To Orwell Today,
I've been looking all over the place for a nice, uniform collection of all of George Orwell's books. I'm a little OCD and I want to have all of them match. I would think that there would be such a collection for an author as well known as Orwell but I can't find one anywhere...during my search I came across your site. I didn't think it would hurt to ask if you knew of such a thing, so do you?
Thanks and sorry for the weird e-mail,
Yes, it is one of those frustrating and unexplained things - like there being no statue of Orwell in England (and yet there's one of Karl Marx) and the bookshop where he used to work being turned into a Pizza Parlour instead of an Orwell museum - that there is no uniform set of his books.
I agree with you entirely that there should be. Afterall, you can go into any bookstore - or grocery store these days - and see boxed sets of Harry Potter or other far less worthy collections of so-called "literature" although many of them have obviously been churned out by authors employed in the "Ministry of Truth" - or as Swift's "Gulliver" described it - on book-writing machines.
And there is no doubt that Orwell himself would like to have his books compiled in a uniform set. He dreamt about it in his teens, when he confided to a friend his aspirations of one day being an author - a FAMOUS author, as described in the book below. The discussion took place between Orwell and his friend Jacintha Buddicom in 1918 when Orwell (then Eric Blair) was 15 years old and a student at Eton.
Jacintha was a very close friend of Orwell's during the years he lived in Shipley and Henley-on-Thames, the place he had in mind when he described "The Golden Country" in "1984" and the place where the hero of "Coming Up for Air" (Orwell in disguise) went back to visit after leaving years before.
Jacintha met Orwell in 1914 when he was 11 years old and came home for school holidays from his boarding school, St Cyprian's, to which he'd won a scholarship. Their friendship continued during the years he attended Eton - also on a scholarship - but then ended when he graduated in 1921 - age 18 - and moved away. After that - except for three letters during the first year he went to Burma - they lost touch and never saw each other again. She didn't find out until 1949 - when he was dying in the hospital in London - that "her" Eric Blair was the famous "George Orwell" whose books - especially "Animal Farm" - she loved.
ERIC & US: A REMEMBRANCE OF GEORGE ORWELL
by Jacintha Buddicom, 1974
...There was no middle-course or compromise in his quiet but absolute determination on his own ultimate career. It was always 'When I am a FAMOUS AUTHOR . . .', echoed by me 'Of course, when you are a FAMOUS AUTHOR . . .' This was another subject under discussion that September evening, and I think - though it might have been another time (it was always a popular subject with us) - it was then that we decided on the format for his Collected Works. It was to be a Uniform Edition, and we agreed at length on the respective merits of rather small books bound in red leather with gold lettering like my family's Kiplings, or somewhat larger in a chaste dark blue with silver, to which Eric was finally more inclined.
[My father], when he was engaged and first married to my mother, had some books specially bound for her in dark green leather with gold fleur-de-lis as embellishment and gilt edges to the pages. I thought it would be rather nice for Eric to have a special De Luxe Set, after this pattern, but he, more Spartan, thought that might be 'a bit ostentatious'. In any case, he said, he wouldn't be writing that sort of book: but what was suitable for Darwin's Origin of Species, according to R A Buddicom, should have been appropriate to E A Blair whatever the subject matter.
In those days he was going to be E A Blair - Eric, he said, was not an 'author's name': the initials were more dignified and could keep people guessing. I pointed out that far from assuming a staid and respectable Edward, people might guess it to stand for Epimanondas or something unprintable. And we had a lot of fun comparing the most frightful names beginning with E that we could think of.
It was not until sixteen years later that he adopted George Orwell as a rather spur-of-the-moment, last minute decision. But the FAMOUS AUTHOR, with the collected editions, by the magic of that far-off sun-enchanted evening, was a dream that came true. Though Eric, alas, only lived to see the beginning of it....[end quoting from Eric & Us]
Above is the scanned front cover of Jacintha's book (under the dust-jacket). I love the gold embossing, and the initials "E. B." over his dates of birth and death and then the initials "G. O." enclosed in a gold oval, on a brown cover. Probably this is a cover that Jacintha thinks Orwell would have liked for the uniform edition of his "Collected Works".
The second scan at the top of the page is the outside cover of the uniformed edition of Orwell's "Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters" compiled by his wife, Sonia in 1968. Notice it's done in "chaste dark blue" which Jacintha had said Eric was inclined, so he must have told Sonia about it as well. I love how, in gold lettering, its got both his signatures - Eric Blair and George Orwell (the latter in quotes and brackets, denoting it's a pseudonym, the first time I've ever seen it that way).
I have a first-edition, 4-volume uniform set of his collected essays, journalism and letters (one of which is the second scan at the top of the page). The volumes are comprised of:
An Age Like This (1920-1940)
My Country Right or Left (1940-1943)
As I Please (1943-1945)
In Front of Your Nose (1945-1950)
But, like you, I would like a uniform set of his collected BOOKS which are his greatest works. The 9-volume set would include:
DOWN AND OUT IN PARIS AND LONDON, 1933
BURMESE DAYS, 1934
A CLERGYMAN'S DAUGHTER, 1935
KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING, 1936
THE ROAD TO WIGAN PIER, 1937
HOMAGE TO CATALONIA, 1938
COMING UP FOR AIR, 1939
ANIMAL FARM, 1945
NNETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, 1949
I own all these books now, but they are a hodge-podge of various-sized softcovers by various publishers. I'd love to walk into a store one day and see a uniform set (or find them under the Christmas tree). They wouldn't even have to be hardcover or embossed in gold or silver (although that is what I'd prefer).
Maybe such a set does exist, but if so, I don't know about it. Maybe, now that we've brought it to the publishing world's attention, such a set will be created and made available.
All the best,
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~