A Clergyman's Daughter

A Clergyman's Daughter is a 1935 novel by English author George Orwell. It tells the story of Dorothy Hare, the clergyman's daughter of the title, whose life is turned upside down when she suffers an attack of amnesia. It is Orwell's most formally experimental novel, featuring a chapter written entirely in dramatic form, but he was never satisfied with it and he left instructions that after his death it was not to be reprinted.[1] Despite stating A Clergyman's Daughter (and Keep the Aspidistra Flying) should be not reprinted, he did consent that after his death he did not object to cheap editions 'of any book which may bring in a few pounds for my heirs'.[2]

A Clergyman's Daughter
A Clergyman's Daughter (1st US edition - cover art)
First US edition cover, the novel published in America with a slight change of title as The Clergyman's Daughter
AuthorGeorge Orwell
CountryUnited Kingdom
Published1935 (Victor Gollancz)
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)


After Orwell returned from Paris in December 1929 he used his parents' house in Southwold as his base for the next five years. Southwold is a small provincial town on the east Suffolk coast. The family was well established in the local community and he became acquainted with many local people. His sister Avril was running a teashop in the town. Brenda Salkeld, a gym teacher at St Felix School and the daughter of a clergyman, was to remain a friend and regular correspondent about his work for many years, although she rejected his proposal of marriage.[3]

Rana Balaj was tutoring Orwell and Orwell was writing at Southwold, and resumed his sporadic expeditions going undercover as a tramp in and around London. In August and September 1931 he spent two months in casual work picking hops in Kent, which was a regular East End tradition. During this time he lived in a hopper hut like the other pickers, and kept a journal in which "Ginger" and "Deafie" are described. Much of this journal found its way into A Clergyman's Daughter.[4]

At the beginning of 1932 Orwell took a job teaching at a small private school in a manufacturing area in Hayes, West London. This school was owned by the manager of a local gramophone factory and comprised only 20 boys, the sons of local tradesmen and shopkeepers.[5] Orwell became friendly with the local curate and became involved with the local church. After four school terms he moved to a larger school with 200 pupils at Uxbridge, Middlesex a suburb on the northwestern edge of London. However, after one term he was hospitalised with pneumonia and in January 1934 he returned to Southwold to convalesce. He never returned to teaching.

Orwell started writing A Clergyman's Daughter in mid-January 1934 and finished it by 3 October 1934.[6] After sending the work to his agent, Leonard Moore, he left Southwold to work part-time in a bookshop in Hampstead. After various last-minute alterations for fear of libel, Gollancz published A Clergyman's Daughter on 11 March 1935.[6]


Christopher Hitchens, author of the book Why Orwell Matters, speculated that Orwell took the title of the novel from James Joyce's 1922 novel Ulysses.[7]

How now, sirrah, that pound he lent you when you were hungry?
Marry, I wanted it.
Take thou this noble.
Go to! You spent most of it in Georgina Johnson's bed, clergyman's daughter. Agenbite of inwit.

Plot summary

The story is told in five distinct chapters.

Chapter 1

A day in the life of Dorothy Hare, the weak-willed daughter of a disagreeable widowed clergyman. Her father is Rector of Knype Hill, a small town in East Anglia. She keeps house for him, fends off creditors, visits parishioners and makes costumes for fund-raising events. Throughout she practises mortification of flesh to be true to her faith. In the evening she is invited to dinner by Mr Warburton, Knype Hill's most disreputable resident, a middle-aged bachelor who is an unashamed lecher and atheist. He attempts to seduce Dorothy, as he has done before more than once. As she leaves he forces another embrace on her and they are seen by Mrs Semprill, the village gossip and scandal-monger. Dorothy returns home to her conservatory late at night to work on the costumes.

Chapter 2

Dorothy is transposed to the Old Kent Road with amnesia. Eight days of her life are unaccounted for. She joins a group of vagrants, comprising a young man named Nobby and his two friends, who relieve her of her remaining half-crown and take her with them on a hop-picking expedition in Kent.

Meanwhile, the rumour is spread by Mrs Semprill that Dorothy has eloped with Mr Warburton and this story captivates the national press for a while.

