I have been reading Orwell’s As I Please columns from when he was at The Tribune in the early 1940s. They make wonderful reading. He wrote very engagingly on any subject that he found interesting. The style and tone of his prose is magnificently entertaining; mocking, didactic, sarcastic, ironic, but never, ever boring. Much of his column is political, no surprise there, then. However, he also writes about diverse matters often very humorously as the following example from 31 December, 1943 shows:
I SEE that Mr Bernard Shaw, among others, wants to rewrite the second verse of the National Anthem. Mr Shaw’s version retains references to God and the King, but is vaguely internationalist in sentiment. This seems to me ridiculous. Not to have a national anthem would be logical. But if you do have one, its function must necessarily be to point out that we are Good and our enemies are Bad. Besides, Mr Shaw wants to cut out the only worth-while lines the anthem contains. All the brass instruments and big drums in the world cannot turn ‘God Save the King’ into a good tune, but on the very rare occasions when it is sung in full it does spring to life in the two lines:
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks!
And, in fact, I had always imagined that the second verse is habitually left out because of a vague suspicion on the part of the Tories that these lines refer to themselves.
It is also possible to pick out the proto-phraseology that Orwell would develop fully in Nineteen Eighty-Four. He refers in his article, or blog, of 17 March, 1944 to the language used by left-wing publications to bamboozle the reader and on 28 April, 1944 his thoughts on what living within a totalitarian society would really entail.
George also lets his readers know exactly who his literary heroes are. He writes indignantly about the treatment of writers like James Joyce and D. H. Lawrence after their respective deaths. Both receiving less than eulogistic obituaries in the establishment press and over the generally outrageous treatment that both received from the various governments.
Though written almost seventy years ago, much of what Orwell writes about in As I Please is vibrant and often surprisingly relevant today. All of the As I Please columns can be read by just clicking here.