Orwell om Chesterton om Dickens

A Kind of Compulsion, The Complete Works of George Orwell, vol. X (1903–1936), artikel 185, s. 324-26.

I december 1933 recenserar Orwell K.G. Chestertons bok Criticisms and Opinions on the Works of Charles Dickens. Orwell inleder med att bifalla att Chesterton tar sig an Dickens inte enbart ur en litterär synvinkel utan också behandlar honom som en tänkare och moralist. En rent litterär kritik av Dickens skulle skjuta vid sidan av målet:

Dickens was essentially a moralist, and he cannot be treated as though he were, say, Flaubert.

Being a moralist, Dickens did not invent his characters merely as characters, but rather as embodiments of the human qualities that he liked and disliked. And it is probably the secret of their vitality, that Dickens’s likes and dislikes are such as any decent man would share. He was always, when he understood the issue, on the side of the weak against the strong. As Mr. Chesterton says, Dickens ”saw that under many forms there was one fact, the tyranny of man over man; and he struck at it when he saw it, whether it was old or new.” This is perfectly true. Dickens’s view of life was sometimes one-eyed and he was not free from a rather disagreeable petty-bourgois class-feeling, but on the whole his instincts were sound.

Orwell klagar sedan på Chesterton för att han är smått oärlig i sina tolkningar och använder Dickens för egna syften, och för att han i de fall han tycker annorlunda än Dickens förklarar att Dickens ”did not really think that, he only thought he thought it”.

However, there is one thing which Mr. Chesterton has not said, and which he must be honoured for not saying. He has not said that if Dickens had had a little more brains he would have turned Roman Catholic. Not many of our Catholic apologists would have refrained from saying that. It would be absurd to pretend that Mr. Chesterton is not a Catholic apologist, but at least he has never joined the great game of pretending that no book by a Protestant author can be readable.


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