George Orwell: The Critical Heritage

By Jeffrey Meyers | Go to book overview

32.

Hamish Miles, New Statesman and Nation

1 May 1937, pp. 724, 726

Hamish Miles (1894-1937), English translator of George Sand and André Maurois.

Mr Orwell has written a Black Guide to England, explained his own conflict with English caste-consciousness, sketched the intangible but very real battle-front of North and South, peered with fascinated horror into the homes (if that is the word) of the totally submerged poor and into the minds (if that, etc. ) of the vaguely well-to-do, rubbed some gritty rock-salt into the sore places of conventional Socialism, and got in some resounding thwacks at Anglo-Communism, tinned food, Punch, the highbrows of ‘the snootier magazines, ’ the ‘leisure’ Utopians, and much else. All in one book. And as Mr Orwell can do a first-rate job of descriptive reporting, can hit hard at cant wherever it seems to him to show its head, can instinctively pack plenty of disputatious matter into one paragraph, it is a living and lively book from start to finish. The honest Tory must face what he tells and implies, and the honest Socialist must face him, too. It may be hard for Mr Orwell to accept such praise from such a notoriously snooty quarter as Great Turnstile:1 it is fairly clear that the New Statesman and Nation is as a pink rag to his bull-wrath. But he must take it.

His exploration of the English scene opens with a stay in a slum lodging-house in the North: four beds to the room, and a tripe and pigs’ trotters shop downstairs. Mr Orwell has a positively Gissingesque genius for finding the dingiest house in the most sunless street, and he sketches the horribly self-contained, sub-human universe of his landlord and fellow-lodgers with a precision which, at one point or another, pricks each of one’s senses in turn into revolt.

The meals at the Brookers’ house were uniformly disgusting. For breakfast you got two rashers of bacon and a pale fried egg, and bread-and-butter

1 The address of the New Statesman in London.

-110-

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