Lot 208
Sold for £ 6,600 (US$ 8,785) inc. premium

Lot Details
Typed letter signed ("Geo. Orwell"), to Richard Usborne of The Strand Magazine, furnishing him with a three-page autobiography in response to his enquiry ("...I am a widower with a son aged a little over 3..."), covering: his birth (1903), scholarship to Eton, his parents' background, his five years in the Burma Imperial Police ("...the job was totally unsuited to me and I resigned when I came home on leave in 1927..."), his time in Paris ("...I wanted to be a writer, and I lived most of the next two years in Paris, on my savings, writing novels which no one would publish and which I subsequently destroyed. When I had no more money I worked for a while as a dishwasher..."), his writing Down and Out in Paris and London ("...Nearly all the incidents described in 'Down and Out' actually happened, but at different times, and I wove them together so as to make a continuous story..."), his writing Keep the Aspidistra Flying ("...I did work in a bookshop for about a year in 1934-5, but I only put that into 'Keep the Aspidistra Flying' to make a background. The book is not, I think, autobiographical, and I have never worked in an advertising office... Incidentally 'Keep the A.F.' is one of several books which I don't care about and have suppressed..."), and of The Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia ("...In general my books have been less autobiographical than people have assumed. There are bits of truthful autobiography in 'Wigan Pier,' and, of course, 'Homage to Catalonia,' which is straightforward reporting..."); and, after providing an apologia for his political beliefs (see below), regretting that he cannot write anything for The Strand ("...as I have said, I am trying not to get involved in outside work..."), 3 pages, minor pin-stains, small 4to, Barnhill, Isle of Jura, 26 August 1947


  • "I BECAME INFECTED WITH A HORROR OF TOTALITARIANISM": GEORGE ORWELL DESCRIBES HIS LIFE AND POLITICAL BELIEFS, WHILE WRITING 'NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR' ("...I returned to Jura and started a novel which I hope to finish by the spring of 1948. I am trying not to do anything else while I get on with this... I mean to spend the winter in Jura this year, partly because I never seem to get any continuous work done in London, partly because I think it will be a little easier to keep warm here..."). He of course had a greater struggle to finish Nineteen Eighty-Four than he here anticipates, being admitted to hospital early in 1948, after only the first draft was ready, and not finishing the book until late in the year. It was finally published on 8 June 1949, seven months before his death. [Continued overleaf.]

    The longest part of this remarkable letter is devoted to the development of those political beliefs that inform and inspired Nineteen Eighty-Four: "As to politics, I was only intermittently interested in the subject until about 1935, though I think I can say I was always more or less 'left.' In 'Wigan Pier' I first tried to thrash out my ideas. I felt, as I still do, that there are huge deficiencies in the whole conception of Socialism, and I was still wondering there was any other way out. After having a fairly good look at British industrialism at its worst, ie. in the mining areas, I came to the conclusion that it is a duty to work for Socialism even if one is not emotionally drawn to it, because the continuance of the present conditions is simply not tolerable, and no solution except some kind of collectivism is viable, because that is what the mass of people want. About the same time I became infected with a horror of totalitarianism, which indeed I already had in the form of hostility towards the Catholic Church. I fought for six months (1936-7) in Spain on the side of Government, and had the misfortune to be mixed up in the internal struggle on the Government side, which left me with the conviction that there is not much to choose between Communism and Fascism, though for various reasons I would choose Communism if there were no other choice open. I have been vaguely associated with Trotskyists and Anarchists, and more closely with the left wing of the Labour Party (the Bevan-Foot end of it)... But I have never belonged to a political party, and I believe that even politically I am more valuable if I record what I believe to be true and refuse to toe a party line..".

    This letter's recipient, the late Richard Usborne, was at the time assistant editor to Macdonald Hastings at The Strand, and was to go on to write two classic studies, Clubland Heroes (1953) and Wodehouse at Work (1961), as well as completing Wodehouse's last novel, Sunset at Blandings (1977). This milieu, that Usborne was to make his own, held its fascination for Orwell as well, as exemplified by his essays on 'Boys' Weeklies' (1939) and 'In Defence of P.G. Wodehouse' (1945).
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