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Blair's maternal grandmother lived at Moulmein , so he chose a posting in Burma , then still a province of British India. A month later, he arrived at Rangoon and travelled to the police training school in Mandalay. He was appointed an Assistant District Superintendent on probation on 29 November , [30] with effect from 27 November and at a base salary of Rs. Working as an imperial police officer gave him considerable responsibility while most of his contemporaries were still at university in England. When he was posted farther east in the Delta to Twante as a sub-divisional officer, he was responsible for the security of some , people.

At the end of , he was posted to Syriam , closer to Rangoon. Syriam had the refinery of the Burmah Oil Company , "the surrounding land a barren waste, all vegetation killed off by the fumes of sulphur dioxide pouring out day and night from the stacks of the refinery. She noted his "sense of utter fairness in minutest details". In Burma, Blair acquired a reputation as an outsider. He spent much of his time alone, reading or pursuing non- pukka activities, such as attending the churches of the Karen ethnic group.

A colleague, Roger Beadon, recalled in a recording for the BBC that Blair was fast to learn the language and that before he left Burma, "was able to speak fluently with Burmese priests in 'very high-flown Burmese. This included adopting a pencil moustache , a thin line above the lip he previously had a toothbrush moustache. Emma Larkin writes in the introduction to Burmese Days , "While in Burma, he acquired a moustache similar to those worn by officers of the British regiments stationed there.

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In April he moved to Moulmein, where his maternal grandmother lived. At the end of that year, he was assigned to Katha in Upper Burma , where he contracted dengue fever in Entitled to a leave in England that year, he was allowed to return in July due to his illness. While on leave in England and on holiday with his family in Cornwall in September , he reappraised his life. Deciding against returning to Burma, he resigned from the Indian Imperial Police to become a writer, with effect from 12 March after five-and-a-half years of service.


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In England, he settled back in the family home at Southwold , renewing acquaintance with local friends and attending an Old Etonian dinner. He visited his old tutor Gow at Cambridge for advice on becoming a writer. He had found a subject. These sorties, explorations, expeditions, tours or immersions were made intermittently over a period of five years.

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In imitation of Jack London , whose writing he admired particularly The People of the Abyss , Blair started to explore the poorer parts of London. On his first outing he set out to Limehouse Causeway , spending his first night in a common lodging house, possibly George Levy's 'kip'. For a while he "went native" in his own country, dressing like a tramp , adopting the name P. Burton and making no concessions to middle-class mores and expectations; he recorded his experiences of the low life for use in " The Spike ", his first published essay in English, and in the second half of his first book, Down and Out in Paris and London In early he moved to Paris.

He lived in the rue du Pot de Fer, a working class district in the 5th Arrondissement. He began to write novels, including an early version of Burmese Days , but nothing else survives from that period. His experiences there were the basis of his essay " How the Poor Die ", published in He chose not to identify the hospital, and indeed was deliberately misleading about its location.

Shortly afterwards, he had all his money stolen from his lodging house. Whether through necessity or to collect material, he undertook menial jobs such as dishwashing in a fashionable hotel on the rue de Rivoli , which he later described in Down and Out in Paris and London. In December , after nearly two years in Paris, Blair returned to England and went directly to his parents' house in Southwold , a coastal town in Suffolk , which remained his base for the next five years.

The family was well established in the town, and his sister Avril was running a tea-house there. He became acquainted with many local people, including Brenda Salkeld, the clergyman's daughter who worked as a gym-teacher at St Felix Girls' School in the town. Although Salkeld rejected his offer of marriage, she remained a friend and regular correspondent for many years.

He also renewed friendships with older friends, such as Dennis Collings, whose girlfriend Eleanor Jacques was also to play a part in his life. In early he stayed briefly in Bramley, Leeds , with his sister Marjorie and her husband Humphrey Dakin, who was as unappreciative of Blair as when they knew each other as children. Blair was writing reviews for Adelphi and acting as a private tutor to a disabled child at Southwold.

He then became tutor to three young brothers, one of whom, Richard Peters , later became a distinguished academic. There is Blair leading a respectable, outwardly eventless life at his parents' house in Southwold, writing; then in contrast, there is Blair as Burton the name he used in his down-and-out episodes in search of experience in the kips and spikes, in the East End, on the road, and in the hop fields of Kent. Over the next year he visited them in London, often meeting their friend Max Plowman. He also often stayed at the homes of Ruth Pitter and Richard Rees, where he could "change" for his sporadic tramping expeditions.

One of his jobs was domestic work at a lodgings for half a crown two shillings and sixpence, or one-eighth of a pound a day. Blair now contributed regularly to Adelphi , with " A Hanging " appearing in August From August to September his explorations of poverty continued, and, like the protagonist of A Clergyman's Daughter , he followed the East End tradition of working in the Kent hop fields. He kept a diary about his experiences there. Afterwards, he lodged in the Tooley Street kip , but could not stand it for long, and with financial help from his parents moved to Windsor Street, where he stayed until Christmas.

