The Searchlight Books series was edited by T. R. Fyvel and George Orwell and published by Secker & Warburg during 1941-1942. The distinctive cover image was designed by political cartoonist, Philip Zec. The series of 128 page essays was promoted by explaining that:
The books will be written in simple language without the rubber-stamp political jargon of the past. They will seek to appeal to the new generation which is fighting this war whether on the battlefields or in the factories and to all those who can recognise the spirit of the new world prospects which are opening before us.
The Lion and the Unicorn was to be the first in a series of 18 books – planned during the summer of 1940 by Fyvel, Sebastian Haffner, Fredric Warburg and Orwell – and published on 19 February 1941. An initial print run of 7,500 was followed by a second impression of 5,000 copies in March 1941. It sold over 10,000 copies and at that time was the most commercially successful of Orwell’s books (behind The Road to Wigan Pier). German bombs destroyed an unknown number of copies when they hit the publisher’s warehouse.
Eight titles were published in 1941 and three in 1942; the remainder never appeared. It is a pity, considering the quality of the authors, that several of the proposed titles were not written and published. These unfinished projects included:
- No 6: New Map for Europe by “Viator”
- No 7: Above All Things – Liberty by Michael Foot
- No 8: The Artist and the New World by Cyril Connolly
- No 12: Can Britain and America Unite by G.E. Catlin
- No 13: The Streets of Europe by Arthur Koestler
- No 14: Health for Citizens by Francois Lafitte
“A Searchlight Reporter Book”, Dover Front by Reginald Foster, was published by Secker & Warburg in 1941.
My collection includes the entire series (mostly in dust jackets):
- No 1: The Lion and the Unicorn (1941)
- No 2: Offensive Against Germany by Sebastian Haffner (1941)
- No 3: The Lesson of London by Ritchie Calder (1941)
- No 3: The Lesson of London by Ritchie Calder (a second copy signed by the author for Clement Attlee)
- No. 4: The English at War by Cassandra (William Connors) & Philip Zec (1941)
- No 5: The End of the Old School Tie by T. C. Worsley – with foreword by Orwell (1941)
- No 10: Struggle for the Spanish Soul by Arturo Barea (typescript and 1st proof destroyed by enemy action May 1941)
- No 11: The Case for African Freedom by Joyce Cary – with foreword by Orwell (1941)
- No 15: The Moral Blitz: War Propaganda and Christianity by Bernard Causton (1941)
- No 16: Beyond the “Isms” by Olaf Stapledon (1942)
- No. 17: Parents’ Revolt by Richard and Kathleen Titmus (1942)
- No 18: Life and the Poet by Stephen Spender (1942)
Fredric Warburg lists Bless ‘Em All by “Boomerang” (Alan Wood) as being “published outside the series” in March 1942 and having (along with Orwell’s The Lion and the Unicorn and Cassandra’s The English at War) an “effect on public opinion which it is hard to exaggerate”. Warburg believed that:
“one quality these three had in common, radicalism, the feeling that a desperate situation needed desperate remedies. These writers had keen ears; they heard or overheard the conversation in pub and NAAFI, club and canteen, bomb shelter and defence post, in the parlour, the bus and the streets. Somehow their gift of tongues enabled them to express the inmost feelings of a people caught up in a war they had not willed but knew they had to fight. They voiced the discontents, frustrations, and hatreds which might well have jeopardised the nation in a time of crisis.” SOURCE
“The liveliest pamphlets are almost always non-party, a good example being Bless ’em All, which should be regarded as a pamphlet, though it costs one and sixpence.” George Orwell
I have collected this “good-tempered and devastatingly funny” analysis of the British army, its morale, efficiency and leadership. Sir Basil Liddell Hart asked Orwell if he had written this pseudonymous pamphlet:
No, I didn’t write “Bless ’Em All”. I am not in the army because I am not physically fit (Class IV!) but I have been in the Home Guard from the beginning and could write a rather similar booklet about that. I don’t know who the author is except that he is an Australian. The book has had a fairly large sale, 15–20,000 copies, and has probably done a lot of good.
I will deliver a “George Talk“, George Orwell & Searchlight Books, for The Orwell Society 18th June 2023 at 6pm UK time.
Richard Young, who has a magnificent collection of Orwell books and paraphernalia, generously shared two of the dust jackets I have been unable to find.
Since the talk, I have been doing some more reading and discovered that Secker & Warburg reprinted a considerably expanded edition of Joyce Cary’s book in 1944. However, it did not include the foreword by Orwell.
In addition, an American edition, The Case for African Freedom and Other Writings on Africa, was published by the University of Texas Press in 1962. The introduction by Christoper Fyfe is excellent. This anthology of Cary’s writing does include Orwell’s laudatory foreword from the 1941 Searchlight edition.