To Orwell Today,

Just a quirky note...

I was looking for a name for my daughter and decided to call her Inez after my Grandmother Agnes (Inez is spanish for Agnes). My partner's surname is Holden. I was thinking what a unique name for my little miss... not!!! I did a google search and found out there once was an Inez Holden and she hung about with Mr Orwell. Amazing...

Do you have any info or pointers for finding out about her?? From what i have found so far (not much) she was a pretty cool individual.


Greetings Naomi,

In most of the Orwell biographies Inez Holden's name comes up a fair amount because she was a close friend of Orwell from the time he met her in 1940 to his death in 1950. She was born in 1906 and died in 1974. She was a published poet and writer in the 1930s*. I'm not sure if she had Spanish ancestry but I gather she had some sort of accent because when Orwell wanted to read from her writings on his BBC radio program he hired actresses to read them instead of having her read them herself.

Orwell was introduced to Inez by his Homage to Catalonia publisher Fred Warburg, who was also Inez's publisher. Orwell's first publisher, Victor Gollanz, had refused to publish Homage to Catalonia because it was too anti-Communist. I gather that Inez and Orwell had alot in common in their opinions regarding the Spanish Civil War. Apparently Inez had at one time been very beautiful but when Orwell knew her she had lost her good figure to an operation of some sort.

Inez travelled in very intellectual circles. She was a good friend of H. G. Wells who let her stay in a flat attached to his fancy house in London's Regent Park after a bomb destroyed her own place, and until she found somewhere else. Orwell and his wife Eileen used to visit her there and also she used to visit them at their various London apartments. Actually, after a bomb dropped on their Maida Vale apartment (the one they lived in before they moved to Canonbury Square) the Orwells moved into Inez's vacant apartment. She and a friend had moved to a house in the country at that time. I think she even lived for awhile in Eileen and Orwell's Wallington house which they rented out during the war.

When Warburg introduced Orwell to Inez he had asked them to work together on writing a War Diary which he would then publish. But they didn't get along very well on that project. Inez worked fastidiously on her diary but Orwell didn't keep up with his, and his comments were mainly just summations of news broadcasts without much personal interpretation. He was never a good diarist, and diaries he did keep mainly talked about his house and garden projects and the weather. Inez's War Diary did get published but not Orwell's.

It seems that Inez Holden and another woman poet/writer named Stevie Smith (who Orwell also used to ask to do readings for BBC) were infatuated with Orwell. They even used to go so far as to complain to Eileen if they weren't getting enough attention from him. Another woman at the BBC who fell in love with Orwell was his secretary, Sally McEwen. They all eventually made trips up to Jura to visit Orwell but they are not among the women he proposed to after Eileen's death.

Inez was a close enough friend of Orwell that it was to her apartment that he went when he got back to England from Germany in April 1945 after receiving the telegram that Eileen had died in Newcastle while undergoing routine surgery. Inez was one of the very few people who witnessed Orwell in a moment of emotional breakdown. Usually he was able to hide his depth of feeling from everyone but she wrote in her diary that he was almost unrecognizable when she opened the door. He was wearing his war-correspondent captain's long-coat and was seriously ill himself. Inez went with him to the train station to see him off as he travelled up north to arrange Eileen's funeral. Years later she also witnessed Orwell cry when talking about Eileen.

Inez seems to have hoped that Orwell would fall in love with her after Eileen's death and they would go and live together in the country. But that didn't happen. Instead Orwell fell in love with Inez's cousin Celia Paget, who was the twin sister of the wife of his friend Arthur Koestler, another anti-communist writer. But Celia was ten years younger than "George" and wanted him as a friend, not a lover or husband, and in spite of her rejecting him they remained friends until his death. Actually it was to Celia in 1949 that Orwell had handed his list of suspected Communists. She was working for Foreign Secretary Aneurin Bevan and he had asked her to get Orwell's opinion so that he wouldn't accidently hire Communists to work in the department he was setting up. The Hot War was over and the Cold War was on and so the UK and the USSR were enemies again.

In spite of Orwell not being in love with Inez the way she was seemingly in love with him, they remained close friends. She was among the people he invited to his Canonbury apartment to listen to the radio adaptation of Animal Farm when it was broadcast on BBC.

I think Orwell probably respected Inez as a writer and enjoyed her personality and conversation. No doubt he learned things from her. She had actually written a book in Basic English** which is a language comprised of only 850 words and is totally recognizable in 1984 as Newspeak.

That's about the extent of my knowledge on Inez Holden or her relationship with Orwell. But it sounds like you are right in thinking that she was a pretty cool individual. Orwell liked her and that in itself counts for alot.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

Reader Ed is searching for the diaries and papers of Orwell's friend Celia who was a mutual friend of Inez Holden

Reader Graham says Inez Holden was born in 1903, not 1906 or 1904

Reader Jack is trying to verify the birthdate of Inez Holden which ORWELL TODAY says is 1906 but Wikipedia gives as 1904

*Inez Holden (1906-1974), novelist, author inter alia of Sweet Charlatan (Duckworth 1929) and Death in High Society and Other Stories (1933), written in Basic English
[footnote from pg 38, George Orwell, The Lost Writings, by W. J. West]

DEATH IN HIGH SOCIETY, by Inez Holden (written in Basic English)




Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com