27.3.42

News of the terms Cripps took to India supposed to be bursting tomorrow. Meanwhile only rumours, all plausible but completely incompatible with one another. The best-supported  – that India is to be offered a treaty similar to the Egyptian one. K.S.S [1] who is our fairly embittered enemy, considers this would be accepted if Indians were given the Ministries of Defence, Finance and Internal Affairs. All the Indians here, after a week or two of gloom, much more optimistic, seeming to have smelt out somehow (perhaps by studying long faces in the India Office) that the terms are not so bad after all

[Terrific debate in the House over the affaire Daily Mirror. [2] A. Bevan [3] reading numerous extracts from Morrison’s [4] own articles in the D.M., written since war started, to the amusement of Conservatives who are anti-D.M but can never resist the spectacle of two Socialists slamming one another. Cassandra [5] announces he is resigning to join the army. Prophecy he will be back in journalism within 3 months. But where shall we all be within 3 months any way?]  

Government candidate defeated (very small majority) in the Grantham by-election. The first time since the war started that this has happened, I think.

Surprise call-out of our Company of Home Guard a week or two back. IT took 4 ½ hours to assemble the Company and dish out ammunition, and would have taken them another hour to get them into their battle positions. This mainly due to the bottleneck caused by refusing to distribute ammunition but making each man come to HQ to be issued with it there. Sent a memo on this to Dr Tom Jones, [6] who has forwarded it direct to Sir Jas. Grigg. [7] In my own unit I could not get such a memo even as far as the Company Commander – or at least, could not get it attended to.

Crocuses now full out. One seems to catch glimpses of them dimly through a haze of war news.

[Abusive letter from H. G. Wells, who addresses me as “You shit”, among other things. [8]

The Vatican is exchanging diplomatic representatives with Tokio. The Vatican now has diplomatic relations with all the Axis powers and – I think – with none of the Allies. A bad sign and yet in a sense a good one, in that this last step means that they have now definitely decided that the Axis and not we stand for the more reactionary policy.]

[1] Dr. Krishna S. Shelvankar (1906-1996), Indian writer and journalist. He was in England during the war as a correspondent for Indian newspapers. His book, The Problem of India (Pengiun Special, 1940), was banned in India. Orwell’s superior at the BBC, Z. A. Bokhari, wrote to the Eastern Service Director to say he was strongly opposed to Shelvankar being allowed to broadcast: ‘Call me a die-hard if you like, but in my opinion the time has not come for us to make such advances towards the truculent damsel – “Miss Nationalsim”’ (CW, XIII, p. 242). Despite Orwell’s reference to Shelvankar as ‘our fairly embittered enemy’, he did broadcast to India under Orwell’s aegis. When Pakistan became independent, Bokhari was appointed Director-General of Pakistan Radio.

[2] The Daily Mirror, a popular leftist daily newspaper, had been called to order by Churchill for taking what he called a defeatist line, that is, critical of the government’s handling of the war. After the debate in the House of Commons the affair fizzled out.

[3] Aneurin (Nye) Bevan (see Events, 29.8.39, n. 11), Labour M.P., had been, for most of 1939, in conflict with his party and he was expelled for supporting Sir Stafford’s Cripp’s Popular Front campaign though his integrity was never in doubt. He edited Tribune, 1942-45 (a remarkable achievement for someone who could barely read when he left school at the age of thirteen), and gave Orwell support even when he disagreed with him. His great achievement was the creation of the National Health Service out of a variety of earlier proposals. His In Place of Fear (1952) sets out his philosophy.

 [4] Herbert Morrison (1888-1965; Baron Morrison of Lambeth), Labour MP from 1923, Leader of the London Country Council, 1933-40; Home Secretary and Minister of Home Security, 1940-45. He was Leader of the House of Commons and Deputy Prime Minister, in Clement Attlee’s two administrations, 1945-51. In the debate to which Orwell refers, his subversive writings from World War I, when he was a conscientious objector, were also quoted (see Hugh Cudlipp, Publish and be Damned, pp. 195-6).

[5] This was the pseudonym of William Connor (1900-1967; Kt., 1966) a well-known radical journalist who wrote this personal column in the Daily Mirror. His English at War (April 1941) was the most popular of the Searchlight Books edited by T.R. Fyvel and Orwell; it was reprinted three times.

[6] Dr Tom Jones 91870-1955; CH), Cabinet Secretary to Lloyd George. In 1939 he was instrumental in the establishment of CEMA – the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts – which later became the Arts Council of Great Britain.

[7] Sir James Grigg (1890 – 1964; KCB), Permanent Under-Secretary for War, 1939–42, and Secretary of State for War, 1942-45. He had served as Finance Member on the Viceroy of India’s Council and when Churchill set up the India Committee on 25 February 1942 he was selected to advise on Indian affairs. Churchill wanted him to accept a peerage but he declined. His wife, Lady Grigg, who was involved in the radio series, ‘Women Generally Speaking’, for the BBC’s Eastern Service, was a thorn in Orwell’s flesh.

[8] This stemmed initially from Orwell’s article ‘Wells, Hitler and the World State,’ Horizon, August 1941 (CW, XII, pp. 536-41) and was further stimulated by his broadcast talk “The Re-discovery of Europe,’ about which Wells wrote to The Listener. Inez Holden was present at a ‘God-awful row’ between Wells and Orwell arising from the Horizon article. Orwell thought Well’s belief that the Germans might be defeated quite soon was a disservice to the general public; Wells accused Orwell of being defeatist, though he withdrew that. The outburst passed over reasonably amicably, but was revived when Orwell’s broadcast was printed in The Listener, leading to the abusive letter mentioned here. Holden wrote to Ian Angus, 21 May 1967, that Orwell very much regretted the Horizon article and was sorry he had upset Wells, whom he had always greatly admired. See also Crick, pp. 427-31. 

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5 Responses to 27.3.42

  1. Syd Walker says:

    Is it possible to view the whole text of that round of correspondence between Orwell and Wells, especially the Wells letter he refers to in the diart entry?

  2. M G says:

    Good to see George is back at it! Was a bit confused by the use of italics in these new entries as, at first, I wasn’t sure if these were editor’s notes about the entry (as previously) or GW’s own words, especially when they occured at the very end of an entry.

  3. The italics are footnotes to explain context or characters

  4. T R says:

    The italicized footnotes are pretty clear, but there are also italicized, bracketed passages that appear to be Orwell’s text — e.g. “Abusive letter from H.G. Wells…”. I think those are the italicized bits that MG is referring to, not the footnotes.

  5. andrew says:

    that’s funny about h.g. wells.. i would like to see the correspondence too.

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