The review quotes a couple of passages where Orwell makes observations about England. (I apologise that these opinions are very specifically given about England only, rather than the country as a whole).
The first passage is about the artistic and intellectual characteristics of the English:
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…the English are not intellectual… another English characteristic which is so much a part of us that we barely notice it, and that is the addiction to hobbies and spare-time occupations, the privateness of English life… The most hateful of all names in an English ear is Nosey Parker.
(The Lion & The Unicorn pp14-16)
The second passage reflects on the culture of England:
…in all societies the common people must live to some extent against the existing order. The genuinely popular culture of England is something that goes on beneath the surface, unofficially and more or less frowned on by the authorities. One thing one notices if one looks directly at the common people, especially in the big towns, is that they are not puritanical. They are inveterate gamblers, drink as much beer as their wages will permit, are devoted to bawdy jokes, and use probably the foulest language in the world. They have to satisfy these tastes in the face of astonishing, hypocritical laws (licensing laws, lottery acts, etc., etc.) which are designed to interfere with everybody but in practice allow everything to happen. Also, the common people are without definite religious belief, and have been so for centuries. The Anglican Church never had a real hold on them, it was simply a preserve of the landed gentry, and the Nonconformist sects only influenced minorities. And yet they have retained a deep tinge of Christian feeling, while almost forgetting the name of Christ.
(The Lion & The Unicorn pp16-17)
Is anything of what George Orwell says about England still true today? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
I tried to think of a good example of a mainstream artistic venture today and came up with The Lowry in Salford. It’s a fine example of an accessible and popular cultural venue. The Lowry was funded, in large part, by the National Lottery. That raises an interesting point related to Orwell. Has what he called the ‘inveterate gambling’ of the English, through the Lottery and the many creative ventures it has funded, stimulated an artistic interest in us which was not apparent to George Orwell?