Almost every day in the neighbourhood of Upper Regent Street one can see a tiny, elderly, very yellow Japanese, with a face like a suffering monkey’s, walking slowly along with an enormous policeman walking beside him. On some days they are holding a solemn conversation. I suppose he is one of the Embassy staff. But whether the policeman is there to prevent him from committing acts of sabotage, or to protect him from the infuriated mob, there is no knowing.

The Molotov rumour seems to have faded out. Warburg, who accepted the Molotov story without question, has now forgotten it and is full of the inner story of why Garvin [1] was sacked from the Observer. It was because he refused to attack Churchill. The Astors are determined to get rid of Churchill because he is pro-Russian and the transformation of the Observer is part of this manoeuvre. The Observer is to lead the attack on Churchill and at the same time canalise the gifted young journalists who are liable to give the war a revolutionary meaning, making them use their energies on futilities until they can be dispense with. All inherently probable. ON the other hand I don’t believe that David Astor, [2] who acts as the decoy elephant, is consciously taking part in any such thing. * It is amusing to see not only the Beaverbrook press, which is now plus royaliste que le roi so far as Russia is concerned, but the T.U. [3] Weekly Labour’s Northern Voice, suddenly discovering Garvin as a well-known anti-Fascist who has been sacked for his radical opinions. One thing that strikes me about nearly everyone nowadays is the shortness of their memories. Desmond Hawkins [4] told me a little while back that he recently bought some fried fish wrapped up in a sheet of newspaper dating from 1940. On one side was an article proving that the Red Army was no good, and on the other a write-up of that gallant sailor and well-known Anglophile, Admiral Darlan. [5]

Pasted into the Diary is ‘That Monstrous Man’, a poem by Nicholas Moore [6] (for which see CW, XIII, p.341). This is followed by Orwell’s comment:

Cf. Alexander Comfort’s letter in the last Horizon. [7]

[1]J. L. Garvin, right-wing journalist, was the editor of The Observer, 1908 to 28 February 1942. At the beginning of the war, he disagreed with Viscount Astor, the proprietor of the paper, who questioned the advisability of Churchill’s being Prime Minister and Minister of Defence at the same time.

[2] The Honourable David Astor (1912-2001), served in the Royal Marines, 1940-45 (Croix de Guerre, 1944) and was foreign editor, 1946-48, editor, 1948-75, and Director, 1976-81 of the Observer. He made the Observer a paper of ideas so that it overtook the circulation of the Sunday Times in 1946. He believed in clear English prose and would circulate Orwell’s ‘Politics and the English Language’ (CW, XVII, pp. 421-32) to new members of staff as a guide to clear thinking and precise writing. Astor and Orwell became good friends and he told the editor that whenever he needed cheering up he would arrange to meet Orwell in a pub in order to enjoy his sense of humour. Astor arranged for Orwell to be buried, as Orwell wished, according to the rites of the Church of England. See Remembering Orwell, pp. 218-20.

[3] Trades Union.

[4] Desmond Hawkins (1908-1999; OBE, 1963), novelist, literary critic and broadcaster. He did much free-lance work for the BBC during the war. He wrote the London Letter for Partisan Review before Orwell and recommended that Orwell succeed him.

[5] Admiral Francois Darlan, (1881-1942), Commander –in-Chief of the French Navy, and Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister in the Vichy Government from February 1941 to April 1942. When the Allies invaded Morocco and Tunisia (then French territories) in November 1942, a deal, much criticised in Britain and America, was negotiated with him, in order to reduce casualties in completing the occupation of both countries, whereby he became high commissioner and commander-in-chief of naval forces. He was assassinated on 24 December 1942, by Bonnier da la Chapelle. His twenty-year-old assassin was tried by court-martial and executed two days later. As Churchill wrote, this ‘relieved the Allies of their embarrassment in working with him’ (The Second World War, IV, pp. 577-79). Churchill accords Darlan a critical but generous obituary: ‘Few men have paid more heavily for errors of judgment and failure of character than Admiral Darlan…His life’s work had been to recreate the French Navy, and he had raised it to a position it had never held since the days of the French kings…Let him rest in peace, and let us all be thankful we have never had to face the trials under which he broke’ (IV, pp. 579-80).

[6] Nicholas Moore (1918-1986) was editor of Spleen, 1938-40 (the title also of a book of his verse, 1973), and assistant to Tambimuttu on Poetry (London) in the 1940s. He produced nine volumes of poetry before 1949; thereafter, Spleen and three posthumously published collections. For his letter to Partisan Review about Orwell’s ‘London Letter’ of 15 April 1941 (CW, XII, pp. 470-9).

[7] Alexander Comfort, (1920-2000) poet, novelist and medical biologist. His The Joy of Sex (1972) sold over ten million copies. Horizon printed (May 1942, pp. 358-62) his long letter on the alleged absence of war poetry and the reasons for it arguing that three campaigns had been waged against poets. In this contribution to ‘Pacifism and War: A Controversy’ (see CW, XIII, pp. 396-9), Orwell quotes several lines from Comfort’s letter to Horizon.


* Mentioned this to Tom Harrison, who has better opportunities of judging than I have. He considers it has a base in reality. He says the Astors, especially Lady A, are exceedingly intelligent in their way and realise that all they consider worth having will be lost if we do not make a compromise peace . They are, or course, anti-Russian, and therefore necessarily anti-Churchill. At one time they were actually scheming to make Trenchard Prime Minister. The man who would be ideal for their purpose would be Lloyd George, “if he could walk”. I agree here, but was somewhat surprised to find Harrison saying it – would have rather expected him to be pro-Lloyd George. He’s also said he thought it quite possible that Beaverbrook is financing the Communist Party. [Orwell’s footnote added to typed version.] 

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2 Responses to 30.5.42

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