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Essays (Everyman's Library Classics & Contemporary Classics) Hardcover – 1 Oct 2002

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1369 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman's Library (1 Oct 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375415033
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375415036
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 6.4 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,943,157 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

George Orwell is one of England's most famous writers and social commentators. Among his works are the classic political satire Animal Farm and the dystopian nightmare vision Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell was also a prolific essayist, and it is for these works that he was perhaps best known during his lifetime. They include Why I Write and Politics and the English Language. His writing is at once insightful, poignant and entertaining, and continues to be read widely all over the world.

Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) was born in 1903 in India, where his father worked for the Civil Service. The family moved to England in 1907 and in 1917 Orwell entered Eton, where he contributed regularly to the various college magazines. From 1922 to 1927 he served with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, an experience that inspired his first novel, Burmese Days (1934). Several years of poverty followed. He lived in Paris for two years before returning to England, where he worked successively as a private tutor, schoolteacher and bookshop assistant, and contributed reviews and articles to a number of periodicals. Down and Out in Paris and London was published in 1933. In 1936 he was commissioned by Victor Gollancz to visit areas of mass unemployment in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) is a powerful description of the poverty he saw there.

At the end of 1936 Orwell went to Spain to fight for the Republicans and was wounded. Homage to Catalonia is his account of the civil war. He was admitted to a sanatorium in 1938 and from then on was never fully fit. He spent six months in Morocco and there wrote Coming Up for Air. During the Second World War he served in the Home Guard and worked for the BBC Eastern Service from 1941 to 1943. As literary editor of the Tribune he contributed a regular page of political and literary commentary, and he also wrote for the Observer and later for the Manchester Evening News. His unique political allegory, Animal Farm was published in 1945, and it was this novel, together with Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which brought him world-wide fame.

It was around this time that Orwell's unique political allegory Animal Farm (1945) was published. The novel is recognised as a classic of modern political satire and is simultaneously an engaging story and convincing allegory. It was this novel, together with Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which finally brought him world-wide fame. Nineteen Eighty-Four's ominous depiction of a repressive, totalitarian regime shocked contemporary readers, but ensures that the book remains perhaps the preeminent dystopian novel of modern literature.

Orwell's fiercely moral writing has consistently struck a chord with each passing generation. The intense honesty and insight of his essays and non-fiction made Orwell one of the foremost social commentators of his age. Added to this, his ability to construct elaborately imaginative fictional worlds, which he imbued with this acute sense of morality, has undoubtedly assured his contemporary and future relevance.

George Orwell died in London in January 1950.

Product Description


"Orwell is the most influential political writer of the twentieth century...He gives us a gritty, personal example of how to engage as a writer in politics." -"New York Review of Books""[Orwell] evolved, in his seemingly offhand way, the clearest and most compelling English prose style this century...But of course he was more than just a great writer. We need him today because [of] his passion for the truth." -"The Sunday Times "(London) "Had Orwell lived to a full term, he might well have gone on to become the greatest modern literary critic in the language. But he lived more than long enough to make writing about politics a branch of the humanities, setting a standard of civilized response to the intractably complex texture of life." -"The New Yorker" "The real reason we read Orwell is because his own fault-line, his fundamental schism, his hybridity, left him exceptionally sensitive to the fissure-which is everywhere apparent-between what ought to be the casep --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Book Description

A volume, comprising around 250 pieces: the deifinitive collection of Orwell's essays. In a beautifully bound, hardback edition. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Mike Cormack on 7 Oct 2008
Format: Hardcover
In some ways Orwell was most suited to the art of essay writing; his most successful novels always had political motivations, and his deceptively plain, matter-of-fact style (like a window pane, as he said) helped him convey his ideas to the reader with ease.

Orwell was one who had greatness thrust upon him. His great works and essays are stimulated by the convulsions of the rise of fascism and World War II - obviously "Animal Farm" and "1984" but also some magnificent essays. These include "The Lion And The Unicorn", his glorious, stirring analysis of the national character and the prospects of socialism after the war; his analysis of party-line thinking, in which he works out the metaphysics of "double-think"; his dissection of James Burnham's book on the "managerial revolution" with interesting comments on the world splitting into three power blocs; and "Reflections On The Spanish Civil War".

