Vol. 16 No. 10 1949 - page 968

more profound and fruitful for Mr. Orwell than it was for some
other writers because his qualities of political intelligence and sensi–
tivity were never lost or compromised in the confused issues of that
struggle. Participation in politics is not, as may have been sometimes
thought, sufficient to make a writer; but Mr. Orwell would be much
less the writer he is if he had not participated fully and actively in
the international socialist movement of his period, if he had not
confronted resolutely
sides of that historical fact, and, more im–
portant still, had not come through the ordeal intellectually and
morally intact. Some of the fruits of
experience of politics and
Spain were gathered in two books,
for Air
(1939), and a
study of British socialism,
The Lion and the Unicorn
we add to the above list a great body of first-rate literary
journalism-reviews, polemic, reportage-we get the picture of a
thoroughly three-dimensional literary career, busy without being pre–
occupied with the trivial, exhibiting a persistent thread of unity
without .being rigid or doctrinaire. His subjects have always been
major parts of modem experience. But Mr. Orwell has succeeded
not merely in virtue of his matter: precisely the point about his
integrity is that it is as much an aesthetic as a moral quality, that it
involves and is in a way identical with the excellence of his writing.
Thus Edmund Wilson compared the language of
Animal Farm
Swift and the comparison seems to us just, for Mr. Orwell's writing
lives in the great English tradition of direct, spare, economical and
forceful prose. Right now when the word "tradition" seems to have
become associated in some American literary circles almost exclusively
with seventeenth-century baroque poetry, it seems worthwhile to
point to this other English tradition, to recall that writers once
practised their discipline in relation to public affairs, and that-to
choose only one example- Swift's political pamphlets are still a liv–
ing part of English literature. The remarkable thing about even the
most topical of Mr. Orwell's writings (we recall, for example, his
reports from England during the first years of the War that appeared
in the pages of this magazine) is that they can still be re-read with
interest and enlightenment. It is a sign of real vitality in a writer that,
dealing so often with topical, historical, or occasional themes, he has
nevertheless managed almost always to be close to the heart of his
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