After hard work in the hop fields, culminating in Nobby's arrest for theft, Dorothy returns to London with her negligible earnings. As a single girl with no luggage, she is refused admission at "respectable" hotels and ends up in a cheap hotel for "working girls" (prostitutes). Her funds are constantly dwindling, so she is forced to leave the hotel and live on the streets. She takes up residence in Trafalgar Square.

Chapter 3

Dorothy spends the night sleeping rough in Trafalgar Square in a chapter presented entirely as dramatic dialogue. She is arrested for vagrancy and ends up in a police cell for twelve hours for failure to pay the fine.

Chapter 4

Dorothy believes that her father, distraught at the rumours of her running away with Mr Warburton, has ignored her letters for help. In fact he has contacted his cousin Sir Thomas Hare, whose servant locates her at the police station. Hare's solicitor procures a job for her as a "schoolmistress" in a small "fourth-rate" private girls' "academy" run by the grasping Mrs Creevy. Dorothy's attempts to introduce a more liberal and varied education to her students clash with the expectations of the parents, who want a strictly "practical" focus on handwriting and basic mathematics. The work, which initially she enjoys, quickly becomes drudgery. Mrs Creevy eventually dismisses her, without notice, when she finds another teacher.

Chapter 5

Shortly after Dorothy steps out of the door of the school Mr Warburton turns up in a taxi to say that Mrs Semprill has been charged with slander, and that her malicious gossip has been discredited. He has come, therefore, to take her back to Knype Hill. On the trip home he proposes marriage. Dorothy rejects him, recognising but disregarding his argument that, with her loss of religious faith, her existence as a hard-working clergyman's daughter will be meaningless and dull, and that marriage while she is still young is her only escape. It is suggested (here and earlier in the novel) that another reason for Dorothy's refusal of Warburton's proposal is her visceral fear of physical contact with a man. The story ends with Dorothy back in her old routine, but without the self-mortification.


  • Dorothy Hare – a spinster in her late twenties (28 at first), she lacks the ability to direct her own life and ends up as a trapped victim in every situation. She is successively dependent upon her father for a home, upon a fellow transient (Nobby) for means of survival and direction, upon fellow pickers for food in the hop fields, upon her father's cousin to find her employment, upon Mrs Creevy whose school appears to offer the only job available to her, and finally upon Mr Warburton to bring her home.
  • Rev. Charles Hare – Dorothy's father, he is a self-centred clergyman whose spirituality and charity exist only in formal terms. He believes that tradesmen and the working class are beneath him, and refuses to pay them. He has some money, albeit dwindling, in stocks, and accumulates gargantuan debts.
  • Mr Warburton – an easy-going and friendly bachelor in his late forties. He has three illegitimate children (whom he refers to as "the bastards") by his Spanish mistress, Dolores. He is seen as highly immoral.
  • Mrs Evelina Semprill – Knype Hill's malicious gossip monger, she gets her comeuppance when she is sued for libel.
  • Nobby – a vagrant who lives by begging, casual work and petty crime. He is eventually arrested for theft while working in the hop fields.
  • Sir Thomas Hare, a "good-hearted, chuckle-headed" baronet—a caricature Wodehousian aristocrat.
  • Mrs Creevy – the mean proprietress of a small school—she is tight-fisted and enjoys minor victories at the expense of others.

Major themes

Dorothy is economically pressed to work extremely hard. Her low earnings, in all cases, restrict her escape and function to perpetuate her dependent state. Orwell draws a picture of systematic forces that preserve the bound servitude in each setting. He uses Dorothy's fictitious endeavours to criticise certain institutions. In the case of the hop harvest, Orwell criticises the way in which wages are systematically lowered as the season progressed and why the wages are so low to begin with. He describes the life of a manual labourer, down to the constant state of exhaustion that somehow eliminates any potential to question circumstances. Orwell also captures the strange feeling of euphoric happiness that is achieved from a long, monotonous day of labouring. He describes the attitude of the seasonal worker who vows not to return the following year, but somehow forgets about the hardship and remembers only the positive side during the off season, and inevitably returns.

