George Orwell: The Critical Heritage

By Jeffrey Meyers | Go to book overview

29.

Arthur Calder-Marshall, Time and Tide

20 March 1937, p. 382

Arthur Calder-Marshall (b. 1908), English novelist, biographer and critic.

Of Mr Orwell’s book, there is little to say except praise…. Starting with the usual middle-class public school education, he has attempted to join the [working] class. The first part of his book is a description of life in the North of England. It opens with the most realistic description of a lodging house over a tripe shop, kept by two terrifying people called Brooker. The other lodgers are two old-age pensioners (paying their weekly ten shillings for board and lodging, their lives insured by the Brookers); Mr Reilly, a mining mechanic; a Scotch miner, injured in a pit accident; and a man on the P. A. C.1 named Joe.

Mr Brooker was a dark, small-boned, sour, Irish-looking man, and astonishingly dirty. I don’t think I ever once saw his hands clean. As Mrs Brooker was now an invalid, he prepared most of the food, and like all people with permanently dirty hands he had a peculiarly intimate, lingering manner of handling things. If he gave you a slice of bread-and-butter, there was always a black thumb-print on it. Even in the morning when he descended into the mysterious den behind Mrs Brooker’s sofa and fished out the tripe, his hands were already black…. I do not know how often fresh consignments of tripe were ordered, but it was at long intervals, for Mrs Brooker used to date events by it. ‘Let me see now, I’ve had in three lots of froze (frozen tripe) since that happened. ’ We lodgers were never given tripe to eat. At the time I imagined that this was because tripe was too expensive; I have since thought that it was merely because we knew too much about it. The Brookers never ate tripe themselves, I noticed.

Mr Orwell did not spend his whole time in this depressing house.

On the day when there was a full chamber-pot under the breakfast table I decided to leave. The place was beginning to depress me. (My italics. )

1 Public Assistance Committee.

-101-

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