KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING
1936 (1st American edition 1956)
William Plomer, Spectator
24 April 1936, p. 768
William Plomer (1903-73), South African biographer, poet and novelist; author of Cecil Rhodes (1933), his autobiography Double Lives (1943) and Museum Pieces (1952).
Mr George Orwell’s new book, bitter almost throughout and often crude, is also all about money. He opens it with a long quotation from the Epistle to the Corinthians in which he has seen fit to substitute the word ‘money’ for ‘charity. ’ His version ends: ‘And now abideth faith, hope, money, these three; but the greatest of these is money. ’1 The scene is London, the time is the present, and the hero is Gordon Comstock, a seedy young man of thirty who works in a seedy bookseller’s shop. Gordon would like to be famous and to be loved. He has vague aspirations in regard to the writing of poetry, and tender feelings towards a certain Rosemary. His heredity and upbringing have been against him. His exceedingly depressing and depressed lower-middle-class family have set, he considers, undue store by money, of which they have seen little. Reacting against their standards, he refuses the chance of becoming ‘a Big Pot one of these days’ in a red lead firm, deliberately throws away his good prospects in a publicity company, and embraces squalor. The embrace is protracted for some three hundred pages, and Mr Orwell, who is the author of a book called Down and Out in London and Paris, spares us none of the horrors of sordid loneliness and a hypertrophied inferiority complex expressing itself in physical grubbiness and stupid debauchery. In the end, after
1 Orwell’s epigraph is from I Corinthians 13.