Mabel Fierz put him in contact with Leonard Moore , who became his literary agent. Eliot , also rejected it. Blair ended the year by deliberately getting himself arrested, [51] so that he could experience Christmas in prison, but the authorities did not regard his "drunk and disorderly" behaviour as imprisonable, and he returned home to Southwold after two days in a police cell. This was a small school offering private schooling for children of local tradesmen and shopkeepers, and had only 14 or 16 boys aged between ten and sixteen, and one other master.

At the end of the summer term in , Blair returned to Southwold, where his parents had used a legacy to buy their own home. Blair and his sister Avril spent the holidays making the house habitable while he also worked on Burmese Days. He returned to teaching at Hayes and prepared for the publication of his book, now known as Down and Out in Paris and London.

He wished to publish under a different name to avoid any embarrassment to his family over his time as a "tramp". Four days later, he wrote to Moore, suggesting the pseudonyms P. Lewis Allways. This was a much larger establishment with pupils and a full complement of staff. He acquired a motorcycle and took trips through the surrounding countryside. On one of these expeditions he became soaked and caught a chill that developed into pneumonia. He was taken to Uxbridge Cottage Hospital, where for a time his life was believed to be in danger.

When he was discharged in January , he returned to Southwold to convalesce and, supported by his parents, never returned to teaching. He was disappointed when Gollancz turned down Burmese Days , mainly on the grounds of potential suits for libel, but Harper were prepared to publish it in the United States. Meanwhile, Blair started work on the novel A Clergyman's Daughter , drawing upon his life as a teacher and on life in Southwold. Eleanor Jacques was now married and had gone to Singapore and Brenda Salkeld had left for Ireland, so Blair was relatively isolated in Southwold — working on the allotments , walking alone and spending time with his father.

Eventually in October, after sending A Clergyman's Daughter to Moore, he left for London to take a job that had been found for him by his aunt Nellie Limouzin. This job was as a part-time assistant in Booklovers' Corner, a second-hand bookshop in Hampstead run by Francis and Myfanwy Westrope, who were friends of Nellie Limouzin in the Esperanto movement.

The Westropes were friendly and provided him with comfortable accommodation at Warwick Mansions, Pond Street. He was sharing the job with Jon Kimche , who also lived with the Westropes. Blair worked at the shop in the afternoons and had his mornings free to write and his evenings free to socialise.

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These experiences provided background for the novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying As well as the various guests of the Westropes, he was able to enjoy the company of Richard Rees and the Adelphi writers and Mabel Fierz. The Westropes and Kimche were members of the Independent Labour Party , although at this time Blair was not seriously politically active.


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  • A Clergyman's Daughter was published on 11 March In early Blair met his future wife Eileen O'Shaughnessy , when his landlady, Rosalind Obermeyer, who was studying for a master's degree in psychology at University College London , invited some of her fellow students to a party. One of these students, Elizaveta Fen, a biographer and future translator of Chekhov , recalled Blair and his friend Richard Rees "draped" at the fireplace, looking, she thought, "moth-eaten and prematurely aged.

    In June, Burmese Days was published and Cyril Connolly's review in the New Statesman prompted Blair as he then became known to re-establish contact with his old friend. The relationship was sometimes awkward and Blair and Heppenstall even came to blows, though they remained friends and later worked together on BBC broadcasts. By October his flatmates had moved out and he was struggling to pay the rent on his own.

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    He remained until the end of January , when he stopped working at Booklovers' Corner. At this time, Victor Gollancz suggested Orwell spend a short time investigating social conditions in economically depressed northern England. Priestley had written about England north of the Trent , sparking an interest in reportage.

    The depression had also introduced a number of working-class writers from the North of England to the reading public. It was one of these working-class authors, Jack Hilton , whom Orwell sought for advice. Orwell had written to Hilton seeking lodging and asking for recommendations on his route.

    Hilton was unable to provide him lodging, but suggested that he travel to Wigan rather than Rochdale, "for there are the colliers and they're good stuff. On 31 January , Orwell set out by public transport and on foot, reaching Manchester via Coventry , Stafford, the Potteries and Macclesfield. Arriving in Manchester after the banks had closed, he had to stay in a common lodging-house.

    The next day he picked up a list of contacts sent by Richard Rees. One of these, the trade union official Frank Meade, suggested Wigan , where Orwell spent February staying in dirty lodgings over a tripe shop. At Wigan, he visited many homes to see how people lived, took detailed notes of housing conditions and wages earned, went down Bryn Hall coal mine , and used the local public library to consult public health records and reports on working conditions in mines.

    During this time, he was distracted by concerns about style and possible libel in Keep the Aspidistra Flying.

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