Archive of retained correspondence from the files of his first publisher, Victor Gollancz, relating to the publication of Animal Farm.19 Mar 1944-15 Feb 1950 Stock Code: 131760
The original record of one of the most infamous publishing rejections of the 20th centuryVictor Gollancz's archived correspondence relating to their infamous decision to reject George Orwell's Animal Farm due to its implicit criticism of Stalin and the Soviet Union. Orwell had been with the left-wing publisher Victor Gollancz since his first work, Down and Out in Paris and London (1933). Gollancz published a further six Orwell titles over the next decade. Orwell wrote Animal Farm, his anti-Stalinist political fable, in an intense burst from November 1943 to February 1944. He anticipated that Gollancz would be unwilling to publish the novel due to its content and the pro-Soviet political environment of the Second World War, but was contractually obliged to offer Gollancz his next two novels.
Orwell's original typed letter signed to Gollancz, dated 19 March 1944, announces that he has completed Animal Farm: "It is a little fairy story, about 30,000 words, with a political meaning. But I must tell you that it is I think completely unacceptable politically from your point of view (it is anti-Stalin)". He asks him if he wants to see it, in which case he will send it, but otherwise to let him know quickly so that he can try elsewhere. Gollancz's carbon reply (carbons were preserved from outgoing correspondence but naturally the originals were sent), dated 23 March 1944, says that he would like to view the manuscript, and takes issue with the notion that he is toeing the Stalinist line, having opposed Soviet foreign policy before the war.
Orwell's next letter, here preserved in a typed copy dated 25 March 1944, reiterates that he does not feel Gollancz will publish it, but will send him the manuscript. He says he is criticizing Stalin from the left rather than from the right, "but in my experience this gets one into even worse trouble". Minor other correspondence follows between Gollancz and Orwell's literary agent Leonard Moore as the manuscript is sent. Upon reading the manuscript, Gollancz replies to Orwell, preserved in carbon dated 4 April 1944, "you were right and I was wrong. I am so sorry. I have returned the manuscript to Moore". In an additional carbon response to Moore sent the same day, Gollancz writes that "I am highly critical of many aspects of internal and external Soviet policy: but I could not possibly publish (as Blair anticipated) a general attack of this nature".
An autograph letter signed from the publisher Jonathan Cape to Gollancz, dated 26 May 1944, follows, saying that they have also been offered the manuscript, are inclined to publish it, and are checking on the legality of them doing so, due to Orwell's contract with Gollancz. However, Jonathan Cape did turn it down, as did Nicholson & Watson and Faber & Faber, on the same grounds, that the political climate was not right for it. By mid-July 1944, Orwell was on the verge of self-publishing the book, but the novel was at last taken up by Secker and Warburg, with terms agreed by October 1944, and was finally published in August 1945, by which point the war was over and the British public were rapidly turning against Stalin and the Soviet Union.
However, Orwell's relationship with Gollancz had been permanently damaged by his decision. To Orwell's annoyance Gollancz had refused to recognise the work as a novel on the grounds that it was too short a carbon letter from Gollancz to Moore is here preserved, dated 1 June 1944, asserting this and consequently they did not count it as a novel offer under the contract, which had required Orwell to offer Gollancz his next two novels. Fenwick records a letter from Orwell to Leonard Moore showing Orwell's irritation with Gollancz: "I frankly would prefer not to give or offer him any more books if we can get out of it. I have no quarrel with him personally, he has treated me generously and published my work when no one else would, but it is obviously unsatisfactory to be tied to a publisher who accepts or refuses books partly on political grounds" (cited in Fenwick, p. 96). Orwell used the rejection of Animal Farm to negotiate a termination of his contract with Gollancz, and he did not publish any future works with the publishing house; his next novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, was also published by Secker & Warburg.
Gollancz's rejection of Animal Farm is often cited as one of the greatest mistakes made by a modern publishing house. Yet Gollancz remained adamant that his decision was the right one. In 1950 Frederick Warburg contributed an obituary of Orwell to The Bookseller, in which he claimed to be Orwell's undisputed publisher. An incensed Gollancz drafted and signed a three-page letter to the editor, dated 15 February 1950, preserved here, though he did not send it. Gollancz claims that he rejected Animal Farm solely due to the necessities of war. He "read it with the greatest delight and agreed with every word of it but to publish so savage an attack on Russia at a time when we were fighting for our existence side by side with her could not be justified As to my decision itself, there are, of course perfectly honourable arguments against it. But I believe myself to have been right".
The archive of correspondence is a significant cache of source material for one of the great errors of British publishing, and marks an important stage in Orwell's literary career, the moment in which Orwell felt forced to abandon his publisher of over a decade. The archive of Victor Gollancz was sold by the firm's parent company in recent years, from whom the correspondence was directly acquired.
Full list of contents:
1. Typed letter signed from Orwell to Gollancz, 19 March 1944, saying that he has completed Animal Farm: "It is a little fairy story, about 30,000 words, with a political meaning. But I must tell you that it is I think completely unacceptable politically from your point of view (it is anti-Stalin)". He asks him if he wants to see it, in which case he will send it, but otherwise to let him know quickly so that he can try elsewhere.
2. Carbon response from Gollancz, 23 March 1944, saying he wants to see the manuscript, and taking issue with Orwell's letter he reiterates his hostility to Soviet foreign policy until they entered the war, and claims to be an anti-Stalinist.
3. Typed copy of extract of letter from Orwell, 25 March 1944. He is sending the manuscript, but asks him to review it quickly, as he feels he will not publish it. He is criticizing Stalin from the left rather than from the right, "but in my experience this gets one into even worse trouble".
4. Carbon response from Gollancz, 28 March 1944, thanking him for agreeing to send the manuscript, and noting that he is "regarded by the Communists here as a far worse enemy than you are".
5. Typed letter signed from Christy and Moore, 29 March 1944, enclosing the manuscript and requesting prompt attention.
6. Carbon response to Moore, 3 April 1944, acknowledging receipt of Animal Farm.
7. Carbon from Gollancz to Orwell, 4 April 1944: "you were right and I was wrong. I am so sorry. I have returned the manuscript to Moore".
8. Carbon from Gollancz to Moore, 4 April 1944, returning the manuscript and noting "I am highly critical of many aspects of internal and external Soviet policy: but I could not possibly publish (as Blair anticipated) a general attack of this nature".
9. Autograph letter signed from Jonathan Cape, 26 May 1944, saying that he has received the manuscript of Animal Farm and would like to publish, and checking whether that is in accordance with Orwell and Gollancz's contracts.
10. A typed copy of the above.
11. Carbon (and typed copy) from Gollancz to Moore, 1 June 1944 reminding him that Gollancz had a contract to publish three novels by Orwell, only one of which, Coming Up For Air, had been delivered; Gollancz checks that rejecting Animal Farm has not affected this.
12. Typed letter signed from Gollancz to the editor of the bookseller, 15 February 1950 (letter has been crossed out with "not sent" written on it). Gollancz writes in response to an obituary of Orwell by F. W. Warburg (also included), in which Warburg claimed he was Orwell's undisputed publisher as he had published Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Gollancz recounts how he had rejected Animal Farm due to the war, and then agreed to give up his rights to Orwell's future novels at his request, though "with the utmost regret".
12 items: 3 typed letters signed, 6 carbon copies, 1 autograph letter signed, 2 typed copies.
In very good condition.
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