Now that the book blog has arrived, it’s time to take a longer view. Whom, for instance, might we call upon as contributors, from the English canon?
Not Shakespeare (too busy), not Milton (too grand), probably not Pope (too classical). But Daniel Defoe was a great journalist as well as a pioneering novelist – and he’d be blogging for certain. Dr Johnson, I think, would not, though he’d be a natural (he’d want to get paid for it).
After that, it gets easier: Coleridge (yes), (Keats, no) Dickens (yes), Austen (no – couldn’t cope with the technology), Thackeray (yes), Trollope (yes – once he’d done his fiction for the day). In fact almost any Victorian you care to think of – they would all have been enthusiastic bloggers.
Thinking of the last century, there’s one name who jumps out as the supreme blogger before his time. George Orwell’s ‘As I Please’ column in the Tribune (1943-45) is a bravura display of casual essay writing on anything from the common toad to why beer goes flat to good bad novels to Soviet Russian foreign policy. He did this column every fortnight (when he wasn’t writing Animal Farm) and it has recently been collected in a single volume (Politico’s, edited by Paul Anderson). The book is a joy to dip into – and a good reminder that though the form of what we write can change, the essence remains the same.