The Sunday Express has also gone cold on the second front. The official line now appears to be that our air raids are a second front. Obviously there has been some kind of government handout to the papers, telling them to pipe down on this subject. [If the government merely wishes to stop them spreading misleading rumours, the puzzle is why they weren’t silenced earlier.] It is just possible that the invasion has now been definitely decided on and the papers have been told to go anti-second front in order to throw the enemy off the scent. In this labyrinth of lies in which we are living the one explanation one never believes is the obvious one. [Cf. David Astor’s story about the two German Jews meeting in the train:

First Jew. Where are you going to?

Second Jew. Berlin.

First Jew. Liar! You just say that to deceive me. You know that if you say you are going to Berlin I shall think you are going to Leipzig, and all the time, you dirty crook, you really are going to Berlin!’]

Last Tuesday [2 June 1942] spent a long evening with Cripps (who had expressed a desire to meet some literary people) together with Empson, Jack Common, David Owen, Norman Cameron, Guy Burgess [1] and another man (an official) whose name I didn’t get. About 2 ½ hours of it, with nothing to drink. The usual inconclusive discussion. Cripps, however, very human and willing to listen. The person who stood up to him most successfully was Jack Common. Cripps said several things that amazed and slightly horrified me. One was that many people whose opinion was worth considering believed that the war would be over by October – ie. that Germany would be flat out by that time. When I said that I should look on that as a disaster pure and simple (because if the war were won as easily as that there would have been no real upheaval here and the American millionaires would still be in situ) he appeared not to understand. He said that once the war was won the surviving great powers would in any case have to administer the world as a unit, and seemed not to feel that it made much difference whether the great powers were capitalist or socialist.* [Both David Owen and the man whose name I don’t know supported him.] I saw that I was up against the official mind, which sees everything as a problem in administration and does not grasp that at a certain point, ie. when certain economic interest are menaced, public spirit ceases to function. [The basic assumption of such people is that everyone wants the world to function properly and will do his best to keep the wheels running. They don’t realise that most of those who have the power don’t care a damn about the world as a whole and are only intent on feathering their own nests.] I can’t help feeling a strong impression that Cripps has already been got at. Not with money or anything of that kind of course, nor even by flattery and the sense of power, which in all probability he genuinely doesn’t care about: but simply by responsibility, which automatically makes a man timid. Besides, as soon as you are in power your perspectives are foreshortened. Perhaps a bird’s eye view is as distorted as a worm’s eye view.

[Wintringham denies being “Thomas Rainboro’ “, I think perhaps with truth. If not Wintringham, it might be Lord Winster (Commander Fletcher) [2] ]

*Very interesting but perhaps rather hard on Cripps to report an impression like this from a private interview [Orwell’s handwritten footnote on typescript].

[1] William Empson (1906-83; Kt., 1979), poet, critic, and, before the war, Professor of English, Tokyo and Peking. Like Orwell, he worked for the BBC’s Eastern Service but broadcast to China. He was Professor of English Literature, Sheffield University, 1953-71. He had already achieved scholarly recognition with Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930), and Some Versions of Pastoral (1935); among later writings was The Structure of Complex Words (1951). His obituary in The Times described him as ‘the most famously over-sophisticated man of his time who revolutionised our ways of reading a poem’.

Jack Common (1903-68), a worker from Tyneside employed by The Adelphi, first as a circulation pusher from June 1930, then as assistant editor, from 1932. He and Orwell became friends and he stayed in the Orwell’s cottage at Wallington when they were in Marrakech. He achieved success with The Freedom of the Streets, which Orwell reviews on 16 June 1938 (CW, X, pp. 162-3). See also Orwell Remembered, pp. 139-43.

Arthur David Kemp Owen (1904-70) personal assistant to Sir Stafford Cripps, 19 February to 21 November 1942.

Norman Cameron (1905-53) was a friend and disciple of Robert Graves, with whom he and Alan Hodge edited Work in Hand (1942). His The Winter House and Other Poems was published in 1935. He also translated from French and German.

Guy Burgess (1911-63), educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, was a good talker and a man of considerable gifts, which to used to proselytise the cause of Communism. He worked for the British security services and the BBC (as Home Service talks producer) and then joined the Foreign Office. His pro-Soviet activities were not suspected until, in May 1951, he suddenly left with Donald Maclean for Moscow remaining there until his death.

[2] Lord Winster (Commander R. T. H. Fletcher, 1885-1961), Liberal M.P., 1923-24; of the Admiralty, May 1940-December 1941. The pseudonym ‘Rainsborough’ was then being used by Frank Owen. 

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1 Response to 7.6.42

  1. andrew says:

    a second front.. well.. the americans are creeping in (mentioned my grandfathers before)..
    late next year we’ll be in italy, but you’re going to have to wait 2 more years before we’re moving on germany serious-like. by then, the russians won’t really need us anymore.

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