Highly important autobiographical statement, composed on the Isle of Jura while writing "1984", and but a week after narrowly escaping drowning in the notorious Corryvreckan Whirlpool. The three-page-letter to the editor Richard Usborne was written to furnish him with a sketch of his life and thought, in response to his enquiry: "[...] After leaving school I served five years in the Imperial Police in Burma, but the job was totally unsuited to me and I resigned [...] I am a widower with a son aged a little over 3 [...] I [have] started a novel which I hope to finish by the spring of 1948. I am trying not to do anything else while I get on with this [...] I mean to spend the winter in Jura this year, partly because I never seem to get any continuous work done in London, partly because I think it will be a little easier to keep warm here [...]". Orwell, of course, had a greater struggle to finish '1984' than he here anticipates, being admitted to hospital early in 1948, after only the first draft was ready, and further ruining his health in a race against time to finish the book. It was finally published on 8 June 1949, seven months before his death. - The longest part of this remarkable letter is devoted to the development of those political beliefs that inform and inspired his opus magnum: "[...] As to politics, I was only intermittently interested in the subject until about 1935, though I think I can say I was always more or less 'left.' In 'Wigan Pier' I first tried to thrash out my ideas. I felt, as I still do, that there are huge deficiencies in the whole conception of Socialism, and I was still wondering there was any other way out. After having a fairly good look at British industrialism at its worst, ie. in the mining areas, I came to the conclusion that it is a duty to work for Socialism even if one is not emotionally drawn to it, because the continuance of the present conditions is simply not tolerable, and no solution except some kind of collectivism is viable, because that is what the mass of people want. About the same time I became infected with a horror of totalitarianism, which indeed I already had in the form of hostility towards the Catholic Church. I fought for six months (1936-7) in Spain on the side of Government, and had the misfortune to be mixed up in the internal struggle on the Government side, which left me with the conviction that there is not much to choose between Communism and Fascism, though for various reasons I would choose Communism if there were no other choice open. I have been vaguely associated with Trotskyists and Anarchists, and more closely with the left wing of the Labour Party (the Bevan-Foot end of it) [...] But I have never belonged to a political party, and I believe that even politically I am more valuable if I record what I believe to be true and refuse to toe a party line [...]". Usborne was at the time assistant editor to Macdonald Hastings at The Strand, and was to go on to write two classic studies, "Clubland Heroes" (1953) and "Wodehouse at Work" (1961), as well as completing Wodehouse's last novel, "Sunset at Blandings" (1977). This milieu, that Usborne was to make his own, held its fascination for Orwell as well, as exemplified by his essays on "Boys' Weeklies" (1939) and "In Defence of P. G. Wodehouse" (1945). John Rodden, in his review of Peter Davison's important 2010 collection of Orwell's correspondence (cf. below) which first included this letter, writes that "Orwell [here] furnishes a thousand-word summary regarding the evolution of his thinking on the warring ideologies of the day. Most important is his remark that 'there is not much to choose between Communism and Fascism.' Despite Orwell's status as the leading literary Cold Warrior of the West, critics and historians have not claimed that Orwell viewed communism as an evil equivalent to Nazism and fascism - not even his conservative or neoconservative admirers. Thus the statement to Richard Usborne represents an unexpected revelation" (John Rodden, The Unexamined Orwell, p. 302). - Traces of folds and staplemarks (slight ruststains on p. 1). On headed stationery.
¶ First published in: Orwell: A Life in Letters (ed. by Peter Davison), 2010.