Samara O'Shea

George Orwell’s Journal

I’ve often wondered what the great minds of old would think of our modern-day practice of putting our insights, opinions, passions, and complaints online the way we do. What would Benjamin Franklin’s blog look like? I’m confident in saying that Franklin would have been all over the practice: I won’t speak so assuredly for anyone else.

Jean Seaton, a professor at the University of Westminster in London, is confident that novelist George Orwell would have been a blogger as he tells the New York Times. Seaton is so sure of Orwell the Blogger that he, and a team of other scholars, have started posting Orwell’s diaries in blog form. I applaud this act. I loved it when I found Samuel Pepys diary online, and I love Orwell’s, too. It’s an excellent way to introduce these literary heavyweights to the young whippersnappers. It’s also great for people like me who enjoy reading diaries but have trouble reading them straight through—an entry a day is ideal. I think we need to be careful, however, not to think this is what the Orwell and Pepys blogs really would have been like had they had access to the electronic means. The entries are being taken from journal entries. A journal entry is something you write—inspired by the moment—for yourself. A blog post is something you write—also under the influence of the moment—knowing that an audience will read it. This undoubtedly changes the approach and the tone of the write-up. I write nonsense in my journal that I would never dream of posting on my blog, and I wax poetic on my blog in ways that I never would in my journal. I get a kick out of blogging because it truly is its own genre of writing. It’s more formal than a journal entry but less formal than an actual article. It’s a blog!

Had Orwell or Pepys known an audience was imminent they probably would have written their “blogs” in a different way. They would have commented more heavily on the political scandals of the day and spent less time writing about the weather (Orwell) and infidelities (Pepys). This is not a criticism of either diarist. I find it endearing that Orwell is so consistent with noting the weather in his journal, and what makes a diary more vibrant than the sexual indiscretions? I just want everyone to remember that these are online journal entires and not blogs.