15.6.40

It just occurred to me to wonder whether the fall of Paris means the end of the Albatross Library, as I suppose it does[1]. If so, I am £30 to the bad. It seems incredible that people still attach any importance to long-term contracts, stocks and shares, insurance policies etc. in such times as these. The sensible thing to do now would be to borrow money right and left and buy solid goods. A short while back E. made enquiries about the hire-purchase terms for sewing machines and found they had agreements stretching over two and a half years.

P.W.[2] related that Unity Mitford[3], besides having tried to shoot herself while in Germany, is going to have a baby. Whereupon a little man with a creased face, whose name I forget, exclaimed, “The Fuehrer wouldn’t do such a thing!”

[1] Orwell had signed the contract for publication of Coming Up For Air just three days before war broke out; the book remained unpublished by Albatross.

[2] Victor William (Peter) Watson (1908-1956), a rich young man who, after much travel, decided, about 1939, to devote his life to the arts, was co-founder with his friend Cyril Connolly of the magazine Horizon, which he financed and also provided all the materials for the art section. In 1948 he was one of the founders of the Institute of Contemporary Arts. He was always an admirer of Orwell’s writing. See Michael Shelden, Friends of Promise: Cyril Connolly and the World of “Horizon” (1989).

[3] The Hon. Unity Valkyrie Mitford (1914-1948), fourth daughter of the second Lord Redesdale, was, from 1934, when she first met Hitler, his admirer. In January 1940 she was brought to England from Germany suffering from bullet wounds in the head. Thereafter she lived in retirement. Peter Davison

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9 Responses to 15.6.40

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  3. “It seems incredible that people still attach any importance to long-term contracts, stocks and shares, insurance policies etc. in such times as these. The sensible thing to do now would be to borrow money right and left and buy solid goods.”

    Virtually dripping with sarcasm.

    Orwell’s self-recrimination over the £30 reminds me that it was a no doubt a hard-earned investment. It may very well have been Egg Profits! Now, in retrospect, the Full-O-Pep was a Waste-O-Money and so on.

    Strasbourg and Verdun are taken in the converging German advance on the Maginot defenses. On the Channel coast evacuations begin from Cherbourg. In the next three days 30,630 British and Canadian troops are evacuated from the continent without loss.

  4. itwasntme says:

    Orwell’s amazed that so many don’t realize what’s happening in front of their noses and continue with old paradigms. His agile mind has already leaped to the new, and can make the pragmatic decisions needed. A realist, if a pessimistic one.

  5. “A short while back E. made enquiries about the hire-purchase terms for sewing machines and found they had agreements stretching over two and a half years.”

    Here, not so well hidden between the lines, Orwell reveals his heart-breaking remorse concerning the £30: Why, oh, why didn’t I buy one for my beloved E. when I had the chance?

  6. Stephen says:

    JL3: isn’t GO ruing thirty quid of potential income foregone? That is, he had a contract with these French publishers that would have earned him the money were it not for the fact that the ‘end of the world as we know it’ has just happened over there. Hence his ruminations about misplaced faith in any form of legal agreement in these times. He’s right that borrowing and hoarding seem to be rational actions in times of economic crisis.

    Hire purchase by the way seems to have disappeared, replaced by the overdraft and then the credit card.

  7. Max says:

    I don’t think Albatross was a French publisher. Originally they were situated in Germany. Perhaps they’d moved to France to get out of Hitler’s way.

  8. Stephen~~
    Yes, the thirty quid represented that potential wherein Orwell could, perhaps, have purchased E. a dozen sewing machines. I just don’t believe that Orwell is actually blaming the legal contract rather than the onslaught of crazed hordes of psychopathic Nazis. The £30 was a wager (just 3 days before war broke out) against the onslaught of crazed hordes of psychopathic Nazis, which he lost. I think he is just venting with angry yet facetious, sarcasm-laced irony.

    Max~~
    Yes, Hamburg. Maybe they had a branch office in Paris. As you say, though, it is likely the publisher’s upper management fled there. Info is scarce except that Albatross ceased to exist when war started and some Albatross people later became Penguin people.

  9. Barry Larking says:

    Unity Mitford retreated to Inch Kenneth, an island off Mull, tiny exposed and treeless as I recall. After the war Orwell was himself to ‘retire’ briefly to the larger, mountainous island of Jura to the south. She went to be in exile, he to improve his tuberculosis living by the sea at Barnhill, owned by the Astor family. It demonstrates how wedded the English aristocracy and elite were to Scotland’s Highlands and Islands, a circumstance which so irritated Orwell at school, when the posher boys talked of their holidays there. In silly retaliation against this snobbery he termed that country’s people ‘the Scotch’, an anchronism even by the 1940s. Afterwards he recanted. Unity Mitford (“Hitler’s girlfriend”) went to her death unrepentent as far as i am aware.

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