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George Orwell, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters. 24. Letter to Dorothy Plowman

George Orwell

George Orwell



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George Orwell, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters

24. Letter to Dorothy Plowman

111 Langford Court
Abbey Road
London NWS 20
June 1941

Dear Dorothy,14

I can’t say much about Max’s15 death. You know how it is, the seeming uselessness of trying to offer any consolation when somebody is dead. My chief sorrow is that he should have died while this beastly war is still going on. I had not seen him for nearly two years, I deeply disagreed with him over the issue of pacifism, but though I am sorry about that you will perhaps understand when I say that I feel that at bottom it didn’t matter. I always felt that with Max the most fundamental disagreement didn’t alter one’s personal relationship in any way, not only because he was incapable of any pettiness but also because one never seems able to feel any resentment against an opinion which is sincerely held. I felt that though Max and I held different opinions on nearly all specific subjects, there was a sense in which I could agree with his vision of life. I was very fond of him, and he was always very good to me. If I remember rightly, he was the first English editor to print any writing of mine, twelve years ago or more.

14. Dorothy Plowman (1887-1967), widow of Max Plowman.

15. Max Plowman (1883-1941), journalist and author; worked on the Adelphi 1929-41; Warden of the Adelphi Centre 1938-41; ardent supporter of Peace Pledge Union from its foundation in 1934, and its General Secretary 1937-8. Publications include Introduction to the Study of Blake, A Subaltern on the Somme and The Faith called Pacifism. He encouraged Orwell in his early writing and was one of the first to publish him. Plowman and his wife, Dorothy, always remained friends of Orwell’s.

There is still the £300 which I borrowed through you from my anonymous benefactor.16 I hope this doesn’t embarrass you personally in any way. I can’t possibly repay it at this moment, though I hope you understand that I haven’t abandoned the intention of doing so. It is hard to make much more than a living nowadays. One can’t write books with this nightmare going on, and though I can get plenty of journalistic and broadcasting work, it is rather a hand-to-mouth existence. We have been in London almost from the outbreak of the war. We have kept on our cottage, but we let it furnished and only manage to go down there very occasionally. For more than a year Eileen was working in the Censorship Department, but I have induced her to drop it for a while, as it was upsetting her health. She is going to have a good rest and then perhaps get some less futile and exasperating work to do. I can’t join the army because I am medically graded as class D, but I am in the Home Guard (a sergeant!). I haven’t heard from Richard Rees17 for some time, but last time I heard from him he was a gunner on a coal boat.

16. L. H. Myers, the novelist. An admirer of Orwell’s work, he first met Orwell with Max and Dorothy Plowman in the Sanatorium at Aylesford in the summer of 1938. Realizing that Orwell needed to recuperate in a warm climate he lent him, anonymously, £300 through Dorothy Plowman. Orwell always regarded this as a loan and as late as 1946 was still unaware of the source of the money. See IV, 27.

17. Sir Richard Rees, Bt (1900- ), painter, author and critic, whose writings include George Orwell: Fugitive from the Camp of Victory, Simone Weil and A Theory of my Time. From 1930-36 he edited the Adelphi and met Orwell as a young contributor. They remained close friends until Orwell’s death. Rees was constant in his devotion, help and encouragement throughout the years.

Eileen sends her best love. Please remember me also to Piers18 and everyone. I gather from your card that Piers is now in England. I hope you succeed in keeping him out of danger. This is a rotten time to be alive, but I think anyone of Pier’s age has a chance of seeing something better.

18. The Plowmans’ son.

Eric Blair


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