April 29, 2022

Down And Out In Paris And London

I made 161 highlights while reading Down And Out In Paris And London by George Orwell. The book will give you insights into living in poverty.
  • For those lucky enough to identify their star in childhood, the only necessary training is to read, widely and attentively.

  • In every generation, thousands of youngsters' want to write', and so far, Eric had shown no trace of literary talent.

  • One's first eighteen years rarely provide either the material or the inspiration (at that stage) for saleable writing.

  • Orwell's savings proved that he had led an unusually solitary and frugal life in Burma, reading rather than boozing at 'the Club'. Yet, they represented only a flimsy life-jacket when he plunged into the deep waters of the literary world.

  • Eventually, a family acquaintance found him a grim bedroom in a mean street off the Portobello Road, and there he settled down, at the age of twenty-four, to teach himself how to write.

  • Writers may be born, not made – born, that is, with the will to write. But, for many, even modest success has to be worked for throughout long bleak years littered with rejection slips.

  • Orwell never thought of his work primarily as a cash source; many of Orwell's best essays were for the Tribune, which always paid poorly.

  • Bernard Crick noted, 'He genuinely valued art more than success.'

  • In 1928, Orwell moved to Paris, where the cost of living was spectacularly low.

  • He settled into a cheap hotel at 6 Rue du Pot de Fer, in the Latin Quarter. Within fifteen months, he had written two novels and several short stories, all repeatedly rejected and subsequently destroyed.

  • Later, George Orwell recalled, 'My literary efforts in the first year barely brought me in twenty pounds.'

  • Also, he could have appealed for help to his favourite (because only) bohemian relative, Aunt Nellie. She was then living in Paris with her mildly dotty lover, Eugène Adam - who had recently founded the Workers' Esperanto Association of the World. For obvious reasons, her proximity does not emerge in Down and Out. However, Aunt Nellie's circumstances were then too straitened for a proud nephew to batten on her.

  • So there was no alternative to working in the foul kitchens of the fashionable Hôtel Lotti on the Rue de Rivoli.

  • When Orwell left Paris in December 1929, he did not, in fact, immediately live as a down-and-out in London. He spent Christmas with his family, whose joy was confined when their penniless son - now aged twenty-six and seemingly an unqualified failure - reappeared.

  • One of Orwell's pupils (Richard Peters, later Professor of Philosophy at the Institute of Education, London) has drawn a vivid pen-portrait of his engagingly eccentric tutor. A tall spindly young man with a great mop of hair waving on top of a huge head, swinging along with loose, effortless strides. He had a slow disarming smile, which made us feel that he was interested in us yet amused by us in a detached, impersonal way. He never condescended; he never preached; he never intruded. He was never noisy and lacked the dogmatism of the insecure.

  • The original version of Down and Out, entitled A Scullion's Diary, was completed in October 1930 and came to no more than 35,000 words; evidently, Orwell had used only his Paris material.

  • By 1932, he may have been feeling hostile to Down and Out, an emotion writers experience when a book has been too long on their mental plate.

  • We owe the rescue and publication of Down and Out to Mabel Fierz, in whose home Orwell discarded the typescript, requesting his hostess to destroy it but save the paper clips. Instead, she took it to a reputable literary agent, Leonard Moore, and bullied him into reading it without delay.

  • The family gave thanks that a pseudonym had got used; in Southwold, the originality of Mr and Mrs Blair's son might not have got appreciated.

  • On 9 January 1933, Down and Out got published at 8s. 6d., which reminds us that hardback books were no less expensive then than now.

  • 3,000~ copies were sold - a good achievement for the first book by an unknown young man - and Orwell made £150-£200, over two years.

  • He had to wait until 1940, when Penguin printed 55,000 sixpenny copies (accidentally but perhaps fortunately misclassified as 'fiction'), for Down and Out to become famous.

  • The peculiar flavour of English class-consciousness - at once more ruthless and more muted than Continental variants - comes across most aromatically when he is down and out in London.

  • Before he departed from England, he had voluntarily lived among tramps for some time because 'I knew nothing about working-class conditions. I had read the unemployment figures, but I had no notion of what they implied'.