Other essays are more personal - his scathing memoir of his school days, "Such Were The Joys"; the delightful "Some Thoughts On The Common Toad"; "Hop Picking", one of his earliest attempts to document working-class customs; and "Shooting An Elephant", a wry look at imperialism. He also looks at literary matters (he was the literary editor of "Tribune" for some years) with equal clarity and lack of verbosity, unusual in literary analysis, with "Politics and the English Laguage" and "Why I Write". ("Sheer egotism" as he frankly admits!).

This is an exceptional book, to be read and savoured by all. A real delight.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Rocketman on 17 Jan 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most of the Folk thinking of buying this book will be familiar with him already; between that fact and his reputation, it seems a little silly to base this review on what is said within the essays and works herein. What then warrants the five star reputation then? Well, Its inclusiveness and scope, the passion (for Orwell) with which it has been compiled, and the physical decency of the volume.

Taking the first point first, this essay compilation includes far more of Orwell's writings than the other common compilations available. Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays is itself a fine compilation, but seems, after leafing through the Everyman's Library essay compilation, to be lacking some important essays: "The Lion & The Unicorn" and "Notes on Nationalism" to name just two though dozens more could be listed. Also, the Everyman's edition includes Orwell's writings for Tribune, namely his column "As I please".

To the second point then, this edition contains a little note from the editor on the inside sleeve and a little timeline of Orwell's life, along side which major political events and literary works of the time, are included. The essays themselves are printed in chronological order, which is a lovely touch

Lastly, it is a relatively dinky hardbound edition, with the typical Everyman's "Livery". It comes with a golden tassel stitched to it as a sort of in-house bookmark, and all is printed in a decent font, in a print which isn't too small.

To my mind, the most significant drawback is that this edition feels a little cramped, that is to say new essays are started without a page break, and the essays where a Orwell is setting out categories for things or subheadings,a line break would create a more spacious feel.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mr. S. Ryan on 20 April 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the most comprehensive collection of George Orwell's essays - the best part of his writings - currently available. It contains as far as I can tell everything that you might want of these works from the political "Notes on Nationalism", "The Lion and the Unicorn" to the personal such as his lovely essay on the pleasures of gardening "A good word for the Vicar of Bray".

Orwell's style throughout is direct and engaging. It's also very English. Has there ever been a more English writer? It is particularly satisfying to see the essays that reflect this side of his nature - "In defence of English Cooking" or the famous essay on the perfect pub "The Moon Under the Water".

As a well produced hardback, this book is a pleasure to own.
My only caveat would be that its comprehensiveness makes this a bulky volume. For portability I would buy the Penguin Modern Classics "Essays" which has a very fine selection. Ideally buy both!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By JWNRTJ on 26 Mar 2011
Format: Hardcover
This volume, comprising around 250 pieces, is as exhaustive a collection of Orwell's essays as there is. It is worth having if only because it includes 'The Freedom of the Press', intended as the preface to 'Animal Farm' but suspiciously undiscovered until 1972 and excluded from practically every other anthology, yet considered by Noam Chomsky Orwell's most important essay.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 28 reviews
143 of 145 people found the following review helpful
An Orgy of Orwell 17 Oct 2002
By Wuddus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is quite simply the most comprehensive one-volume edition of Orwell's essays available. It includes the greatest hits one would expect ("Shooting An Elephant," "Such, Such Were the Joys," "My Country Right Or Left," etc.) and (amazingly!) well over two hundred others. Such inclusiveness almost belies the title "Selected Essays." Especially welcome are the many selections from Orwell's column "As I Please"--delightfully informal excursions that range in gravity from meditations on totalitarianism to quirky reviews of then-contemporary literary phenoms. Thankfully, they're all unabridged and are based on the unexpurgated texts issued by Secker & Warburg just a few years ago. John Carey provides a lengthy and nuanced introduction, and there's even a rather full Chronology that puts Orwell into a useful historical context. All of this is offered in a surprisingly compact edition with a readable-but-elegant typeface and very good paper--no mean feat for a book of over a thousand pages!
One's only real regret is that there isn't an index, not even of titles. Fishing through the table of contents for old favorites is cumbersome, and the failure of the publishers to provide running heads on the pages means you can't really just flip through to find what you're looking for.
Nevertheless, this is a long overdue and wonderfully produced collection of one of our most readable, thoughtful, and unpretentious writers. If you're a fan of Orwell, no other collection can possibly do--and if you're not, this is the perfect way to get to know him. For me, at least, this will provide bedside reading for a long time to come.
141 of 147 people found the following review helpful
An almost-but-frustratingly-not-quite excellent collection 29 Jun 2004
By K. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It's a little unfair to try and assign a grade to a life-spanning collection of essays like this one. By its very nature it has to run the gamut from Orwell's five-star smash hits like 'How the Poor Die', 'Politics versus Literature', and, of course, 'Politics and the English Language', through light, whimsical pieces such as 'Good Bad Books' or 'A Nice Cup of Tea', all the way to mechanical hackwork or tedious, failed conceits. (In the latter case I am thinking particularly of Orwell's 'Imaginary Interview' with Jonathan Swift, a style which has never, to my knowledge, been well done.) One can't very well assess the book as a whole, because it isn't. On the other hand, there is this to say: when Orwell is good, he is very good, and even when he is bad, he remains highly readable.

