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ORWELL, George.

Archive of retained correspondence from the files of his first publisher, Victor Gollancz, relating to the publication of Down and Out in Paris and London.

3 May 1932 - 25 Sep 1972 Stock Code: 131747
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Orwell's first book takes form

Victor Gollancz's archived correspondence relating to their publication of George Orwell's first book, Down and Out in Paris and London, including the original contract for the book. Down and Out was Orwell's memoir of his life among the poor and destitute in and around the two cities, and remains among his best-known non-fiction works.

After abandoning his post in Burma to become a writer, Orwell moved to London at the end of 1927, aged 24, and began various tramping expeditions to gather material. In the spring of 1928 he moved to Paris, where he worked at low level jobs. Orwell's first version of the book, only including the Paris material, was offered to the publisher Jonathan Cape in 1931, who rejected it. Orwell expanded the book to include the London material (a portion of which, detailing Orwell's time in a workhouse, had been published in 1931 under the title The Spike in the periodical Adelphi) and offered it to the publisher Faber & Faber in early 1932, who also turned it down. Orwell gave up, giving the manuscript to his friend and sometime lover Mabel Fierz and asking her to throw it away. Instead, she sent it to her husband's friend, the literary agent Leonard Moore. Moore recognized the book as appropriate for the left-wing publishing house Victor Gollancz. With Orwell's permission, Moore approached Gollancz. This letter is preserved here, and opens the collection.

Moore writes to Gollancz (3 May 1932) that the book is comparable to the similar best-seller The Odyssey of an Out-of-Work (by Terence Horsley, published 1931), a work which Moore feels the book may rival in popularity. Gollancz commissioned two reader's reports on the merits of the book, both here preserved. The first, by the Observer fiction editor Gerald Gould, states that Orwell's account is an "extraordinarily forceful and socially important document, and I think it most certainly ought to be published", although he writes too that it is a book fraught with libel concerns and that Gollancz should consult his solicitor. At this stage the book was entitled Days in London and Paris, and Gould writes that the title has to be changed. The second reader's report, of unclear authorship but probably by Gollancz's lawyer Harold Rubinstein, is mostly a summary of the book, but has "rej" typed at the top for rejection.

Gollancz did decide to go forward with the book. However, following on from Gould's recommendation, he was very concerned with libel, and understandably so, as the firm of Gollancz would see libel challenges for other books which they published in the thirties. Gollancz wrote to his lawyer Harold Rubinstein on 17 March 1932 "this is an extraordinary and important book. It is also full of possibilities of libel, running to thousands of pounds". Rubinstein made a lengthy list of necessary amendments, which, although not changing the structure or tone of the book, do amount to quite substantial textual changes. Gollancz sent the amendments to Orwell, and Orwell approved all with little disagreement (8 July 1932), unlike his later books where he was much more resistant to any changes. Meanwhile, they were still looking for a title to replace Days in London and Paris, and Orwell proposed the title "The Lady Poverty" or "Lady Poverty", which was later discarded.

Rubinstein wrote to Gollancz that the manuscript is now fine other than a couple of other minor changes. Gollancz made an offer for the novel (22nd July 1932) but insists that he does not like the proposed title, and is trying to think of something better. Orwell had requested a pseudonym (his real name of course being Eric Blair), which Gollancz agrees to without concern. On behalf of Orwell, Moore asks for better terms, which Gollancz accepted (the acceptance here not present). The parties signed the contract for the novel, a contract here preserved, still entitling the book Days in London and Paris, and detailing the terms for domestic and colonial sales and future cheaper editions. Orwell has initialled each of the three pages "E. A. B.". However, Gollancz was still concerned about libel, and wrote to Rubinstein again asking for a further opinion. Rubinstein felt that it was now safe, other than recommending a minor change, which Orwell did this time reject.

The archive continues following the publication of the book. It includes an exchange with the editor of the Times, asking if George Orwell is Eric Blair, which Gollancz confirms "in the strictest possible confidence". There follows a most intemperate exchange between Gollancz and an incensed Jewish man who felt the book was anti-Semitic. Gollancz responded with typical aggression, with the respondent then threatening to publish the correspondence in a newspaper, albeit eventually backing down. In December 1938, Moore wrote to Gollancz requesting the rights of the novel to revert to Orwell if they are not going to print a new edition, to which he agrees. The archive ends with correspondence about the original manuscript. In December 1965 Orwell's widow Sonia Orwell requested Gollancz's copy of the original manuscript so that the expurgated parts could be reinstated for the new Penguin edition. Penguin also wrote to Gollancz in 1972 asking the same, which closes the archive. Gollancz provided copies of the correspondence, but regretfully replies that they have lost the manuscript and original proofs. The manuscript has still never been found, and is presumed lost to history - Gollancz did discard many such items (indeed, this archive of correspondence has substantial gaps in the exchanges of letters), which adds additional value to the fact that this archive has survived and is preserved.

Overall, the archive provides a valuable insight into the process of Orwell's first serious literary publication, one which is still widely read and commended today. 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. Initial approach letter from Orwell's agent Leonard Moore introducing the author and his manuscript, 3 May 1932

2. A reader's report from Gerald Gould (fiction editor of the Observer, appointed by Gollancz as manuscript reader), 16 June 1932, saying the document is socially important and should be published, but warning of libel.

