ORWELL'S TYPEWRITER MY GRANDFATHER'S
To Orwell Today,
I have been collecting typewriters that are the same models used by famous authors, but I have yet to determine what kind (or kinds) of typewriters Orwell used. I have seen your photo of the one at Jura but can't tell from the photo what kind it is. Would you tell me what you know about Orwell's typewriters?
I don't know if the typewriter on the table in the little bedroom in Barnhill, Jura was really used by Orwell or if it is only there for symbolic purposes.
If that model was in existence during his time there, ie May 1946 to December 1948, then he probably would have typed on it. People sitting in the kitchen below have reminisced that they seldom saw Orwell downstairs but only heard him typing away non-stop from above.
As far as I know there are only two photos in existence of Orwell typing and they were taken by his friend Vernon Richards in January 1946, nine months after the death of Orwell's wife and five months after the publication of Animal Farm. Orwell had invited Vernon to his flat in Canonbury Square, Islington, North London (which I have been to) to photograph him going about his daily routine:
You can tell by looking at it closely that the typewriter is a portable. I doubt that it is Orwell's ONLY typewriter but I suspect that it is one he used most of the time because it would be easy to take to Jura with him and to the hospital in Glasgow (the two places where Orwell did most of the writing and typing of "1984", much of it in bed). It's the typewriter he was probably using when he wrote the 1946 essay "Confessions of a Book Reviewer" during which time he was working himself to death with journalism. The only way he could escape was to go to his "island in the Hebrides" which he'd been dreaming about for years.
When I first saw the photo of Orwell's typewriter I was amazed because it seemed to be identical to my grandfather's typewriter (and the one I learned to type on in Grade 9 in 1964 when I went to live with my grandparents for a year. He put white tape on each of the keys so I couldn't see the letters).
In the photo on the left you can't really see the typewriter because my grandfather's hand is in the way, but you can see its black case on the gateleg table beside him. The second photo is a display I made of things that remind me of my grandparents. Notice the brass candlestick which is a symbol of "1984" because it was one of the things Winston admired in Mr Charrington's shop the day he bought the glass paperweight. The third photo is a closer view of the typewriter on which I learned to type never realizing that one day I'd be putting that skill to use doing Orwell work. To read a story about the dishes on the lower shelf, go to BLUE WILLOW DISHES POEM.
The reason I'm showing you these photos of my grandfather's typewriter is because I think it might be the same make as Orwell's. The name "Remington Typewriters Limited" is printed in gold on the top left-hand corner below the hammer arms:
When I inherited this typewriter upon my grandfather's death, it had a small piece of white tape with his writing on it saying "US-39 c" which I assume means "made in USA circa 1939" (my grandfather always dated and denoted the provenance of items he owned). There's even a label on its side showing where he bought it. Here's a website showing the different models: THE CLASSIC TYPEWRITER PAGE
Further evidence that Orwell's typewriter might be the same make and model as my grandfather's (ie a Remington portable) is that the typing looks the same. Below are samples from a page my grandfather typed and a page Orwell is known to have typed on his portable. Click the images a couple of times to enlarge them enough to read:
Notice the word "enormous" on the 4th line of my grandfather's typing and the word "enormous" on the second line of Orwell's typing. The letter "r" seems to lift up a bit from the others in both cases which is evidence that the two typerwriters were perhaps the same make.
Actually, I have photos that depict what my grandfather is describing in the page above (which he wrote when he was 86). His father served the British Empire as a vicar (as did Orwell's grandfather) and when he was the Bishop of Mauritius he took his four youngest children with him. My grandfather was 4 years old at the time:
In the photo of the mango trees my grandfather is the small child on the far right, and that's his mother (my great grandmother) standing beside them all. His father (my great grandfather) can be seen in the photo of the verandah (holding the tennis racket). My great-grandmother is sitting on the step with her sister (my grandfather's aunt) who had accompanied them to Mauritius. The third photo shows the entire household. My great-grandfather is standing in profile on the left and my great-grandmother is sitting with the children at the right. My grandfather is the third on the end with his leg hanging over the chair.
I'm so glad you brought up the topic of Orwell's typewriter because it's such an important aspect of the man. Orwell's typewriter has been described by someone as an extension of his arm. In the last four years of his life, from the time he moved to Jura (in the Spring of 1946) his one and only goal was to finish writing "1984" and he pushed himself beyond human limits to accomplish that. He was so weak sometimes that he got dizzy spells and high temperatures just from the act of walking.
Halfway through the writing of "1984" he got so sick he had to go to the tuberculosis sanatorium near Glasgow (Harymires Hospital) where the doctors literally ripped the typewriter out of his hands, refusing to let him use it. For five months he lay there on his back, writing in ball point pen until finally he was well enough to get up again and walk around the grounds. Two months later, in July 1948, he returned to Jura.
But he didn't rest as he had been told to do but instead pushed himself to work on the book every day, too weak to leave his bed for any length of time at all. He did most of his writing and typing lying in bed.
Then finally, near the end of October, he came downstairs one day and announced that the book was finished. A toast was made with the last drams of whisky and then he went back upstairs and started typing the final manuscript himself because in spite of his requests to his publisher to send a secretary to type it, no one had arrived and there didn't seem to be anyone coming.
Then began the final Herculean effort of Orwell's life, the typing (with a carbon copy) of the final manuscript of "1984". For the next six weeks Orwell typed a dozen or twenty pages a day (4,000 words), 7 days a week, sitting on the side of his bed with the typewriter on a chair in front of him.
When it was finally done he packaged up the original and the carbon-copy and sent one to his literary agent, Leonard Moore and the other to his publisher, Fredrick Warburg. The date was December 4, 1948. "1984" was published six months later on June 8, 1949, a day I suggest should be named SAINT GEORGE ORWELL DAY.
Immediately after mailing "1984" Orwell physically collapsed and wasn't capable of picking up a pen, let alone a typewriter. As soon as he was well enough to travel - just after Christmas 1948 - he left Jura for the last time and went immediately into a tuberculosis sanatorium in the hills near London. Then in September he was well enough to travel by ambulance to the hospital in London where he died four months later on January 21, 1950.
From the time he finished writing "1984" Orwell never had a day when he wasn't lying in bed, wasting away until he was literally "the thinnest a person can be and still live". He had given everything he had to the creation of "1984" and his typewriter had been his right-hand man. That's why it's so wonderful that we have the photos of Orwell and his typewriter.
All the best,
...conversation continues at ORWELL'S TYPEWRITER A REMINGTON
ORWELL TODAY BIRTHDAY TYPING
ORWELLIANLY TYPING MANUALLY
VISITING ORWELL'S BARNHILL and 27B CANONBURY SQUARE PHOTOS
C. The Manuscript of 1984 (display of Jackie Jura's copy) and WHY ORWELL WROTE "1984"
The book on the left in the photo above, GEORGE ORWELL AT HOME, is the one from which I copied the photos of Orwell and the typewriter. It contains never-before-seen photos of Orwell and essays about him by his anarchist friends in the Freedom Press (to whom he lent his wife's typewriter) and to which organization Vernon Richards, the photographer, belonged.
29.Risking Renting the Room and 31.Love Nest
ANCESTRAL BOOKENDS TO ORWELL
Reader wonders how my great-grandparents came to be buried in India
HOMAGE TO ORWELL and PILGRIMAGE TO ORWELL
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