George Orwell’s short story ‘The Slack-Bob’ appeared in Eton College’s student-run literary magazine The Election Times. Orwell attended Eton as a King’s Scholar from 1917 to 1921. The Election Times was made by hand and there was just a single copy of each issue, which was circulated among the students. Orwell (appearing under his real surname, Blair), is listed in the front cover as ‘Business Manager’.
Written on the month of his 15th birthday, Orwell’s short narrative describes a boy studying at Eton who is not keen on sports, but who pretends to be in the ‘Rowing Eight’ to impress his female cousins. When his cousins – described as ‘all big fat noisy girls with red hair, seven in number’ – come to visit him at Eton expecting to see him participate in a rowing competition, he is forced to pretend that he has suffered an injury. Orwell’s moralistic story ends with an explicit lesson: ‘Honesty is the best policy’.
Dry bobs and wet bobs
The story has several references to college life at Eton, whose students traditionally call themselves either ‘dry bobs’ or ‘wet bobs’ according to their preference for cricket or rowing. The ‘Procession of Boats’ alluded to at the end of the story refers to a yearly pageant of boats which began in 1793 and traditionally takes place on 4 June.
- Full title:
- 'The Slack-Bob', in The Election Times, no. 4
- Periodical / Manuscript / Ephemera
- The Election Times (Eton College student-run magazine), George Orwell
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George Orwell: © With kind permission of the estate of the late Sonia Brownell Orwell. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.
The Election Times: © The Provost and Fellows of Eton College. Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.
UCL: © Orwell Archive, UCL Library Special Collections.
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- UCL Library Special Collections
- Article by:
- John Sutherland
- Power and conflict, Literature 1900–1950
John Sutherland describes the biographical and historical events that produced George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, which combines memoir with a study of poverty in two European cities in the late 1920s.