“Everyone keeps coming at me, wanting me to lecture, to write commissioned booklets, to join this and that, etc. - you don’t know how I pine to be free of it all and have time to think again.”
- George Orwell, writing to his friend while processing the success of Animal Farm
Class Criticism at its Best
George Orwell described his own upbringing as "lower-upper-middle class."
Knowing this offers some obvious insight into the works he created throughout his lifetime - often discussing poverty, living conditions of the poor, and class division. He bounced between several menial jobs, especially in his younger years as a writer.
George Orwell’s First Creative Dollar
The Amount: 40 Pounds (50.53 US Dollars), worth $991.21 in today’s money
The Project: Down and Out in Paris and London (1933)
The Back Story
Most of us are introduced to George Orwell as a novelist via our English teachers, but he was best known in his day as an essayist, journalist, columnist, and reviewer. Even though he first published the above book in 1933, it wasn’t until 1945 that he published the renowned classic, "Animal Farm."
(It’s important to note the gap of 12 years between his first book and his first “clearly successful book.” It should be obvious that a man like Orwell wrote for reasons other than money or success, especially since he had the discipline to keep up laborious low paid projects over such a long period.)
Also, he probably made money here and there for his smaller writing projects, but this was the first book I could find with an actual advance.
He went through several rejections starting in 1930 before the book Down and Out in Paris and London was published three years later.
Like many authors, he did not wish to publish under his own name (you can find related posts about pseudonyms here and here). Other names he considered included "X," "P.S. Burton," "Kenneth Miles," and "H. Lewis Allways."
I think he chose well. George Orwell has a ring to it.
1984, Supermodels, and Too Much Time on the Tube
“The chief danger to freedom of thought and speech...is not the direct interference of...any official body. If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of persecution but because they are frightened of public opinion. In this country, intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face.”
- Preface to the book Animal Farm
In preparation for writing this, I tracked down Animal Farm as a cartoon from 1954 and settled in for a typical quarantine-style day with our 2 year old. Lots of bizarre historical videos on Youtube, lots of cheese sticks, and lots of Little Critter books.
This cartoon was far darker than most we encounter (and that old Disney stuff is pretty violent). The “very bad” drunk farmer and the pigs that acted like arrogant “meanies” caused my husband to walk in and question if the cartoon was appropriate for a toddler.
Further on in our Youtube voyage (and looking for something a little lighter), we discovered Lily Aldridge is really into history. She recommends the George Orwell book “Nineteen Eighty Four” in this video! Just when you thought she couldn’t get any cooler. (I’ve always liked Kings of Leon, but now I’m starting to like Lily more than her husband Caleb Followill - lead singer of the band.)
Anyhow, what Lily may not know is George wrote “Nineteen Eighty Four” in 1946 while he was very ill. He wrote it while living in a farmhouse called Barnhill on the isle of Jura in the Inner Hebrides. (I had to Google this to find out it’s a long way of describing a very remote place in Scotland, denoting that George sought out extreme solitude in order to bring this gem to light).
What do you think? Why has George Orwell had such a long lasting impact on literature and reached such a wide variety of people (rich supermodel’s included)?
Quotes and facts from the book Developing Multiple Talents by Douglas Eby.
DISCLAIMER: AS ALWAYS, IF YOU NEED PSYCHOLOGICAL OR FINANCIAL ADVICE PLEASE SEEK A PROFESSIONAL FOR YOUR SPECIFIC SITUATION.