ALL ABOUT ORWELL
This developing section of Orwell Today will comprise interesting facts about Orwell and interesting things said by and about him. It will be added to as time goes by, but makes its debut on the 100th anniversary of his birth - June 2003. He died at 46 years of age in January 1950 leaving a legacy only now being truly understood. ~ Jackie Jura
Orwell's wife Eileen had died on March 29th, 1945, a month after Orwell had left for Europe as war correspondent for the Observer newspaper. The last word in the unfinished letter she'd been writing him before she died was "clock" which is found in the first sentence of "1984". In her previous letter she had described to him her hatred of London and her wish that he would stop wasting his energy on journalism and move to the country where they could raise their child and he could write what she believed would be a masterpiece. Her funeral was on April 3rd and in "1984" Winston starts his diary on "April 4th". Also, Orwell may have been honouring Eileen when he named "1984" because she had written a futuristic poem in 1934 entitled "End of the Century, 1984", which was based on her recent reading of Huxley's "Brave New World". In her poem she describes the future fifty years down the road when,
'Shakespeare's bones are quiet at last,
...No book disturbs the lucid line,
For sun-bronzed scholars tune their thought
To telepathic Station 9
From where they know just what they ought,
...mental cremation that should banish
Relics, philosophies and colds'
poem taken from Gordon Bowker's biography Inside George Orwell, page 382
Everyone knows that Eric Blair was born on June 25, 1903. But how many people know the day of George Orwell's birth? Peter Stansky and William Abrahams tell about it in their book Orwell: The Transformation:
"On Monday, January 9, 1933, the official publication day of Down and Out in Paris and London, he entered literary history as George Orwell. Not that he, or any one else at the time, would have thought of the event in such grandiose terms, though as it now appears they do precisely sum up the case. Ordinarily, one would be the same person on the ninth of January that one had been on the eighth. What gave his situation its little peculiarity, set it apart from that of the general run of authors bringing out a first book, was that on the eighth he was Eric Blair, and on the ninth he was George Orwell -- or so it stated on the title page of the book. And if, as we will see, the reviewers were much taken, relatively speaking, with this hitherto unknown writer George Orwell for the first week or two of his new existence (thereafter forgetting him until his next book would appear), his family and friends -- those among them who had been told of the pseudonym -- were not. To them, as to himself, he was still and only Eric Blair. So that on January 9, 1933, a day we now recognize as having some consequence in literary history, the difference between being Blair and being Orwell was slight, as imperceptible, as the difference between Sunday the eighth and Monday the ninth of January: another day torn from the calendar."
"After all, two months earlier the name itself hadn't existed. Blair had cautioned his agent, Leonard Moore, in April 1932 that if the book were accepted (which it was, by Victor Gollancz, in July), he would want it published pseudonymously, as he was 'not proud of it'. But in spite of repeated requests from agent and publisher, he did nothing to resolve the question of the pseudonym until November, the last possible moment, when the book was already in galleys with a title improvised by Gollancz, Confessions of a Down and Outer, and its authorship attributed simply to 'X'."
"Even then there was a curious degree of equivocation. On the nineteenth of November he finally sent off to Gollancz (via Moore) not one but four possible pseudonyms, among them 'George Orwell', which he admitted he 'rather favoured'. But the choice was left to Gollancz. Never once did Blair say 'I want George Orwell', and there is reason to believe that if Gollancz had insisted on Eric Blair as the name for his author, Eric Blair it would have been: he would have resigned himself to it. Ever since his career as a schoolboy cynic, which had been launched at St Cyprian's, his prep school, and had flourished when he was in Eton, he had come to accept as a matter of course -- in his life anyway -- life's ironies and disappointments: it would have been no more than the expected thing that the pseudonym he favored would not be the one to be chosen. In the event, however, his preference was followed: Gollancz made him Orwell. ...Hence, George Orwell -- a commonplace Christian name and an English river -- together name the plain-speaking Englishman that Eric Blair chose to be in his work."
Did you know that Orwell spoke EIGHT foreign languages? They are comprised of two classical, three oriental and three European including two "dead ones":
~ described in A Wintry Conscience of a Genertion, by Jeffrey Myers
Here's what the new owner of a second-hand book about Orwell - "My Own Private Orwell", by Alan Bisbort - found pencilled on the title page:
"I love this man, for his honesty, his hatred of cruelty and oppression, his passion for social justice, his love of men and nature, the flavor of his personality, and I believe that it is very good that he has lived and written and I grieve for his early death as for the death of a friend."
Read about ORWELL'S PERSONA as described in "Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation", by Jeffrey Meyers
Visit Orwell's places in HOMAGE TO ORWELL and PILGRIMAGE TO ORWELL, by Jackie Jura in 2003 and 2004
When he was thirteen years old, Orwell won a scholarship to Eton, one of only fifteen boys in all of England to do so. See LOOKING FOR ORWELL AT ETON
Recently, 2010, a never-before-seen poem was discovered by the grandson of one of Orwell's teachers at Eton and published -- for the first time -- on ORWELL TODAY. See ORWELL ETON POEM DISCOVERED & WHO CAN SPOT ORWELL AT ETON? & ORWELL'S ETON REPORT CARD
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