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George Orwell

A Clergyman's Daughter

Publisher: © 1936 Harper and Brothers, New York and London.

The First US edition

By Daniel J. Leab:

This novel was published by Gollancz on March 11, 1935. Harper's published the American edition in August 1936, making use of British sheets. Gollancz, fresh from defending libel actions arising from his publication of a novel dealing with teaching experiences in Kensington, made Orwell tone down many of the references in the original manuscript (e.g., mentions of Barclay's Bank and the Lambeth public library). The changes were considerable and Peter Davison has found that because the original typescript has not survived, “much of the text cannot be recovered.” Consequently, A Clergyman’s Daughter is somewhat disjointed. It deals with Dorothy Hare, daughter of a mean-spirited ignorant Rector who, without any real explanation on Orwell's part, goes from slaving for her father to a series of picaresque demeaning experiences (tramping, hop-picking, living as a down-and-out in London, teaching in a dreadful private school). The lack of a real transition from the rectory to Dorothy-on-the-road may be the result of the censorship Orwell complained about. The book's end is bleak: Dorothy has returned to life with her parson father, but without hope. One of the Gollancz readers of the manuscript said that the author “would certainly be a plum for a practising psychoanalyst...” and felt that “the chaotic structure of the book would suggest some kind of mental instability....” Orwell virtually disowned this work, referring to it as a “simple potboiler.”

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