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The Orwell Foundation is delighted to make available a selection of essays, articles, sketches, reviews and scripts written by Orwell.

This material remains under copyright in some jurisdictions, including the US, and is reproduced here with the kind permission of  the Orwell Estate . All queries regarding rights should be addressed to the Estate’s representatives at A. M. Heath literary agency.

The Orwell Foundation is an independent charity – please consider  making a donation to help us maintain these resources for readers everywhere.

Sketches For Burmese Days

  • 1. John Flory – My Epitaph
  • 2. Extract, Preliminary to Autobiography
  • 3. Extract, the Autobiography of John Flory
  • 4. An Incident in Rangoon
  • 5. Extract, A Rebuke to the Author, John Flory

Essays and articles

  • A Day in the Life of a Tramp ( Le Progrès Civique , 1929)
  • A Hanging ( The Adelphi , 1931)
  • A Nice Cup of Tea ( Evening Standard , 1946)
  • Antisemitism in Britain ( Contemporary Jewish Record , 1945)
  • Arthur Koestler (written 1944)
  • British Cookery (unpublished, 1946)
  • Can Socialists be Happy? (as John Freeman, Tribune , 1943)
  • Common Lodging Houses ( New Statesman , 3 September 1932)
  • Confessions of a Book Reviewer ( Tribune , 1946)
  • “For what am I fighting?” ( New Statesman , 4 January 1941)
  • Freedom and Happiness – Review of We by Yevgeny Zamyatin ( Tribune , 1946)
  • Freedom of the Park ( Tribune , 1945)
  • Future of a Ruined Germany ( The Observer , 1945)
  • Good Bad Books ( Tribune , 1945)
  • In Defence of English Cooking ( Evening Standard , 1945)
  • In Front of Your Nose ( Tribune , 1946)
  • Just Junk – But Who Could Resist It? ( Evening Standard , 1946)
  • My Country Right or Left ( Folios of New Writing , 1940)
  • Nonsense Poetry ( Tribune , 1945)
  • Notes on Nationalism ( Polemic , October 1945)
  • Pleasure Spots ( Tribune , January 1946)
  • Poetry and the microphone ( The New Saxon Pamphlet , 1945)
  • Politics and the English Language ( Horizon , 1946)
  • Politics vs. Literature: An examination of Gulliver’s Travels ( Polemic , 1946)
  • Reflections on Gandhi ( Partisan Review , 1949)
  • Rudyard Kipling ( Horizon , 1942)
  • Second Thoughts on James Burnham ( Polemic , 1946)
  • Shooting an Elephant ( New Writing , 1936)
  • Some Thoughts on the Common Toad ( Tribune , 1946)
  • Spilling the Spanish Beans ( New English Weekly , 29 July and 2 September 1937)
  • The Art of Donald McGill ( Horizon , 1941)
  • The Moon Under Water ( Evening Standard , 1946)
  • The Prevention of Literature ( Polemic , 1946)
  • The Proletarian Writer (BBC Home Service and The Listener , 1940)
  • The Spike ( Adelphi , 1931)
  • The Sporting Spirit ( Tribune , 1945)
  • Why I Write ( Gangrel , 1946)
  • You and the Atom Bomb ( Tribune , 1945)

Reviews by Orwell

  • Anonymous Review of Burmese Interlude by C. V. Warren ( The Listener , 1938)
  • Anonymous Review of Trials in Burma by Maurice Collis ( The Listener , 1938)
  • Review of The Pub and the People by Mass-Observation ( The Listener , 1943)

Letters and other material

  • BBC Archive: George Orwell
  • Free will (a one act drama, written 1920)
  • George Orwell to Steven Runciman (August 1920)
  • George Orwell to Victor Gollancz (9 May 1937)
  • George Orwell to Frederic Warburg (22 October 1948, Letters of Note)
  • ‘Three parties that mattered’: extract from Homage to Catalonia (1938)
  • Voice – a magazine programme , episode 6 (BBC Indian Service, 1942)
  • Your Questions Answered: Wigan Pier (BBC Overseas Service)
  • The Freedom of the Press: proposed preface to Animal Farm (1945, first published 1972)
  • Preface to the Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm  (March 1947)

External links are being provided for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by The Orwell Foundation of any of the products, services or opinions of the corporation or organisation or individual. The Foundation bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of the external site or for that of subsequent links. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.

