Stephen Spender, New Republic
16 March 1953, pp. 18-19
Reading these essays, I could not but visualize a scene in a London pub. A tall lean man with scraggy neck, Adam’s apple, bright eyes, and the sort of face I associate with a clay pipe, is holding forth. He is surrounded by a group of working-class people, but he has a wary eye on a bearded figure leaning over the bar some yards away, and even while he himself is talking, he is listening to the Intellectual’s conversation. Suddenly he interrupts himself in the middle of a monologue about the British middle-class in order that the whole company may hear the Intellectual say a few words in French. At this, he cannot altogether repress a smile which indicates that among the workers the Intellectual has committed a social gaff; he has spoken in a foreign language correctly.
The workers themselves, I think, do not feel that this strange man who comes to the Pub every night is one of them. Some of the things he says—as when he says that freedom is going shortly to disappear from the face of the earth—they listen to incredulously. Others—as when he talks about the English workers themselves—embarrass them. All the same, they have a vague feeling that he is on their side, and his talk in some way fascinates them. Holding forth, they think, is his hobby. And deep down, they feel sorry for him. What they understand is that he is sick and sad and that he has a vision of terrible realities which they prefer not to think about.
George Orwell is an extremely English writer. He is a man with a grouse. He holds forth about his grievances—the intelligentsia, the rich, the Stalinists, nationalists of every kind. He has simple views about
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Publication information: Book title: George Orwell: The Critical Heritage. Contributors: Jeffrey Meyers - Editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 313.
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