george orwell and tooley street

The picture of George Orwell is reproduced here on the understanding that it is in the public domain - wikipedia commons - Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair - 1903-1950), the writer and social commentator, spent some time living in a doss house on Tooley Street when writing Down and Out in Paris and London (published in 1933 by Victor Gollancz). 'The dormitory was ... disgusting', he wrote, 'with the perpetual din of coughing and spitting — everyone in a lodging house has a chronic cough, no doubt from the foul air' (quoted in Crick 1980). Parts of Down and Out.. were written in St Olave's public library (which stood at the junction of Tooley Street and Potters Fields.

Following a brief career in the Burmese Police George Orwell had decided in 1927 to become a writer and to explore social conditions.  He began living and journeying alongside tramps sometimes for several weeks at a time. This took him to the hop fields of Kent and to doss houses such as those in Tooley Street. An initial impetus was to see if the English poor were treated as badly as the Burmese. George Orwell also lived for a time in Paris taking low paid jobs and gradually developing his trademark, direct and plain style of writing. The first result was Down and Out in Paris and London. George Orwell's journalism, novels and social commentaries (perhaps, most famously, The Road to Wigan Pier) were, and remain, deeply influential. They provide a graphic description of the sorts of conditions in which significant numbers of people were condemned to live and work during the 1930s. Later they were to be a significant element in several generations of socialists' education.

Links: george orwell links - includes full text of down and out in paris and london. Reference: Crick, B. (1980) George Orwell. A life, London.
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