Source for George Orwell’s letters and other writings

Edited by Peter Davison, MA, PhD

The Complete Works of George Orwell is a twenty-volume set of books edited by Peter Davison that contains the authoritative texts of Orwell’s writings. I am using the first printing of the set from 1998 by Secker & Warburg (London) as the source for many of the documents on this site.

Items from the Complete Works on this site are tagged as CW along with the volume number. A source note at the end of each post may also include the individual item number used in the Complete Works.

e.g. CW16-2403 translates to Complete Works – Volume 16 – Item #2403.

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Here is the description of the Complete Works from its publisher:
The Complete Works of George Orwell
Edited by Peter Davison, MA, PhD

The Complete Works of George Orwell is a massive feat of literary scholarship, a 20-volume, 8,500-page collection which offers in one edition not only the authoritative texts of George Orwell’s nine books, but also all the essays, poems, dramatisations, letters, journalism, broadcasts, reviews, diaries and notebooks uncovered by editor Peter Davison during 17 years of exhaustive research.

A mass of fascinating new material is included in the edition, ranging from Orwell’s political and literary activities, his life in Spain and his work at the BBC, to his time as a war correspondent, his interest in British cooking and the full story behind his lists of fellow-travellers and crypto-communists.

This makes fascinating reading and provides a rich quarry for the scholar.

The material offered in The Complete Works of George Orwell is remarkably wide-ranging. In addition to the texts, Orwell’s drawings in his letters home from school, the sketches from his diary and the illustrations for the 1937 edition of The Road to Wigan Pier are all included. Appendices print Orwell’s will, his unfinished writings, details of his large pamphlet collection, and a previously unpublished memoir by Mrs Miranda Wood, who typed drafts of ‘Such, Such Were the Joys’ and Nineteen Eighty-Four.

A unique feature of the edition is the inclusion of many letters written to Orwell by relatives (in particular his wife, Eileen), friends and those associated with his work. A large number of letters provoked by his articles and reviews, especially those published in Tribune, are also included. Such letters throw important new light on his intellectual and personal development.

For sheer comprehensiveness, The Complete Works of George Orwell is unlikely to be surpassed. As well as offering authoritative editions, with textual notes, of all nine of Orwell’s full-length books, the twenty volumes include:

  • 1,080 letters by Orwell (850 more than in the 1968 four-volume edition), plus hundreds of letters written when working at the BBC, as well as many letters written in response to articles and reviews.
  • The uncut versions of 379 reviews of some 700 books, plays and films.
  • All 263 articles, in full, including a previously unidentified piece, serious yet humorous, on socialist attitudes written under a second pseudonym.
  • Orwell’s broadcasts to India for the BBC, plus hundreds of pieces of correspondence revealing his painstaking organisation of cultural and educational programmes which were precursors of Radio Three and the Open University.
  • All of Orwell’s surviving and available diaries and notebooks.
    Important information on the charges of espionage and high treason laid against Orwell and his wife Eileen in Spain.
  • A large selection of Orwell’s research materials for The Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia.
  • All of Orwell’s unfinished work, including notes for a projected three-part novel, perhaps to be called The Quick and the Dead, drafts for a novella on Burma, A Smoking-room Story, drafts and notes for essays on Evelyn Waugh and Conrad.


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Peter Davison, editor of The Complete Works of George Orwell, has worked on this edition for 17 years. He is currently Professor and Senior Research Fellow in English and Media, De Montfort University, Leicester. He has written and edited fourteen books and has also edited the Facsimile of the Manuscript of Nineteen Eighty-Four and written George Orwell: A Literary Life. He has been helped by Sheila Davison (especially in proof-reading and indexing) and Ian Angus, Keeper of the Orwell Archive 1961-74 and co-editor with Sonia Orwell of the Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell (4 volumes, 1968).

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The twenty volumes of The Complete Works of George Orwell have been designed and produced to the highest specifications. Printed with a blue cloth binding (the colour specified by Orwell), the books feature a striking jacket design, head and tail bands and silk marker ribbons.

8,517 pages plus text illustrations and 33 plates. Each volume 234 x 153 mm.

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Volumes I-IX: The Books

I: Down and Out in Paris and London
(with a 33-page General Introduction): 269 pages.

II: Burmese Days
(with Orwell’s sketch map of Kyauktada): 322 pages.

III: A Clergyman’s Daughter: 307 pages.

IV: Keep the Aspidistra Flying: 287 pages.

V: The Road to Wigan Pier
(with 32 pages of plates from the first edition and Victor Gollancz’s Foreword from the first edition): 232 pages.

VI: Homage to Catalonia: 261 pages.

VII: Coming Up for Air: 255 pages.

VIII: Animal Farm (with Orwell’s proposed Preface to the first edition, his Preface to the Ukrainian edition (complete), and his radio adaptation): 203 pages.

IX: Nineteen Eighty-Four: 341 pages.

Volumes X-XX: Essays, poems, dramatisations, letters, journalism, broadcasts, reviews, diaries and notebooks

X: A Kind of Compulsion, 1903-1936: 657 pages.

XI: Facing Unpleasant Facts, 1937-1939: 513 pages.

XII: A Patriot After All, 1940-1941: 606 pages.

XIII: All Propaganda is Lies, 1941-1942: 583 pages.

XIV: Keeping Our Little Corner Clean, 1942-1943: 417 pages.

XV: Two Wasted Years, 1943: 427 pages.

XVI: I Have Tried to Tell the Truth, 1943-1944: 563 pages.

XVII: I Belong to the Left, 1945: 531 pages.

XVIII: Smothered under Journalism, 1946: 582 pages.

XIX: It Is What I Think, 1947-1948: 573 pages.

XX: Our Job Is to Make Life Worth Living, 1949-1950: 589 pages.