George Orwell: The Critical Heritage

By Jeffrey Meyers | Go to book overview

COLLECTED ESSAYS, JOURNALISM AND LETTERS

1968


103.

Anthony Powell, Daily Telegraph

3 October 1968, p. 22

Anthony Powell (b. 1905), at Eton with Orwell; English novelist and author of The Music of Time series.

George Orwell died in 1950 in his 47th year. His family came originally from Scotland (his real name was Eric Blair) but had lived in South-West England for about two centuries. They were soldiers, clergymen, doctors, with an Indian Civil connection.

Orwell gained an Eton scholarship, served five years in the Burma police, resigned to take up writing and plumb the depths of social misery, was wounded serving against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. His health prevented him from joining the army in the second world war. In 1945 his satire Animal Farm was published, a book that immediately became a classic.

It was an excellent idea to mingle chronologically letters, essays and journalism in these volumes so that they form what is roughly a narrative, and include all his writings except the novels. The editing is admirable, with just the notes required and a superlative index. To include a fair amount of quite trivial stuff like reviews was also sound, because Orwell himself set great store by the day-to-day work that earns a living, and such material adds to the picture of him.

We begin with an immensely characteristic letter he wrote at the age of 17 while still a schoolboy to (Sir) Steven Runciman, an Eton contemporary. Orwell had managed to be left behind at an intermediate station on the way back from an O. T. C. camp. He had

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