Orwell Diaries 1938-1942


There is evidently trouble in Syria. Handout this morning to the effect that – most unfortunately and much against H.M. Government’s will – General de Gaulle is insisting that Syria is still under a French mandate and it is impossible yet to make a treaty, as in the case of Irak. General de Gaulle’s attitude is considered most deplorable, but as he is, after all, the accredited leader of the Free French and the whole legal position is very obscure (the matter should be decided upon by the League of Nations which unfortunately no longer exists) H.M. Government is unable, etc., etc. In other words the Syrians will get no treaty, the blame for this is placed on our puppet de Gaulle, and if possible we shall swipe Syria for ourselves. When I heard this hollow rubbish trotted out by Rushbrooke-Williams [1] this morning and we all had to listen and keep straight faces, there came into my head, I don’t quite know why, the lines from Hardy’s Dynasts about the crowning of Napoleon in Rome:

Do not the prelate’s accents falter thin,

His lips with inheld laughter grow deformed,

In blessing one whose aim is but to win

The golden seat that other bums have warmed? [2]

The Daily Worker reappeared today – very mild, but they are urging (a) a second front (b) all help to Russia in the way of arms etc., and (c) a demagogic programme of higher wages all round which would be utterly incompatible with (a) and (b).

[1] Laurence Frederic Rushbrook Williams (1890-1978; CBE, 1923; Orwell sometimes hyphenated his name, as here), had been Professor of Modern Indian History, Allahabad University, 1914-19, and Director of the Indian Central Bureau of Information, 1920-26. He was Director of the BBC’s Eastern Service from 1941 to November 1944. He then joined The Times (to 1955). His attitude to India was enlightened and is well expressed in his India (Oxford Pamphlets on World Affairs, 1940). He also wrote The State of Pakistan, 1962, and The East Pakistan Tragedy, 1972.

[2] In The Dynasts, Napoleon places the crown on his own head in Milan Cathedral, not in Rome (Complete Edition, 1910, 35; Part I, Act I, Scene 6). Orwell discussed The Dynasts in Tribune, 18 September 1942 (CW, XIV< pp. 42-5).