To Orwell Today,

Dear Jackie Jura,

I just wanted to send you a note to say a big thank you to you for your wonderful website. I happened on it this morning by accident while checking on the provenance of the well-trained circus dog quote, which I have used in a booklet I am writing on the experience of living in a society with complete 'freedom of the press' but where it feels like there is consistent, continuous, totally waterproof censorship in my own field.

I found the reference and much more and will doubtless be visiting again and again to read the treasures on it. I have already looked at the Barnhill website via your site - Hell! How I would love to spend a week there. I have actually visited it, made a pilgrimage there by bicycle, camping all the way in the ninteen-eighties. I had seen the film "The Crystal Spirit" at the Lancaster Literary Festival and it had so moved me that I decided there and then that I was going to visit Jura and have a look at Barnhill. It was one of the great experiences of my life.

As you will know the last miles of the road are very rough indeed, agony on a bicycle, so I eventually decided to give up and walk the last couple of miles. Should I padlock my bike or not? It dawned on me that there was probably no-one for several miles in every direction, so I left it against a little hillock, unlocked. A difficult thing to do for a UK urban cyclist! The house was unoccupied, so I sat on the bench by the front door and enjoyed my picnic while soaking up the atmosphere. I loved the way the original Raeburn was still there then, apparently still there in 2013.

My bike was, of course, untouched. As I cycled back I met coming towards me a battered, bouncing old Citroen 2CV containing a young French couple. We both stopped, they wound the window down, no pushed it down, 2CVs don't 'wind' do they, and burst out laughing at each other. It was so obvious why we were there that there was no need to ask any questions, though eventually, we did have a bit of a conversation, about Orwell, of course.

Do you know of The Crystal Spirit film? I have been trying to track it down but it seems very elusive. Apparently it was originally a documentary on Scottish TV and that is as fas as I have got. It would be great to find it and post it on YouTube or your website, anywhere where people could watch it.

Many thanks again for all your work on this huge labour of love.

Peter Jones

Greetings Peter,

It's great to hear from someone who's been an Orwell fan for so long -- all the way back to the 80s -- and to top it off, you've even made a pilgrimage to Barnhill on Jura, the very place where Orwell wrote NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR. Getting there by man-powered bicycle must have truly made it feel like a pilgrimage -- especially the infamous last 6 miles or so. Orwell used to break down on that stretch of road all the time while riding his motorcycle. A previous reader wrote in with the miraculous story of finding Orwell's old bike stashed against a tree where it had been abandoned way back then.

No, I've never seen that film THE CRYSTAL SPIRIT (nor until you mentioned it do I recall even knowing of its existence) but I did a quick search trying to track it down -- I'd definitely love to see it. It was a BBC made-for-TV production and aired in 1985:

The Crystal Spirit Orwell on Jura: Year: 1984; Genre: Drama; Production Country: Great Britain;... Dramatised reconstruction of the writing of George Orwell's novel "1984" on the island of Jura between 1946 and 1948... Cast of Characters: George Orwell, Avril [Orwell's sister], Richard Rees [Orwell's aristocratic friend], Bill Dunn [Orwell's handyman], Susan Watson [Orwell's nanny], Margaret Fletcher [Orwell's landlady], shopkeeper [at Craighurst], Donald Darroch [neighbour north of Barnhill], The Dakins [Orwell's nephew/nieces] Richard Blair [Orwell's son]...

It seems to be available at Amazon UK but the price is a bit prohibitive, ie 68 pounds which in USA dollars is $105. Here's their synopsis:

Orwell on Jura: The Crystal Spirit
(running time 90 minutes)

George Orwell first visited the remote Hebridean island of Jura in 1946, and he made his home there from the summer of 1947 until the winter of 1948. He died early 1950 and spent the last year of his life in a sanatorium in the Cotswolds. He went to Jura to escape the drabness of post-war London and the pressures of his journalistic career, to make time to work on a new novel, provisionally called 'The Last Man in Europe', redrafted as 1984.

This reconstruction is written by playwright Alan Plater, who draws on Orwell's letters and journalism and the memories of people who knew him during the last years of his life. By dramatising the writer's relationships with his sister, his son, his friends and neighbours, the film draws out some of the major concerns of his writing and thought at the time he was working on 1984. The pivot of the film is Orwell's perception of the relationship between politics, language and truth. He realised the vulnerability of language to manipulation and distortion by the unscrupulous and foolish, and equated the proper use of language with truth -- his absolute insistence that 2 + 2 should equal 4, not 5.

The dramatisation confines itself to Orwell's life on Jura, but through the devices of conversation and reminiscence, discussion of his work is extended back into the past. Orwell's evaluation of his own earlier fiction is included, and his response to the reception of 'Animal Farm' and the new affluence it brought him. Through his relationship with his sister, the film touches on Orwell's resolution of the conflict between his commitment to socialism and the bourgeois, colonial tradition of the Blair family.

