To Orwell Today,

In 1960 Readers Union Ltd published a book by Paul Potts "Dante Called You Beatrice". I have sent several emails to Readers Union Ltd and they never reply.

What I need is permission to print part of the book in question which is "Don Quixote on a Bicycle", this would be included in a book which is nearing completion. The book itself contains all of George Orwell's essays.

What I need to know is the contact person who holds the copyright to Paul Potts' work. I don't know if you can help, but I thought I'd give you a try. Any help would be most appreciated.

Yours sincerly,

Greetings David,

I first heard of Orwell being 'a Don Quixote on a bicycle' when reading Crick's 1980 biography GEORGE ORWELL: A LIFE wherein his friend, Jack Common, described a visit they had one time when Orwell lived in Wallington and Common lived in a village nearby. Then I found it in its entirety in Crick's 1984 ORWELL REMEMBERED, a compilation of 57 essays and interviews from Orwell's family, friends, co-workers etc:

OrwellRemembered OrwellCommonsRecollections

...After I had not seen him for some time, I had a letter from him addressed to the Hertfordshire cottage I was now commuting from. He wanted advice. Having himself rented a Hertfordshire cottage, eleven miles north of me, he had the idea of reviving its one-time role as village stores. I had not long given up my own experiment in writer's income bolstering, a confectioner-tobacconist place in Chelsea, so might I advise him on how to obtain stocks, a licence to sell tobacco, etc?

Even in those days of carlessness among writers and other proletarians, eleven miles was not all that far away (I walked to his place once), so my reply was an invitation to a meal. He promised to bike over next Sunday morning.

As our cottage might be hard to find, I walked out to the brow of the hill north of the church to await the visitor's coming. He had Datchworth's oaken spire, today shooting up to a sky of silk and summer, to aim at. I leaned against a three-armed signpost which read To Knebworth, Woolmer Green; To Datchworth Green; To Bragbury End. From that last direction, and very much downhill, there presently appeared a solitary cyclist, a tall man on a tall bike. He could have got off and walked at the worst gradient. Not he. This Don Quixote weaved and wandered this side, that side, defeating windmills of gravity till he grew tall on the hillbrow and tall too was that Rosinante of a bicycle, an ancient Triumph that could have belonged to his father...."

In most Orwell biographies there are excerpts from Paul Potts' essay DON QUIXOTE ON A BICYCLE but they focus on aspects of their friendship and not the bicycle connection to Don Quixote. I didn't read Potts' essay in full until I came across it in ORWELL REMEMBERED:


The excerpts below, taken from the first and last pages of Potts' ten-page essay, are the only places where he mentions Quixote:

...But there was something about him [Orwell], the proud man apart, the Don Quixote on a bicycle...that caught one's imagination right away. That made one think of a knight errant and of social justice as the Holy Grail. One felt safe with him; he was so intellectually honest. His mind was a court where the judge was the lawyer for the defence...

On thinking of him, a certain Don Quixote de la Mancha rides into mind on his horse Rosinante....On him a tweed jacket wore the air of knightly armour. A cup of tea was wine before a battle. He carried no shield, used for a weapon plain facts loaded into simple English prose. His kind has walked this way before all right....

It seems that Potts must have previously read Common's essay comparing Orwell to Quixote on a bicycle, and from there he expanded it into the knight in shining armour theme of his essay, and then gave it the title DON QUIXOTE ON A BICYCLE. Potts didn't meet Orwell until 1944 whereas Common had been friends with Orwell since 1935, and had lived in Orwell's Wallington house in 1939 while Orwell was in Morocco writing COMING UP FOR AIR.


Potts' DON QUIXOTE ON A BICYCLE essay was first published in 1957 and then later as a chapter in his book DANTE CALLED YOU BEATRICE which was published in 1961. See Paul Potts Remembering George Orwell

There is some controversy surrounding Potts' essay in that some of what he says is fabrication (for example, according to Meyers' in his 2000 book WINTRY CONSCIENCE OF A GENERATION it isn't true that Orwell introduced himself to Hemingway in Paris; but it IS true that Orwell gave Potts' the manuscript of ANIMAL FARM to publish when no one else would touch it).