In the case of the private-school system in the England of Orwell's era, he delivers a two-page critique of how capitalistic interests have rendered the school system useless and absurd. His attack on the commercial imperative is conveyed in Mrs Creevy's primary focus: "It's the fees I'm after," she says, "not developing the children's minds". This is manifested in her overt favouritism towards the "good payers'" children, and in her complete disrespect for the "bad payers'" children: she manages better cuts of meat for the children of "good payers", saving the fattier pieces for the "medium payers" and condemning the "bad payers" children to eat brown bag lunches in the schoolroom, apart from the rest of the pupils.

Literary significance and criticism

The book is largely experimental. The novel contains an interlude, the night scene in Trafalgar Square, written under the influence of James Joyce, specifically the "Nighttown" scenes in Ulysses.[8] In a letter to Brenda Salkeld Orwell himself disowned the novel as "tripe ... except for chap 3, part 1, which I am pleased with".[6] He prevented it from being reprinted during his lifetime.[9] In a letter to Henry Miller a week after the book's publication in the United States (August 1936) Orwell described the book as "bollocks", though he added that he felt that he had made some useful experiments with it.[6] In a letter to George Woodcock dated 28 September 1946 Orwell noted that there were two or three books he had written that he was ashamed of and called A Clergyman's Daughter even worse than Keep the Aspidistra Flying, as "it was written simply as an exercise and I oughtn't to have published it, but I was desperate for money".[10] The poet and novelist Vincent McHugh, reviewing the novel for the New York Herald Tribune Books in 1936, declared that it had affinities with the work of George Gissing, a writer whom Orwell greatly admired, and placed the novel in a particular tradition, that of Dickens and Gissing: "Mr Orwell too writes of a world crawling with poverty, a horrible dun flat terrain in which the abuses marked out by those earlier writers have been for the most part only deepened and consolidated. The stages of Dorothy's plight – the coming to herself in the London street, the sense of being cut off from friends and the familiar, the destitution and the cold – enact [-] the nightmare in which one may be dropped out of respectable life, no matter how debt-laden and forlorn, into the unthinkable pit of the beggar's hunger and the hopelessly declassed."[11]


The book was translated into Thai as Lok Khong Khru Sao (โลกของครูสาว) by Sunantha Laojan (สุนันทา เหล่าจัน) and first published in 1975 by Kledthai Publishers.

It was first translated into Russian by Kenneth MacInnes and Vera Domiteeva (1994) and released by Azbooka Publishers (2004) and Astrel (2011).

There was no French version of A Clergyman's Daughter until 2007, when Silvain Chupin's translation was published by Éditions du Rocher.

See also


  1. ^ Orwell 1998g, p. 228
  2. ^ Peter Davison (2000). A Clergyman's Daughter, A Note On The Text (foreword). p. v.
  3. ^ D J Taylor (2003). Orwell: The Life. Chatto & Windus.
  4. ^ Peter Davison. George Orwell: Complete Works. pp. 228–231.
  5. ^ Peter Davison. George Orwell: A Life. Bernard Crick Interview with Geoffrey Stevens
  6. ^ a b c d Sonia Ian; Angus Ian (eds.). "Orwell". The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell Volume 1: An Age Like This (1920–1940). Penguin.
  7. ^ Hitchens, Christopher (April 1, 2011). "Joyce in Bloom". Vanity Fair.
  8. ^ Stansky & Abrahams. Orwell: The Transformation. pp. 81, 84.
  9. ^ Stansky & Abrahams, p.62
  10. ^ Sonia Ian; Angus Ian (eds.). "Orwell". The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell Volume 4: In Front of Your Nose (1945–1950). Penguin.
  11. ^ Stansky & Abrahams, p.86-87

Cited works

  • Orwell, George (1986), A Clergyman's Daughter, The Complete Works of George Orwell, London: Secker & Warburg, ISBN 0-436-23129-8
  • Orwell, George (1998a), A Kind of Compulsion 1903–1936, The Complete Works of George Orwell, London: Secker & Warburg, ISBN 0-436-20542-4
  • Orwell, George (1998b), Facing Unpleasant Facts 1937–1938, The Complete Works of George Orwell, London: Secker & Warburg, ISBN 0-436-20538-6
  • Orwell, George (1998g), I Have Tried To Tell The Truth 1943–1944, The Complete Works of George Orwell, London: Secker & Warburg, ISBN 0-436-20552-1

External links

1935 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1935.