~ end quoting ~

The film sounds like a profound production -- no wonder it inspired you to hop on your bike and make the pilgrimage to Jura.

It was while reading Orwell biographies and his letters and journalism that I first began to imagine going to Jura and walking to Orwell's house -- but deep down I never really thought it would happen. But then -- godcidently -- it did happen and by that time I had read enough by Orwell and about Orwell to be able to actually feel his presence while walking those miles to Barnhill. The anticipation of seeing Barnhill -- and having a picnic in front of it -- was amazingly exciting -- so you can imagine how on cloud nine I was when it turned out I actually went INSIDE the house.

Being in the very kitchen where people who visited Barnhill used to hear Orwell typing from upstairs was a thrill that was only surpassed by being in the very upstairs room where he actually did the typing.

The typing of NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR -- let alone the writing of it -- was a monumental feat of endurance that is probably only truly realized by people who have done alot of typing. It's bad enough having to type hundreds of pages making as few mistakes as possible -- because in the old days there was no correction tape or white-out -- but then to add carbon copies -- and in Orwell's case he added two -- it makes making a mistake even a greater nightmare for correcting.

Also, when typing such a huge pile of pages a person would ideally like to be sitting at a proper desk and feeling physically good -- not weak or tired or hungover or whatever. But in Orwell's case, he sometimes had to type propped up on pillows in bed with the typewriter on his lap -- so physically destroyed was he by that time. For weeks, toward the end, Orwell hadn't been able to go outside or exert himself in any way because if he did he got dizzy and a fever and spit up blood. By all accounts Orwell was typing an average of 4,000 words a day -- or up to 20 pages -- and suffering every minute of it.

Actually, in researching freedom of the press issues -- raised by your comment about Orwell's "well-trained circus dog" quote -- I re-read an interview of Orwell's publisher -- Fredric Warburg -- and was struck by how he too was amazed at Orwell's typing ability. He says the NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR manuscript arrived in absolutely perfect condition -- with hardly a comma out of place -- something very rare at the best of times -- let alone the worst. Warburg makes a confession -- to get it off his chest -- about how guilty he still felt for letting Orwell down by not sending a typist to Jura as Orwell had requested.

Below is a scan and excerpts of Warburg's interview from the book ORWELL REMEMBERED by Coppard and Crick, published in 1984. The interview was conducted in 1970 for the BBC TV program Omnibus -- and includes some of Warburg's comments about Jura and being Orwell's publisher. Warburg had previously published HOMAGE TO CATALONIA and ANIMAL FARM when Orwell couldn't get anyone else. At that time Warburg was just starting out in the publishing business and had no successful books or authors on his list -- but his faith in Orwell was richly rewarded -- in every sense of the word.

OrwellRemembered WarburgInterview
interview of Fredric Warburg by Melvyn Bragg, 1970

...Outline what happened to Orwell from the time you met him to his death.

Well, I would say that it was the most obviously creative period of his life in which he brought out his two most important works, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. After he came back from Spain, he wrote, of course, Homage to Catalonia fairly quickly, and I think he lived in the country until the war broke out. Then he came back to London because he must have hoped to be involved in being bombed; this would be something that he would obviously enjoy. I was out of London for a year or so at the beginning of the war, we had a house in the country then, and when I came back, the porter of my block of flats was a sergeant-major of the St John's Wood Home Guard battalion and Orwell was a sergeant. So they persuaded me to join the Home Guard instead of doing something silly like fire-watching. And I was rapidly promoted from volunteer or Private Warburg to Corporal. And I therefore became Sergeant Orwell's corporal. He was Sergeant Blair of course. And we were regarded as dangerous Reds and we were put in charge of all the French, German and Polish Jews who were obviousdly regarded as dangerous Reds. He was very good -- a very keen Home Guard sergeant. Always looked very jaunty, though dirty, on parade. And he took it very seriously. At the same time, of course, he was broadcasting to India in the interests of the war effort for the BBC.

Well, during this time he must have been writing Animal Farm. It probably took him two or three years. And I first saw it in 1944. I didn't see an awful lot of him except on parade. We had drinks at the pub and he used to tell me what was going to happen in the war, but he was a very bad prophet. And then of course, Animal Farm came out in 1945 and was an immediate success. Immediate. We printed as many copies as we had paper for, that is, 5,000 copies, and they were sold within a month or two. And then we scrounged around and got more paper and we printed and printed and printed. And it's never stopped selling since. Well then, this was his first major success and it was the first time that he really had very considerable sums of money. This he liked. This he really liked and he said, 'Well for the first time, Fred, I can take you out to lunch at my expense.' Which he did.

