Chilly & fine. Very heavy dew these days.
Yee HAW! THREE!!!!!
Letter from Orwell to Cyril Connolly. Written Wednesday 14 December 1938.
Boilte Postale 48
Marrakech, French Morocco
14 December 1938
I see your book is out. Send me a copy, won’t you? I can’t get English books here. The New English were going to send it to me to review, but they haven’t done so, perhaps haven’t had a copy. I have been in this place for about three months, as it is supposed to do my lungs good to spend the winter here. I have less than no belief in theories about certain climates being ‘good for’ you; on inquiry they always turn out to be a racket run by tourist agencies and local doctors, but now I am here I suppose I shall stay till about April. Morocco seems to me a beastly dull country, no forests and literally no wild animals, and the people anywhere near a big town utterly debauched by the tourist racket and their poverty combined, which turn them into a race of beggars and curio-sellers. Some time next month we are going into the Atlas for a bit, which may be more interesting. I am getting on with my novel which was listed to come out in the autumn but, owing to this bloody illness, didn’t get it started till two or three months ago. Of course I shall have to rush it as I must get it done in time for the spring. It’s a pity, really, as it’s a good idea, though I don’t think you’ll like it if you see it. Everything one writes now is overshadowed by this ghastly feeling that we are rushing towards a precipice and, though we shan’t actually prevent ourselves or anyone else from going over, must put up some sort of fight. I suppose actually we have about two years before the guns begin to shoot. I am looking forward to seeing your book, I gather from the reviews that a lot of it is about Eton, and it will interest me very much to see whether thw impressions you retain are anything like my own. Of course you were in every way much more of a success at school than I, and my own position was complicated and in fact dominated by the fact that I had much less money than most of the people about me, but as far as externals go we had very much the same experiences from 1912 to 1921. And our literary development impinged at certain points, too. Do you remember one or other of us getting hold of H. G. Well’s Country of the Blind about 1914, at St Cyprian’s, and being so enthralled with it that we were constantly pinching it off each other? It’s a very vivid memory of mine, stealing along the corridor at about four o’clock on a midsummer morning into the dormitory where you slept and pinching the book from beside your bed. And do you remember at about the same time my bringing back to school a copy of Compton Mackenzie’s Sinister Street, which you began to read, and then… Mrs Wilkes found out and there was a fearful row about bringing a ‘book of that kind’ (though at the time I didn’t even know what ‘sinister’ meant) into the school. I’m always meaning one of these days to write a book about St Cyprian’s. I’ve always held that the public schools aren’t so bad, but people are wrecked by those filthy private schools long before they get to public school age.
Please give all my best to your wife. I hope I’ll see you when I get back.
E. A. Blair
P.S. I suppose the Quintin Hogg who won the Oxford election was the little squirt who was a fag when I left school.
Love the p.s. . . hahaha
Everything one writes now is overshadowed by this ghastly feeling that we are rushing towards a precipice and, though we shan’t actually prevent ourselves or anyone else from going over, must put up some sort of fight. I suppose actually we have about two years before the guns begin to shoot.
Wow. I know the feeling. Not sure about the time frame.
Some notes on the Blair/Orwell letter above.
The book just published by Cyril Connolly is ‘Enemies of Promise’. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyril_Connolly
The Orwell novel was ‘Coming up for Air’ and published in June, 1939.
The H. G. Wells book is ‘The Country of the Blind, and Other Stories’
The book Orwell planned about his school days became the essay ‘Such, Such Were The Joys’.
(Note that the texts given the above links differ slightly.)
Yes, a large instructive letter, with a lot of information about Morocco and Orwell´s hate to this country. But Cyril never known about the eggs, and that was the topic he really was interested about.
Also Cyril had an extraordinary interest on goats and Orwell hid him a lot of important information about Morocco´s species.
That’s certainly an arresting image – a young boy creeping up to his friend’s bed in the middle of the night so he can pinch his novels.
Yes, Quintin Hogg was the little squirt, being four years younger than Eric Blair. Also, and before anyone suggests anything else, see the following definition of fag from the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. “In a public school: a junior boy who performs menial tasks for a senior. Also transf., a drudge. L18.”
Some confusion can happen if there are people who presumably think that in the Bible David killed Goliath using a Y-shaped piece of wood and a length of elastic to throw a stone.
I don’t think Mr. Blair hates Morocco so much as he hates being there. The Villa Simont is a “Fortress of Solitude” ; I don’t think he likes that too much as he obviously does not enjoy being out of touch.
This letter reveals that he did not endorse geographic cures and implies that, perhaps, he is there reluctantly. I also sense resentment.
People took politics seriously in those days. They used to begin storing up rotten eggs weeks before an election.
Is no place to write, it seems.
Unless there are eggs.
Now it starts to increase.
TimothyMN – Thanks for the letter — tells us quite a bit more about what he’s thinking about than the daily egg enumeration.
Great letter, timothyMN.
No wonder Orwell writes so much about the weather being damp or “just like England.” He wasn’t being nostalgic for home, he’s just resenting having to be in Morocco!–i.e. What’s the point of him being there if it’s just as damp and cold as England?
It’s all clearer to me now: it makes much more sense to me for Orwell to be cynical than wistful.
He was a real old nineteenth-century Liberal, the kind that not only used to ask you what Gladstone said in ‘78 but could tell you the answer, and one of the very few people in Lower Binfield who stuck to the same opinions all through the war. He was always denouncing Joe Chamberlain and some gang of people that he referred to as ‘the Park Lane riff-raff’. I can hear him now, having one of his arguments with Father. ‘Them and their far-flung Empire! Can’t fling it too far for me. He-he-he!’
There it is, Ladies and Gentlemen. Chapter Six (Part 2.2)
“Morocco seems to me a beastly dull country, no forests and literally no wild animals, and the people anywhere near a big town utterly debauched by the tourist racket and their poverty combined, which turn them into a race of beggars and curio-sellers.”
Durrell comes to mind here, and, perhaps, Paul Bowels, both of whom saw things in No. Africa Orwell (presumably) didn’t. One should not compare apples with oranges, however. (Nor figs with dates.)
“I suppose the Quintin Hogg who won the Oxford election was the little squirt who was a fag when I left school.”
Language dates again here.
The little squirt (Quintin Hogg) was most likely Baron Hailsham of St Marylebone. Later he was more often know as Lord Hailsham. He was indeed elected to the British Parliament in 1938. And later was a fag for Margaret Thatcher. Look him up on Wikipedia.
Thank you all for the valuable additions to the egg mantra.
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