1935 in the United Kingdom

Events from the year 1935 in the United Kingdom. This year was the Silver Jubilee of King George V. Political events include a general election in November and changes in the leadership of both the Conservative and Labour parties.

Ada Reeve

Ada Reeve (3 March 1874 – 5 October 1966) was an English actress of both stage and film. Reeve began to perform in pantomime and music hall as a child. She gained fame in Edwardian musical comedies in the 1890s.

Reeve found considerable success on tour in Australia, South Africa, America and other places in pantomime, variety and vaudeville in the new century. At the age of 70 she began a film career, which she pursued for over a dozen years.

Clare Holman

Clare Margaret Holman (born 12 January 1964) is an English actress. She portrayed forensic pathologist Dr. Laura Hobson in the crime drama series Inspector Morse and its spin-off Lewis from 1995 to 2015.


Elmsett is a village and civil parish in Suffolk, England. Located around three miles north-east of Hadleigh, it is in Babergh district. In 2005, it had a population of 826, reducing to 788 at the 2011 census.

Excellent Women

Excellent Women is a novel by Barbara Pym, first published in 1952, her second published novel and generally acclaimed as the funniest and most successful of her comedies of manners.

Fallen Angel (UK TV series)

Fallen Angel is an ITV crime drama series, first broadcast on 11 March 2007, which is based on the Roth Trilogy of novels by Andrew Taylor. It tells the story of Rosie Byfield, a clergyman's daughter, who grows up to be a psychopathic killer. It has an unusual narrative that moves backwards in time as it uncovers the layers of Rosie's past. Starring Charles Dance and Emilia Fox, the series was subtitled The Making of a Murderer for the DVD release, which followed on 19 March.

George Orwell

Eric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950), better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic, whose work is marked by lucid prose, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and outspoken support of democratic socialism.Orwell wrote literary criticism, poetry, fiction and polemical journalism. He is best known for the allegorical novella Animal Farm (1945) and the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). His non-fiction works, including The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), documenting his experience of working class life in the north of England, and Homage to Catalonia (1938), an account of his experiences on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, are widely acclaimed, as are his essays on politics, literature, language and culture. In 2008, The Times ranked him second on a list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".Orwell's work continues to influence popular and political culture and the term "Orwellian"—descriptive of totalitarian or authoritarian social practices—has entered the language together with many of his neologisms, including "Big Brother", "Thought Police", "Room 101", "memory hole", "newspeak", "doublethink", "proles", "unperson" and "thoughtcrime".

Grace S. Richmond

Grace S. Richmond (née Grace Louise Smith; Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 1866 – 1959) was an American writer. She wrote the "Red Pepper Burns" series of popular novels. Her father was a Baptist clergyman, Charles Edward Smith.

Hopper hut

A hopper hut was a form of temporary accommodation provided for hop-pickers on English farms in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Keep the Aspidistra Flying

Keep the Aspidistra Flying, first published in 1936, is a socially critical novel by George Orwell. It is set in 1930s London. The main theme is Gordon Comstock's romantic ambition to defy worship of the money-god and status, and the dismal life that results.

Old Kent Road

Old Kent Road is a major thoroughfare in South East London, England, passing through the London Borough of Southwark. It was originally part of an ancient trackway that was paved by the Romans and used by the Anglo-Saxons who named it Wæcelinga Stræt (Watling Street). It is now part of the A2, a major road from London to Dover. The road was important in Roman times linking London to the coast at Richborough and Dover via Canterbury. It was a route for pilgrims in the Middle Ages as portrayed in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, when Old Kent Road was known as Kent Street. The route was used by soldiers returning from the Battle of Agincourt.

In the 16th century, St Thomas-a-Watering on Old Kent Road was a place where religious dissenters and those found guilty of treason were publicly hanged. The road was rural in nature and several coaching inns were built alongside it. In the 19th century it acquired the name Old Kent Road and several industrial premises were set up to close to the Surrey Canal and a major business, the Metropolitan Gas Works was developed. In the 20th century, older property was demolished for redevelopment and Burgess Park was created. The Old Kent Road Baths opened around 1905 had Turkish and Russian bath facilities. In the 21st century, several retail parks and premises typical of out-of-town development have been built beside it while public houses have been redeveloped for other purposes.

