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Perchance the weather was sunny; Orwell proceeded immediately to dry his lighter and collect some fuel—grass and peat—and soon succeeded in lighting a fire by which the castaways were then able somehow to dry and warm themselves.

They could have been distressed to see it publicized that their only son had led the life of an out-of-work drifter and penniless tramp.It is the entry of August 19, 1947, dealing with the Corryvreckan whirlpool accident.On the Hebridean island of Jura, in the solitary, spartan, and beloved Scottish hermitage where, in the final years of his life, Orwell spent most of his time—at least when not in hospital, for his failing health had already reduced him to semi-invalidity—he used a small rowing boat equipped with an outboard engine both for fishing (his great passion) and for short coastal excursions.The diaries provide a wealth of information on Orwell’s daily activities, concerns, and interests; they present considerable documentary value for scholars, but they do not exactly live up to their editor’s claim: “These diaries offer a virtual autobiography of his life and opinions for so much of his life.” This assessment would much better characterize the utterly fascinating companion volume (also edited by Peter Davison), George Orwell: A Life in Letters.Orwell’s diaries are not confessional: here he very seldom records his emotions, impressions, moods, or feelings; hardly ever his ideas, judgments, and opinions.

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