  • Physically, it is much less gruelling to be down and out now than it was fifty years ago. But psychologically, is 'the mob' any better off?

  • Down and Out in Paris and London was published by Gollancz on 9 January 1933. And by Harper & Brothers in New York on 30 June 1933.

  • Orwell's French was good, but where he used French in his English text, the translators sometimes made this more colloquial.

  • I sketch this scene to convey something of the spirit of the Rue du Coq d'Or.

  • My hotel was called the Hôtel des Trois Moineaux.

  • Sometimes, when the bugs got too bad, one used to burn sulphur and drive them into the next room, after which the lodger next door would retort by having his room sulphured and drive the bugs back.

  • The rent of the rooms varied between thirty and fifty francs a week.

  • The Paris slums are a gathering place for eccentric people – people who have fallen into solitary, half-mad grooves of life and given up trying to be normal.

  • Poverty frees them from ordinary standards of behaviour, just as money frees people from work.

  • Or there was R., an Englishman, who lived six months of the year in Putney with his parents and six months in France.

  • When one has experienced love – the true love – what is there in the world that seems more than a mere ghost of joy?

  • I lived in the Coq d'Or quarter for about a year and a half.

  • I found that I had just four hundred and fifty francs left, and beyond this nothing but thirty-six francs a week, which I earned by giving English lessons.

  • Hitherto, I had not thought about the future, but I now realised that I must do something at once.

  • I had now got to live at the rate of about six francs a day. From the start, it was too difficult to leave much thought for anything else.

  • You have thought so much about poverty. It is the thing you have feared all your life, the thing you knew would happen to you sooner or later, and it is all so utterly and prosaically different.

  • You thought it would be quite simple; it is extraordinarily complicated. You thought it would be terrible; it is merely squalid and boring.

  • You discover the boredom which is inseparable from poverty; the times when you have nothing to do and, being underfed, can interest yourself in nothing.

  • When you are approaching poverty, you make one discovery that outweighs some of the others. You discover boredom and mean complications and the beginnings of hunger. You also discover the great redeeming feature of poverty: the fact that it annihilates the future. Within limits, it is true that the less money you have, the less you worry.

  • And there is another feeling that is a great consolation in poverty. I believe everyone hard up has experienced it. It is a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs – and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it.

  • I had now no clothes except what I stood up in – the coat badly out at the elbow – an overcoat, moderately pawnable, and one spare shirt.

  • The clerks are French and, like most French people, are in a bad temper till they have eaten their lunch.

  • Like most Russian refugees, he had had an adventurous life.

  • Boris always talked of the war as the happiest time of his life. War and soldiering were his passion. He had read innumerable books of strategy and military history. He could tell you all about the theories of Napoleon, Kutuzov, Clausewitz, Moltke and Foch.

  • His favourite café was the Closerie des Lilas in Montparnasse, simply because Marshal Ney's statue stands outside.

  • Victory is to him who fights the longest.

  • Though he'd never saved more than a few thousand francs, he took it for granted that he would be able to set up a restaurant and grow rich.

  • You say you go in for writing. Writing is bosh. There is only one way to make money at writing, and that is to marry a publisher's daughter.

  • But you would make a good waiter if you shaved that moustache off. You are tall, and you speak English – those are the chief things a waiter needs.

  • Never worry, mon ami. Nothing is easier to get than money.

  • It's only a question of persisting.

  • Despite all this, Boris managed to keep a fairly smart appearance. He shaved without soap and with a razor-blade two months old, tied his tie so that the holes did not show, and carefully stuffed the soles of his shoes with newspaper. Finally, when he got dressed, he produced an ink bottle and inked his ankles' skin, where it showed through his socks.

  • Sooner rob than starve, mon ami. I have often planned it. A fat, rich American – some dark corner down Montparnasse way – a cobblestone in a stocking – bang! And then go through his pockets and bolt. It is feasible, do you not think? I would not flinch – I have been a soldier, remember.

  • Besides, we both have brains - a man with brains can't starve.

  • What things a man can do with brains! Brains make money out of anything.

  • Boris, like many Russians, had a passion for chess. It was a saying that chess rules are the same as the rules of love and war and that if you can win at one, you can win at the others.

