Orwell Duggie
~ 1938 Douglas Stuart ad


"...That very night while gentle sleep
The urchin's eyelids kissed,
Two stern-faced men set out from Lynn,
Through the cold and heavy mist;
And Eugene Aram walked between,
With gyves upon his wrist.
~ 1832 poem by Thomas Hood

Dear Orwell Today,

The meaning of the penultimate verse of the Little Poem, with its priest and commissar, is surely perfectly clear to anyone who has read Orwell's work.

What is the problem expressed in the web page shown below?

Reader John asks for an explanation of "the little poem" in Orwell's essay "Why I Write"

The easiest bit is the phrase, "Duggie always pays". Wasn't Duggie (Douglas Stuart) a household name as a bookmaker at that time?

But that's hardly the start of an attempt to answer this little question. What is puzzling about any of it anyway?

The bit I had to look up was the reference to Eugene Aram. On returning to this poem recently, I had forgotten all about the mysterious Mr Aram.

Kind regards,
Tony Dron

Greetings Tony,

Although I appreciate your clearing up the question of who "Duggie" is in the second-to last verse in Orwell's "little poem" that he mentions in his essay WHY I WRITE - as transcribed in my article ORWELL THE HAPPY VICAR - I don't understand why you're puzzled that I didn't know who "Duggie" was.

"...And the commissar is telling my fortune
While the radio plays,
But the priest has promised an Austin Seven,
For Duggie always pays...."

You say it should be "perfectly clear to anyone who has read Orwell's work" but, in fact, it wasn't perfectly clear to me, and I've read almost ALL of Orwell's work (except for some of his letters and diary entries). Nowhere, that I recall, does Orwell reference a "bookmaker" or "Duggie" in any of his other writings.

Nor do you go on to explain who the "commissar" and "priest" are, and yet you imply that I should know that too, when, as I said to the previous reader, I DO NOT KNOW (and I wasn't around in 1935 when Orwell wrote the poem, so to me Duggie isn't "a household name").

At least you admit you didn't know who Eugene Aram was (nor did I, but no reader had ever asked and I had never wondered).

"...I am the worm who never turned,
The eunuch without a harem;
Between the priest and the commissar
I walk like Eugene Aram..."

In any event, I've now done a search on Douglas Stuart and Eugene Aram. I found the 1938 "Duggie" ad, scanned at the top of the page, at a website devoted to vintage collectibles:

1938 Douglas Stuart Ltd Ad, Ruby Lane (...an old large ad for a London betting/gaming/gambling establishment...)

I asked my husband (who's English and goes to the horse-races whenever we're back in Jolly-Old) what "Duggie always pays" would mean (once I'd told him who 'Duggie' was) and he said that in the old days some bookmakers were disreputable and didn't pay winners what they were owed, but that "Duggie" must have (according to Orwell in the poem).

Regarding Eugene Aram, who Orwell also mentions in the little 'happy vicar' poem, it turns out he was a famous linquist who, in 1759, was convicted of murdering his best friend and was hanged. Then, seventy-five years later, in 1830, a poem (excerpts at top of page) and a book were written about him. Then, in 1989, a lawyer from the same Yorkshire town as Aram conjectured that he was innocent.

The Dream of Eugene Aram, Old Poetry

Should Eugene Aram Have Hanged?, Web Mystery Magazine

Again, let me say, I do appreciate your solving the mystery of Orwell's "Duggie", and inspiring curiousity about Eugene Aram. Obviously, Orwell was well-versed in the story of Aram and no doubt read the poem by Hood (and maybe even the book by Lytton) about him. Orwell was a great reader of poetry, and before he became a writer of prose, he tried his hand at poetry but it wasn't his forte.

As much as I know on the subject of Orwell and his works, I don't claim to know as much as Orwell knew on any subject. There are many references in his writings that I don't recognize off the top of my head. As in all his books, especially "1984", Orwell writes cryptically, and half the fun of reading his work is finding the symbolism and hidden meanings interwoven in his prose - and his poetry.

Thanks for adding two more pieces to the puzzle that is Orwell.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

PS - In a way, like Eugene Aram, Orwell was a linquist. He spoke eight languages: Greek, Latin, Burmese, Hindustan, Shaw-Karen, French, Spanish and Catalan. See ALL ABOUT ORWELL

WHY I WRITE, essy by George Orwell, 1947 (...By the end of 1935 I had still failed to reach a firm decision. I remember a little poem that I wrote at that date, expressing my dilemma: A happy vicar I might have been, Two hundred years ago, To preach upon eternal doom, And watch my walnuts grow...)

To Orwell Today,

Many thanks.

-Tony Dron

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

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com