Jacintha Buddicom's account Eric & Us provides an insight into Blair's childhood. She quoted his sister Avril that "he was essentially an aloof, undemonstrative person" and said herself of his friendship with the Buddicoms "I do not think he needed any other friends beyond the schoolfriend he occasionally and appreciatively referred to as 'CC'". She could not recall his having schoolfriends to stay and exchange visits as her brother Prosper often did in holidays. Cyril Connolly provides an account of Blair as a child in Enemies of Promise. Years later, Blair mordantly recalled his prep school in the essay "Such, Such Were the Joys", claiming among other things that he "was made to study like a dog" to earn a scholarship, which he alleged was solely to enhance the school's prestige with parents. Jacintha Buddicom repudiated Orwell's schoolboy misery described in the essay, stating that "he was a specially happy child". She noted that he did not like his name, because it reminded him of a book he greatly disliked - Eric, or, Little by Little, a Victorian boys' school story.
Connolly remarked of him as a schoolboy, "The remarkable thing about Orwell was that alone among the boys he was an intellectual and not a parrot for he thought for himself". At Eton, John Vaughan Wilkes, his former headmaster's son recalled, "... he was extremely argumentative—about anything—and criticising the masters and criticising the other boys ... We enjoyed arguing with him. He would generally win the arguments—or think he had anyhow." Roger Mynors concurs: "Endless arguments about all sorts of things, in which he was one of the great leaders. He was one of those boys who thought for himself ..."
Blair liked to carry out practical jokes. Buddicom recalls him swinging from the luggage rack in a railway carriage like an orangutan to frighten a woman passenger out of the compartment. At Eton he played tricks on John Crace, his Master in College, among which was to enter a spoof advertisement in a College magazine implying pederasty. Gow, his tutor, said he "made himself as big a nuisance as he could" and "was a very unattractive boy". Later Blair was expelled from the crammer at Southwold for sending a dead rat as a birthday present to the town surveyor. In one of his As I Please essays he refers to a protracted joke when he answered an advertisement for a woman who claimed a cure for obesity.
Blair had an enduring interest in natural history which stemmed from his childhood. In letters from school he wrote about caterpillars and butterflies, and Buddicom recalls his keen interest in ornithology. He also enjoyed fishing and shooting rabbits, and conducting experiments as in cooking a hedgehog or shooting down a jackdaw from the Eton roof to dissect it. His zeal for scientific experiments extended to explosives—again Buddicom recalls a cook giving notice because of the noise. Later in Southwold his sister Avril recalled him blowing up the garden. When teaching he enthused his students with his nature-rambles both at Southwold and Hayes. His adult diaries are permeated with his observations on nature.
Buddicom and Blair lost touch shortly after he went to Burma, and she became unsympathetic towards him. She wrote that it was because of the letters he wrote complaining about his life, but an addendum to Eric & Us by Venables reveals that he may have lost sympathy through an incident which was at best a clumsy seduction.
Mabel Fierz, who later became Blair's confidante, said: "He used to say the one thing he wished in this world was that he'd been attractive to women. He liked women and had many girlfriends I think in Burma. He had a girl in Southwold and another girl in London. He was rather a womaniser, yet he was afraid he wasn't attractive."
Brenda Salkield (Southwold) preferred friendship to any deeper relationship and maintained a correspondence with Blair for many years, particularly as a sounding board for his ideas. She wrote: "He was a great letter writer. Endless letters, and I mean when he wrote you a letter he wrote pages." His correspondence with Eleanor Jacques (London) was more prosaic, dwelling on a closer relationship and referring to past rendezvous or planning future ones in London and Burnham Beeches.
When Orwell was in the sanatorium in Kent, his wife's friend Lydia Jackson visited. He invited her for a walk and out of sight "an awkward situation arose." Jackson was to be the most critical of Orwell's marriage to Eileen O'Shaughnessy, but their later correspondence hints at a complicity. Eileen at the time was more concerned about Orwell's closeness to Brenda Salkield. Orwell was to have an affair with his secretary at Tribune which caused Eileen much distress, and others have been mooted. In a letter to Ann Popham he wrote: "I was sometimes unfaithful to Eileen, and I also treated her badly, and I think she treated me badly, too, at times, but it was a real marriage, in the sense that we had been through awful struggles together and she understood all about my work, etc." Similarly he suggested to Celia Kirwan that they had both been unfaithful. There are several testaments that it was a well-matched and happy marriage.
Blair was very lonely after Eileen's death, and desperate for a wife, both as companion for himself and as mother for Richard. He proposed marriage to four women, including Celia Kirwan, and eventually Sonia Brownell accepted. Orwell had met her when she was assistant to Cyril Connolly, at Horizon literary magazine. They were married on 13 October 1949, only three months before Orwell's death. Some maintain that Sonia was the model for Julia in Nineteen Eighty-Four.