August 9, 1938

Caught a large snake in the herbaceous border beside the drive. About 2’ 6” long, grey colour, black markings on belly but none on back except, on back of neck, a mark resembling an arrow head (ñ) all down the back. Not certain whether an adder, as these I think usually have a sort of broad arrow mark (^) all down the back. Did not care to handle it too recklessly, so only picked it up by extreme tip of tail. Held thus it could nearly turn far enough to bite my hand, but not quite. Marx¹ interested at first, but after smelling it was frightened & ran away. The people here normally kill all snakes. As usual, the tongue referred to as “fangs”².


Notes by Peter Davison, from the Complete Works:

¹The Orwells’ dog.

²It was an ancient belief that a poisonous snake injects its poison by means of a forked tongue and not, as is the case, through two fangs. So Shakespeare in Richard II, 3.20 – 22.

            Guard it, I pray thee, with a lurking adder

            Whose double tongue may with a mortal touch

            Throw death upon thy sovereign’s enemies.

See also 11.8.38.


From The Orwell Prize:

Orwell writes this from the sanatorium at Preston Hall, Aylesford, Kent. If you can’t hyperlink from ‘the drive’ in the post, go to Google Maps on the blogroll.

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68 Responses to August 9, 1938

  1. Pingback: » Orwell online

  2. Zamboge says:

    Where in Morocco does the diary start?

  3. AAA says:

    This blog is an exellent idea, thanks!!!

  4. ldh says:

    Este blog es la mejor noticia del verano.

  5. @Zamboge – click on ‘the drive’ hyperlink, and you’ll see exactly where Orwell was at this point. He’s in a sanatorium in Kent – he heads to Morocco in September.

  6. WO says:

    Oui, idée géniale, et géniale aussi pour faire travailler l’anglais aux enfants pendant les vacances !
    oups… pardon à tous les ado pour cette idée détestable, ça m’a échappé.

  7. Pingback: The Orwell Diaries « S.P. Greenlaw’s Caprichos

  8. eric:p says:

    OMG Shakespeare was teh noob! Serpentes anatomy FAIL LOL I can has a poison tongue?

    Just kidding – I’m waiting for this sort of webspeak to appear for real in the comments of this remarkable blog. Thanks to The Orwell Prize for making it happen.

  9. Daniel says:

    And so it begins…

  10. Thaths says:

    Thank you very much for doing an excellent job re-publishing Orwell’s diary as a blog. The use of web 2.0 techniques such as tagging and geotagging (using Google maps) to provide more context to the entry is an excellent idea. I am looking forward to reading this daily.

  11. Larry Geater says:

    By what criteria was this day chosen to be the day that you began this?

  12. The Djinni says:

    The wait is over! Thank-you for this unique opportunity. I will be tuning in daily.

  13. Ken says:

    Don’t know what hyperlink is being referred to here?

    @Zamboge – click on ‘the drive’ hyperlink, and you’ll see exactly where Orwell was at this point. He’s in a sanatorium in Kent – he heads to Morocco in September.

  14. Pingback: Orwell’s diaries now on-line « Charlottesville Words

  15. Pingback: George Orwell’s Diary « Petunias

  16. Gariela says:

    Thanks for this great opportunity ; -) !! I believe I’m already a fan.

  17. Pingback: Martin Hayes - » Orwell Diaries

  18. Elizabeth says:

    The hyperlinks don’t show up clearly in the post. I’m using FF3 on a laptop running XP.

  19. James M says:

    Just heard about this on the radio. I’m thrilled!

  20. achali says:

    excited for what’s to come.

  21. Richard Evert says:

    I also cannot find “the drive” hyperlink. I am very interested in Orwell’s location when we wrote the entries. Perhaps you could just include that information in the heading of each entry.

  22. libertyblues says:

    What’s this “(ñ)” is that just my machines rendering? A drawing of the arrow?

  23. Neuromancer says:

    I think you need turn off the snapshoot popups I and loads of others find it a real pain

  24. piminnowcheez says:

    This really is a lovely idea. I’m looking forward to enjoying this on a daily basis, thanks so much.

  25. Joe says:

    Any herpetologists out there? What kind of snake do you think that might’ve been?

  26. Ana says:

    Thanks so much for this!!!!

  27. Dougie says:

    It’s a shame you’re publishing after 70 years and not 84. Eighty-four would have a certain irony to it.

    The 9th of August 1938 was a Tuesday. The calendar rotates every 28 years so 1966, 1994 and 2022 will match with 1938.

  28. Bonnie says:

    This should read, if *Facing Unpleasant Facts* is to be trusted:

    “Caught a large snake in the herbaceous border beside the drive. About 2’ 6” long, grey colour, black markings on belly but none on back except, on BACK OF neck, a mark resembling an arrow-head [Orwell’s drawing of an arrow-head].NOT CERTAIN WHETHER AN ADDER, AS THESE I THINK USUALLY HAVE A SORT OF BROAD ARROW MARK [another drawing] all down the back.”

    Orwell was concerned if the snake might be an adder, the only venomous snake native to Britain. Always on the lookout for trouble, eh. (Spoiler: a grass snake is later found – and tortured – by “the men”)

  29. Dave Lovely says:

    @Joe – would’ve been an adder (vipera berus) I’d imagine

  30. محمد says:

    Very Good
    خیلی خوب بود
    متشکرم از شما
    می شه بیشتر در مورد پاراگراف آخر توضیح بدهید
    متوجه نشدم درست
    با تشکر

  31. Soylent Green says:

    Sartre refused Nobel Prize.