  • Some people do fasting cures of three weeks or more, and they say that fasting is quite pleasant after the fourth day; I do not know, never having gone beyond the third day. Probably it seems different when one is doing it voluntarily and is not underfed at the start.

  • Hunger reduces one to an utterly spineless, brainless condition, more like the after-effects of influenza than anything else.

  • Inertia is my memory of hunger; that, and being obliged to spit frequently, and the spittle being curiously white and flocculent, like cuckoo-spit.

  • I was disappointed, for I had allowed my belly to expect food, a great mistake when one is hungry.

  • One always abandons something in a retreat.

  • The Russian refugees in Paris are hard-working and have put up with their bad luck far better than one can imagine Englishmen of the same class.

  • A duke is a duke, even in exile.

  • It is fatal to look hungry. It makes people want to kick you.

  • The point of rubbing garlic on bread is that the taste lingers and gives one the illusion of having fed recently.

  • It is disagreeable to eat out of a newspaper on a public seat, especially in the Tuileries, which are generally full of pretty girls, but I was too hungry to care.

  • He asked whether I was an experienced dishwasher. I said that I was; he glanced at my hands and saw that I was lying, but on hearing that I was an Englishman, he changed his tone and engaged me.

  • I was expected to know the work and was cursed accordingly.

  • Later, I realised how foolish it had been to have any scruples, for the big hotels are quite ruthless towards their employees.

  • I calculated that one had to walk and run about fifteen miles during the day, yet the work's strain was more mental than physical.

  • For one seemed to work faster when partially drunk.

  • It seemed that in the heat of those cellars, as in a Turkish bath, one could sweat out almost any quantity of drink.

  • It is an instructive sight to see a waiter going into a hotel dining room. As he passes the door, a sudden change comes over him. The set of his shoulders alters; all the dirt and hurry and irritation have dropped off in an instant. He glides over the carpet with a solemn priest-like air.

  • Apparently, even a seventy-eight-hour week can leave one with some vitality.

  • The office employees and the cooks and sewing-women were French, the waiters Italians and Germans (there is hardly such a thing as a French waiter in Paris), the plongeurs of every race in Europe, besides Arabs and negroes.

  • After knowing him, I saw the force of the proverb 'Trust a snake before a Jew and a Jew before a Greek, but don't trust an Armenian.'

  • Many of the waiters had slipped into France without passports, and one or two of them were spies - it is a common profession for a spy to adopt.

  • Hotel work is not particularly hard, but it comes in rushes and cannot be economised by its nature.

  • What keeps a hotel going is that the employees take genuine pride in their work, beastly and silly though it is.

  • He does not think as he looks at you, 'What an overfed lout'; he is thinking, 'One day, when I've saved enough money, I shall be able to imitate that man.'

  • The customer pays, as he sees it, for good service; the employee gets paid, as he sees it, for the boulot – meaning, as a rule, an imitation of good service.

  • Roughly speaking, the more one pays for food, the more sweat and spittle one is obliged to eat with it.

  • Dirtiness is inherent in hotels and restaurants because sound food gets sacrificed for punctuality and smartness.

  • The plongeurs' wages did not allow them to marry. No doubt, work in the basement does not encourage fastidious feelings.

  • Raki, the Arab drink, was cheap, and the bistro was open at all hours, for the Arabs - lucky men - had the power of working all day and drinking all night.

  • I had no sensation of poverty. Even after paying my rent and setting aside enough for tobacco and journeys and my food on Sundays, I still had four francs a day for drinks, and four francs was wealth.

  • Work in the hotel taught me the true value of sleep, just as being hungry had taught me the true value of food.

  • I had pawned everything, and there was nothing open to me except to work, which is a thing I will not do.

  • I propounded to myself the question, "What is the easiest way to get money without working?" And immediately, the answer came: "To get money easily, one must be a woman. Has not every woman something to sell?"

  • The cook's working hours were from eight in the morning till midnight, and mine from seven in the morning till half-past twelve the next morning – seventeen and a half hours, almost without a break.

  • Tea was what kept us going. We took care to have a pot always stewing and drank pints during the day.

