Three Orwell Relatives Speak Out About the Importance of Eileen
The third is Richard Blair
Sylvia Topp’s minutely researched biography of my mother, Eileen Blair, has been long overdue. Here was a woman whose influence over one of the great writers of the twentieth century has been overlooked, for reasons that are difficult to understand. There is no question that she was instrumental in guiding him when he was writing Animal Farm; they would discuss what he had written by day and she would make her comments, thus producing a book that has stood the test of time and been reprinted time and time again.
But her influence goes back to the day they met at a party and he told a friend that “this was the sort of girl I want to marry.” When they did marry, in June 1936, Eileen had to endure a degree of poverty and hardship that few people would have put up with. That she did was testimony to the strength of their love, albeit not necessarily in the conventional sense. When Orwell went to fight in Spain, Eileen joined him and experienced some of the privations he endured. She nursed him through his neck wound and his bout of tuberculosis. There is no doubt that she encouraged Orwell to continue writing whenever he could. At times, by all accounts, it was a stormy marriage, but she was always loyal.
During World War II, when working for the BBC, she became depressed at the death of her brother, Lawrence, but she also was very run down. In spite of this, she was persuaded by Orwell that they should adopt a baby, and this came about in May 1944. There is also no doubt that she very quickly became devoted to me, but sadly motherhood was cut short by her death in March 1945. So ended the life of a woman who has been ignored by successive biographers over the years, and we have to thank Sylvia Topp for addressing this serious shortfall, in her biography, Eileen: The Making of Orwell.
Richard Blair is the son Eileen and George Orwell, adopted in 1944.
Eileen: The Making of Orwell, by Sylvia Topp, is a work to be published by crowd-funding. It is close to its total (in mid-April).