    Orwel cannot avoing geting twitterized.

  32. Laurel says:

    Some blogs are more equal than others. This is such a great idea! I look forward to reading.

  33. Monigi says:

    I think its a great gift, and I enjoy it a lot.

    @ Dougie
    You can wait untill 1922 to read it. Nobody requires you to read it now.

  34. Richard says:

    Thank you so much – a wonderful resouce – it has stirred my imagination, as I’m sure it will for many others :

  35. Allan says:

    Eric writes quite well for a dead guy.

  36. Pingback: » Blog Archive » George Orwell Blogs About Catching Snake

  37. ohwell says:

    The source code suggests that that “arrow head” that renders as ñ should have been an upwards pointing outlined arrow: ANSI ñ = 0xF1 in Wingdings (a Windows-specific charset, not a “font-family”, which is why the CSS doesn’t render even on my Windows machine, and even if it would, never rely on fonts over the web!). Also the page encoding is declared as UTF-8, so it would have been preferable to use the corresponding Unicode character U+21E7 “⇧”. Or an image.

  38. Pingback: That Orwell Blogger Finally Posts Something « Ten Percent

  39. Perpetual Memory Loss says:

    This is a great idea, can’t wait for subsequent entries.

  40. zokuga says:

    even the greatest writers blog about the personal

  41. Pingback: George Orwell Diaries Published As A Blog 70 Years Later | Laughing Squid

  42. Pingback: redjenny

  43. Good concept, however I’m pretty sure Orwell would have been happy for everyone to read his private diaries… Or not.

  44. Tommy says:

    When I see snakes I advise them to be more careful to avoid humans; other people will cut their heads off. From Orwell’s entry it seems he did not kill the snake, although I dislike picking them up because it seems abusive.

  45. Rockus says:

    Great to see this! I love Orwell and it is fantastic to read his thoughts on day by day basis.

  46. Tony says:

    Two legs bad, no legs good.

  47. Elephant Killer says:

    The hyper-link to show Orwell’s location is not coming up for me either (IE7), unless I am missing something. There may be a problem needing fixing, or a more thorough explanation as to accessing it. Knowing where he is as we read will add an important context.

  48. This first post is very revealing and sets the tone for all future posts quite well.

    The name of the dog, for example. Unless you spend your time vehemently cursing the animal, you must have some high regard for Marx (the two-legged one).

    Correct me if I’m wrong.

    Parsing these entries is going to be fun, George.

  49. Pingback: » DoublePlus Good: George Orwell’s Blog - Dissociated Press

  50. Martin C says:

    Joe, It sounds like a smooth snake. These are grey or dull brown and have a black “crown” on their head and faint marking down the body. The length is about right and you do find them in Kent. Very rare nowadays.

  51. Pingback: Au Coin du Livre » Chronique du Dimanche #2

  52. Tom says:

    Stupendous effort and extraordinary resource for the web 2.0 generation.

    Well done to everyone involved in the project, you should be proud of yourselves.

    The great man would appreciate the egalitarianism of this project.

  53. Pingback: News » Had To Shoot An Elephant Today. Mood: (,_,)

  54. wawy says:

    orwell himself is in the ‘BIG BROTHER show’ now… :)

  55. JimmyGiro says:

    @Martin C
    I agree, smooth snake is the most probable, as grass snakes have light coloured bellies, and would never let you get anywhere near them to catch; whereas smooth snakes freeze to avoid detection, making them easier to catch.

  56. Bonnie says:

    This first entry from Orwell’s “Domestic Diary” has been incorrectly reproduced here on this blog, as I indicated in an earlier post. It’s different from the entry in *The Complete Works of George Orwell: Facing Unpleasant Facts*. Is it because of typos? (shame!) An undisclosed abridgement? (Orwellian!) From the earlier unrevised edition? (careless!)


  57. Pingback: Orwell and Marx » Undiplomatic

  58. aw says:

    Thanks for WordPress giving us such a wonderful present.

  59. Pingback: August 11 « THE ORWELL PRIZE

  60. @Larry Geater – 9th August 1938 is when this batch of diaries starts, and it happens to be the 70th anniversary of them being written.

    @Ken, Elizabeth, Richard Evert, Elephant Killer – sorry if it’s not showing up for you. Try the Google Maps link on the blogroll instead. I’ve also footnoted the location.

    @libertyblues – yes, nothing exciting!

    @Neuromancer – me too; the snap shots are now turned off.

    @Bonnie – you’re right, not quite sure how that happened. Apologies for that!

  61. Bonnie says:

    @orwelldiaries – Glad to see this has been corrected. And you’re welcome.

  62. Pingback: Orwell 2 « Medium

  63. Joyeuse says:

    Does anyone know who orwelldiaries is?

  64. Alain Baudemont says:

    Il faut savoir ne pas faire fondre le Sorbet. Sur le blog de l’éditeur Léo Scheer, des commentateurs joyeux ont bien traduit les mots de Georges Orwell. Les nouveaux mots de la Neuve Langue font une guirlande multicolore autour de la planète Terre. Il faut lire. Lisons.

  65. Amir says:


  66. Pingback: Noticias Edición Digital » Blog Archive » Remediating Orwell’s Diaries

  67. Pingback: George Orwell blogs 70 years later! « Jude’s Threshold

  68. Pingback: The Digital Ramble | Visualizing Science - The Moment Blog -

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