often suggesting to him that the children of today, with all their adaptability, could probably play as cheerfully and innocently as those of two generations ago. Intellectually, he saw the point; but emotionally he could never quite bring himself to agree.
Christopher Sykes, New Republic
4 December 1950, pp. 30-1
Christopher Sykes (b. 1907), English diplomat and soldier; author of Four Studies in Loyalty (1946), biographer of Orde Wingate (1959) and Nancy Astor (1972).
George Orwell’s writing and character can be described by a somewhat overworked idea: he was extremely ‘Hamletish, ’ not in the sense that he was a morbid brooder—he was never that—but in the deeper sense of being able to see both sides of many questions with equal and therefore puzzling sympathy. He was an essentially paradoxical man. He was a person who saw through prejudice, but was never rid of his own. He hated the use of un-thought-out political catch-phrases, and yet he could use words such as ‘Left’ and ‘reactionary’ as though they contained precise meaning. He ridiculed the pretensions and affectations of people who regarded themselves as advanced thinkers, ‘the Pansy-Left’ as he sometimes called them, but he never lost an absurd conviction that everyone on the opposite political side was basically mad or wicked. I believe he would rather have been killed than have committed any action in the least treacherous to the rights and liberties of artists, but his understanding of pictures and poetry was negligible. This saintly man regarded sanctity as rubbish.
The present book has nine of his longer essays (not hitherto published in book form) and nine lighter pieces from his contributions to the English Labour weekly, Tribune. He was a philosophical writer whose descriptive essays contained almost as much of his thought as did his