To Orwell Today,
re: LOOKING FOR ORWELL AT ETON
I wanted to thank you for your Orwell Today website as you've been able to answer a question for me.
I have in my possession a pile of family documents including those of my grandfather, J.F. Crace who was a teacher at Eton. I was going through these documents this weekend with my aunt and the first thing I found was some handwritten poem called "The Three Beggars". At the top in large letters it said "E. A. Blair".
I knew that Orwell had been at Eton but I didn't know if he had any connection to my grandfather. So I went online and found your website. You showed the photo of yourself on the college steps and compared that to the cover of the Unknown Orwell book that marks out Orwell in the crowd.
My grandfather is there in the front row - the gentleman in the mortar board underneath the publisher's name. So that seems to clinch it - at least to me. Amongst the papers there is an original copy of that photo and it is dated 1921.
Many thanks for helping me make the connection between Orwell and my grandfather.
That is absolutely amazing - an Orwellian godcident. I wonder if old George is chuckling about this.
At first I wasn't sure what a "mortar board" was - but then realized it's a nickname for the graduation cap - shaped as it is like the board a bricklayer holds his mortar on.
I'd be fascinated to read THE THREE BEGGARS - the poem that the as-yet-unknown Orwell wrote (under assignment from your grandfather perhaps) - and share it with ORWELL TODAY readers.
All the best,
To Orwell Today,
I'm happy to scan the poem and send it to you. I've included the front page with the name E. A. Blair on the front.
There are house photos from previous years which I am also sending and perhaps we could combine efforts to identify Orwell in them!
Thanks doubleplus much for sending E. A. Blair's poem - which I scanned above, and transcribed below. It's got a good rhythm and portends his future phase of being "down and out in Paris and London" after coming back from Burma in 1928.
The three Beggars
Three beggars begged by noon & night,
They begged to left & they begged to right,
But nought had got for their trouble:
So two sat them down & wept full sore,
But the third one said they should weep no more,
And vowed they should yet feed double.
They parted ways at the rise of sun,
And swore to meet when the day was done,
And each should tell his findings.
So one went east, & one went west,
But the third went on, for he thought it best,
And followed the pathway's windings.
~ E. A. Blair, July 1920
To see if the handwriting of Blair in 1920, at 17 years old, is similar to the handwriting of Orwell in 1948, at 45 years old, I've scanned a page from his handwritten manuscript of "1984" and put it beside his handwritten poem.
There are definite similarities in the formation of the letters and words, so it's plain to see the same hand wrote both - that of the unknown and the world-reknowned Orwell.
Below I've transcribed the scanned passage of Orwell's "1984" handwriting:
...In that time the world inside him could turn over. And then suddenly, without a word uttered, without a check in his step, without the changing of a line in his face - suddenly the camouflage would be down & bang! would go the batteries of his hatred. Hatred would fill him up like an enormous roaring flame. And almost at the same moment, bang! would go the bullet, too late. They would have blown his brain to pieces before they could reclaim it. The heretical thought would have happened, unpunished, unrepented, out of their reach for ever. They would have blown a hole in their own perfection. To die hating them, that was freedom.
The passage, as it appeared in the published book, had changes from the manuscript - as can be seen in the excerpt below:
43. Winston Talks In Sleep (... From now onwards he must not only think right; he must feel right, dream right. And all the while he must keep his hatred locked up inside him like a ball of matter which was part of himself and yet unconnected with the rest of him, a kind of cyst. One day they would decide to shoot him and the heretical thought would be unpunished, unrepented, out of their reach for ever. To die hating them, that was freedom.)
Now, to compare the E. A. Blair signatures, see the signed photo of Orwell at the top of the page above the poem - both signed within a year of each other - the poem in 1920 and the photo in 1921 - Eric Arthur Blair's graduation year at Eton. See also Eric Blair's signature as an adult, after he became George Orwell in 1933.
Now I'll go scan those class photos you sent and the fun of looking for Orwell at Eton will begin anew....
All the best,
...see scanned photos at WHO CAN SPOT ORWELL AT ETON?
ORWELL ETON POEM GENUINE DISCOVERY (reader Richard had poem verified by Orwell scholar and author Peter Davison)
ORWELL'S MANUSCRIPT OF "1984"
ETON COLLEGERS REMEMBER ORWELL
ORWELL'S PUNISHING SCHOOL DAYS
ORWELL & HARRY AT ETON
THE LION AND THE LAMB
ORWELL GREATEST ETONIAN OF ALL
ORWELL TRULY A GLOBAL FIGURE
WHO'S THE GREATEST OLD ETONIAN?
LOOKING FOR ORWELL AT ETON
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~