ORWELL - BLAIR (EILEEN)
Lot 132
ORWELL - BLAIR (EILEEN)
Sold for £2,400 (US$ 3,785) inc. premium

Lot Details
LATER NINETEENTH AND TWENTIETH CENTURY
ORWELL - BLAIR (EILEEN)
Series of five autograph and typed letters signed ("Pig") by George Orwell's first wife Eileen, three letters entirely autograph, two entirely typed (including signatures), to her close friend Nora Myles, the first letter providing a memorable portrait of the life she shared with Orwell at his parents house in Southwold ("...I wrote the address quite a long time ago & I have since played with three cats, made a cigarette (I make them now but not with the naked hand), poked the fire & driven Eric (i.e. George) nearly mad -- all because I don't really know what to say. I lost my habit of punctual correspondence during the first few weeks of marriage because we quarrelled so continuously & really bitterly that I thought I'd save time & just write one letter to everyone when the murder or separation had been accomplished. The Eric's aunt came to stay & was so dreadful (she stayed two months) that we stopped quarrelling & just repined. Then she went away & now all our troubles are over. They arose partly because mother drove me so hard in the first week of June that I cried all the time from pure exhaustion & partly because Eric had decided that he mustn't let his work be interrupted & complained bitterly when we'd been married a week that he'd only done two good days' work out of seven..."); further letters covering subjects such as Orwell's writing and their poverty ("...we have been completely broke & shall be now until Christmas because the money we expected in October for Keep the Aspidistra Flying won't be paid until April & the next book won't earn its advance until December..."); the origins of the Orwell family ("...The Blairs are by origin Lowland Scottish & dull but one of them made a lot of money in slaves & his son Thomas who was inconceivably like a sheep married the daughter of the Duke of Westmorland (of whose existence I never heard) & went so grand that he spent all the money & couldn't make more because slaves had gone out. So his son went into the army & came out of that into the church & married a girl of 15 who loathed him & had ten children of whom Eric's father, now 80, is the only survivor, & they were all quite penniless but still on the shivering verge of gentility as Eric calls it in his new book which I cannot think will be popular with the family..."); the attitude shown towards Orwell by his own family ("...they all adore Eric & consider her quite impossible to live with -- indeed on the wedding day Mrs Blair shook her head & said that I'd be a brave girl if I knew what I was in for, & Avril the sister said that obviously I didn't know what I was in for or I shouldn't be there. They haven't I think grasped that I am very much like Eric in temperament..."); their experiences in Spain and Homage to Catalonia ("...The difficulty about the Spanish war is that it still dominates our lives in a most unreasonable manner because George (or do you still call him Eric?) is just finishing the book about it and I give him typescripts the reverse sides of which are covered with manuscript emendations that he can't read, and he is always having to speak about it and I have returned to complete pacifism and joined the P.P.U. partly because of it..."); their animals ("...We also have a poodle puppy. We called him Marx to remind us that we had never read Marx and now we have read a little and taken so strong a personal dislike to the man that we can't look the dog in the face when we speak to him..."); their 1939 Christmas in Morocco ("...I expect his life has been shortened by another year or two but all the totalitarians make that irrelevant...no that we've hardened to the general frightfulness of the country we're quit enjoying it & Eric is writing a book that please both of us very much..."); her workmates in the Ministry of Food ("...My departmental head is almost as frightened of me, as he is of taking a decision on his own..."), etc., 36 pages (28 autograph, 8 typed), two leaves repaired with archival tape and with minor marks, some very minor creasing and dust-staning but otherwise in good and attractive condition, 4to and 8vo, Southwold, Greenwich, [Wallington] and Marrakech, [1936-1940]

Footnotes

  • AN IMPORTANT AND REVELATORY SERIES OF LETTERS BY GEORGE ORWELL'S FIRST WIFE, providing an incomparable portrait of their life together. These letters were published (and extensively annotated) by Peter Davison in The Lost Orwell, 2006, where he acknowledges "the very great intrinsic importance of these letters". Their discovery was announced by D.J. Taylor in the Guardian, with the quotation of extensive extracts: "Six decades on, Eileen is one of the larger silences in Orwell studies. Though generously recollected by Orwell's friends in the years after his death, there is a way in which she never quite comes alive in their reminiscences, finds her own voice or takes on a personality distinct from her husband... A previously unknown cache of Eileen's letters came to light in the early part of this year...They illuminate Orwell's first marriage with an occasionally rather startling clarity. They also establish Eileen definitively as a person in her own right -- witty, ironic, able to extract humour from the most unpromising situations, demonstrating almost from sentence to sentence why Orwell wanted to marry her" (10 December 2005). This high opinion is shared by the reviewers. John Ezard remarked that "I find [Eileen's] personality, which springs off the page, utterly captivating, intelligent in every nerve in its humour and self-irony and in the resilience and strength of the love the high amused love which she shows for [Orwell]. I was very sorry when the letters came to an end and there was no longer a sense of contact with her spirit. I can't remember these qualities emerging from anything else I have read" (quoted in the review by Jenny Joseph, New Humanist, September/ October 2006). John Carey wrote that "The prize item is a batch of six letters from Orwell’s first wife Eileen to her close friend Norah Myles... These letters show she was resilient and funny, and a match for her husband both in intellect and temperament" (Times, 28 May 2006); Tom Rosenthal that "There are some wonderful letters from Eileen, known to her intimates as 'Pig', which leads Davison to wonder whether this is significant for the composition of Animal Farm. Eileen was not only highly literate (an Oxford graduate) but also had a sharp sense of humour, cared desperately about the future of their adopted son Richard" (Telegraph, 14 June 2006).
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