"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not money, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not money, I am nothing."
- George Orwell in "Keep the Aspidistra Flying" (1936)
My own thoughts on the quote:
George Orwell is expressing a very universal thought here. It just does not matter who you are, how eloquent you are, how perfect your mind is when you end up for a reason or another in a situation where you do not have any money.
In that kind of situation, you are simply nothing for very many people. All too often they do not want even to know about your existence. George Orwell really did know extremely well what he was talking about. He namely did have a very hard period in his life, when he was really at the bottom.
George Orwell was born as Eric Blair, but he did use the pen name George Orwell for all of writing career life. He did originally come from a quite typical British middle class family. He also started a normal middle class career as a police officer in Burma.
However, he dropped out, when he realized what he was really doing in the colonial Burma. This happened also because he decided to become a writer. After coming back from Burma he experienced the life of vagrants and hobos, who were roaming the British countryside at that time in big numbers.
He tells about this period in his life in his fine first book called "Down and out in Paris and London". This period of utter and desperate poverty that he did experience has surely influenced this quote.
Later on he mostly led life of a typical freelance writer. Money was mostly scarce, as his real success did come very late in life. In fact, he did not much have time to enjoy the financial and critical success of his last masterpieces. 'Animal Farm' was published in 1945. His best know work or '1984' was published in 1949, only a year before his death of tuberculosis in 1950.
(This piece was completely re-written on 3rd of September, 2012)
"Considered perhaps the twentieth century's best chronicler of English culture, Orwell wrote fiction, polemical journalism, literary criticism and poetry. He is best known for the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (published in 1949) and the satirical novella Animal Farm (1945)—they have together sold more copies than any two books by any other twentieth-century author. His 1938 book Homage to Catalonia, an account of his experiences as a volunteer on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War, together with numerous essays on politics, literature, language, and culture, are widely acclaimed."