ORWELL (GEORGE) Typed letter signed ("George"), to the novelist Anthony Powell ("Dear Tony"), announcing the death of his wife, Hotel Scribe, Paris 9e, 13 April 1945
Lot 310
ORWELL (GEORGE)
Typed letter signed ("George"), to the novelist Anthony Powell ("Dear Tony"), announcing the death of his wife, Hotel Scribe, Paris 9e, 13 April 1945
Sold for £6,875 (US$ 9,196) inc. premium

Lot Details
BOOKS AND LETTERS FROM THE LIBRARY OF ANTHONY POWELL
ORWELL (GEORGE)
Typed letter signed ("George"), to the novelist Anthony Powell ("Dear Tony"), announcing the death of his wife: "I tried to get in touch with you when I was in London last week, but failed. I don't know whether you will have heard from some other source about what has happened. Eileen is dead. She died very suddenly and unexpectedly on March 29th during an operation which was not supposed to be very serious. I was over here and had no expectation of anything going wrong, which indeed nobody seems to have had. I didn't see the final findings of the inquest and indeed don't want to, because it doesn't bring her back, but I think the anaesthetic was responsible. It was a most horrible thing to happen because she had had five really miserable years of bad health and overwork, and things were just beginning to get better. The only good thing is that I don't think she can have suffered or had any apprehensions. She was actually looking forward to the operation to cure her trouble, and I found among her papers a letter she must have written only about an hour before she died and which she expected to finish when she came round. But it was terribly sad that she should die when she had become so devoted to Richard and was making such a good job of his upbringing"; he then gives news of his son Richard ("...As soon as I can get a nurse and a house I shall remove him to the country, as I don't want him to learn to walk in London. I just got him settled in and then came straight back here, as I felt so upset at home I thought I would rather be on the move for a bit..."), asks for Malcolm Muggeridge's address; and mentions the scandal surrounding P.G. Wodehouse's wartime broadcasts ("...I vaguely heard there had been some kind of row in which l'affaire Wodehouse was mixed up, but have no idea what it is..."), 1 page, in fine, fresh condition, 4to, Hotel Scribe, Paris 9e, 13 April 1945

Footnotes

  • 'I DON'T KNOW WHETHER YOU WILL HAVE HEARD FROM SOME OTHER SOURCE ABOUT WHAT HAS HAPPENED. EILEEN IS DEAD' – George Orwell announces the death of his wife to Anthony Powell. Eileen had died during an operation on 29 March while Orwell was absent in France. Powell, who had become a close friend since meeting Orwell and Eileen in the flesh at the Café Royal in 1941, wrote of Orwell at this time: 'The adoption of a child, the sudden death of Eileen, the world wide success of Animal Farm, the serious worsening of his own heath, all combined within the space of a few months to revolutionize Orwell's life. The loss of his wife, just after the much contemplated acquisition of the baby, especially created a situation that would have caused many men to give in. No doubt some arrangement for re-adoption could have been made without too much difficulty. That would have been reasonable enough. No such thought ever crossed Orwell's mind. He had enormously desired a child of his own. Now that a child had become part of the household, he was not going to relinquish him, no matter what the difficulties. In fact one side of Orwell – the romantic side that played such a part rather enjoyed the picture of himself coping unaided with a small baby. Let this point be made clear; Orwell did cope with the baby. It may have been romanticism, but, if so, it was romanticism which found practical expression in that way. This was characteristic of him in all he did. His idiosyncrasies were based in guts' (To Keep the Ball Rolling, p. 74).

    As well as The Complete Works, this letter is included in Peter Davidson's selection, Orwell: a Life in Letters (2010); and is singled out by Simon Heffer in his review of the edition: 'Yet, whether one appreciates it with the eye of a seasoned literary critic, or simply absorbs it subliminally as a casual reader, the real lure of Orwell is his style. No one could be easier or more pleasurable to read. The directness of his character, laid bare by Mr Davison's edition of the letters, is plain in the directness of his literary style. Take, for example, these lines from a letter to Anthony Powell, written just after the death of Orwell's wife: "I tried to get in touch with you when I was in London last week, but failed. I don't know whether you will have heard from some other source about what has happened. Eileen is dead. She died very suddenly and unexpectedly during an operation which was not supposed to be very serious." It goes on in that vein: never a superfluous word, grammatically precise, unclouded by any distraction to its sense or meaning' ('The Undiluted Joy of a Literary Genius', Daily Telegraph, 8 May 2010).
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