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The Russell Kirk Center

Reconsidering Orwell’s Essays

Sep 30, 2013

george orwell a collection of critical essays

Reviewed by John P. Rossi

G eorge Orwell was the greatest essayist of the twentieth century.

Sixty years ago, at the height of his fame as the author of Animal Farm , Orwell published a collection of essays that first revealed to a wide audience his skill in this most difficult of literary forms. Called Critical Essays in England, it was renamed Dickens, Dali, and Others when it appeared in the United States. It wasn’t his first book of essays. An earlier anthology, Inside the Whale , appeared in the early days of World War II but got lost in the dramatic events of the spring of 1940 when Hitler’s legions swept across Western Europe. Inside the Whale was quickly forgotten, although the distinguished literary critic Q. D. Leavis asserted that it showed that Orwell was one of the best prose stylists then writing in English.

Unfortunately for Orwell, writing essays was not financially profitable. For Inside the Whale his advance from his publisher, Victor Gollancz, was just thirty pounds. Orwell said he enjoyed analyzing literary figures but there was no money in it.

In 1952, two years after his death, with Orwell’s popularity growing due to the success of Nineteen Eighty-Four , a new version of his best non-fiction was published in America under the title A Collection of Essays . It was compiled from previously published material culled from both Inside the Whale and Critical Essays , plus an unpublished piece, a remarkable, often unforgettable portrait of his early school days, “Such, Such Were the Joys.” This volume was the work of the young publishing genius Jason Epstein, who had convinced Doubleday that there was a market among upscale readers and college students for quality paperbacks. A Collection of Essays was one of the first and most successful of the Anchor Books series which Epstein started and it remains in print and continues to sell today.

A Collection of Essays consists of fourteen pieces, of which the lead essay, the twenty-thousand word “Such, Such Were the Joys” about Orwell’s traumatic schooldays, could only be published in the United States because of English libel laws. It is also the longest essay Orwell wrote. It has been argued by some Orwell scholars that his unhappy experiences at school influenced his conception of the grim future in Nineteen Eighty-Four . His biographer, Bernard Crick in George Orwell: A Life , dismisses the notion that “Such, Such, Were the Joys” was written just before Orwell began Nineteen Eighty-Four and reflected the tuberculosis that was ravaging him at the time. Crick shows that Orwell began the essay in the early 1940s and thus there was no direct connection to the novel.

Orwell’s portrait of his school, St. Cyprian’s, called Crossgates in the essay, is in a tradition of horror tales of English education. It bears some resemblance to Winston Churchill’s experience at school in his My Early Life: A Roving Commission (1930). Like Churchill, Orwell portrays himself as a frightened little boy, easily intimidated by his classmates, bullied by the teachers, and generally miserable. Neither Churchill nor Orwell admitted learning much at school.

“Such, Such Were the Joys” reveals Orwell’s skill at finding meaning in otherwise trivial events and avoiding the trap of self-pity. He tells how he was accused of some school infraction. He was innocent, but it didn’t matter; he felt guilty. It taught him that you could “commit a sin without knowing that you committed it, without wanting to commit it, and without being able to avoid it … But at any rate this was the great, abiding lesson of my boyhood: that I was in a world where it was not possible for me to be good.” It was a thought that remained with him for the rest of his life.

The other essays in the 1952 edition had appeared before, and at least two, “Shooting an Elephant” and “Politics and the English Language,” already were well on their way to becoming classics. These two would be anthologized in American high school and college English texts as examples of good prose and would influence a generation of aspiring writers.

T he remaining essays are a testament to the breadth of Orwell’s interests. They include interpretations of two controversial individuals, Rudyard Kipling and Mohandas Gandhi; an indictment of the evils of imperialism, “Marrakech”; and two essays that deal with key events in the recent past, “England Your England” and “Looking Back on the Spanish War.” The former is part one of Orwell’s elaboration of the uniqueness of the English national character and his defense of the concept of patriotism he first outlined early in World War II in his monograph The Lion and the Unicorn (1940).

“Looking Back on the Spanish War” is in many ways a summary of Orwell’s controversial analysis of the Spanish Civil War, which he first outlined in Homage to Catalonia (1938). It is a bitter indictment of the failure of the left in England to speak out against Communist treachery in Spain. It also contains the first inkling of Orwell’s fear that the very idea of historical truth was disappearing in the face of lies and propaganda, an idea that would show up in his last two novels. He wrote that he feared that the very idea that history could be truthfully written was fading, along with the idea that such a thing as truth can exist. He wasn’t far off in that, as the deconstructionists have made clear.

