Sir Bernard Crick: Political theorist and Orwell biographer, dies aged 79

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Sir Bernard Crick belonged to an endangered species. He was a public intellectual in the mould of the great socialist sages of the first half of the last century — Graham Wallas, G. D. H. Cole, R. H. Tawney and Harold Laski. He was a distinguished political theorist, with three important scholarly works to his credit, as well as one great one.

He also intervened incessantly in public debate, on matters ranging from parliamentary reform to the politics of divided societies. But his academic works and his essays and journalism dealt with the same themes, and were written in the same accessible, slightly quirky and occasionally waspish style.

Not for him the gnarled prose of the self-consciously professional scholar, or the windy exaggerations of the media columnist. He wrote for another endangered species — the educated and thoughtful general reader.

His best-known book is probably his George Orwell: A Life, a biography commissioned by Orwell’s second wife, Sonia, and published in 1980. The biography won Crick great public réclame but led to a breach with Sonia, who thought it had not done justice to the subject.

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