And then I only saw him, of course, from one side, but he had this island holding on the west coast of Scotland, and he spent a lot of time there. And of course, he developed at some stage between 1945 and 1950 the further onslaught of TB. He was more or less cured of this in 1946, because David Astor had one of the new antibiotics, streptomycin, flown over from America, and he took it in a sanatorium outside Glasgow, and it more less cleared him up. But then, of course, being what he was, he went back to a damp and unsuitable climate; and he had a very tiring journey to the mainland, to Glasgow, to see a specialist once a month, and this, I think, was fairly disastrous.

Another thing, and this I have very much on my conscience, which was disastrous, was that all this time he was writing Nineteen Eighty-Four which at one time, by the way, was called The Last Man In Europe. And it obviously existed in a very mixed-up form and he wrote and asked me to find him a secretary to go up to Jura, where you had to cross two lots of sea, then you had to go on a mule for five miles, and the last five miles you walked. So it was not a very attractive job for a London typist. And I tried quite a few, but they wouldn't go. Had one of them gone, he might have been able to finish Nineteen Eighty-Four without breaking his neck over it. But I couldn't find him one and he typed it all himself -- very well -- and it came in, as all his books did come in to us, in a virtually perfect condition, with hardly a comma wrong.

Well, as a result of this he broke down and had to leave. And he took himself or was taken to a sanatorium in Somerset. I visited him there with my wife, and we thought that it looked more like a sort of Arctic concentration camp than a place where people would get well from TB. And we sent down -- after some objections from George -- a very well-known London specialist in TB who said, 'Well I think we might be able to do something for this man if we got him to my hospital in London, University College Hospital.' Which is why eventually, but too late as it turned out, he went to the University College Hospital.

But before this he had finished Nineteen Eighty-Four. I read it, I was the first man in Europe, I think to read it, and it made a tremendous impression on me. I thought it was an awe-inspiring book, a horrifying book as it is, and it came out six months before he died. It was a sensation, more in Europe than in England; it was very much a seller in England, but in Europe it was a political act of enormous importance. Because you must remember that after the war Russia, which had done so much to win it, was enormously powerful and in some ways admired, and this was -- like Animal Farmbut in a different way -- the most powerful anti-Soviet Communism tract that you could find anywhere. And the Europeans treated it as such. The British never really worried much one way or the other about Communism at that time; it didn't have the same effect; it was judged more from a literary point of view over here.

How would you say Orwell's work came to you?

In absolutely perfect mint condition, so that it was a pleasure to look at, a pleasure to read even if it had been drivel. Nothing had to be done. Really nothing. Orwell as a writer was less trouble I should think than anybody I've ever met. The only trouble was that his agent was stone deaf and I had to negotiate terms with him. And Orwell wouldn't discuss terms; if you mentioned money to him he ran straight out of the room. Instantly. 'I can't talk about money, Fred.' You know, another thing about his relationship to his publisher. He didn't believe in telling anybody what he was doing next. I think the only man that he discussed his work with was Arthur Koestler. So when he was writing Animal Farm, all he said to me was, 'I'm writing about a farm where the animals revolt against the farmer and it's very anti-Russian, you won't like it, Fred.' This is what he said. And when he was writing Nineteen Eighty-Four, he said, 'It's all about the future.' That's all he told me. And I had a very inaccurate impression of what I was going to get.

What's your final opinion of him as a writer?

Well I would say without hesitation that, with Lawrence, he was the best and most influential writer between 1930 and 1950, possibly 1960; that his work is gathering strength if you can judge by sales. More and more people seem to buy him every year; hardcover, paperback, and all the rest of it. I can't assess how Orwell helps people, but I know how he helped me while he was alive, and how much I regret his death, because he had a way of seeing through the appearance, of penetrating to the kernel of the argument, the nub of the thing, and putting it down.

~ end quoting ~

Warburg's comment that Orwell helped him -- and other people -- when he was alive can be extended to after Orwell died because Orwell is still helping people now -- through the legacy of his writing.

On a personal level, I thank God for Orwell because if we, the people, had never had Orwell, we'd be alone against the terrifying unfolding world of BIG BROTHER. But with Orwell's "crystal spirit" guiding us, we're better able to understand and fight for our humanity.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

PS - In response to your opening statement about "living in a society with complete 'freedom of the press' but where it feels like there is consistent, continuous, totally waterproof censorship" please continue reading at COMMUNISTS ENSLAVE BRITISH FREE PRESS

CrystalSpiritOrwell CrystalSpiritOrwell
RTnew/BBCnews RTnewsStalin RTnewsPsyOp
(120-million innocent deaths in 20th century)
watch The Bloody History of Communism
BellocCommunism BellocUsury BellocTruth
Belloc on Communism/Usury/TruthSuppression
Email/YouTube, Jul 29, 2013
Big Brother Tells How & Big Brother Tells Why
& MiniTrue & MiniPlenty & KeepMassesDown


ESCAPE TO ORWELL'S BARNHILL (Still owned by the Fletchers, the same family that leased it to Orwell in the late 1940s, the house is available to rent by the week and sleeps up to six people)
























Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~