“Marrakech” and “Shooting an Elephant” pick up one of Orwell’s favorite themes—the deleterious impact of imperialism not just on the colonial peoples but on the rulers. Christopher Hitchens has noted that there is a side of Orwell that is often missed—as the forerunner of post-colonial studies. “Marrakech” begins with one of Orwell’s most arresting opening lines: “As the corpse went past the flies left the restaurant table in a cloud and rushed after it, but they came back a few minutes later.” It is possible that Orwell borrowed the image from his wife, Eileen, who used a similar phrase in a letter to a friend.

There is a certain disjointed quality to “Marrakech,” as if Orwell just cobbled together some thoughts about imperialism. His major theme is the invisibility of the colonized. The Moroccans he sees are the color of the earth. “[W]here the human beings have brown skins their poverty is simply not noticed.”

Orwell ends by watching a parade of Senegalese troops marching by, “their curiously sensitive black faces … glistening with sweat.” As they pass he poses the question that he says every white man must ask himself: “How much longer can we go on kidding these people? How long before they turn their guns in the other direction?” The Europeans wouldn’t have to wait long for their answer.

“Shooting an Elephant” is the essay where Orwell first found his distinctive “voice”—the ability to write a kind of direct, intimate prose that leaves nothing between the writer and the reader. As Orwell says in “Why I Write,” good prose is like a window pane: it hides nothing.

When Orwell shoots the elephant, which he knows is no longer dangerous, he recognizes that he is responding to the will of the Burmese mob. “Here I was, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd—seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet … I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys.” No one has ever better described the paradox of the link between the ruler and the ruled.

T he three essays “Boys’ Weeklies,” “The Art of Donald McGill,” and “Raffles and Miss Blandish” are among the first attempts to subject to serious analysis such popular culture phenomena as comic post cards, the difference between English and American crime stories, and the reading material of English adolescents. Orwell was always suspicious of the desire of intellectuals to denigrate things that the common people cherished as examples of the trivial and useless. He reverts to this theme in Nineteen Eighty-Four with the coral paperweight and the copy book with rich creamy paper that reminds Winston Smith of the lost past. With these essays Orwell could be considered the creator of the modern thoughtful essay about an otherwise ephemeral theme.

“Charles Dickens” and “Inside the Whale” reveal Orwell’s gift for literary criticism. The former is still appreciated by Dickens scholars and remains fresh and vivid today. Orwell told Humphrey House, one of England’s leading Dickens scholars, that he never really studied Dickens but “merely read and enjoyed him.”

Orwell’s insights about things that interested him were always worth noting. Dickens had been dismissed as irrelevant during the crisis of the 1930s as having childish political views. Orwell doesn’t dispute this but notes: “I think that because his moral sense was sound he would have been able to find his bearing in any political or economic milieu.”

Orwell’s Dickens bears a striking resemblance to Orwell himself. When he looked at Dickens, Orwell wrote that he saw the “face of a man who is always fighting against something, … the face of a man who is generously angry—in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.” In brief, a perfect portrait of Orwell himself.

“Inside the Whale” is Orwell’s analysis of the literary trends of the 1920s and 1930s. Using the novelist Henry Miller as an example, it is among other things a defense of the concept of art and the artist even when their social and political views are irresponsible. It is typical of the contrarian side of Orwell that he would find something positive to say about a writer who was largely despised and accused of being little better than a pornographer. “Inside the Whale” also contains an insight into why literary tastes changed from the 1920s generation of Eliot, Pound, and Yeats—who were either apolitical or downright reactionary—to the politically engaged Auden-Spender-C. Day Lewis generation of leftwing radicals of the 1930s. While critically sympathetic to the political views of the latter, Orwell noted that the 1920s writers were technically innovative despite their narrow political views. Few leftwing literary critics would have made the same point then and perhaps now. Orwell’s views have been vindicated, as the writers of the 1920s are still seen as innovators while the Auden generation now seems dated.

A Collection of Essays ends with “Why I Write,” a short piece in which Orwell discusses four motivations for writing—sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose. He believed that the first three motives outweighed the fourth in his makeup, but events of the twentieth century forced him to try to make political writing into an art. It could be argued that in this he succeeded better than any other writer of his generation.