The collection, as a collection, is not as good. I do not want it thought that I am saying this is not a worthwhile book: it is. Simply by being an easily obtainable hardcover collection of Orwell's short and medium-length prose, it does a valuable service. Before this book came out, the only way to get a comprehensive collection of Orwell's essays in hardcover was to find a set of the four-volume "Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters" on the second-hand market, and the price demanded for that grows more exorbitant every year.

However, there are three major problems with the compilation. One is only slightly irritating, but the other two genuinely harm the utility of the book.

1. No page headings- This has been mentioned by other reviewers. The page headers say only "Essays", where in most other collections they would make mention of the essay you are currently reading. (This is true even of other Everyman's Library titles.) Because most of the pieces are short, you can easily flip back a page or two to find the title, but this grows tiresome fairly quickly, all the more so for the fact that the omission is so pointless.

2. No index of titles- This, to be fair, is not a fault of this one book. Rather, it is common to all Everyman's Library prose collections; I own volumes by Ernest Hemingway and Oscar Wilde, otherwise excellent, with the same problem. Because all the pieces are arranged chronologically, it is frustratingly hard to locate a specific essay; one has to guess where it fell in Orwell's career, turn to the table of contents, and run one's finger down the pages until one finds it. As the table of contents is seven pages long, this is inexcusably poor book design. My copy now sports Post-It notes sticking out the top for easy location of the major essays.

3. Footnotes- Orwell's footnotes have been converted into endnotes, and moved to the back of the book. This is not merely a case of editing for no good reason: it is plain wrong. Orwell's footnotes were invariably parenthetical, comprising asides from and elucidations of the main text; moreover, there are only thirty-eight of them in the book. There is no excuse for not putting them at the bottom of the page, where they belong. There they can be seen in the context of the essays, without requiring you to stop in mid-paragraph and flip to the back of a two-and-a-half-inch-thick book.

Other reviewers and the book's own publicity hype tout this as "the best one-volume collection of Orwell available". It is not, not by a long shot. It is certainly the most comprehensive. However, the _best_ one-volume Orwell is the "Collected Essays" which was first published in 1961 and has subsequently been reprinted many times. It is inexplicably hard to obtain in the U.S., but can be had from amazon.co.uk under the title "George Orwell: Essays". It gathers all of Orwell's major pieces without the ephemera; for the already dedicated Orwellphile, it is a delight to have all 80 numbers of 'As I Please' in one place, but for the reader new to Orwell, they are clutter.

Instead, this is the book you buy to keep on your bookshelf for the rest of your life and wear out with frequent consultation. It is a reference volume; the only time one might try to read it cover-to-cover would be on a very long flight. (I have done this, with great success.)

The most frustrating thing about this collection is how close it came to indispensibility. Had it been slightly better designed and edited, it would have been _the_ collection of Orwell's essays, required purchasing for every serious Orwell fan. (Save, perhaps, the manic completists who will settle for nothing less than the twenty-volume "Collected Works.") It is still worth your money, but so little effort would be required to make even more valuable that one must wonder why that effort was not invested.

