ALS in Orwell's hand
ORWELL, George. Letter to Anthony Powell.
Single sheet of thin paper 10 x 8 inches, signed "George" to Anthony Powell ("Dear Tony"), inscribed in blue ink on both sides, Cranham, 11.5.49. A couple of small spots, very good.
Powell and Orwell became good friends in London in the 1940s, especially when the latter moved to Islington in 1944 and became enmeshed in Powell's circle of friends. These friends included Malcolm Muggeridge and Hugh Kingsmill, both of whom are mentioned here. Orwell and Kingsmill greatly admired each other: Kingsmill thought Animal Farm revealed Orwell's "poetry, humour and tenderness" (Progress of a Biographer), while in this letter Orwell exhorts Powell to tell Kingsmill "I just re-read his book on Dickens...& that I think the same as before – it's a brilliant book, but it's the case for the prosecution". The part of the letter that deals with books and writers is full of energy, as these epistolary discussions with Powell always were. He recommends that Muggeridge reads Ruth Fischer's Stalin and German Communism, praises Powell's and Margaret Neumann's most recent books, and wonders how he can get Gissing's New Grub Street reprinted.
The reality of his failing health, and his position as the inmate of the Cotswold Sanatorium for Consumption in Cranham, hits home in the last paragraph, however: "I have been beastly ill, on & off. I can't make any firm plans. If I'm reasonably well this winter I shall go abroad for some months. If I'm able to walk but can't face the journey I shall stay in somewhere like Brighton. If I have to continue in bed I shall try to move to some sanatorium near London where people can come & see me more easily. It looks as if I may have to spend the rest of my life, if not actually in bed, at any rate at the bath-chair level. I could stand that for say 5 years if only I could work. At present I can do nothing, not even a book review". Even this prognosis seems optimistic in retrospect; he died of tuberculosis on 21st January 1950. As an expression of Orwell's stoic energy and flickering hope, this very personal letter is extraordinarily moving.
Sold at Bonhams London 24 June 2015, Books and Letters from the Library of Anthony Powell.