George Orwell: The Critical Heritage

By Jeffrey Meyers | Go to book overview

…They are supposed to provide luxury, but in reality they provide only a cheap, shoddy imitation of it…what makes the work in them is not the essentials; it is the shams that are supposed to represent luxury…. Essentially, a “smart” hotel is a place where a hundred people toil like devils in order that two hundred may pay through the nose for things they do not really want. ’ From Paris, Orwell goes to London, and lives as a tramp, on the road, in ‘spikes’ and cheap lodging-houses. The facts he reveals should shake the complacence of twentieth century civilisation, if anything could; they are ‘sensational, ’ yet presented without sensationalism. He has no illusions about the extremely poor; he finds the effects of hunger and poverty upon himself and the rest compelling to shame, lying, servility, self-pity, bestial fatalism, apathy— ‘Hunger reduces one to an utterly spineless, brainless condition, more like the after-effects of influenza than anything else. ’


4.

W. H. Davies, New Statesman and Nation

18 March 1933, pp. 338-40

William Henry Davies (1871-1940), English poet and author of The Autobiography of a Super Tramp (1908).

This is the kind of book I like to read, where I get the truth in chapters of real life…. In reading these extraordinary confessions, it is very curious to see how London and Paris compete in the making of strange scoundrels. In some instances the same characters could be found in either city, with only a difference in their names. The Rougiers, who sold sealed packets on the Boulevard St Michel, to give the impression that they contained pornographic postcards, could be found in London forty-five years ago, trading under other names. These packets could be bought by any frequenter of Petticoat Lane. London, in this instance at least, appears to have been superior to

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