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Decline of the English Murder and other essays

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  1,006 ratings  ·  97 reviews
A collection of some of the less accessible essays by the author of Animal Farm, including his lament for the inferior quality of modern murders and his comments on the changing face of fictional crime; his long essay on Dickens, and his shrewd critical remarks on Kipling and on the peculiar genius of Salvador Dali; eyewitness accounts of a hanging in Burma and a lazar-hou ...more
Paperback, 188 pages
Published 1965 by Penguin Books (first published February 16th 1946)
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Jacob Overmark
A collection of 8 essays, written between 1932-1946.

George Orwell lashes out at topics as different as Boy´s Weeklies, Girl´s Weeklies, “funny postcards”, Ladies´ Magazines, “junk antiquities” and what he describes as “good bad books”.
Being socialist to the core, and nevertheless bitten by the British bug, he shares his thoughts on the quality of the entertainment offered to the less educated masses.

This also includes the "Decline of the English Murder", a form of entertainment that really wen
Patrick Sherriff
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was attracted to this collection of essays mainly by the prospect of Orwell turning his hand to analysis of the detective novel, but I have to say that brief essay (and the one on Rudyard Kipling) was weak in this otherwise excellent collection. He didn't have much original to say about the English murder, and I was not interested in his thoughts (or anyone's particularly) on Kipling. But his description of a hanging in Burma, what a plonker Salvador Dali is, a poor ward in Paris, his critique ...more
Dec 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this a lot. I begin to wonder if it may always be the best way to start off reading some essays/ non-fictions works of an author BEFORE diving into his fiction novels. I mean, I appreciate George Orwell (Eric Blair, whatever) so much and I'm convinced that we would have been best buddies. I'm not kidding you, I agree with his core beliefs and his sass is just exactly my cup of tea. The fact that this collection of essays finished off with him listing words he learned whilst hop-picking w ...more
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love George Orwell. He is witty, clear, engaged (in the french sense of engagé). Reading him is always so easy and always such a great pleasure.

Decline of the English Murder is, like Books v. Cigarettes, a collection of articles Orwell wrote to several magazines. They are alike. They are both about Orwell's personal experiences. The difference here is that while Books v. Cigarettes relied more on Orwell's opinions, these rely more on Orwell's first hand experiences, that is, situations he pur
Sam Quixote
Of the four Penguin Great Ideas paperbacks published with George Orwell’s essays, Decline of the English Murder is by far the weakest collection.

If you scan the contents page, you’ll notice that a number of the essays here don’t make it into the larger essay collections and there’s a good reason for that: they’re not very good.

The title essay is a smarmy look at what elements Orwell believes would make for the ideal reading matter for newspaper audiences obsessed with crime - sex, death, money -
Matthew Rubio
Aug 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Orwell’s true genius is in the essay form. When reading his popular novels there are intimations of his formidable imagination, but I always felt there was something contrived in his fiction, a quality of overt parable or analogy that weakened a certain magic within the prose. Down and Out In Paris and London is a good example of a work that transcends the political metaphor and operates successfully along stylistic lines of flight—and it is, after all, a fictionalized memoir of his own experien ...more
Jun 01, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Orwell fans
Posted on my book blog.

Background: Anything with George Orwell as an author is something that interests me, specially if it comes in the form of a charming little Penguin book. Seriously, if for nothing else, these books are worth checking out by their cover designs alone!

Review: This book, like Books v. Cigarettes, is a collection of short essays written by Orwell. While the other one focused more on reading habits and childhood, this one deals mostly with popular English cultures, with the add
Stephen Curran
Oct 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A grab bag of essays written between 1931 and 1947, with no particular uniformity of theme. Topics include Salvador Dali, capital punishment in Burma, saucy picture postcards and Charles Dickens. Orwell writing on almost anything is worth reading, but flick to the back for the big-hitters: ‘Notes on Nationalism’ and ‘Why I Write’.

