ORWELL COMMON FRIEND TRESSELL
To Orwell Today,
You are a thorough person! The detail in ORWELL ASPIDISTRA NOT GERANIUM is very interesting.
You might be interested, if you don't already know it, in the ROBERT TRESSELL SOCIETY website. I live near one of the churches he decorated - which is now a Morrisons.
This weekend is our May festival - Jack In The Green - which was going in those times, too: Hastings Traditional Jack-In-The-Green, April 30 to May 10, 2010
I have just been reading Homage to Catalonia for the first time - Orwell says the peasants on the Aragon front wore field roses behind their ears because it was Spring.
All good wishes, and many thanks,
Greetings again Deborah,
So glad you found my explanation for Orwell using an aspidistra, instead of a geranium, interesting.
In research I've been doing this week, toward responding to another issue raised by a reader, I've been reading correspondence between Orwell and his good friend Jack Common - who has been compared to Robert Tressell for his contribution to working-men's literature.
Jack Common, Wikipedia (...Thus Jack Common, perhaps the finest chronicler of the English working class to follow Robert Tressell, spent his last years in Newport Pagnell writing film treatments at poor rates. He died of lung cancer in 1968, leaving a mass of unpublished material, now held in the Robinson Library of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne....)
It was around 1935, when Orwell was writing KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING, that he met Jack Common, who was working as an editor at the ADELPHI, a magazine which had been the first to publish Orwell's writings, including some he sent from Paris when he was "down and out". It could very well have been Jack Common who introduced Orwell to Robert Tressell's book THE RAGGED TROUSERED PHILANTRHOPISTS.
Jack Common - Selected Articles (...Confronted with the Means Test, in 1928 Common left for London. Compared with the North East, unemployment was comparatively low, and Common quickly found a job as a mechanic in an automatic machine company. But factory discipline and authority was much the same as on Tyneside - as a result he was soon "thrown out for practicing an ingenious method of simplifying the job". By that time, though, he had developed his interest in writing, and: "an essay I'd written attracted the notice of Middleton Murray, editor of The Adelphi. He took me on as circulation man for them. In a year I became assistant-editor, and up to the end of 1936 was acting editor. At the same time I was on the editorial board of New Britain." Common's work also appeared in Tribune, New Statesman, Eleventh Hour, the Manchester Guardian and others. During this period he began his friendship with Eric Blair, alias George Orwell. He recorded his intense disappointment on first meeting Orwell: he had expected a rebel, a tramp. Orwell looked the part alright: "But he rose to acknowledge the introduction and shake hands. Manners showed through. A sheep in wolf's clothing, I thought, taking in his height and stance, accent and cool built-in superiority, the public school presence".... For a man to whom beer and pub life were important, it is significant that Common wrote of Orwell "no pub ever knew my friend as 'Eric' let alone 'George.'" The landlord automatically called Orwell 'sir.'" But the two men remained friends until Orwell's death in 1950. Orwell had written of Common: "he is of proletarian origin, and much more than most writers of this kind he preserves his proletarian viewpoint"....)
It's ironic (anti-Communistists and anti-Marxists as Orwell and Common were) that Common's forehead was used as a model for the statue of Karl Marx that sits on Marx's London grave.
Jack Common, Wikipedia (...Interestingly, Lawrence Bradshaw had used Common's brow as a model for his bust of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery, saying that he found there a similar patience and understanding....)
Above is a photo of Jack Common alongside a photo of the statue of Karl Marx taken from an article I found written by someone who'd visited his grave.
Highgate Cemetary is a vast Victorian Necropilis in the heart of North London. Opened in 1839 it is a truly fascinating place to visit. The Victorian ruling classes were big on erecting imposing mausoleums to themselves as if to say that they were big shots in life & therefore a 'big deal' in death too!...The world famous tomb of the founder of modern communism lies, not unsurprisingly, to the left of the entrance....Karl Marx's tomb is by far the most widely known feature of this Gothic graveyard (which incidently was used as a set in many of the old Hammer horror films). Marx's massive tomb was not his original grave marker, the original tombstone was a much less grand affair but still exists.... The upkeep of the last resting place of Herr Marx is today paid for by the Chinese Embassy which seems a fair enough arrangement considering their antecedents and what they have done supposedly in his name...)
When I was on a HOMAGE TO ORWELL in 2003 I went to Hampstead - the suburb of London where Orwell lived and worked while writing KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING - and was disgusted that there was a statue of Marx - symbolic head of Communism - but not a statue of Orwell - symbolic foe of Communsim - in England.
BOOKLOVER'S CORNER (... After getting off the underground we strolled leisurely down the High Street of Hampstead which is a very trendy area full of unique shops and cafes and interesting-looking flats and houses. Zoe noticed in the A to Z that a nearby park had a statue of Karl Marx "if we wanted to go and see". I almost choked on my ice-cream cone and told her I'd much prefer going to see a statue of George Orwell - one of England's greatest writers - than of an author no one's read but everyone talks about, and who was the figurehead of a political system Orwell spent the last fifteen years of his life actively opposing. But to this date there are no statues of Orwell....)
In India, where Orwell was born in 1903, they have the decency to honour the great man in a fitting manner. This past January 2010 they erected a statue and began work on renovating the house of his birth. See ORWELL STATUE IN MOTIHARI & SHRINE TO ORWELL
This prevalance of statues of Communists - instead of statues of anti-Communists - in countries of the so-called "free-world" is something that bothers me greatly. Recently, here in the province of British Columbia, Canada where I live, they erected an 8,000-lb statue of a couple of Marx's disciples. See LENIN-MAO MOCK CANADA OLYMPICS
Speaking of Marx and Communism, it's timely that you're reading Orwell's HOMAGE TO CATALONIA because it was there, during the Spanish Revolution in 1937, that Orwell saw, and personally experienced, the evil of Communism in alliance with Capitalism. The writing of HOMAGE TO CATALONIA almost destroyed Orwell's health (on top of his being shot through the neck in Spain and barely escaping Stalin's KGB there). Added to that was the stress of finding a publisher to print HOMAGE TO CATALONIA because anything anti-Communist or anti-Stalin was being suppressed by the right-wing-owned left-wing press (my term) in England.
Thanks for sending that link to that ROBERT TRESSELL website which, actually, I hadn't seen before. It's godcidental that you live near what USED to be a church decorated by Tressell.
Hope you have a great Jack In The Green festival there in Mugsborough. And please drink a pint to Robert Tressell, George Orwell and Jack Common for me.
All the best,
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