  • After ten days, I managed to find a free quarter of an hour and wrote to my friend B. in London asking him if he could get me a job of some sort – anything, so long as it allowed more than five hours sleep.

  • The surest sign of a bad restaurant is to be frequented only by foreigners.

  • Sharp knives, of course, are the secret of a successful restaurant.

  • When one comes to think of it, it is strange that thousands of people in a great modern city should spend their waking hours swabbing dishes in hot dens underground.

  • I think one should start by saying that a plongeur is one of the slaves of the modern world.

  • His work is servile and without art; he gets paid just enough to keep him alive; his only holiday is the sack. He gets cut off from marriage, or if he marries, his wife must work too.

  • At this moment, there are men with university degrees scrubbing dishes in Paris for ten or fifteen hours a day. One cannot say that it is mere idleness on their part, for an idle man cannot be a plongeur; they have got trapped by a routine which makes thought impossible.

  • For there is no real need for gharries and rickshaws; they only exist because Orientals consider it vulgar to walk.

  • I believe that this instinct to perpetuate useless work is, at the bottom, fear of the mob. The mob (the thought runs) are such low animals that they would be dangerous if they had leisure; it is safer to keep them too busy to think.

  • The mass of the rich and the poor are differentiated by their incomes and nothing else, and the average millionaire is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit.

  • But the trouble is that intelligent, cultivated people, the very people who might get expected to have liberal opinions, never do mix with the poor.

  • For what do the majority of educated people know about poverty?

  • I was so pleased to be getting home, after being hard up for months in a foreign city, England seemed to be a sort of Paradise.

  • Many things in England make you glad to get home; bathrooms, armchairs, mint sauce, new potatoes properly cooked, brown bread, marmalade, and beer made with veritable hop. They are all splendid if you can pay for them.

  • England is a very good country when you are not poor; and, of course, with a tame imbecile to look after, I was not going to be poor.

  • The thought of not being poor made me very patriotic.

  • Dirt is a great respecter of persons; it lets you alone when you are well dressed, but as soon as your collar is gone, it flies towards you.

  • My new clothes had put me instantly into a new world.

  • Clothes are powerful things.

  • It was queer after Paris; everything was so much cleaner and quieter and drearier. One missed the scream of the trams, and the noisy, festering life of the back streets, and the armed men clattering through the squares.

  • One seemed to breathe a less feverish air than in Paris.

  • It was the tea urn and the Labour Exchange land, as Paris is the land of the bistro and the sweatshop.

  • Homosexuality is general among tramps of long-standing, he said.

  • And all foreigners to him were 'dem bloody dagoes’ - for, according to his theory, foreigners were responsible for unemployment.

  • Young, pretty women, were too much above him to enter into his ideas, but his mouth watered at prostitutes.

  • I had been in London innumerable times, and yet till that day, I had never noticed one of the worst things about London - the fact that it costs money even to sit down. If you had no money and could not find a public bench in Paris, you would sit on the pavement. Heaven knows what sitting on the pavement would lead to in London - prison, probably.

  • You'll never get a drop-off, real toffs. It's shabby sort of blokes you get most off and foreigners.

  • The stars are a free show; it don't cost anything to use your eyes.

  • Well, you got to take an interest in something. It don't follow that because a man's on the road, he can't think of anything but tea-and-two-slices.

  • If you set yourself to it, you can live the same life, rich or poor. You can still keep on with your books and your ideas. You just got to say to yourself, "I'm a free man in here" - he tapped his forehead - 'and you're all right.'

  • He had managed to keep his brain intact and alert, and so nothing could make him succumb to poverty.

  • He might be ragged and cold, or even starving, but so long as he could read, think and watch for meteors, he was, as he said, free in his mind.

  • The most prosperous beggars are street acrobats and street photographers.

  • People seem to feel that there is some essential difference between beggars and ordinary 'working' men.

  • It is taken for granted that a beggar does not 'earn' his living, as a bricklayer or a literary critic 'earns' his.

  • Beggars do not work, it got said; but, then, what is work?

  • It is a trade like any other; quite useless, of course - but, then, many reputable trades are quite useless.

