Orwell Society Visits Waugh Site

A member of the Orwell Society has posted a report of a visit made by a group of its members to North London sites associated with George Orwell. The visit started in Hampstead with a stop at the site of the bookstore (marked by an Orwell plaque) that provided a model for the one where the hero of Keep the Aspidistra Flying worked, then moved on to Parliament Hill where Orwell had lodgings. The bookstore site is within walking distance of Waugh’s boyhood home at 145 North End Road on the other side of Hampstead Village.

The tour moved on by undisclosed means of transport to another North London neighborhood with a more immediate Waugh association:

Next stop… was 27b Canonbury Square, Islington. This flat brought back some distant memories from Orwell’s adopted son Richard Blair who accompanied us on the tour. Though a very small boy, Richard remembers the flat as being very dark and dingy, although his Father was completely indifferent to the state of his surroundings, as long as he could write. Canonbury witnessed a turn in Orwell’s financial fortunes, which had been a constant worry, until after the publication of Animal Farm. On a darker note, it was during his time here that his wife Eileen died, although Orwell was travelling as a war correspondent on the continent at the time. Canonbury also saw the birth of his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, although his most famous work was completed on the island of Jura in Scotland. Michael also took us around to 17 Canonbury Square, where Evelyn Waugh once lived and worked…The tour ended with lunch at the Canonbury Tavern, which recognizes its famous literary patrons Orwell and Waugh with some lovely framed book covers decorating the walls.

The Orwell building in Canonbury Square is also marked by a plaque; the Waugh building (often cited as 17a Canonbury Square) is not. That is probably as Waugh would want it, because it was while living here that his first marriage broke up. The two authors did not live there at the same time. Orwell was there in the mid 1940s and Waugh, at the end of the 1920s. They became friends after the war when Orwell returned from Jura and was recuperating from an illness in a sanitarium near where Waugh lived in Gloucestershire. Each reviewed the other’s books: Orwell, Scott-King’s Modern Europe in the New York Times (Evelyn Waugh: The Critical Heritage, p. 294) and Waugh, Collected Essays in the Tablet (Essays, Articles and Reviews, p. 304). Orwell was planning to write a longer essay on Waugh’s work at the time he died but got no further than some notes that were later published.



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