Keep the Aspidistra Flying: Orwell’s Portrait of the Artist
Orwell hastily wrote Keep the Aspidistra Flying in 1935, in the hope of making some money, while he was living in Hampstead and working in a bookshop in South End Green. Though the character of Gordon Comstock is by no means identical with Orwell the man, his situation is closely modelled on Orwell’s life at the time. The incidents and characters described in the novel are sufficiently close to real life for friends to have identified themselves in it. One of his girlfriends, Kay Ekevall, remembered Orwell’s obsession with money, his old-fashioned insistence on paying for outings and dislike of ‘going dutch’, and a specific occasion when Orwell spent all his money on a dinner for a group of friends, got drunk and assaulted a policeman.43 Ravelston, the editor of Antichrist, is a mildly satirical portrait of his friend Sir Richard Rees, the editor (with John Middleton Murry) of the Adelphi, a magazine where Orwell published many early essays and poems. Indeed, as Keith Alldritt has pointed out, Gordon’s poem in chapter 7 of the novel was published by Orwell in the Adelphi in November 1935. ‘Willowbed Road’ and ‘Coleridge Grove’ suggest the nearby Willoughby Road and Keats Grove. The Lorings resemble Orwell’s Hampstead circle of literary friends. Gordon’s affair with Rosemary, their country walks and eventual marriage parallel Orwell’s courtship and marriage (in 1936) to Eileen O’Shaughnessy.
KeywordsUnearned Income Early Essay Communal Kitchen Proletarian Revolution Respectable World
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