23.3.36

At Mapplewell. Houses about the worst I have seen, though we did not manage to get into the very worst ones, which were one-roomed or two-roomed cabins of stone, about 20’ by 15’ by 15’ high, or even less, and practically ruinous. Rent of these, some of which are property of colliery, said to be about 3/-. In the row called Spring Gardens we found public indignation because the landlords have served about half the row with notices to quit for arrears of, in some cases, only a few shillings. (Firth, in Barnsley, has a notice to quit though only about 5/- in arrear and paying this off at 3d per week.) The people took us in and insisted on our seeing their houses. Frightful interiors. In the first one (see notes) old father, out of work of course, obviously horribly bewildered by his notice to quit after 22 years tenancy and turning anxiously to F. and me with some idea that we could help him. The mother rather more self-possessed. Two sons aged about 24, fine big men with powerful well-shaped bodies, narrow faces and red hair, but thin and listless from obvious undernourishment and with dull brutalised expressions. Their sister, a little older and very like them, with prematurely lined face, glancing from F. to me, again with the idea that perhaps we night help. One of the sons, taking no notice of our presence, all the while slowly peeling off his socks in front of the fire; his feet almost black with sticky dirt. The other son was at work. The house terribly bare – no bedclothes except overcoats etc. – but fairly clean and tidy. At the back children playing about in the muck, some of them, aged 5 or 6, barefoot and naked except for a sort of shift. F. told the tenants if the notice to quit was persisted with to come into Barnsley and see him and Degnan. I told them the landlord was only bluffing and to hold their ground and if he threatened taking it to court to threaten in return to sue him for lack of repairs. Hope I did the right thing.

I have glanced at Brown’s novel. [1] It is b―s.

[1] Brown’s novel: Daughters of Albion (1935) by Alec Brown. In Orwell’s review of The Novel Today by Phillip Henderson, he described it as ‘a huge wad of mediocre stuff’ (CW, X, p. 534). The dash between ‘b’ and ‘s’ is Orwell’s.

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