When Grandpa Was A Boy, Were There Any Dinosaurs?

Racehorse And Writer

Eric Blair, alias George Orwell, from a 1943 photograph

1932: An easy victory in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket ensured that Orwell was firm favourite to win the Derby in June. Punters bet heavily on the colt, but he lacked the staying power needed for the longer Epsom race, and finished a long way down the field. At Doncaster, three months later, he had the chance to redeem himself in the St. Leger, but again ran poorly. Win or lose, though, the name Orwell appeared prominently and repeatedly in the sports pages.

In November, and apparently unconnected, Eric Blair wrote to his literary agent to discuss the use of a pseudonym for his first book. Blair proposed P.S. Burton, Kenneth Miles, George Orwell or H. Lewis Allways. “I rather favour George Orwell,” he ventured. That’s how Blair became Orwell, adopting the name of a Suffolk river because (the generally accepted explanation) of its quintessential Englishness.

Is it fanciful, however, to suggest that Orwell the racehorse, much in the news in 1932, may have contributed, perhaps subconsciously, to Blair’s choice of pen name?

Source: George Orwell, The Complete Works of George Orwell, X: A Kind of Compulsion 1903–1936, ed. Peter Davison (1998), p. 274

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