Days Like These: 10 May 1948

George Orwell, writer and journalist, writes to Julian Symons
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"You are perfectly right about my own character constantly intruding on that of the narrator [in Coming Up For Air]. I am not a real novelist anyway, and that particular vice is inherent in writing a novel in the first person, which one should never do. One difficulty I have never solved is that one has masses of experience to write about eg, the part about fishing in that book, and no way of using them up except by disguising them as a novel. Of course, the book was bound to suggest HG Wells watered down. I have a great admiration for Wells, ie as a writer, and he was a very early influence on me. I think I was 10 or 11 when Cyril Connolly and I got hold of a copy of Wells's The Country of the Blind [short stories] and were so fascinated by it that we kept stealing it from one another. I can still remember at 4 o'clock on a midsummer morning, with the school fast asleep and the sun slanting through the window, creeping down a passage to Connolly's dormitory where I knew the book would be beside his bed. We also got into severe trouble (and I think a caning) for having a copy of Compton Mackenzie's Sinister Street."

11 May 1759


Enlightenment philosopher, writes to Sophie Volland

"At eight o'clock yesterday we set out for Marly. We arrived at half past 10, ordered a large dinner and wandered out into the park, where I was impressed by the contrast between the delicate art of the pavilions and arbours and the natural wildness of a dense mass of tall trees in the background. These pavilions, set far apart and half hidden by forest, seem the dwellings of subordinate sprites, whose master lives in the central one. This gave the place a fairy-tale feeling which pleased me.

"I wandered aimlessly through the park in a melancholy frame of mind. The others had gone striding ahead of us and we followed slowly, the Baron von Gleichen and I. I was happy to be with the baron, for we both felt within us the same emotion. It is strange how sensitive spirits can understand each other almost without speaking. A chance word, a fit of absent-mindedness, a vague disjointed expression, a tone of voice, a way of walking, a look, a moment of attention or of silence, all these give them away to one another. We said little; we felt a lot; we were both suffering; but he was more to be pitied than I. I looked from time to time towards the city; his eyes were fixed on the ground; he was searching for someone who no longer exists."

Ian Irvine