Left to right: Prosper Buddicom, Guinever Buddicom,
Eric Blair (George Orwell),
September 1917.

Jacintha Buddicom (1901–93) Neighbor and close friend of Eric Blair during his adolescent years. The two met in 1914 when Eric befriended Jacintha, her brother, Prosper, and her younger sister, Guinever. Jacintha, who was two years older than her friend, shared with him a love of reading.

Their friendship ripened when Eric and his sister spent the Christmas holidays of 1917 and 1918 at the Buddicoms. It was during the 1918 holiday that Eric wrote a love sonnet to Jacintha, an early indication that for him, now 15, the friendship had been transformed into something more.

The Pagan
So here are you and here am I,
Where we may thank our gods to be;
Above the earth, beneath the sky,
Naked souls alive and free.

Dione Venables suggests that “The Pagan” celebrates their first kiss and that for the next three years, “Jacintha was pleasantly attracted to Eric.” But that all changed in September 1921, when Jacintha wrote to Eric, relating her shock at being held down by him in an attempt to force her to have sex. She described how he persisted, tearing her skirt and bruising her shoulder and hip. She screamed at him to stop, and he finally desisted. She saw him briefly after that, but he did not spend the summer holidays of the following year with the Buddicoms. Shortly afterward, he left for Burma.

He wrote her three letters from Burma, full of distress and what she felt was self-pity. She answered the first but not the last two. When he returned in 1927, he visited the Buddicoms, but Jacintha was not there. The reason, however, had nothing to do with him. The year before, she had fallen in love and become pregnant, and was later deserted by her lover. The baby was born a few months before Orwell’s return. She gave up the baby to her aunt. The baby grew up thinking of her mother as a cousin. Jacintha never married but lived for 30 years as the mistress of “a peer of the realm.”

In 1949, when she learned the true identity of the famous writer George Orwell, she wrote to him. He wrote back lovingly and telephoned a number of times. It seemed to her that, as his health worsened, he wanted her to be his son’s guardian.

In 1949, Jacintha was very involved with the care of her dying mother and was tormented by the prospect of renewing her relationship with Eric. She attended his funeral in London, sitting alone, unknown to everyone there. In 1974, she published a memoir, Eric & Us, which depicts their relationship as essentially platonic. Her memoir includes a chapter titled “Eric and Sex,” which proclaims in effect that the subject never came up. The revelation of his forcing himself on her surfaced after her death when her sister, Guinever, discovered a copy of the letter written in September 1921. Guinever told the story to their second cousin Dione Venables, who recounted it in a postscript to a new edition of Eric & Us, published in 2006.

Police training school in Mandalay, Burma, 1922.
Orwell is in the rear row, third from the left.

Eileen o"Shaughnessy Blair's visit to the Aragon front, March 1937. Orwell is standing slightly behind and to her left. The kneeling rifleman wearing a beret is American Harry Milton.

Barnhill, Orwell's home on the island of Jura in the Hebrides,
located off the coast of northern Scotland.


Members of POUM (Partido Oberero de Unification Marxista) unit assembled at the Lenin barracks in Barcelona, Spain, January 1937. Orwell is partially obscured in the extreme rear.


Independent Labour Party summer school,
Letchworth in Hertfordshire, England, August 1937.
Left to right: John McNair, Douglas Moyle, Stafford Cottman,
George Orwell, and Jock Branthwaite.


Orwell with the son he adopted in 1947


The simple tombstone inscription “Eric Arthur Blair”
(he left instruction that it bear only his birth name and dates)
is undoubtedly a reflection of the author’s aversion to the spotlight,
but lurking beyond it may have been a glimmer or recognition that,
although Eric Blair was dead and buried,
George Orwell was alive and well.