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As it was Book Lovers Day on August 9 and because it’s always exciting to unearth an unimaginable clip on YouTube, here’s a selection in which the voices of venerable writers, taken from the some of the earliest days of broadcasting, are preserved.
Let’s start fittingly, with the most startling of discoveries. Bless my braces if it isn’t Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, speaking in 1930.
Picking up the spiritual baton as handed on from Sir Arthur, the Brave New World author is described in the interview preamble as possessed of an omnivorous intellect, which is something you don’t get a lot of in TV interviews these days.
A particularly sad irony of 20th Century cultural life is that there is no known footage—audio or video—of George Orwell’s speaking voice, despite working for the BBC on broadcasts to India for two years during the war. Whereas Virginia Woolf—whose voice it would have perhaps have been safer to assume was lost forever—survives in this BBC radio talk called “Craftsmanship,” from 1937.
H.G. Wells meets Orson Welles! Well well! And a poor radio announcer has to sort out which is which in his introduction, knowing full well that you can’t hear variations in spelling when you speak. Thankfully, those accents make it clear which is which.
Another astonishing bolt from the blue, here’s the venerable old man of letters, writer of The Jungle Book and the Just-So Stories, giving a speech on the art of writing to an audience of his peers.
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See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic