Sleep is everywhere in late 1930s London writing. However great the likelihood of war, however emboldened Germany grew, London simply turned its face away and pulled its eye mask tighter. George Orwell, returning to the city in 1937 from the Spanish Civil War, was struck by this sense of slumber. Compared to the murderous infighting in Barcelona, that fallen beacon of Republican hopes, London was a soporific mirage: it was a ‘huge peaceful wilderness’ with its ‘miry river’, its preoccupation with cricket and royal weddings, its people all sleeping ‘the deep, deep sleep of England’. No one seemed bothered that bombs would be falling here too, one day, to wreck the scene. By the following year, at the time of the Munich Crisis, the threat had grown, but London only showed the same detached lethargy. For the poet Louis MacNeice, the lure of bed was strong; in his autobiographical poem Autumn Journal (1939), how much better to lie in bed in the troubled last months of 1938 (his eiderdown is silk, his sheets are of Irish linen) than face up to the next morning’s front pages and London’s latest war talk. The writer Inez Holden, a friend of Orwell’s, felt the same. At a drinks party in London in September 1938, Munich cast an oppressive shadow. Some of the guests, ‘ghastly grey’ with worry, were guessing how many might be killed in the first air raid, ‘the figures rising rapidly towards the million mark’. Yet Holden was apathetic, as if in ‘a half-conscious state of sleep, weighed down by heavy blankets’. 1