By George Orwell
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Extra info for The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell: My country right or left, 1940-1943
Obviously such things don't matter in themselves. Nevertheless, nothing is causeless, and even the fact that Englishmen have bad teeth can tell something about the realities of English life. Here are a couple of generalizations about England that would be accepted by almost all observers. One is that the English are not gifted artistically. They are not as musical as the Germans or Italians, painting and sculpture have never flourished in England as they have in France. Another is that, as Europeans go, the English are not intellectual.
However hastily and unbalanced Winwood Reade's Martyrdom of Man may seem now, it is a book that shows an astonishing width of vision, and it is probably the unacknowledged grandparent of the "outlines" so popular today. Charles Reade might have written an "outline" of phrenology, cabinet-making or the habits of whales, but not of human history. He was simply a middle-class gentleman with a little more conscience than most, a scholar who happened to prefer popular science to the classics. Just for that reason he is one of the best "escape" novelists we have.
It is obvious, of course, that even this purely private liberty is a lost cause. Like all other modern people, the English are in process of being numbered, labelled, conscripted, "co-ordinated". But the pull of their impulses is in the other direction, and the kind of regimentation that can be imposed on them will be modified in consequence. No party rallies, no Youth Movements, no coloured shirts, no Jew-baiting or "spontaneous" demonstrations. No Gestapo either, in all probability. But in all societies the common people must live to some extent against the existing order.