From My John Osborne Book: A Letter To His Fellow Countrymen

Written by Monkey Woods

Friday, 11 January 2019

image for From My John Osborne Book: A Letter To His Fellow Countrymen
Osborne: very angry

A few weeks ago, I wrote a story about buying a book from a charity shop in Cottingham, near Hull, in which I later discovered a £20 note that had been used as a bookmark by the book's previous owner. The book was 'Damn, you, England' by the playwright, John Osborne, the writer of the classic 1956 play, 'Look Back In Anger'.

The book, a first edition, contains a selection of his writings which includes many letters to newspapers on a variety of topics. It cost me 50p, which was a bargain, if ever there was one.

In the book, on pages 193 and 194, there is a letter from Osborne, published in the Tribune on 18 August 1961. It's a letter to the government, with whom Osborne is clearly not happy. I have included it here, because, even though more than 57 years separate then and now, I feel somewhat the same about the current crop of mopheads in charge of politics in the UK.

As part of its entry on John Osborne, the 'Angry Young Man', Wikipedia states:

"During his peak (1956–1966), he helped make contempt an acceptable and now even cliched onstage emotion, argued for the cleansing wisdom of bad behaviour and bad taste, and combined unsparing truthfulness with devastating wit."


* This is a letter of hate. It is for you, my countrymen. I mean those men of my country who have defiled it. The men with manic fingers leading the sightless, feeble, betrayed body of my country to its death. You are its murderers, and there's little left in my own brain but the thoughts of murder for you.

I cannot even address you as I began as 'Dear', for that word alone would sin against my hatred. And this, my hatred for you, and those who tolerate you, is about all I have left and all the petty dignity my death may keep.

No, this is not the highly paid 'anger' or the 'rhetoric' you like to smile at (you've tried to mangle my language, too). You'll not pour pennies into my coffin for this; you are MY object. I am not yours. You are my vessel, you are MY hatred. That is my final identity. True, it will no doubt die with me in a short time and by your unceasing effort.

But perhaps it could be preserved, somewhere, in the dead world that you have prepared for us, perhaps the tiny, unbared spark of my human hatred might kindle, just for the briefest moment in time, the life you lost for us.

I fear death. I dread it daily. I cling wretchedly to life, as I have always done. I fear death, but I cannot hate it as I hate you. It is only you I hate, and those who let you live, function and prosper.

My hatred for you is almost the only constant satisfaction you have left me. My favourite fantasy is four minutes or so non-commercial viewing as you fry in your democratically elected hot seats in Westminster, preferably with your condoning democratic constituents.

There is murder in my brain, and I carry a knife in my heart for every one of you. Macmillan, and you, Gaitskell, you particularly. I wish we could hang you all out, with your dirty washing, on your damned Oder-Neisse Line, and those seven out of ten Americans, too. I would willingly watch you all die for the West, if only I could keep my own miniscule portion of it, you could all go ahead and die for Berlin, for Democracy, to keep out the red hordes or whatever you like.

You have instructed me in my hatred for thirty years. You have perfected it, and made it the blunt, obsolete instrument it is now. I only hope it will keep me going. I think it will. I think it may sustain me in the last few months.

Till then, damn you, England. You're rotting now, and quite soon you'll disappear. My hate will outrun you yet, if only for a few seconds. I wish it could be eternal.

I write this from another country, with murder in my brain and a knife carried in my heart for every one of you. I am not alone. If WE had just the ultimate decency and courage, we would strike at you - now, before you blaspheme against the world in our name. There is nothing I should not give for your blood on my head.

But all I can offer you is my hatred. You will be untouched by that, for you are untouchable. Untouchable, unteachable, impregnable.

If you were offered the heart of Jesus Christ, your Lord and your Saviour - though not mine, alas, - you'd sniff at it like sour offal. For that is the Kind of Men you are.

Believe me,
In sincere and utter hatred,
Your Fellow Countrymen,
John Osborne, Valbonne, France.

18 August 1961 *

* From 'Damn You, England' by John Osborne, published by Faber and Faber 1994

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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