A search on Paul Potts indicates he was born in 1911 and died in 1990. In 2006 a book was compiled of his writings, and perhaps that publisher can advise you:


George Orwell's Friend: Selected Writing by Paul Potts (Born in British Columbia, Paul Potts lived most of his life based in London's Soho district, a friend and confidant of many ultimately famous writers. His circle included Dylan Thomas and T. S. Eliot, Elizabeth Smart and Sean O'Casey — and of course George Orwell, a constant friend. "George Orwell's Friend" includes autobiography and poetry, an intimate portrait of George Orwell, and the classic anguished memoir of love and vulnerability — elements that rarely find words, and even more rarely find the words of a man. Along with Potts' intimate essay about George Orwell, "Don Quixote on a Bicycle", editor Ronald Caplan reclaims the thoughtful work of a passionate, unusual Canadian.)

A university in the United States has collected Paul Potts' works in their library, and perhaps they can help you also:

Guide to the Paul Potts Papers, Northwestern University Library, Evanston, Illinois

A few years ago a reader wrote in enquiring about Orwell's second wife, and mentioned he was a friend of Paul Potts (who attended his wedding) so perhaps you could contact him:

Reader Taner Baybar says he met Sonia Orwell when she was editing a Swiss journal during the 50s & 60s.

I hope you don't mind the round-about answer to your question but it gave a chance to remember Orwell's Canadian friend, the poet Paul Potts. He witnessed many important events in Orwell's life and wrote poignantly about them in his DON QUIXOTE ON A BICYCLE essay.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

To Orwell Today,

Thank you Jackie. I will contact you when I receive an answer from Northwestern University Library re Paul Potts. Do you have a copy of the "Complete Works of George Orwell" by P. Davison. I would be most interested to know.


Greetings again David,

I don't have a copy of Peter Davison's COMPLETE WORKS OF GEORGE ORWELL which is a 20-volume set, but I do have a copy of his huge coffee-table book GEORGE ORWELL: NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR: THE FACSIMILE.

I have the 4-volume set THE COLLECTED ESSAYS, JOURNALISM AND LETTERS OF GEORGE ORWELL edited by Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus.

All the best with your Paul Potts quest,
Jackie Jura

PS - Oops, I almost forgot that I also have Peter Davison's THE LOST ORWELL.

To Orwell Today,

Dear Jackie,

I have contacted northwestern@edu and they don't know who has the copyright to Paul Potts' work.

Will keep you up to date.

Kind Regards,

WhitmanCollectCvr PottsOrwellFriendCvr OrwellFace
(Whitman Press almost published Animal Farm)
LincolnMaliceNone CaptainMyCaptain
listen O Captain! My Captain! by Whitman
Email/YouTube, Sep 20, 2013
8.Classes of People

...In corrupt and ever worsening years, he always woke up one miserable hour earlier than anyone else and, suspecting something fishy in the site, broke camp and advanced alone to some tougher position in a bleaker place; and it had often happened that he had been the first to detect an unpleasant truth or to refuse a tempting hypocrisy. Conscience took the Anglo-Indian out of the Burma police, conscience sent the old Etonian among the down and outs in London and Paris, and the degraded victims of the Means Test or slum incompetence in Wigan; it drove him into the Spanish civil war and, inevitably, into one of its unpopular sects, and there Don Quixote saw the poker face of Communism. His was the guilty conscience of the educated and privileged man, one of that regular supply of brilliant recalcitrants which Eton has given us since the days of Fielding; and this conscience could be allayed only by taking upon itself the pain, the misery, the dinginess and the pathetic but hard vulgarities of a stale and hopeless period....

(...It's ironic - anti-Communist and anti-Marxist 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.... 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.... 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.....See ORWELL MEMORIAL MISSING FACE


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

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