Margins: George Orwell A Life (361)

May 16, 2012

I knew next to nothing of George Orwell aside from having read Animal Farm and 1984, but I know a little more now thanks to Bernard Crick’s thorough, balanced and unvarnished biography.

I was particularly taken with this passage, from a letter to fellow writer Stephen Spender, in which Orwell explains why he stopped attacking Spender in print. It combines, rather touchingly: principled commitment to intellectual aloofness with fundamental, inescapable human warmth, and a lovely little comic pay-off.

Even if when I met you I had not happened to like you, I should still have been bound to change my attitude, because when you meet anyone in the flesh you realize immediately that he is a human being & not a sort of caricature embodying certain ideas. It is partly for this reason that I don’t mix much in literary circles, because I know from experience that once I have met & spoken to anyone I shall never again be able to show any intellectual brutality towards him, even when I feel that I ought to, like the Labour MPs who get patted on the back by dukes & are lost forever more.


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