The Lion and the Unicorn

Friday 24 February 2012

One of Orwell’s most famous essays, ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’, was first published this week in 1941, on 19 February. Subtitled ‘Socialism and the English Genius’, the essay deals with national characteristics, Englishness and Empire. It also contains some of Orwell’s most famous lines, from ‘As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me’ to ‘the old maids hiking to Holy Communion through the mists of the autumn morning’ as part of the English scene. A great deal of Orwell’s work is infused with notions of English culture and identity, and you can read much of it on our page of Orwell essays.

Orwell Prize Entries 2012

The full list of entries, for the Book PrizeJournalism Prize and Blog Prizecan be found on our website. And you can find out more about this year’s judges, too.

At the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival 2012

We’ll be at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival for a fifth year, with three events. Click on the event titles for full details, to book and to read some relevant Orwell essays:

  • Homage to Catalonia: the Spanish Civil War, 2pm, Friday 30 March: Helen Graham, Paul Preston, Francisco Romero Salvado, chaired by Jean Seaton
  • The Road to Wigan Pier: 75 years on, 6.30pm, Saturday 31 March: Stephen Armstrong, Beatrix Campbell, Juliet Gardiner, Paul Mason, chaired by D. J. Taylor
  • Politics and the Press, 4pm, Sunday 1 April: Gaby Hinsliff, Martin Moore, Lance Price, chaired by Jean Seaton

Orwell on stage

  • 1984, 23-25 February

UCL Student Union Drama Society at the Bloomsbury Theatre

DV8 physical theatre company at the National Theatre Uses part of our event, ‘What can’t you speak about in the 21st Century?’

Peter Cordwell and Carl Picton at Greenwich Theatre Some of the songs are on YouTube

Nineteen Eighty-Four at Foyles

The Foyles Café at Foyles Bookshop, Charing Cross Road is currently exhibiting some of Aleks Krotoski’s photographs inspired by Nineteen Eighty-Four. Aleks spent just over a year telling the first 369 words of the novel, one word at a time, in photographs. You can see the full set of images on her Flickr stream, and you can buy some of the images via her online storeMore on the novel on our site.

From the archive

It was Shrove Tuesday on (surprisingly) Tuesday. Orwell’s essay on ‘British Cookery’ from 1946 talks about various British delicacies, including pancakes (‘British pancakes are thinner than those of most countries, and are always eaten with lemon juice’). We also have images of the original typescript, and the letter from the British Council thanking Orwell for the essay but deciding not to publish it in post-war Europe. And congratulations to the regional winners of The Bookseller’s Independent Bookseller of the YearThe Bookshop KibworthDulwich BooksThe Gutter BookshopThe St Ives BookshopThe Mainstreet Trading CompanyLinghams Booksellers, andThe Chorleywood Bookshop. It’s as good an excuse as any to revisit some of Orwell’s essays on bookshops, books and authors: ‘Bookshop Memories’‘Confessions of a Book Reviewer’‘Books vs. Cigarettes’; and ‘Good Bad Books’. There’s also‘Politics vs. Literature’ (on Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels)‘Freedom and Happiness’ (on Zamyatin’s We)‘Inside the Whale’ (on Henry Miller)‘Raffles and Miss Blandish’ (on fiction and society), and pieces on Kipling (twice), DickensLearKoestler, andWodehouse. Gordon Comstock, from Keep the Aspidistra Flying, also worked in a bookshop – you can read the first chapter on our website, or read Stuart Evers’ take on Comstock in The Guardian from 2008.

From elsewhere

The Wartime Diaries

The next entry will be published on 14th March. Don’t forget our other Orwell Diary blogs: his Hop-Picking Diary and The Road to Wigan Pier Diary. If you’ve got any suggestions about our website(s), we’d love to hear from you – email us on or follow us on Twitter. And you can subscribe to this newsletter via email.