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Why I Write

by George Orwell
Gangrel, Summer 1946


     

 

  
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So hee with difficulty and labour hard
Moved on: with difficulty and labour hee. 

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1. Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get
your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to
pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists,
artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmenin short, with the whole top
crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of
about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at alland live chiefly for
others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted,
willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this
class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than
journalists, though less interested in money.
2. sthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in
words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the
firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which
one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of
writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which
appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of
margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic
considerations.

3. Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for
the use of posterity.
4. Political purpose.Using the word political in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the
world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples idea of the kind of society that they should
strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art
should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

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A happy vicar I might have been
Two hundred years ago
To preach upon eternal doom
And watch my walnuts grow;
       

  
      
     
  

  
   

      
 
                

           
  
 
  
    
   
                   
        
    
 

                               

                  
     
    
        

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