December 7, 2014

IT'S NOT LIKE HE EVER CLAIMED HE ATTENDED A FRATERNITY PARTY:

George Orwell's jail time confirmed by unseen court records (Alison Flood, 4 December 2014, The Guardian)

The balance between fact and fiction in George Orwell's investigations of poverty has been questioned ever since an anonymous reviewer of his 1933 memoir, Down and Out in Paris and London, wondered "if the author was really down and out". But now an academic has dug up court records which put one of Orwell's experiments on firmer ground: the author's arrest for being "drunk and incapable" in the East End of London while posing as a fish porter named Edward Burton.

Orwell's unpublished 1932 essay Clink describes a colourful 48 hours in custody in December 1931 after drinking "four or five pints" and most of a bottle of whisky. His intention was to be arrested, "in order to get a taste of prison and to bring himself closer to the tramps and small-time villains with whom he mingled", according to biographer Gordon Bowker.

"When the charge sheet was filled up I told the story I always tell, viz that my name was Edward Burton, and my parents kept a cake-shop in Blythburgh, where I had been employed as a clerk in a draper's shop; that I had had the sack for drunkenness, and my parents, finally getting sick of my drunken habits, had turned me adrift," the author of Animal Farm wrote in a posthumously published essay. "I added that I had been working as an outside porter at Billingsgate, and having unexpectedly 'knocked up' six shillings on Saturday had gone on the razzle."

Now Dr Luke Seaber of University College London has discovered court records in the London Metropolitan archives which he claims, in a paper published in Notes and Queries, offer "unambiguous external confirmation that Orwell did indeed carry out, more or less as described, one of his 'down-and-out' experiments".

Posted by at December 7, 2014 8:51 AM
  

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