I was hoping for something interesting when I clicked on this post at M-Star last week claiming a link between George Orwell and Mormonism, but it was a hoax. Okay, call it a clever hook — something I would never do. But then, lo and behold, just the next day I stumbled across the following passage in Down and Out in Paris and London recounting Orwell's actual encounter with two Mormon missionaries in interwar England.
Orwell, fitted out as a tramp wandering around London, came across two Mormon missionaries preaching to a crowd, outdoors. Here is a rough transcription of Orwell's description of his encounter with the missionaries, peppered with exchanges between various members of the crowd (but not with Orwell himself):
On Tower Hill, two Mormons were trying to address a meeting. Round their platform struggled a mob of men shouting and interrupting. Someone was denouncing them for polygamists. A lame, bearded man, evidently an atheist, had heard the word "God" and was heckling angrily. There was a confused uproar of voices.
"My friends, if you'd only let us finish what we were saying," [said a missionary.]
"That's right, give 'em a say, don't get on the argue," [said an onlooker.]
"No, no, you answer me," [said the atheist,] "can you show me God? You show 'im me, then I'll believe in 'im."
"Oh shut up, don't keep interrupting," [said an onlooker.]
"Interrupt yourself." [To the missionaries:] "Polygamists!"
"Well, there's a lot to be said for polygamy. Take the women out of industry, anyway.
"My dear friends, if you would just ..."
"No, no, don't you slip out of it. Have you seen God? Have you touched God? Have you shook hands with 'im?"
"Oh, don't get on the argue ..." [interjected another.]
I listened for twenty minutes, anxious to learn something about Mormonism, but the meeting never got beyond shouts. It's the general fate of street meetings.
That is twenty minutes worth reflecting on. One can only imagine what the author of Politics and the English Language would have made of Mormon discourse or the Book of Mormon itself. Perhaps our Eurobloggers, or those who have served as LDS missionaries in England, can relate to Orwell's tale of missionaries conducting street meetings. FYI, there is a short Wikipedia entry on Tower Hill, as well as a separate entry on its tube station.