Eileen Blair to Miss Perriam, 17 January 1937

The Stores, Wallington,

Near Baldock, Herts.

Dear Miss Perriam[1],

Thank you very much for your letter. My husband said that Gollancz had warned him that the book would have to be rushed through and that it might be impossible to let the proofs out of the office at all, but the final arrangement was that I was to have the proofs even if they could only be spared for twenty-four hours. Perhaps even that wasn’t possible – anyway I suppose this means that no alterations have been necessary in the text to conform with any laws and conventions, which is satisfactory, and we might just hope that the proof-correctors have not made too many ‘emendations’.

The word my husband particularly wants changed is in Chapter I, the last paragraph but one. In the manuscript the sentence is: “For the first time in my life, in a bare patch beside the line, I saw rooks copulating.” According to my husband, Gollancz and he altered the copulating to courting, but he wishes the phrase to read “… I saw rooks treading“, because he has seen rooks courting hundreds of times. Of course if by any chance Gollancz changed his mind and left copulating, that would be better still, but I expect there is no hope of that. If you can get this alteration made, I shall be most grateful again; I’m so sorry the misunderstanding arose, because I’m afraid it is an irritating nuisance for you.

I have had a postcard from Eric from Sientamo, a village where they halted for food, a few miles from the front. He says the peasants are carrying on as though nothing had happened although the buildings have been almost smashed to pieces by bombs and shell-fire.

Yours sincerely,

Eileen Blair


[1] Secretary to Leonard Moore, Orwell’s literary agent. Peter Davison

From the Complete Works, XI, 356, p. 6