Eileen Maud O'Shaughnessy (25 September 1905 – 29 March 1945) was the first wife of British writer George Orwell. O'Shaughnessy was born in South Shields, Tyne & Wear, in the north-east of England, the only daughter of Marie O'Shaughnessy and Lawrence O'Shaughnessy, who was a customs collector. Despite being very close to her older brother Lawrence, a distinguished thoracic surgeon, in a letter to a friend she described him as "one of nature's Fascists".
Education and early life
She attended Sunderland Church High School. In the autumn of 1924, she entered St Hugh's College, Oxford, one of the women's colleges at Oxford, where she read English. In 1927 she received a very good Second. By choice there followed a succession of jobs 'of no special consequence and with no connection from one to the next', which she held briefly, and which began with work as an assistant mistress at Silchester House, a girls' boarding school in Taplow in the Thames valley, and included being a secretary; a reader for the elderly Dame Elizabeth Cadbury; and the proprietor of an office in Victoria Street, London, for typing and secretarial work. When she closed it down she took up freelance journalism, selling an occasional feature piece to the Evening News. Further, she helped her brother Laurence, by typing, proof-reading and editing his scientific papers and books.
In the autumn of 1934 she enrolled at University College, London, in a two-year graduate course programme in Educational Psychology, that would have led to her MA degree. She was particularly attracted to intelligence-testing in children "and quite early decided upon that as the subject for the thesis she would be writing." Elizaveta Fen, a fellow student who would become one of Eileen's closest friends, met her then for the first time: " She was twenty-eight-years-old and looked several years younger. She was tall and slender, her shoulders rather broad and high. She had blue eyes and dark brown, naturally wavy hair. George once said that she had 'a cat's face' - and one could see that this was true in a most attractive sense ... " 
O'Shaughnessy was also an amateur poet.
Marriage to Orwell
O'Shaughnessy met Orwell in the spring of 1935. At this moment he was living at 77 Parliament Hill in Hampstead, occupying a spare room in the first floor flat of Rosalind Henschel Obermeyer, a niece of the conductor and composer Sir George Henschel and a friend of Mabel Fierze. (Orwell would have met Mrs Obermeyer at the Fierzes, who were mutual friends). Obermeyer was pursuing an advanced course in psychology at University College, London and one evening invited some of her friends and acquaintances to a party. One "was an attractive young woman whom Rosalind did not know especially well, although they often sat next to each other at lectures: her name was Eileen O'Shaughnessy." Another was the future translator and author of memoirs Elizaveta Fen who later recalled Orwell and his friend Richard Rees, "draped" at the fireplace, looking, she thought, " moth-eaten and prematurely aged."  Orwell and O'Shaughnessy married the following year, on 9 June 1936, at St Mary's in Wallington. Orwell, though a non-practising member of the Church of England, 'was sufficiently a traditionalist to wish to be married in it.' The logical end of their life at this time would have been children, but Eileen did not become pregnant and they learnt, (though not for another two years), that Eric was sterile, as he told Rayner Heppenstall, and as Eileen confided in Elizaveta Fen. Soon after their marriage she joined Orwell when he went to fight in the Spanish Civil War, returning the following year after he was wounded in the throat by a sniper.
On the outbreak of World War II, Eileen started work in the Censorship Department in London, staying during the week with her family in Greenwich. Her brother Laurence was killed by a bomb during the evacuation from Dunkirk, after which, according to Elizaveta Fen, "her grip on life, which had never been very firm, loosened considerably."  In the spring of 1942, Eileen changed jobs to work at the Ministry of Food. In June 1944 Orwell and O'Shaughnessy adopted a three-week old boy they named Richard Horatio Blair. In one of her last letters to Orwell she wrote of arrangements for renting and decorating Barnhill, on the island of Jura, the house where Orwell would write most of Nineteen Eighty Four - but she never saw Barnhill.
Through her brother's marriage to Gwen Hunton she and Orwell had access to Greystone, near Carlton, where they stayed in 1944/45. Greystone had recently been left vacant following the death of Gwen's maiden aunt, Mary Hunton. Gwen O'Shaughnessy had brought her children to the house from London when the flying-bomb raids began and Richard (born 14 May 1944) had gone there when the Orwells had been bombed out of their flat in Maida Vale in June 1944. In early 1945 Eileen, who was in very poor health, went to stay there. Joyce Pritchard, the O'Shaughnessys' nanny said that Eileen had visited Greystone frequently between July 1944 and March 1945.
She died on 29 March 1945 in Newcastle upon Tyne whilst under anaesthetic, her death being caused by the anesthetic. She was thirty-nine. In the words of the inquest: "Cardiac failure whilst under anaesthetic of ether and chloroform skilfully and properly administered for operation for removal of uterus."She and Richard were living at Greystone at the time, with Orwell working in Paris as a war correspondent for The Observer. He got to Greystone on Saturday, 31 March. She is buried in Saint Andrew's and Jesmond Cemetery, West Jesmond, Newcastle.
Influence on Orwell's writing
Some scholars believe that Eileen had a large influence on Orwell's writing. It is suggested that Orwell's classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four may have been influenced by one of O'Shaughnessy's poems, "End of the Century, 1984", although this hypothesis cannot be proven. The poem was written in 1934, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Sunderland Church High School, which she had attended, and to look ahead 50 years to the school's centenary in 1984.
Although the poem was written a year before she met Orwell, there are striking similarities between the futuristic vision of O'Shaughnessy's poem and that of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, including the use of mind control, and the eradication of personal freedom by a police state.
The writers Peter Stansky and William Abrahams noted in their study of Orwell that, "Very likely the tininess of The Stores, [their house in Wallington, Hertfordshire, where they kept animals in the garden] -,appealed to her fantasy side. She was [ ] deeply imaginative, and enjoyed 'inventing' another world, populated with farmyard animals whose traits of personality she developed with the skill of a psychologist or a novelist, bestowing names upon them (Kate and Muriel were the goats at the Stores) and creating for them [ ] series of adventures. For a time she thought of incorporating them into a children's story that would be set in a farmyard." This project was abandoned when the war came; - " it survived only in the conversations she and [Orwell] would have in bed at night, amusing themselves as the bombs fell [ ] inventing new adventures: foibles and follies for the animals of their imaginary farm. " 
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