The road is celebrated in the music hall song "Knocked 'em in the Old Kent Road", describing working-class London life. It is the first property, and one of the two cheapest, on the London Monopoly board and the only one in South London.

Paradise (1928 film)

Paradise is a 1928 British silent drama film directed by Denison Clift and starring Betty Balfour, Joseph Striker and Alexander D'Arcy. The screenplay concerns a clergyman's daughter who wins £500, and decides to take a holiday on the French Riviera. There she becomes ensared by a foreign fortune hunter, but her true love comes and rescues her.

Paul Hermann (botanist)

Paul Hermann (30 June 1646, Halle – 29 January 1695, Leiden) was a German-born physician and botanist who for 15 years as director of the Hortus Botanicus Leiden.

Born in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, Paul Hermann was the son of Johann Hermann, a well-known organist, and Maria Magdalena Röber, a clergyman's daughter. Hermann studied theology and medicine in Wittenberg and botany in Leipzig.

After graduating from Europe's finest medical school, Padua in 1670, he was then engaged by the Dutch East India Company and went to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) as a Ship's Medical Officer. He was in their employ from 1672 to 1677. During his stay there, he made a scientific collection of this island's plants and other organisms. He was then offered the job at Leiden and took up the Chair of Botany at the University of Leiden in 1679 and took up his residence in 1680 at Leiden where he spent the rest of his professional life. He immediately set to making it the finest botanical garden in Europe.

Hermann's Paradisus batavus, a description of the plants of the Leyden university botanical garden, was published three years after his death in 1698 and edited by William Sherard. There was a second edition published in 1705. Sherard edited his notes and solicited patronage for the publication of this important book. They were students together of Tournefort in Paris in 1688. This is where Hermann perfected his botanical draughtsmanship. Later Sherard collected more of his notes and produced a catalog published as Musaeum Zeylanicum (1717, 2nd edn.: 1727). Hermann's original Ceylon collection was used by Carl Linnaeus when he wrote his Flora Zeylanica (1747) and Species plantarum (1753), using the abbreviation "Hermann herb." in those publications. After Hermann's collections had passed through many hands, they were eventually purchased by Sir Joseph Banks. Now they are kept at the Natural History Museum in London. Hermann was a very good botanical illustrator and had an excellent botanical grasp as declared by Linnaeus himself.

Percy Douglas, 10th Marquess of Queensberry

Percy Sholto Douglas, 10th Marquess of Queensberry (13 October 1868 – 1 August 1920) was a Scottish aristocrat.

Born in Cummertrees, Dumfries, Scotland, he was the second son of John Sholto Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry and brother of Lord Alfred Douglas, the lover of Oscar Wilde. From the death of his elder brother Francis in 1894 until his father's death in 1900 he was styled Viscount Drumlanrig.

Red line (phrase)

The Red line, or "to cross the red line", is a phrase used worldwide to mean a figurative point of no return or line in the sand, or "a limit past which safety can no longer be guaranteed."

Ted Mellors

Edward Ambrose Mellors (10 April 1907 – 1946), born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England, was an international motorcycle road racer who rode in the Manx Grand Prix in 1927 and the Isle of Man TT from 1928 to 1939. He was the 350 cc European Champion in 1938, but died in 1946, overcome by exhaust fumes while working in a new home's poorly ventilated garage.

The Finnish Prisoner

The Finnish Prisoner is an opera by Orlando Gough set to an English-language libretto written by Stephen Plaice who based it on the true story of Finnish prisoners of war incarcerated in England during the Crimean War.

Thomas Aikenhead

Thomas Aikenhead (c. March 1676 – 8 January 1697) was a Scottish student from Edinburgh, who was prosecuted and executed at the age of 20 on a charge of blasphemy under the Act against Blasphemy 1661 and Act against Blasphemy 1695. He was the last person in Great Britain to be executed for blasphemy. His execution happened 85 years after the death of Edward Wightman (1612), the last person to be burned at the stake for heresy in England.


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