These essays written between 1936 and 1949 foreshadow the world of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four . Orwell’s essays are less well known than these two seminal works of fiction but they are equally important for understanding his world view. The origin of many of themes in Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four can be found in these essays: distrust of intellectuals, defense of patriotism as the glue that held the various English classes together, the need for a true socialist revolution, suspicion of communism, respect for themes of popular culture, and concern for the idea of truth.

A Collection of Essays deserves to be read today by all interested in the worrisome issues of state power, how ideology can corrupt, and the way propaganda threatens to undermine the traditional concept of truth in the West. No one spelled out these problems better than Orwell. For those not familiar with his work, A Collection of Essays is a great place to begin.  

John P. Rossi is a Professor of History at La Salle University in Philadelphia. He has written extensively on Orwell, most recently “Two Irascible Englishmen: Mr. Waugh and Mr. Orwell,” Modern Age: A Quarterly Review , Vol. 47, No. 2, Spring 2005.

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George Orwell: A Collection of Critical Essays Paperback – January 1, 1975

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  • Publication date January 1, 1975
  • ISBN-10 0136477011
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The collected essays, journalism and letters of George Orwell

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A Collection Of Essays Summary

Critical reflections on society and politics in the 20th century, asking for it by kate harding, kate harding, fragments of an anarchist anthropology, david graeber, socialism . . . seriously, danny katch, the wretched of the earth by constance [translator] fanon, frantz, farrington, constance [translator] fanon, frantz, farrington, dan koeppel.

george orwell a collection of critical essays

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Description, readers also enjoyed, free pdf download, chapter 1 | overview, chapter 2 | orwell's essays delve into the complexities of power, politics, and social injustice with a sharp focus on truth and the harmful effects of totalitarianism., chapter 3 | through his vivid observations and personal experiences, orwell emphasizes the importance of independent thought and critical analysis in a world filled with propaganda and manipulation., chapter 4 | the essays in this collection serve as a reminder of the need for empathy, human decency, and the fight against oppression in order to preserve democracy and maintain individual freedoms., chapter 5 | a collection of essays review, books like a collection of essays.

Description de l’éditeur

"Essays" by George Orwell is a compelling anthology that encapsulates the profound observations and critical reflections of one of the 20th century's most influential writers. Known for his keen intellect and incisive prose, Orwell tackles a wide array of subjects with insight and wit. From political commentary to social critique, his essays offer a timeless exploration of human nature and societal dynamics. Orwell's distinctive voice shines through as he dissects the complexities of power, language, and truth. Whether delving into the impact of propaganda or examining the nuances of literature, Orwell's essays resonate with relevance, providing readers with a thoughtful lens through which to view the world. This collection serves as both a testament to Orwell's enduring literary legacy and a thought-provoking examination of the issues that continue to shape our societies.

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    Reviews by Orwell. Anonymous Review of Burmese Interlude by C. V. Warren (The Listener, 1938) Anonymous Review of Trials in Burma by Maurice Collis (The Listener, 1938) Review of The Pub and the People by Mass-Observation (The Listener, 1943) Letters and other material. BBC Archive: George Orwell; Free will (a one act drama, written 1920)

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  21. George Orwell

    Collections of George Orwell Essays. Inside the Whale Critical Essays Dickens, Dali and Others Shooting an Elephant and other Essays England Your England Such, Such Were the Joys A Collection of Essays Collected Essays Decline of the English Murder Collected Esays, Journalism and Letters Vol 1 Collected Esays, Journalism and Letters Vol 2

  22. The collected essays, journalism and letters of George Orwell

    The collected essays, journalism and letters of George Orwell ... The collected essays, journalism and letters of George Orwell by Orwell, George, 1903-1950. Publication date 1970 Topics ... Collection_set printdisabled External-identifier urn:lcp:collectedessaysj0000orwe:lcpdf:f9c4c646-9d70-4ca2-9ae6-98823d25167f ...

  23. A Collection Of Essays Summary PDF

    In A Collection of Essays, George Orwell delves into a wide range of thought-provoking topics, providing his readers with a captivating exploration of human nature, societal issues, and political ideologies. ... One important lesson the book imparts is the value of critical thinking. Orwell emphasizes the importance of questioning and analyzing ...

  24. ‎Essay, George Orwell (livre électronique)

    Téléchargez et lisez la version électronique du livre Essay écrit par George Orwell sur Apple Books. "Essays" by George Orwell is a compelling anthology that encapsulates the profou ‎Romans et littérature · 2023