George Orwell: The Critical Heritage

By Jeffrey Meyers | Go to book overview

be understood in terms of what Mr Laski said to Mr Strachey, what both of them agreed Mr Gollancz should say to the public about Mr Orwell. These men operated on the assumption that they grasped the issues of their day. It may have been an illusion—indeed, you could cite events to show that it was certainly an illusion—but it may be one that we cannot do without. No one today feels as relevant to the welfare of the future as Mr Gollancz felt himself to be in 1937; humility now becomes us as a shroud.


34.

Philip Toynbee, Encounter

August 1959, pp. 81-2

Philip Toynbee (b. 1916), English novelist and journalist.

In the July issue of Encounter T. R. Fyvel pointed out that it is the current fashion to make fun of Orwell. One reason for this, surely, is the reason which led that irritated Athenian to vote for the ostracism of Aristides; he was sick of hearing him called ‘the Just’. And it is perhaps true that Orwell was prematurely canonised. Because he acted what he believed and because he saw through many of the leftwing follies of his time he became, in the years after his death, something a little bit more than human. Yet the fact remains that though he was human to his would-be calloused finger-tips, Orwell was a much better man than most of us. We are reminded of this when we re-read his books, just as we are also reminded of the fact that he was a man of damaging and often irritating limitations.

The Road to Wigan Pier was first published in 1937 and was received, as I remember, with obloquy by communists and fellow-travellers, but with enthusiasm by many. The first part, which is a documentary description of his stay in various working-class homes in the north of England, has inevitably dated in some respects. The lists of prices and


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