George Orwell: The Critical Heritage

By Jeffrey Meyers | Go to book overview

which do not now seem to me so very wonderful, sent shivers down my backbone.

I think I can guess why.


102.

George Elliott, Hudson Review

Spring 1957, pp. 149-54

George Elliott (b. 1918), American novelist, poet and Professor of English at Syracuse University; author of Parktilden Village (1958) and Among the Dangs (1961). At the author’s request I reprint the revised version of this composite review, ‘George Orwell, ’ from A Piece of Lettuce (New York: Random House, 1964), pp. 161-70.

Rereading Orwell, I was struck with the frequency and the vigor with which he strained against the rationalistic materialism he usually asserted. He was opposed in principle to Christianity as to all religion, yet he said that in losing Christianity we (i.e. he and his primary audience of Anglo-American liberals) lost incomparable riches. He attacked Swift for being opposed to scientific advance, the enlightenment, and social progress; yet he could also write (Inside the Whale): ‘Progress and reaction have both turned out to be swindles. ’ He wrote that the popular loss of belief in personal immortality was the most important social phenomenon of the age. He made a wry and bitter joke that sometimes he could almost believe there was an order of things outside time and space. In A Clergyman’s Daughter (1935) he wrote a phantasmagorial chapter in the form of a play, which includes, without irony or comedy, the following stage direction to the reader: ‘As he (a priest who is reciting the Lord’s Prayer backward) reaches the first word of the prayer he tears the consecrated bread across. The blood runs out of it. There is a rolling sound, as of thunder, and the land

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