Here’s a long quote from the former, written in 2020 about how new media has intensified the belief in conspiracy theories; hang on, no, I mean ‘newspapers’ and ‘1945’
Aug 19, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was okay. I'm assuming these 8 short works were written as newspaper articles or suchlike, as some of the pieces were very brief. I really enjoyed half of them, which were about prison, murder, sleeping rough and good bad books. I wasn't so keen on the articles about boys' weeklies, women's papers and novelty postcards. Overall a short and somewhat enjoyable read- you can't go too far wrong with Orwell. ...more
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a very nice book to dip in to and with which to while away the commute, but nothing more than that. Maybe if I was in hospital recovering from an operation I might like to read it. I should add that when I was younger I read ALL of George Orwell's novels and thought he was AMAZING. Huge literary crush etc. andnoIdidn'thavemanyfriendsaththisage. So as I am sure you will be aware from salivatingly following my books reviews, last year I re-read an Orwell novel for the first time in 15 yea ...more
May 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was hard going despite it only being just over 100 pages long. I found the subject matter of the individual essays interesting but the writing is laboured and repetitive. It reads like a stream of consciousness, not well edited thoughtful pieces. My enjoyment of them was purely for the historical insight, I enjoyed finding out more about the Penny Dreadful’s which I only knew as a name in passing and I didn’t mind Decline of English Murder but mostly I felt like I was stuck next to my nutta ...more
This is a collection of essays by George Orwell. Some are of his adventures, some are a pure ramble of musings. I really enjoyed the first and final stories, ‘Clink’ and ‘Hop-Picking Diary’, which I would give minimum 4 stars. However, I must admit I did not finish ‘Boy’s Weekly’ and skimmed over the last 10 pages of this section because, quite frankly, it was going nowhere and life is too short. Overall, a good book to read and a great addition to the Penguin Books Great Ideas collection.
Cat Tobin
A classic book of Orwellian essays, most of which I found interesting - Notes On Nationalism feels particularly topical at the moment, and Why I Write is fascinating. However, an extended essay (an I-felt-unnecessary one-third of the book) on Charles Dickens, who I'm not a fan of, and another on the art of Donald McGill, brought my interest right down. ...more
Apr 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mostly early essays or articles by the icon of all journalists who likes to drink and feel...important. But alas don't let that stop you for enjoying one of the British prose writers of all time. George Orwell in this small edition comments on the joy of being arrested for public drunkness in East London, the joys of dirty (not really) postcards of Donald McGill, the nature of junk stores, and true-crime reading.

In other words a collection of essays that comment on the taste and passions of the
Dec 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You've got to appreaciate a man who goes to prison so he can write about the experience. And then goes on to essay the pro's and con's of boys comic books. Great read. ...more
Biff  Nightingale
Can't go wrong with Orwell. Contains one of my all-time favorite Orwell quotes:

"Any life, when viewed from the inside, is a series of defeats."
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
A collection of Orwell's more obscure essays. Of particular note is the long essay on Dickens and the assessemnt of the peculair genius of Salvador Dali. ...more
Andrew Hudson
Billed as some of Orwell's "less accessible" material, Decline of the English Murder and other essays contains ten texts on a strange variety of subjects, but in which his potent insights into the flaws of man and society remain constant - as well as a biting wit. The title piece is a case in point, drawing an unflattering, and humorously cynical, comparison between the "popular" contemporary (post-World War II) crimes making the headlines and those doing so between 1850 and 1925 - what he refer ...more
Dec 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here is a breakdown of every essay contained in this book and my thoughts on them:

Decline of the English Murder: 4/5 stars
A wonderful short little essay about Orwell's thoughts on the decline of this particular literary genre. I really enjoy how he sets the scene, even in this opinionated essays, as I can really immerse myself in what he has to say. And I do agree, the murder genre is one which will never be the same again.

