George Orwell: The Critical Heritage

By Jeffrey Meyers | Go to book overview

went out for walks in their school days. ‘Of course, you realize, ’ Orwell would say, ‘that, whoever wins this war [the first one], we shall emerge a second-rate nation. ’ On one occasion, Connolly writes, Orwell, ‘striding beside me, ’ said ‘in his flat ageless voice: “You know, Connolly, there’s only one remedy for all diseases. ”’ Connolly at once thought of sex. ‘No. ’ said Orwell, ‘I mean Death!’ When he died, thirty years later, he had written, in the nightmare prophecy of Nineteen Eighty-Four, the sentence of death that he dreaded for everything he had trusted and loved.


96.

C. V. Wedgwood, Time and Tide

10 February 1951, p. 120

Dame Cicely Veronica Wedgwood (b. 1910), English historian, author of The Thirty Years War (1938), Oliver Cromwell (1939) and William the Silent (1944).

This posthumous volume of hitherto unpublished essays by George Orwell challenges the reviewer to attempt some kind of a summing-up. There is perhaps nothing in the present volume which ranks among the best of his work, but all of it is interesting and the years covered by the essays (the earliest was written in 1931, the latest in 1949) are the significant years of his life and writing.

There are three typical descriptions of actual experience. One concerns the shooting of a runaway elephant, one the hanging of a criminal and the third, and to my mind incomparably the best, describes the inside of a Paris hospital in a poor quarter. Through all three runs that powerful, concealed undercurrent of compassion which gave to Orwell’s writing on subjects of this kind its hard, unemotional power. His reporting is sometimes as cold as that winter night in Paris when, as a pneumonia patient, he walked barefoot across two hundred yards of

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