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‘Makes me envious to see American books’: Orwell’s letter from hospital may sell for $15k

By April 10, 2018No Comments

Source : Hindustan Times

English novelist George Orwell’s letter to novelist Anthony Powell, while Orwell was admitted to the Hairmyres Hospital in Scotland, may fetch $15,000 (approx Rs 10 lakh) at an auction.


A three-page letter, written by the English novelist George Orwell while recovering from tuberculosis, is expected to fetch $15,000 (approx Rs 10 lakh) at an auction in the US.

Signed “George,” the letter dated March 8, 1948, was written to novelist Anthony Powell, while Orwell was admitted to the Hairmyres Hospital in Scotland. He describes his reviewing work for the Times Literary Supplement and reports on improved health having embarked on a course of streptomycin.

“I’m doing another book for the TLS (a rather dreadful anthology of recent American stuff called ‘Spearhead’). I didn’t suppose they’d send me the Mark Twain book. (By the way, after many years of trying I have at last got hold of a very rare book, Van Wyck Brooks’s ‘The Tragedy of Mark Twain,’ which he afterwards called in & reissued in a garbled version.),” Orwell wrote in the letter.

While working on the iconic novel 1984, Orwell became the first patient to receive streptomycin in Scotland. “I am a lot better. I am having a drug called streptomycin, which is a novelty in this country but is thought to be very good. It appears to be doing its stuff, though it’s too early for them to say for certain,” Orwell wrote.

Although his health at first showed improvement, he suffered severe side effects and the treatment had to be suspended after fifty days, according to US-based RR Auction. “I’ve arranged to bring out my uniform edition at the rate of a volume a year, & at present I have got six books to go in it, as I have suppressed several. I hope there’ll be others later,” Orwell wrote.

“I had always wanted to have something very sort of chaste but solid in blue buckram for about 5/-. I notice both Evelyn Waugh’s & Graham Greene’s uniform editions are very cheap-looking. They don’t seem to be able to make a book now with covers that don’t bend. It makes me very envious to see American books,” he wrote.

The review of ‘Spearhead’ that Orwell describes in the opening lines appeared in the Times Literary Supplement on April 17, 1948, and offered a long and wide-ranging review of current American poetry and prose.

Admitted to Hairmyres Hospital In July, he returned to his solitary Barnhill farmhouse on the remote Scottish island of Jura, where he completed the manuscript of 1984.

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