City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Journalism and Letters of George Orwell Volume 2

"The interesting fact, not easily explicable, is that pamphleteering has revived upon an enormous scale since about 1935, and has done so without producing anything of real value …  The reason why the badness of contemporary pamphlets is somewhat surprising is that the pamphlet ought to be the literary form of an age like our own. We live in a time when political passions run high, channels of free expression are dwindling, and organized lying exists on a scale never before known. For plugging the holes in history the pamphlet is the ideal form. Yet lively pamphlets are very few, and the only explanation I can offer – a rather lame one – is that the publishing trade and the literary papers have never gone to the trouble of making the reading public pamphlet-conscious. One difficult of collecting pamphlets is that they are not issued in any regular manner, cannot always be procured even in the libraries of museums, and are seldom advertised and still more seldom reviewed. A good writer with some he passionately wanted to say – and the essence of pamphleteering is to have something you want to say now, to as many people as possible – would hesitate to cast it in pamphlet form, because he would hardly know how to set about getting it published, and would be doubtful whether the people he wanted to reach would ever read it. Probably he would water his idea down into a newspaper article or pad it out into a book As a result by far the greater number of pamphlets are either written by lonely lunatics who publish at their own expense, or belong to the sub-world of the crank religions, or are issued by political parts. The normal way of publishing a pamphlet is through a political party, and the party will see to it that any ‘deviation’ – and hence any literary value – is kept out. There have been a few good pamphlets in fairly recent years. D. H. Lawrence’s Pornography and Obscenity was one, Potocki de Montalk’s Snobbery with Violence was another, and some of Wyndham Lewis’s essays in The Enemy really come under this heading. At present the most hopeful symptom is the appearance of the non-party left-wing pamphlet, such as Hurricane Books. If productions of this type were as sure of being noticed in the press as are novels or books of verse, something would have been done towards bringing the pamphlet back to the attention of its proper public, and the level of the whole genre might rise. When one considers how flexible a form the pamphlet is, and how badly some of the events of our time need documenting, this is a thing to be desired."

New Statesmen and Nation, 9 January 1943.

p.327 of the 1971 Penguin edition of ‘The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell Volume 2: My Country Right or Left 1940-1943’, kindly on long term loan from Mr. Jack Schulze, and much appreciated.


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