To Orwell Today,

I'm a graduate student at the University of Alberta and am curious to know if there is a list of books that were in Orwell's library at the time of his death? I am writing a paper on his influences and sources he may have used or drawn on during his career.

Thank you for any information you can give me.
Timothy Dunfield

Greetings Timothy,

I don't know if such a list exists. I haven't come across any mention of one so far. I know, from his own account, that Orwell had around 900 books in his library. See his 1946 essay BOOKS VS CIGARETTES

Orwell Typing/Smoking

Above is a photo of Orwell in front of bookshelves in the flat on Canonbury Square where he wrote that essay (he made some bookshelves himself out of cherry wood he painted white and which sagged in the middle). I've been to that very flat. See 27B CANONBURY SQUARE

In 1944 Orwell's flat in London was bombed (the one at Mortimer Crescent from which he moved temporarily to a friend's empty flat nearby) and many of his books - including the finished manuscript of ANIMAL FARM - were buried under a pile of rubble. There's an anecdote that the publishers who Orwell sent it to (all of whom turned ANIMAL FARM down) wondered about the wear and tear on the cover. There's also an anecdote of Orwell going back and forth on his lunch break (working as an editor at "Tribune" at the time) pushing a wheel-barrow full of books between the bombed out flat and his new one. See ALONG CAME THE DOODLEBUG and ORWELL TRIBUTE TO TRIBUNE and ORWELL'S PUBLISHING PROBLEMS

One book I know for sure that was in Orwell's library at the time of his death (although only in manuscript form) was his own NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR.

At the time of his death Orwell had been in hospital for one year, but prior to that he was living in a house on an island in the Scottish Hebrides and all his books were there. See JOURNEY TO ORWELL'S JURA and VISITING ORWELL'S BARNHILL

His wife, Sonia, went to Jura in February 1950 - a month after he died - to sort out his possessions at the Barnhill house. At that time - godcidently - she found the working manuscript for "1984" in his bedroom, from which he had typed the final copy. I say 'godcidently' because it is the only draft manuscript of Orwell's in existence. The only reason he didn't throw it away after typing the final copy was because he left Barnhill in a medical emergency, having collapsed from exhaustion after typing "1984" himself and mailing the original and two carbon copies to his publisher and agent. See ORWELL'S TYPEWRITER MY GRANDFATHER'S and ORWELL'S TYPEWRITER A REMINGTON

One of the greatest thrills of my life was coming across a copy of an exact replica of THE MANUSCRIPT OF 1984 - in his own handwriting and typewriting - and adding it to my own Orwell library. See BOOKS ABOUT ORWELL and BOOKS BY ORWELL.

Throughout his life Orwell was an avid reader and writer (an author and a journalist) and read thousands of books for pleasure, to increase his knowledge and also in the line of duty as a book reviewer. The four-volume THE COLLECTED ESSAYS, JOURNALISM AND LETTERS OF GEORGE ORWELL (including all his AS I PLEASE columns for "Tribune") contain his comments on many of the authors and books that influenced him.

Volume 1

I'm sorry not to be specific about books in Orwell's library, but it would be hard to make a choice as to what to mention or not mention. I could rhyme off dozens that I know would be there (and I recognize concepts from many that I've read in much of his writing) but perhaps you could decide for yourself by going to Orwell himself - through his 4-volume compilation (the 1st of which is scanned above) - for your source.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

PS - Also you could search for articles on my website linked off the Home Page and under the Essays and Commentary section which include excerpts from some reviews and articles Orwell wrote on authors and books that influenced him. For example, Jonathan Swift - especially GULLIVER'S TRAVELS - was a literary and political influence on Orwell about which he said: "I believe Gulliver's Travels has meant more to me than any other book ever written. I can't remember when I first read it, I must have been eight years old at the most, and it's lived with me ever since so that I suppose a year has never passed without my re-reading at least part of it."

Jackie Jura
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