Note on the text

The text is taken, with the kind permission of the Orwell Estate, from The Complete Works of George Orwell, wonderfully edited by Peter Davison. The diaries can also be found in George Orwell: Diaries (also edited by Peter), published in hardback by Harvill Secker and in paperback by Penguin.

From George Orwell: Diaries, by Peter Davison:

Orwell served in Burma in the Indian Imperial Police from October 1922 to December 1927, a period of his life that gave rise to his novel, Burmese Days, and two of his most important early essays, ‘Shooting an Elephant’ and ‘A Hanging’. When back in England on leave, he resigned his commission and gave up his relatively well-paid job in order to scratch a living as he sought to become a writer. He tramped and made a number of expeditions to the East End of London to examine the way the poor lived and to share that experience with them. From spring 1928 until late in 1929 he lived in a working-class district of Paris, at first surviving on his savings from his time in Burma, and wrote – and had published – a number of articles. He also wrote one or two novels (his own accounts conflict) but destroyed them, something he later regretted. His first articles, all but one published by minor Parisian journals, foreshadow his later literary interests: censorship, unemployment, the poor, imperialist exploitation, literature (an essay on John Galsworthy), and popular culture. Having had his last savings stolen, he worked for a while in the disgusting kitchen of an outwardly luxurious hotel and then returned to England. He lived with his parents at Southwold, writing the first draft of what would become Down and Out in Paris and London, reviewing for The Adelphi magazine, and continuing to tramp and live with down-and-outs.

In the autumn of 1931 he went hop-picking in Kent and this diary records that experience. The entries are printed from Orwell’s typescript, which he made on 10 October 1931. He sent a carbon copy to his friend Dennis Collings in Southwold. Collings (1905-2001) was an anthropologist; he became assistant curator of the Raffles Museum in Singapore in 1934. When Singapore fell he escaped to Java but was captured by the Japanese and imprisoned. Writing on 22 January 1946, Orwell said he had seen him on his return and he ‘appeared not to have had absolutely too bad a time, having been a camp interpreter (Complete Works, XVIII, p. 53). Orwell suggested the typescript might be shown to Collett Cresswell Pulleyne, a barrister from Yorkshire and a friend they had in common, and also to Eleanor Jaques, to whom Orwell was romantically inclined but who would marry Collings in 1934. Orwell also wrote an article, ‘Hop-Picking’, which was published by The New Statesman and Nation on 17 October 1931 over the name Eric Blair; a section of the diary was used for that article. Dorothy Hare, in A Clergyman’s Daughter, spends time hop-picking (Chapter II, sections iii-vi).

Orwell’s own ‘Notes’ give his definitions of words new to him, ‘discovered’ while he kept this diary. Where those words appear in the text of the diary entries, they link to the full list.

Orwell’s own footnotes are denoted by *, Peter Davison’s by numbers in square brackets, like [1]. Clicking on these in the main body of text should link to the appropriate footnote.

We have omitted some of the notes where a hyperlink can provide the same information.

Many thanks to Lucy Snow for the transcriptions.

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