Letter to James Laughlin (July 1940)

18 Dorset Chambers
Chagford Street
Ivor Place NW1

16 July 1940

Dear Mr Laughlin,1

New Directions founder James Laughlin

James Laughlin (1914-1997) was an American poet and literary book publisher

Many thanks for your letter, which I have only just received. Yes, you may certainly reprint the Henry Miller essay. I’m not sure how my contract with my publisher stands, and I have written to him, but I know he won’t object. When I’ve heard from him I’ll send you another line confirming this. I trust neither letter will be torpedoed on the way.

I wonder whether by any chance you know where Henry Miller is. I haven’t heard from him since about the beginning of 1939. When this book came out he asked me through someone in England to send him a copy at some American address, and I did so, but never heard whether it got there. His friend Alfred Perles is over here and has joined the British army. As you say, all these projects about books may be blown to pieces by the war. Hitler entered Paris a week or two before a book of mine was due to be reprinted there, and comically enough a few days later I got a demand for income tax which I had been counting on this reprint to pay. I have practically given up writing except for journalism. I can’t write with this sort of business going on, and in a few months there is going to be such a severe paper shortage that very few books will be published. In any case I feel that literature as we have known it is coming to an end. Things look rather black at the moment. We are all on our toes waiting for an invasion which quite possibly won’t happen. Personally I am much more afraid of Hitler mopping up north Africa and the near East and then making a peace offer. I actually rather hope that the invasion will happen. The local morale is extremely good, and if we are invaded we shall at any rate get rid once and for all of the gang who had got us into this mess. However, I expect you are better informed about European affairs than I am. I will send the confirmation of this letter within a few days. Thanks for writing.

Yours sincerely
George Orwell

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  1. James Laughlin, American publisher of New Directions books, editor and writer.

Source: CEJL2-12

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