Many thanks for your letter. I am going up to town as soon as I have finished the book I am doing, which should be at the end of October. I haven’t settled yet where I am going to stay, but somewhere in the slums for choice. A friend wrote offering me the lease of part of a flat in Bayswater, but it would choke me to live in Bayswater. No, I have never seen a tortoise drinking. Darwin mentions that when he was in the Galapagos Is. the big tortoises there which lived on cactuses & things on the higher ground used to come down into the valley once or twice in the year to drink, & the journey took them a day or two. They stored the water in a kind of sack in their bellies. I have been reading some books by Lafcadio Hearne—tiresome stuff, & he idolises the Japanese, who always seem to me such a boring people. I also tried to read Lord Riddell’s diary of the Peace Conference & After. What tripe! It is amazing how some people can have the most interesting experiences & then have absolutely nothing to say about them. I went to the pictures last week and saw Jack Hulbert in Jack Ahoy which I thought very amusing, & a week or two before that there was quite a good crook film, which, however, my father ruined for me by insisting on telling me the plot beforehand. I have practically no friends here now, because now that Dennis & Eleanor are married & Dennis has gone to Singapore, it has deprived me of two friends at a single stroke. Everything is going badly. My novel about Burma made me spew when I saw it in print, & I would have rewritten large chunks of it, only that costs money and means delay as well. As for the novel I am now completing, it makes me spew even worse, & yet there are some decent passages in it. I don’t know how it is, I can write decent passages but I can’t put them together. I was rather pluming myself on having a poem in the Best Poems of 1934, but I now learn that there are several dozen of these anthologies of the so-called best poems of the year, & Ruth Pitter writes to tell me that she is in 4 of this year’s batch, including one called Twenty Deathless Poems.
I nearly died of cold the other day when bathing, because I had walked out to Easton Broad not intending to bathe, & then the water looked so nice that I took off my clothes & went in, & then about 50 people came up & rooted themselves to the spot. I wouldn’t have minded that, but among them was a coastguard who could have had me up for bathing naked, so I had to swim up & down for the best part of half an hour, pretending to like it.
—George Orwell, letter to Brenda Salkeld, August 1934