George Orwell: The Critical Heritage

By Jeffrey Meyers | Go to book overview

in an assured position above and beyond the warring of the sects, and is in consequence potentially the most authoritative and interesting of English critics. Unfortunately, literary mass-observation—the boys’ weeklies, thrillers, post-cards—seem to have deflected him from writing anything which is comparable to the work of Mr Edmund Wilson, the distinguished American critic who has similar if greater authority for the same reasons. The literary mass-observation is amusing and useful, but is easily forgotten, because the conclusions are obvious and already known and only the particular instances are new. They cannot be re-read in this re-printing with the same pleasure as the essays on Dickens, Kipling and Wells.

Mr Orwell’s thought and method are so consistent that one could not have guessed, if it had not been stated, that this book represents the products of journalism in the last six years. Almost everybody who reads it will enjoy it and be stimulated by it; it is easily and forcefully written, and, in addition to its intellectual brilliance, has all the qualifications for great popularity—including a barely concealed impatience with highbrows and a suggestion of insularity. Nevertheless, highbrows will enjoy it most.


69.

Evelyn Waugh, Tablet

6 April 1946, p. 176

Evelyn Waugh (1903-66), English novelist, author of Decline and Fall (1928), Brideshead Revisited (1945), and The Loved One (1948). At the end of his life, Orwell planned to write an essay on Waugh.

The Critical Essays of Mr George Orwell comprise ten papers of varying length, written between 1939 and 1945, which together form a work of absorbing interest. They represent at its best the new humanism of the common man, of which Mass Observation is the lowest expression. It is a habit of mind rather than a school. Mr


H

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