Christopher Hitchens showed great stoicism in his last year as the cancer in his throat slowly killed him. He continued to live as he had lived before with no hint of self pity or even much sign of inconvenience. As he pointed out, we are all dying, he was just doing it a bit more quickly.
It was this stoicism that made me realise that if you want a label for him, Stoic was about as close as you are going to get. He started off professing to be on the left, like his hero Orwell. This was never an accurate portrayal of his views or his attitudes, and as the years went by it became harder and harder to discern anything remotely socialist about Hitchens. But it was not really true to say that he drifted to the right either. He seemed supremely uninterested in social progress, either to support it or oppose it. He was much happier in the realm of ethics and ideas.
Ultimately, the only way to really describe him is to use out of date language. The cause that seemed to stir him was virtue, and what repelled him was villainy. But what made him unique was not so much the things he was passionate about, but the depths of that passion. The righteous indignation he can summon has become so famous it even has a name, the Hitchslap. Fans have collected prime examples on Youtube.
In the end, his interests were just too wide to fit into any pigeonhole. He loved life, and loved the freedom to live that life how he wanted. But it was ultimately the literature that freedom produced that he loved the most. His many enemies were the people who stifled greatness – tyrants, corrupt politicians, religious hucksters and theocratic bullies. They earned his contempt and he paid them in a way nobody will ever come close to. He didn’t believe in immortality, but his work will live on making it just that much harder for rogues to get away with it. It is the legacy he would have wanted to leave.