A Hanging: 5/5 stars
I LOVE his short stories! His use of imagery and meta
Steven Godin


Decline of the English Murder
Just Junk — But Who Could Resist it?
Good Bad Books
Boys' Weeklies
Women's Twopenny Papers
The Art of Donald McGill
Hop-Picking Diary

"During the last few years the junk shop has been the only place where you could buy certain carpentering tools – a jack plane for instance – or such useful objects as corkscrews, clock keys, skates, wine glasses, copper saucepans, and spare pram wheels. In some shops you can find keys to fit almost any lock, others specialise in
I have this book 3 out of five stars. Mainly because I would of liked some kind of introduction to the essays within. The rating doesn’t reflect the writing, which as anybody who has read George Orwell’s writing will be aware is interesting to read and tells a good story. The 8 essays are a bit abstract if you don’t have any background information, why did Orwell get himself arrested? What was he trying to prove/ show, what brought on a many pages essay about boys weekly papers? The diary essays ...more
Rhys Tapper
This short collection of essays documents the opinions of the literary icon as he describes primarily the character, and creative output, of fellow seminal artists of his time. Centrally, the biographical essays paint the subjects invariably in a negative light - bordering on prolific underhanded compliments in parts. However, the main points waver between subjective opinion and objective evaluation through quite honest and agreeable terms. The opinion essays are delightfully fringed by autobiog ...more
Bruce Reiter
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The essays contained in this group are from 1939 until 1947. Many of them discuss other authors, including Rudyard Kipling and Charles Dickens. These are must reads for any teacher of literature. My favorites are his dissections of those elements common to political man within the essay entitled "Notes on Nationalism". If you are an aspiring writer, then his short piece on "Why I Write" is in order. I particularly like essayists, having cut my literary teeth on early Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompso ...more
Thomas Land
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel through this series of essays, I personally got to know George Orwell...or Eric. Turns out George isn't actually his name. Anyway I digress, this short book of essays does what every good set of essays should do and feel as though I have sat down and had a catch up with the author over a cup of coffee.

The topics very wildly, but each gives a little insight into life in 1930s England. This gateway is a fast read and very much worth it, and now when I reread Animal Farm or 1984, its as tho
Jun 07, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I just love the look of this book (and like most of the titles in this run of Penguin Classics, the cover has a lot of texture; an embossed cover creates a credible illusion of letterpress printing). The essays are interesting with a couple of Orwell's "slumming" experiences ("Clink" and "Hop-Picking Diary" and a few where he dissects popular culture, including one on "Women's Twopenny Papers" which does include this gem of an idea: "...this business about the moral superiority of the poor is on ...more
Sarah Krymalowski
I would read Orwell on anything. Every one of these essays, including a long essay on Rudyard Kipling and a full 40 pages on Dickens (two writers I've never cared about) , had at least a few lines that changed how I saw the world.

That being said, if you are only going to read one thing by Orwell, choose Notes on Nationalism'. Orwell's clear description of politic polarization is probably more relevant now than at the time he wrote it. He's kind of snooty but he makes a very compelling case for
David Vonka
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Texts from Orwell's radical period. They are very intelligent, witty and sometimes even funny. I may not share the implicit political views, but I am impressed by the genuine interest , energy and hardship Orwell invested into learning about being at the low end of the society. Also the analytical textz about trash literature are inspiring. it is fun to think about say Harry Potter using the tools developed in Orwell's "Boys' weeklies" essay. I absolutely recommend this thin book. ...more
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's odd to read essays that in places are incredibly outdated (owing to having been written so long ago), but which in other places remain relevant. This was particularly striking in the piece about Boys' Weeklies - if those even exist anymore, then they certainly don't occupy the same status as they did in Orwell's day, but some of the commentary he supplies could just as easily be said about plenty of modern entertainment. ...more
Hoda هدى
There are some points I definitely did not pay attention to when I read this for the first time two years ago. Anyway, I still feel the same about The Charles Dickens' essay which was pretty long. Many ideas repeated in it.
The whole collection in general is not bad. The essay titled 'A Hanging' is my favorite. It felt like a short story.
bella gaia
the essays in this little collection were certainly fascinating, as anything Orwell writes generally is, but far from his best work (in my opinion). I particularly enjoyed the exploration of 'low' culture and its ideological implications (explored in 'boys weeklies' especially); I'd be intrigued to hold this essay up alongside Mythologies by Roland Barthes! ...more
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Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist. His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism.

In addition to his literary career Orwell served as a police officer with the Indian Imperial

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