its neighbours.»

In «Politics and the English Language«, Orwell provides six rules for writers:

  • Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  • Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

(George Orwell, Politics and the English Language, Horizon, April 1946)

Literary career

2) Literary influences

In an autobiographical piece that Orwell sent to the editors of Twentieth Century Authors in 1940, he wrote: «The writers I care about most and never grow tired of are: Shakespeare, Swift, Fielding, Dickens, Charles Reade, Flaubert and, among modern writers, James Joyce, T. S. Eliot and D. H. Lawrence. But I believe the modern writer who has influenced me most is Somerset Maugham, whom I admire immensely for his power of telling a story straightforwardly and without frills.» Elsewhere, Orwell strongly praised the works of Jack London, especially his book The Road. Orwell’s investigation of poverty in The Road to Wigan Pier strongly resembles that of Jack London’s The People of the Abyss, in which the American journalist disguises himself as an out-of-work sailor in order to investigate the lives of the poor in London. In his essay «Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver’s Travels» (1946) Orwell wrote: «If I had to make a list of six books which were to be preserved when all others were destroyed, I would certainly put Gulliver’s Travels among them.»

Other writers admired by Orwell included: Ralph Waldo Emerson, G. K. Chesterton, George Gissing, Graham Greene, Herman Melville, Henry Miller, Tobias Smollett, Mark Twain, Joseph Conrad and Yevgeny Zamyatin. He was both an admirer and a critic of Rudyard Kipling, praising Kipling as a gifted writer and a «good bad poet» whose work is «spurious» and «morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting,» but undeniably seductive and able to speak to certain aspects of reality more effectively than more enlightened authors.


Literary career 1) Introduction

Literary career

1) Introduction

– During most of his career, Orwell was best known for his journalism, in essays, reviews, columns in newspapers and magazines and in his books of reportage: Down and Out in Paris and London (describing a period of poverty in these cities), The Road to Wigan Pier (describing the living conditions of the poor in northern England, and the class divide generally) and Homage to Catalonia. According to Irving Howe, Orwell was «the best English essayist since Hazlitt, perhaps since Dr Johnson

Modern readers are more often introduced to Orwell as a novelist, particularly through his enormously successful titles Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. The former is often thought to reflect degeneration in the Soviet Union after the Russian Revolution and the rise of Stalinism; the latter, life under totalitarian rule. Nineteen Eighty-Four is often compared to Brave New World by Aldous Huxley; both are powerful dystopian novels warning of a future world where the state machine exerts complete control over social life. In 1984, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Ray Bradbury‘s Fahrenheit 451 were honoured with the Prometheus Award for their contributions to dystopian literature.

Coming Up for Air, his last novel before World War II is the most ‘English’ of his novels; alarums of war mingle with images of idyllic Thames-side Edwardian childhood of protagonist George Bowling. The novel is pessimistic; industrialism and capitalism have killed the best of Old England, and there were great, new external threats. In homely terms, Bowling posits the totalitarian hypotheses of Borkenau, Orwell, Silone and Koestler: «Old Hitler’s something different. So’s Joe Stalin. They aren’t like these chaps in the old days who crucified people and chopped their heads off and so forth, just for the fun of it … They’re something quite new — something that’s never been heard of before».




Subject : 14206 English literature and Political discourse –  group A

Student´s name: PAZ SIMEÓN, RUBÉN (rupazsi)

Title of the paper: “George Orwell, Literary career and Personal life”

Author or topic: George Orwell.

–          Abstract: On this second paper I’ve decided to focus on George Orwell’s literary career and on his personal life. At first I was going to focus my paper on some of his plays, but my partners (who made with me the first paper) were also going to focus on his plays, so I finally decided to focus on these two aspects which are quite interesting from my point of view. In the first point, I’ve divided his “literary career” in three parts: a) Introduction; b) Literary influences; and c) Influence on language and writing. And I’ve divided the second point in six parts: a) Childhood; b) Relationships; c) Religious views; d) Political views; e) Social interactions and f) Lifestyle.

The two points are quite different, the first point talks about some important aspects related to his plays and to his influences, and the second one is more focused on his life and some interesting things about his personality, adding some curiosities. I’ve also inserted different links in almost each word with related information on the net.

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