"I believe Gulliver's Travels has meant more to me than any other book ever written.
I can't remember when I first read it, I must have been eight years old at the most,
and it's lived with me ever since so that I suppose
a year has never passed without my re-reading at least part of it."
~ George Orwell
ORWELL INTERVIEWS JONATHAN SWIFT
To Orwell Today,
Amongst ORWELL'S many writings and activities i discovered the following interesting items.
According to The Oxford University Press, George Orwell considered Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" among the most "indispensible" books in World literature. In 1942 ORWELL had an "imaginary" interview with SWIFT, the contents of which ORWELL penned himself and read aloud on a BBC radio broadcast which was entitled "Jonathon Swift an imaginary interview". The following is a summary of the interview.
ORWELL- "Since your day something has appeared called totalitarianism."
SWIFT- "A new thing?"
ORWELL- "It isn't strictly new, it's merely been made practicable owing to modern weapons and modern methods of communication."
PS - A play on words, today we now have total-terrorism via antiterrorism
I have a book entitled THE LOST WRITINGS OF GEORGE ORWELL, edited by W.J. West, which contains the essays, radio programs, dramatizations, book reviews and correspondence that Orwell wrote during the time he worked for the BBC from August 1941 to November 1943.
That book contains Orwell's "imaginary interview with Jonathan Swift" (who died in 1745) which Orwell read over the air - in his own voice - on November 2nd, 1942.
Reading Orwell's imaginary interview (and learning through biographies that he aspired to write as well as Swift) is what inspired me to read Gulliver's Travels and, upon discovering its greatness, create a section for it on Orwell Today: GULLIVER'S TRAVEL TRUTHS
The "imaginary interview" begins with Orwell speaking to the audience about Swift's "works" (a set of which he owns).
[Note: Orwell, influenced by Swift, always aspired to being "a famous writer" and one day having his own works compiled into a "uniform edition" distinquishly bound. We learn also, from this interview, that Orwell liked editions that weren't tampered with by editors (something Swift notoriously complained about)]:
ORWELL: My edition of Swift's works was printed some time between 1730 and 1740. It's in twelve small volumes, with calf covers a bit the worse for wear. It's not too easy to read, the ink is faded and the long S's are a nuisance, but I prefer it to any modern edition I've seen. When I open it and smell the dusty old paper - that's an intoxicating smell if you're fond of books - and see the woodcut illustrations and the crooked capital lettters, I almost have the feeling that I can hear Swift speaking to me. I've a vivid picture of him in my mind's eye, with his knee-breeches, and his three-cornered hat, though I don't believe I've ever seen a portrait of him. Sometimes I half expect that he'll step out of the printed page and answer me. There's something in his way of writing that seems to tell you what his voice was like. For instance, here's one of his 'Thoughts on Various Subjects': 'When a true genius appears in the world...'
SWIFT: 'When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this infallible sign; that all the dunces are in confederacy against him.'
ORWELL: He's materialized after all! I knew it would happen sooner or later. So you did wear a wig, Dr Swift. I've often wondered.
SWIFT: Did you say that you possessed the first collected edition of my works?
ORWELL: Yes, I bought them for five shillings at a farmhouse auction.
SWIFT: You were lucky. I warn you to beware of all modern editions, even of my Travels. I have suffered from such damned dishonest editors as I believe no other writer ever had. It has been my especial misfortune to be edited usually by clergymen who thought me a disgrace to their cloth. They were tinkering at my writings long before Dr Bowdler was ever born or thought of.
ORWELL: You see, Dr Swift, you have put them in a difficulty. They know you are our greatest prose writer, and yet you used words and raised subjects that they couldn't approve of. In a way I don't approve of you myself.
SWIFT: I am desolated sir.
ORWELL: I believe Gulliver's Travels has meant more to me than any other book ever written. I can't remember when I first read it, I must have been eight years old at the most, and it's lived with me ever since so that I suppose a year has never passed without my re-reading at least part of it. ... [end quoting from imaginary interview]
The interview then goes on to include several passages from Gulliver's Travels, an excerpt of which you quoted above.
All the best,
PS - I recently acquired a first-edition, four-volume set - edited by his second wife, Sonia - of THE COLLECTED ESSAYS, JOURNALISM AND LETTERS OF GEORGE ORWELL, with Orwell's signature(s) written in gold across the covers:
ORWELL'S VOICE & BLUE EYES and ORWELL'S PUBLISHING PROBLEMS and 1984 RADIO OMISSIONS
GULLIVER'S TRAVEL TRUTHS
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