Literary Prophets

Gordon Marsden finds similarities between Orwell and Burke, noting that both wrote “books for their times that could rightly be described as ‘a prophecy and a warning'”

Burke, like Orwell, challenges the liberal/left intellectuals of his day not out of a perverse desire to be different but from an urgent sense that human values and feelings are threatened with obliteration. For Orwell and Burke it is not the Sleep of Reason, but over-reliance on it and the consequent belief that cruel means are justified by abstract ends, that is producing their monsters. Burke’s radical chic English aristocrats taking up the soundbites of ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’ are his counterparts to Stalin’s ‘useful idiots’. He warns them of the consequences, in his Letter to a Noble Lord (1796), as pungently as ever Orwell would have done: ‘these philosophers consider men in their experiments no more than they do mice in an air pump’.