  • He is honest compared with most patient medicines sellers, high-minded compared with a Sunday newspaper proprietor, amiable compared with a hire-purchase tout - in short, a parasite, but a fairly harmless parasite.

  • In practice, nobody cares whether work is useful or useless, productive or parasitic; the sole thing demanded is that it shall be profitable.

  • In all the modern talk about energy, efficiency, social service and the rest of it, what meaning is there except 'Get money, get it legally, and get a lot of it'?

  • Money has become the grand test of virtue. By this test, beggars fail, and for this, they get despised.

  • If one could earn even ten pounds a week at begging, it would become a respectable profession immediately.

  • A beggar looked at realistically is simply a businessman, getting his living, like other businessmen, in the way that comes to hand.

  • He has not sold his honour more than most modern people; he has merely made the mistake of choosing a trade at which it is impossible to grow rich.

  • London slang and dialect seem to change very rapidly.

  • The old London accent described by Dickens and Surtees, with v for w and w for v and so forth, has now vanished utterly.

  • The Cockney accent as we know it seems to have come up in the forties (it first gets mentioned in an American book, White Jacket). Cockney is already changing; few people now say 'fice' for 'face', 'nawce' for 'nice', and so forth as consistently as they did twenty years ago.

  • In the 'rhyming slang', everything was named by something rhyming with it - a 'hit or miss for a kiss, 'plates of meat' for feet, etc.

  • Our intention in swearing is to shock and wound, which we do by mentioning something that should get kept secret - usually something to do with the sexual functions. But the strange thing is that when a word is well established as a swear word, it seems to lose its original meaning; that is, it loses what made it into a swear word.

  • For example, 'fuck’. The Londoners do not now use, or very seldom use, this word in its original meaning. It is on their lips from morning till night, but it is a mere expletive and means nothing.

  • A word becomes an insult, one would suppose, because it means something bad, but its insult-value has little to do with its actual meaning in practice. For example, the most bitter insult one can offer to a Londoner is 'bastard' - which, taken for what it means, is hardly an insult at all.

  • A word is an insult because it gets meant as an insult, without reference to its meaning; words, especially swear words, being what public opinion chooses to make them.

  • One other thing is noticeable about swearing in London: the men do not usually swear in front of women. In Paris, it is quite different.

  • People are wrong when they think that an unemployed man only worries about losing his wages. On the contrary, an illiterate man needs work even more than he needs money with his bones' work habit.

  • An educated man can put up with enforced idleness, which is one of the worst evils of poverty. But a man like Paddy, with no means of filling up time, is as miserable out of work as a dog on the chain.

  • The man who merits pity is the man who has been down from the start and faces poverty with a blank, resourceless mind.

  • It is curious how people take it for granted that they have a right to preach at you and pray over you as soon as your income falls below a certain level.

  • So powerful is the word 'gentleman' in an old soldier's ear.

  • A tramp tramps, not because he likes it, but for the same reason as a car keeps to the left; because there happens to be a law compelling him to do it.

  • When one sees how tramps let themselves get bullied by the workhouse officials, it is obvious that they are the most docile, broken-spirited creatures imaginable.

  • The English are a conscience - ridden race, with a strong sense of the sinfulness of poverty.

  • Indeed, if one remembers that a tramp is only an Englishman out of work, forced by law to live as a vagabond, then the tramp monster vanishes.

  • One might imagine that among destitute people, the sexes would be as equally balanced as elsewhere. But it is not so; in fact, one can almost say that below a certain level, society is entirely male.

  • A tramp, therefore, is a celibate from the moment when he takes to the road. He is absolutely without hope of getting a wife, a mistress, or any kind of woman except – very rarely when he can raise a few shillings - a prostitute.

  • For the question is, what to do with men who are underfed and idle; and the answer - to make them grow their food - imposes itself automatically.

  • I shall never again think that all tramps are drunken scoundrels. Nor expect a beggar to be grateful when I give him a penny. Nor be surprised if men out of work lack energy. Nor subscribe to the Salvation Army. Nor pawn my clothes. Nor refuse a handbill. Nor enjoy a meal at a smart restaurant.