Inside the Whale and Other Essays was published in London by Victor Gollancz Ltd on 11 March 1940. Orwell received £20 on publication. Only 1,000 copies were printed, and some were destroyed by bombing. Orwell’s total take after commission probably did not exceed £30. It contained three essays: Charles Dickens, Boys’ Weeklies, and Inside the Whale. The second of these essays was published almost simultaneously in Horizon, March 1940, in a slightly shortened form. It was published again in Orwell’s lifetime, with a few revisions, in his Critical Essays (Secker & Warburg, 14 February 1946) and in New York as Dickens, Dali and Others: Studies in Popular Culture (Reynal & Hitchcock, 29 April 1946). ‘Charles Dickens,’ too, was subject to some revision in 1946. The title essay appeared in New Directions in Prose and Poetry, Number 5, edited by James Laughlin (Norfolk, CT, 1940), but was not to appear again in Orwell’s lifetime except in translation.
The texts that are the basis for this edition are the Gollancz 1940 ‘Inside the Whale’ and, for ‘Charles Dickens’ and ‘Boys’ Weeklies,’ Critical Essays, 1946, second impression, in which Orwell made corrections. There was considerable in-house restyling of ‘Boys’ Weeklies’ for publication in Horizon. This went beyond typographic detail; the text was cut, presumably with Orwell’s agreement, although changes made to the last page may have been made to fit the space available, rather than to avoid mentioning specific newspaper barons. Printers’ style changes are to be found in all other editions. Thus, Secker & Warburg introduced a hyphen into ‘today,’ contrary to their copy and Orwell’s practice. Such changes are not reported in this edition, although it is not always easy to be sure what derives from Orwell and what from the printer or Secker & Warburg director, Roger Senhouse. The page proofs of the first impression of Critical Essays (now in the Orwell Archive) were consulted for this and other essays printed in that volume. Substantive changes are noted. The handwriting on those proofs is said to be Orwell’s, but it is almost certainly that of Senhouse. (For example, their ‘d’ differs markedly.) Verbal differences and a few significant changes in punctuation between editions are noted. The reading of this edition is given first; the journals or editions in which variant readings appear are indicated by ITW for Inside the Whale; H, Horizon; ND, New Directions in Prose and Poetry; CE, Critical Essays.
The quotations from Dickens given by Orwell are inaccurate. The errors do not significantly modify the sense, at least so far as his argument is concerned, unlike the possibility of this being so of Frank Richards’ quotation from Dryden. Had Orwell’s interpretation rested on misquotation, the error would necessarily have been retained. It is not possible to know which texts Orwell used, but from the range of editions available to him it is practicable to provide for the text given here much less inaccurate quotations. Orwell’s wording of the quotations is given in the notes, but punctuation has been amended silently.
Quotations from Auden, Housman, and Spender have been checked against editions likely to have been used by Orwell in 1940. The most important variation affects the quotation from Auden’s Spain in ‘Inside the Whale’.