I personally believe he chose the name "George"
after Saint George, the patron saint of England
and the name "Orwell" after the river Orwell in Suffolk
and the village of Orwell in Cambridgeshire.
GEORGE ORWELL'S PEN NAME
"George Orwell" was born on January 9, 1933,
which was the day Down and Out in Paris and London was published.
Eric Blair was twenty-nine years old.
To Orwell Today,
I was reading more of your page, and it's interesting that they are making Orwell Park where he was born. To me Orwell Park is a respected prep school in Suffolk!
May I also ask, how did he decide on the pen name George Orwell?
Yes, it's impressive that Motihari cares enough about George Orwell that they are making the effort to create a museum in his name, ie ORWELL MUSEUM A HAPPENING.
I was amazed when I discovered that England doesn't have a museum or a statue of Orwell anywhere*, and yet they have a statue of Karl Marx in a park in Hampstead, a literary suburb of London.
When I went to BOOKLOVER'S CORNER in Hampstead where Orwell worked as a clerk in 1934 thru 1935 (while he was writing Keep the Aspidistra Flying and just before he went up north to write Wigan Pier) and saw that it had been turned into a pizza parlour, I couldn't bloody believe it. What a perfect location it would be for a GEORGE ORWELL MUSEUM, full of first editions of all his books and his typewriter and his handwritten manuscript of "1984", etc etc and also a place to buy his books and those of other writers to whom he would wish to share shelf space. There could be a wall of photos of him in a little sitting area where people could have a nice cup of tea or "real coffee" with "real sugar". There could be a gift shop that sold glass paperweights, creamy-papered diaries and brass candlesticks displayed on a gateleg table. I could go on and on for pages describing the things and mannerisms that are known to make up the person who was George Orwell.
I didn't know there was a prep school named Orwell Park. It's apt that it be in Suffolk because that is where Orwell lived for awhile, after he came back from Burma where he'd gone for five years after graduating from Eton in 1921. His parents had moved to Southwold for their retirement as it had a strong community of ex India Civil Servants, which was what Orwell's father was.
No one is 100% sure how Eric Blair chose the pen name George Orwell. The general consensus is that he chose "George" because it was a typical English name and "Orwell" after a river in Suffolk.
I personally believe that he chose the name "George" after Saint George, the patron saint of England. I think this because Orwell mentions St. George and the Dragon in several of his books - usually as the name of a hotel or drinking establishment, of which there are hundreds so-named in England. Here's an excerpt from COMING UP FOR AIR:
"...I turned the corner and ran down to the George....The George had altered too, all except the name. The front had been dolled up till it looked like one of those riverside hotels, and the sign was different. It was curious that although till that moment I hadn't thought of it once in twenty years, I suddenly found that I could remember every detail of the old sign, which had swung there ever since I could remember. It was a crude kind of picture, with St George on a very thin horse trampling on a very fat dragon, and in the corner, though it was cracked and faded, you could read the little signature, 'Wm. Sandford, Painter & Carpenter'. The new sign was kind of artistic-looking. You could see it had been painted by a real artist. St George looked a regular pansy. The cobbled yard, where the farmers' traps used to stand and the drunks used to puke on Saturday nights, had been enlarged to about three times its size and concreted over, with garages all round it. I backed the car into one of the garages and got out..."
I expound more on my thoughts about Orwell and Saint George in my essay SAINT GEORGE ORWELL DAY.
Regarding the second half of his pen-name, I have a different opinion as to how he chose the name "Orwell". I think it was partially because of the river in Suffolk (near where is parents lived) but also partially because of the village in Cambridge named Orwell.
I arrived at this conclusion after reading Gordon Bowker's biography INSIDE GEORGE ORWELL which said that Eric Blair, while living at his parent's house in Suffolk, once walked through the village of Orwell on his way to visit a friend, Brenda Salkeld, who lived in Bedfordshire. While in Orwell Blair visited an old teacher of his at Eton, Andrew Gow, who was now a teacher at Cambridge. Apparently the visit didn't go very well because Gow wasn't very impressed with what Blair, KS, was doing with his life, ie he had quit his job as a policeman in Burma (bad enough) and was now a struggling writer. Gow didn't offer to connect Eric with any friends in the publishing business (not that Eric had asked but he'd probably hoped). Gow seems to have considered Blair a loser because he hadn't gone on to university and he was looking pretty down-and-out. Afterall, who in their right mind walks from Suffolk to Bedfordshire (other than people like Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe and Travels Through the Whole Island of Great Britian, who Orwell was probably mimicking). Also, a favourite author of Eric's was George Gissing who had chosen his pen name from a village in Suffolk named Gissing.
Actually, I personally learned of the existence of the village of Orwell by chance in 2001 when I was on the way from my grandmother's ancestral home in Essex to my grandfather's ancestral home in Bedfordshire (similar to Orwell passing through on HIS way from Suffolk to Bedfordshire). I didn't know any of this at the time and just wondered whether the town had been named after Orwell or Orwell had been named after the town (not realizing then that the village had been there for centuries). See ANCESTRAL BOOKENDS TO ORWELL.
When I returned to England in 2004 I made a point of including the village of Orwell on my pilgrimage. What could be more perfect, for an Orwell admirer, than to be standing under a sign saying "Orwell"? See VISITING ORWELL'S ORWELL.
Whatever Eric Blair's reasons for choosing the name "George Orwell", we'll never truly know (if even HE did). But one thing we DO know is the birth date of that name. "George Orwell" was born on January 9, 1933, which was the day Down and Out in Paris and London was published. He was twenty-nine years old.
All the best,
UPDATE: In recently re-reading all of Orwell's AS I PLEASE columns I came across him [January 19, 1945] describing how the author Edgar Wallace [whom I've never heard of] was treated like a national literary hero in life and after death [1865-1932]. Wallace churned out at least 8 books a year and earned tons of money. Orwell says "Wallace thought nothing of composing a full-length book in less than a week" and that "his whole aim of writing was to make money" and he succeeded, earning about 50,000 pounds a year which in those days was a fortune, and which he splurged on mansions and racing-horses. When Wallace died in Hollywood his body was brought home to England in a ship with the flag at half mast.
In closing Orwell makes the comment:
"All that and £50,000 a year as well! They also gave Wallace a plaque on the wall at Ludgate Circus. It is queer to think that London could commemorate Wallace in Fleet Street and Barrie [author of Peter Pan] in Kensington Gardens, but has never yet got round to giving Blake [one of England's greatest poets] a monument in Lambeth."
Orwell's indignation at Blake's treatment, ie there being no monument to him, matches exactly the way I feel about the fact that there is no museum or statue of Orwell anywhere in England (aside from the blue plagues on some of the houses he lived in).
The week after Orwell wrote his AS I PLEASE comment about there being no monument to Blake, he had to take it back:
"I want to correct an error that I made in this column last week. It seems that there is a plaque to William Blake, and that it is somewhere near St George’s Church in Lambeth. I had looked for one in that area and had failed to find it. My apologies to the L.C.C."
Orwell was no doubt happy to be corrected, as I would be, if someone were to write telling me there IS a statue of Orwell somewhere in England. But since first mentioning it on the website - after my visit to BOOKLOVERS' CORNER in July 2003, no one has ever written in to so enlighten me. ~ Jackie Jura
*SHRINE TO ORWELL
1.The Diary and 29.Risking Renting the Room and 31.Love Nest
Reader Katie, from the village of Orwell in England, is planning a Literary Weekend featuring 1984
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