Overall: A-, 9/10.
73 of 80 people found the following review helpful
Great essayist...poorly laid-out edition 3 July 2003
By Jay Gerber - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
These three stars don't reflect my opinion of Orwell as an essayist. Anyone who has read Orwell's non-fiction knows that he is one of this century's greatest journalists/essayists. The poor rating targets the layout of the volume.
It's an insult to a writer of Orwell's stature to have put together such an extensive volume (1,424 pages!) of his best work so amaturishly. There's no index, no notes section and no specification of which essay you're on at the head of the page. The table of contents is practially useless, as most of the essays are numbered.
Physically, the book is beautiful: a matte cover, with a great portrait of Orwell, cream-wove paper, sewn binding and a sewn in bookmark. But it is in no way user friendly. If you're looking to dive into Orwell's essays and journalism check out the David R. Godine editions.
47 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Majestic 18 Jan 2003
By Susan Paxton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Building on the new 20 volume Complete Orwell (unaccountably still not available in an American edition), Everyman's Library does Orwell proud with this book, certainly the best single-volume collection of Orwell ever. Not only does it contain all of the major essays and many lesser pieces, it presents all 80 of Orwell's wonderful "As I Please" columns written for "Tribune."
Orwell's range and talent are ably displayed here, from his literary essays, his writings on politics, autobiographical writings (including the harrowing "Such, Such Were the Joys" about his youth spent in a third-rate boarding school), his musings on popular culture ("Boy's Weeklies" and "The Art of Donald McGill" are classics of the genre), and his lighter works (Orwell writes, for example, on how to make the perfect cup of [strong] tea and what his version of the perfect public house would be).
Reading this book should also prove a useful antidote for those who have been convinced by the usupation of Orwell by certain right-wing writers that Orwell really was a conservative of some sort. While Orwell deeply loved traditional values and firmly opposed Soviet communism, his hatred of imperialism, capitalism, fascism, the class system and mindless wealth are marked and consistent throughout and we can be assured that he would have written harshly of Margaret Thatcher had he lived long enough to see that era.
John Carey contributes a useful introduction; the book includes a good bibliography and a very helpful timeline of Orwell's life correlated to the literary and historical happenings of the era. Like another reviewer here, I miss an index, and running titles at the tops of the pages; I also dislike the way Orwell's footnotes have been shoved rather arbitrarily to the back of the book. Those are minor quibbles; this is a magnificent volume, the perfect gift for anyone who loves Orwell (especially for American readers who haven't had the chance to buy the Complete Orwell yet) and a timely reminder that liberal values can also be decent, patriotic, and honorable values.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Unhumbug wordster 30 Dec 2002
By Suet - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It has been said that Orwell was the greatest English essayist since Hazlitt, maybe since Johnson; and I wouldn't quarrel with that. As an Englishman two generations later, I find that his writing strikes a deep chord. I agree in my bones with much of what he says and the way he says it; and when I don't, I can see the historical circumstances that produced it.
On the one hand, Orwell's life and work will command respect, admiration, affection (you don't have to be British). On the other hand, much of the political climate that formed it is ancient history. The kind of democratic socialism he stood for is gone, probably for ever; history took a different turn. The totalitarianisms of right and left that he fought against are gone too. It's hard to think back to a time when these were matters of life and death. But they were, once. If they ever are again, I hope that we find an honest faux-naif to insist that, when the clever talk is all said and done, night is not the same thing as day.
It isn't all politics: not much, in the tunnel-vision sense. Read his original critiques of writers as diverse as Dickens, Wells, Kipling, Yeats, Koestler, Henry Miller, Wodehouse. Read 'The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius'; 'The Art of Donald McGill', his appreciation of British seaside postcards; 'Politics and the English Language', which could stand reprinting in every issue of 'Social Text'; and many others, not least 'Thoughts on the Common Toad'.
The great and lasting thing about Orwell is that he was a tireless, clear-sighted, articulate enemy of 'humbug'. Feel free to substitute the stronger Anglo-Saxon word. One of his targets was that section of the intelligentsia, probably the majority in the thirties and forties, which went along with and even embraced Stalinism. There were reasons for that, of course - there always are - but Orwell saw through them; and he was a 'premature anti-Fascist' with the best. If he had lived as long as Wells or Shaw, he would have seen the triumph among the intelligentsia of our time of postmodern philosophico-literary theory, which, as we know, gives us the key to everything. At least it hasn't killed millions. What would Orwell have made of it? Read these essays and guess.
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