3. Another reader's report May/June 1932, with "Christy" typed at head and "Gould" written on in crayon; they say the writing is of average journalism, but the work is fascinating, though this fascination is extraneous to literary criteria.

4. Carbon from Gollancz to his solicitor Harold Rubinstein, 17 June 1932, saying the book is full of possibilities of libel, and asking how to rectify this.

5. The reply to Gollancz from his solicitor Rubinstein, 21 June 1932, saying that there are dangers of libel, but lists the ways that this can be easily remedied.

6. A letter from Orwell's literary agent Leonard Moore of Christy & Moore, 8 July 1932, saying that Orwell had made some of the changes he suggested, but that chapter two can be cut if necessary. Orwell suggests "Lady Poverty" as a title for the book, and that the book should be published under a pseudonym, which can be used again if successful.

7. Carbon from Gollancz to Rubinstein, 9 July 1932, enclosing Orwell's corrected manuscript and asking what he thinks.

8. The reply from Rubinstein, 14 July 1932, saying it is now okay, other than two other minor corrections.

9. Carbon from Gollancz to Orwell's literary agent Leonard Moore, dated 22 July 1932, stating that he will make an offer for the manuscript, that he doesn't mind if the pseudonym is used, that he doesn't like the suggested title ("Lady Poverty") and will try and think of something better, and stating the terms of payment and royalties.

10. The reply from Leonard Moore, 28 July 1932, saying the terms are far beneath what they'd like, and proposing different terms.

11. The original contract signed by Orwell for publication of the book under the title "Days in London and Paris", with the envelope, 16 August 1932.

12. A letter from Gollancz's secretary Alexie Crosthwaite to Rubinstein, 9 November 1932, asking him to review the manuscript again in light of new reader's queries regarding libel.

13. The reply from Rubinstein, 9 November 1932, addressed to Gollancz's production manager Dorothy Horsman, saying the libel concerns are minor, other than a reference to the Salvation Army.

14. A note from Crosthwaite to Gollancz, 25 November 1932, saying that Orwell hadn't changed one of Rubenstein's suggestions from his letter of the 14 July as he felt it was innocuous; she rang Rubenstein and he accepted there was little risk.

15. A letter from the secretary of the editor of The Times, 2 February 1933, asking in confidence if Eric Blair is George Orwell (having received a letter from Blair signed Orwell.

16. Carbon of the response from Gollancz, 3 February 1933, confirming that Blair is Orwell, and asking for the information to be kept secret.

17. The response from the secretary, 5 February 1933, thanking him and restating that it will be confidential.

18. A letter to Gollancz from one S. M. Lipsey, 7 February 1933, saying that the book had "insulting and odious remarks about Jews" and that he was shocked that a publisher bearing the name Gollancz could publish such things.

19. Carbon of Gollancz's response, 9 February 1933, saying that he detest patriotism, but Jewish patriotism most of all, and that he is glad he has shook him.

20. Lipsey's reply, 10 February 1933, saying that Gollancz is entitled to his views on patriotism, but not to make attacks on Jews. He says he is going to publish their correspondence in the press.

21. Carbon of Gollancz's response, 13 February 1933, saying he has no right to publish his correspondence, as he did not consent, and will instruct his solicitor if he does publish.

22. Carbon from Gollancz to the editor of The Jewish Chronicle, 13 February 1933, saying that Lipsey may contact him, and enclosing a copy of the above letter, thus that he has not consented.

23. The response from the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, 15 February 1933, saying he acknowledges receipt and has not received any communication from Lipsey.

24. A letter from Lipsey, 15 February 1933, stating that as Gollancz did not mark his letter confidential, he has the right to publish, but will consult his solicitor. Lipsey questions why Gollancz does not want his correspondence published, if his views are sincere, and the Jewish public have a right to know.

25. Carbon of Gollancz's reply, 17 February, affirming the copyright resides with the writer irrespective of whether it is marked confidential or not, and re-affirming his views, but opposing their publication as his orthodox father had just died and he did not want to upset his mother.

26. Lipsey's reply, 18 February 1933, continuing his attacks, but respecting his mother and rescinding his intent to publish.

27. Letter from Leonard Moore to Gollancz, 7 December 1938, requesting the rights of the novel to revert to Orwell if they are not going to print a new edition.

28. Carbon of Gollancz's response, 12 December 1938, confirming the reversion of rights.

29. Carbon of internal memo, that rights have reverted, 12 December 1938.

30. Letter from Sonia Orwell (George's widow), 9 December 1965, requesting the original manuscript so that the expurgated parts could be reinstated for the new Penguin edition.

31. Carbon of Gollancz's response, 10 December 1965, saying that the manuscript and original proofs have disappeared, and offering a statement on the need to bowdlerize the text to conform with libel laws, which she is free to print in subsequent editions; he gives a poem written by Gerald Gould at the time on libel.

32. Carbon of postscript letter from Gollancz, 14 December 1965, adding an additional word to the poem.

33. Sonia Orwell's response, 16 December 1965, thanking him for his response, and intending to publish his statement in future editions.

34. Letter from Penguin Books, 14 September 1972, asking for assistance in filling in the expurgated sections for an upcoming edition.

35. Carbon of reply, 25 September 1972, offering copies of the correspondence between Sonia Orwell and Gollancz, but restating that the manuscript and proofs are lost.

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Some occasional chipping and tearing at extremities as can be expected, but generally all in very good condition.


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