He never says. Down and Out is an awkward first book. Orwell can’t seem to decide whether he is giving us a jouralistic report or a personal story, so he does both. Two separate stories are rather clumsily joined together: down and out in Paris, down and out in London.
But who cares! Orwell’s opinions are worth hearing:
Yet if one looks closely one sees that there is no essential difference between a beggar’s livelihood and that of numberless respectable people.
Why? Because what they do all day is useless and could be avoided by sensible social arrangements, which is also true for many other occupations.
He [the beggar] is honest compared with the sellers of most patent medicines, high-minded compared with a Sunday newspaper proprietor, amiable compared with a hire-purchase tout– in short, a parasite, but a fairly harmless parasite.
Orwell tried to be detached as he describes the way the world works, but disgust keeps getting in the way.
In the kitchen, the dirt was worse. It is not a figure of speech, it is a mere statement o fact to say that a French cook will spit in the soup–that is, if he is not going to drink it himself. He is an artist, but his art is not cleanliness.
This soup, by the way, is not the soup of poverty, but middle-level or better restaurant food. This has echoes of The Jungle. Upton Sinclair set out to help the working man but mostly impressed his middle-class readers by the offenses of the system against their own health and stomachs. Orwell tells us how the poor live and improvise and suffer and mostly affects us with his own much broader distaste for the system.
Wow! Just in time I find a marvelous post with pictures of the places and events Orwell writes about.