No real news for some days, except the British government’s semi-surrender to Japan, i.e. the agreement to stop sending war supplies along the Burma road for a stated period. This however is not so definite that it could not be revoked by a subsequent government. F.[1] thinks it is the British government’s last effort (i.e. the last effort of those with investments in Hong Kong, etc.) to appease Japan, after which they will be driven into definitely supporting China. It may be so. But what a way to do things – never to perform a decent action until you are kicked into it and the rest of the world has ceased to believe that your motives can possibly be honest.

W.[2] says that the London “left” intelligentsia are now completely defeatist, look on the situation as hopeless and all but wish for surrender. How easy it ought to have been to foresee, under their Popular Front bawling, that they would collapse when the real show began.

[1] Unidentified; possibly Tosco Fyvel (1907-1985). He was Jewish; his parents had emigrated from Vienna to what was then Palestine, where he was associated with the Zionist movement and had worked with Golda Meir. Orwell and he met in January 1940, with Fredric Warburg and others. The outcome of a series of further meetings was Searchlight Books, of which The Lion and the Unicorn (1941) was the first. See also T. R. Fyvel, George Orwell: A Personal Memoir (1982), 91-102.

[2] Unidentified; possibly Fredric Warburg. Peter Davison

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19 Responses to 16.7.40

  1. Pingback: Airminded · Post-blogging 1940

  2. Barry Larking says:

    This is a clear example of Orwell’s forgetting his own former position on the forthcoming war and turning on others who stuck with the views he now pours contempt upon. It was an unfortunate if not shameful side to him which admirers – of which I am one – should consider. He does try to explain himself in an essay “My Country Right or Left”. Personally I perfer this weaving between stances to Foster’s often repeated and utterly self-centred tosh: “If I had to choose between my country or my friend I hooe I would chose my friend”, an outlook cushioned from reality by a life spent in Senior Common Rooms and libraries produced and defended by the efforts of others less priviledged.

  3. The mysterious “W.” reports that the elitists are hysterical, that there is an epidemic of the vapors. They’ve realised, of course, that–to the collective–they aren’t even worth enslaving.

  4. Max says:

    Orwell never supported the Popular Front. Quite the reverse. You’ll have to find another reason for knocking him. If he did cease to be a pacifist, so what? Churchill changed parties; von Stauffenberg fought for then turned against Hitler; St Paul changed religions. The road to Damascus is thronged with good folk ready to abandon bad old ideas.

  5. Barry Larking says:

    If “you’ll have to find another reason for knocking him” is aimed at me, I refute both the implication – of unfair negative comment – and the grounds. Any one who reads Orwell in his entirety will have been made aware of his tendency to distance himself from previously held views. This occurs on different levels of his life. It is not the changing of mind in this instance I note (which I acknowledged “Personally …”) but his often dismissive tone directed towards those who did not. (cf. Orwell’s notes about John Middleton Murray, an early supporter of his work and a pacifist). Reference to the Popular Front (a Communist vehicle) is irrelevent; no serious reader could be unaware of Orwell’s dislike of it. That to von Stauffenberg and St Paul in this context are for you to explain, if you can, not I. Orwell was a normal human being with faults and virtues. But admirers forget at some risk to objectivity that Eric Blair left footprints leading to George Orwell.

  6. Max says:

    If changing your mind and turning on those who have not is ‘unfortunate if not shameful’ in Orwell it follows that VS’s and SP’s changing minds and turning on those who cling to old ideas is also ‘unfortunate and shameful’ – or is my logic flawed? At least Orwell confined himself to pouring mild scorn on those who did not follow him; he did not attempt to blow them up or send them to eternal damnation. Conclusion: All saints leave footprints en route to canonization and even popes have murky pasts.

  7. Barry Larking says:

    Your logic may be or may be not flawed. This is not logic, but moral judgement. It may be perfectly logical to kil one’s friend of long standing; hardly a moral action to pretend he or she was never a friend in the first place. Trying to understand his contradictions (even acknowledge they exist) makes Orwell more interesting, not less.

  8. Max says:

    Sorry, I must have missed something. Who are these old ‘friends’ Orwell denied ever knowing or being his friends?

  9. Saul of Tarsus, who was also called Paul (and whom some call Saint Paul) did not “turn” on anyone; quite the opposite.

  10. Max says:

    So Paul never condemned unbelievers. That’s good to know.

  11. Unbelievers condemn themselves.

  12. Max says:

    Poor old Orwell. A man condemned.

  13. Dateline: Friday, the 19th.
    In a speech to the Reichstag Hitler issues what he describes as “a final appeal to common sense,” urging that Britain make peace.

    General Brooke is appointed to be Commander in Chief, Home Forces replacing General Ironside.

    President Roosevelt signs the “Two-Ocean Navy Expansion Act.” This orders construction of 1,325,000 tons of warships and 15,000 naval planes. Including the existing ships, the fleet will comprise 35 battleships, 20 carriers and 88 cruisers.

  14. jhameac says:

    RE: a two ocean navy

    “Nevertheless, a vague feeling of contempt for the past, supposed to be obsolete, combines with natural indolence to blind men even to those permanent strategic lessons which lie close to the surface of naval history.”
    – A. T. Mahon

    Can’t be thankful enough that Hay and TR read this man.

  15. Nevertheless [one of my favorite words], if one actually were to consider the past as obsolete, wouldn’t that make conversation impossible? And deny the Laws of Physics?

    Nevertheless, in his exciting The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783
    , Alfred Thayer Mahan goes on to ask, “For instance, how many look upon the battle of Trafalgar, the crown of Nelson’s glory and the seal of his genius, as other than an isolated event of exceptional grandeur? How many ask themselves the strategic question, ‘How did the ships come to be just there?’ How many realize it to be the final act in a great strategic drama, extending over a year or more, in which two of the greatest leaders that ever lived, Napoleon and Nelson, were pitted against each other?”

  16. jhameac says:

    RE: Nevertheless [one of my favorite words]

    This from an admirer of Hyphenless Words; first off, “Hyphen-less” requires a hyphen. This is unfair, and just a little sad, and I will therefore, henceforth, ignore this rule.

    Secondly, many of the Hyphenless Words seem to adhere to directions and have a jaunty nautical feel to them – like “abaft”, “adrift”, or maybe “ahead”. Note the largish class of “here” words:


    (Note: only “Heretofore” really rates in my book; as it combines more than two words.)

    And the opposite “there” words:


    Why is there no “theretofore”?

    There is “Beforehand” but no “Afterhand”, and the notorious “Underhand” does not have its opposite in “Upperhand”. It’s a shame. Quite unexpectedly, “Uppermost” does have its opposite in “Lowermost”.

    ”Outstanding” and “Furthermore” also seem to be directional in origin. As in, “Where is that exceptional husband of mine?” “Outstanding in the rain!” of course. And as in, “Shall we find what we are looking for?” “If we carry ourselves furthermore down the road” we must!

    Lastly, my real favorites; the three-worders. These are so middle-English they give me the scuttles:


    I would hope this short write-up will convince you all to use these hitherto uncelebrated words more in you “everyday” vocabulary.

  17. George~~
    Why did you put “left” in quotes?

  18. Pingback: 25.10.40 « THE ORWELL PRIZE

  19. Pingback: George Orwell on the Jews Under the Blitz

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