George Orwell: The Critical Heritage

By Jeffrey Meyers | Go to book overview

pity, I think, to desert the lingua franca of polite letters for the jargon of a coterie.

Perhaps in a journal largely read by the religious, it should be mentioned that one of the essays, ‘Some Notes on Salvador Dali, was suppressed in a previous publication on grounds of obscenity. There and elsewhere Mr Orwell, when his theme requires it, does not shirk the use of coarse language. There is nothing in his writing that is inconsistent with high moral principles.


70.

Harry Levin, New Republic

6 May 1946, pp. 665-7

Harry Levin (b. 1912), Professor of English at Harvard, author of James Joyce (1941), The Overreacher (1952) and The Gates of Horn (1963).

English critics, by circumscribing their definition of culture, have missed a great deal. Inheriting their criteria from Walter Pater, an Oxford don, or Matthew Arnold, a school inspector, they have confined themselves to the higher manifestations of art. They have dealt more effectually with the elegiac past than with the distracting present. Until quite recently they have hesitated to acknowledge that heaven and earth contain more things than fall within the academic curriculum. They have never quite outgrown the peculiar tutelage of an educational system which bases itself on the coalition between intellectual superiority and social snobbery. Thus T. S. Eliot can impose his opinions with a schoolmaster’s authority, while William Empson exerts his perceptions with a schoolboy’s precocity. Even Cyril Connolly, though morbidly conscious of the obsolescent institutions behind him, cannot say goodbye to all that; he can merely shore up personal fragments for some historical museum; with Connolly the critical faculty seems to have

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