21.9.42

Yesterday met Liddell Hart for the first time. Very defeatist and even, in my judgement, somewhat inclined to be pro-German subjectively. [In a great stew about the barbarism of bombing Lübeck. Considered that during the wars of recent centuries the British have the worst record of all for atrocities and destructiveness.] Although, of course, strongly opposed to the Second Front, also anxious for us to call off the bombing. There is no point in doing it, as it can achieve nothing and does not weaken Germany. On the other hand we ought not to have started the bombing in the first place (he stuck to it that it was we who started it), as it merely brought heavier reprisals on ourselves.

Osbert Sitwell [1] was also there. [he was at one time connected with Mosley’s movement, but probably somewhat less inclined to go pro-German than L-H.] Both of them professed to be disgusted by our seizure of the Vichy colonies. Sitwell said that our motto was “When things look bad, retake Madagascar”. He said that in Cornwall in case of invasion the Home Guard have orders to shoot all artists. I said that in Cornwall this might be all for the best. Sitwell: “Some instinct would lead them to the good ones”.

[1] Sir Osbert Sitwell (1892-1969) was educated at Eton and served in the Grenadier Guards, 1912-19. In 1916 his poetry, with his sister Edith’s, was published as Twentieth-Century Harlequinade. He also wrote short stories (Triple Fugue, 1924; Open the Door, 1941), a number of novels, including Before the Bombardment (1926), The Man Who Lost Himself (1929), Those Were the Days (1938), A Place of One’s Own (1941), many essays and some critical studies (particularly on Dickens). He selected and arranged the text of William Watson’s Belshazzar’s Feast (1931). Orwell described his Left Hand, Right Hand!, The Scarlet Tree, and Great Morning! (1944-47) as ‘among the best autobiographies of our time’; see CW, XIX, pp 385-8.   

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15.9.42

Ghastly feeling of impotence over the India business, Churchill’s speeches, the evident intention of the blimps to have one more try at being what they consider tough, and the impudent way in which the newspapers can misrepresent the whole issue, well knowing that the public will never know enough or take enough interest to verify the facts. This last is the worst symptom of all – though actually our own apathy about India is not worse than the non-interest of Indian intellectuals in the struggle against Fascism in Europe.

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10.9.42

Lecturing last night at Morley College, Lambeth. Small hall, about 100 people, working-class intelligentsia (same sort of audience as Left Book Club branch [1]). During the questions afterwards, no less than 6 people asked “Does the lecturer think it was a great mistake to lift Theban from the Daily Worker” – reasons given, that the D.W’s loyalty is not reliable and it is a waste of paper. [Only one woman stood up for the D. W., evidently a Communist at whom one or two of the others expressed impatience (“oh, she’s always saying that”!)] This after a year during which there has been a ceaseless clamour for the lifting of the ban. One is constantly being thrown out in one’s calculations because one listens to the articulate minority and forgets the other 99 per cent. Cf. Munich, when the mass of people were almost certainly behind Chamberlain’s policy, though to read the New Statesman etc. you wouldn’t have thought so.

[1] The Left Book Club, founded by Victor Gollancz in 1936, still published a book a month on anti-Fascist or Socialist topics. Local group meetings had been revived in the middle of 1942, and some fifty branches were formed. The Road to Wigan Pier was published under its auspices.

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7.9.42

There is evidently trouble in Syria. Handout this morning to the effect that – most unfortunately and much against H.M. Government’s will – General de Gaulle is insisting that Syria is still under a French mandate and it is impossible yet to make a treaty, as in the case of Irak. General de Gaulle’s attitude is considered most deplorable, but as he is, after all, the accredited leader of the Free French and the whole legal position is very obscure (the matter should be decided upon by the League of Nations which unfortunately no longer exists) H.M. Government is unable, etc., etc. In other words the Syrians will get no treaty, the blame for this is placed on our puppet de Gaulle, and if possible we shall swipe Syria for ourselves. When I heard this hollow rubbish trotted out by Rushbrooke-Williams [1] this morning and we all had to listen and keep straight faces, there came into my head, I don’t quite know why, the lines from Hardy’s Dynasts about the crowning of Napoleon in Rome:

Do not the prelate’s accents falter thin,

His lips with inheld laughter grow deformed,

In blessing one whose aim is but to win

The golden seat that other bums have warmed? [2]

The Daily Worker reappeared today – very mild, but they are urging (a) a second front (b) all help to Russia in the way of arms etc., and (c) a demagogic programme of higher wages all round which would be utterly incompatible with (a) and (b).

[1] Laurence Frederic Rushbrook Williams (1890-1978; CBE, 1923; Orwell sometimes hyphenated his name, as here), had been Professor of Modern Indian History, Allahabad University, 1914-19, and Director of the Indian Central Bureau of Information, 1920-26. He was Director of the BBC’s Eastern Service from 1941 to November 1944. He then joined The Times (to 1955). His attitude to India was enlightened and is well expressed in his India (Oxford Pamphlets on World Affairs, 1940). He also wrote The State of Pakistan, 1962, and The East Pakistan Tragedy, 1972.

[2] In The Dynasts, Napoleon places the crown on his own head in Milan Cathedral, not in Rome (Complete Edition, 1910, 35; Part I, Act I, Scene 6). Orwell discussed The Dynasts in Tribune, 18 September 1942 (CW, XIV< pp. 42-5).

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29.8.42

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Another rumour among the Indians about Nehru – this time that he has escaped.

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27.8.42

Ban on the daily Worker lifted. [1] [It is to reappear on Sept 7th (same day as Churchill makes his statement to Parliament.]

[German radio again alleging S.C. Bose is in Penang. But the indications are that this was a slip of the tongue for R. B. Bose.]

[1] The Daily Worker had been suppressed on 22 January 1941.

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25.8.42

One of the many rumours circulating among Indians here is that Nehru, Gandhi and others have been deported to South Africa. This is the kind of thing that results from press censorship and suppressing newspapers.

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