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James Callow Folklore Archive

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AT A RATHER SMALL BUT FORMAL DINNER PARTY IN THE HOME OF A
BRITISH TELEVISION AND RADIO HOST, I WAS SEATED TO THE LEFT
OF MICHAEL MEYER, AN IBSEN TRANSLATOR AND SCHOLAR OF LITERATURE.
MR. MEYER IS A RETIRED UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR. HIS FATHER HAD
BEEN A PROMINENT, LONDON IMPORT-EXPORT MERCHANT. DURING
THE MEAL, I WAS ENTHRALLED WITH THE LOFTY CONVERSATION AND
RECOLLECTIONS OF THE INTIMATE GROUP OF OXFORD ALUMNI.
ONE SUCH REMINISCENCE CAME FROM MR. MEYER. HE TOLD ME THAT
GEORGE ORWELL, THE BRILLIANT AUTHOR, WAS A FREQUENT VISITOR TO
HIS FATHER'S BUSINESS. ONE SATURDAY MORNING, ORWELL ENTERED
WISHING TO PURCHASE SOME FINE, IMPORTED CHERRY LUMBER. WITH IT,
HE PLANNED TO BUILD BOOKSHELVES. ORWELL ENGAGED THE SERVICE OF
YOUNG MEYER TO HELP IN THE PROJECT.
THE IMPRESSIVE WOOD WAS DELIVERED TO ORWELL'S HOUSE, AND THE
PAIR SET TO WORK. THEY LABORED CAREFULLY, NOT WISHING TO MAR
THE EXTRAORDINARY LUMBER. ONCE THE SHELVES WERE COMPLETED,
ORWELL AND MEYER MOVED THEM INTO PLACE IN ORWELL'S STUDY. THEY
STOOD BACK IN ADMIRATION AND SILENCE FOR QUITE SOME TIME.
SUDDENLY, THE ECCENTRIC AUTHOR DASHED OUT THE DOOR, CALLING
BACK TO THE YOUNG BOY TO WAIT THERE FOR HIM.
HE RETURNED MANY HOURS LATER WITH A TIN OF WHITE PAINT. UNDER
ORWELL'S DIRECTION, THE TWO WORKED FEVERISHLY TO COVER THE FINE
FINISH OF THE CHERRY WOOD WITH A WHITE OVERCOAT! THE
GORGEOUS AND EXTRAVAGANT CHERRY LUMBER NOW LOOKED AS ORDINARY
AS ANY SCRAPS OF WOOD! MEYER WAS DUMBFOUNDED AND RESOLVED NEVER
TO TELL HIS FATHER OF THIS "SIN" IN WHICH HE HAD TAKEN PART.
ORWELL, HOWEVER, SEEMED EXCEEDINGLY PLEASED WITH THE WHITE
BOOKCASE, AND SHOWED THE BOY OUT WITH A HEARTY LAUGH AND A
SERIES OF HANDSHAKES AND PATS ON THE BACK.

Where learned: ENGLAND ; CHELSEA ; LONDON

Subject headings: PROSE NARRATIVE -- Secular hero
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