The Adelphi was a magazine founded by John Middleton Murry, edited in the 1930s by Murry and then by Max Plowman. Its tone was progressive, associated with Christian pacifism and social advance. As with a number of similar magazines and imprints of the period it had reading and discussion groups around the country. Richard Rees, another editor, was able to give Orwell (often identified by his real name of Eric Blair or E A Blair in the pages of the magazine) the names of reading groups members on his journey to Wigan in 1936. It was through people he met in such ways that Orwell was able to see a wide range of housing, working and social conditions from the Black Country, through Lancashire and into Yorkshire.
Our illustration, from the collection of an Orwell Society member, shows an issue towards the end of the time that Orwell contributed. He was to disagree with Middleton Murry about the role that Pacificism could play in resisting the Nazis.
The back cover contains a list of suggested reading from the year 1939. Notable is the recommendation of one of Orwell’s most explicitly titled pieces, and the first of the strong works he wrote around the period of the Second World War condemning the attitudes of the home nations to their colonies and native populations.
One can see how The Adelphi approached the Second World War from the tone of its renewal slip. The Dutch-based Remembering George Orwell website has a page showing some of the other issues of The Adelphi which contained works by Blair/Orwell. It was in this magazine that Orwell published ‘The Spike’ and ‘A Hanging’. His poems included ‘Sometimes in the middle autumn days’, ‘Summer-like for an instant the autumn sun bursts out’, and ‘A dressed man and a naked man’. (The poetry is now available in George Orwell: Complete Poetry).
By L J Hurst
with thanks to Masha Karp
February 4 2017