Geoffrey Stone, Commonweal
18 June 1937, p. 220
Geoffrey Stone was a critic on the staff of the American Review. Commonweal is a liberal Catholic weekly published in New York.
George Orwell, the Englishman, looks at things most pessimistically; if his book is written to prove anything, it is to prove that life is no fun at all. His pessimism seems more the result of temperament than of a clear view of circumstance, for in A Clergyman’s Daughter he arranges circumstance so that the pessimistic conclusion will seem inevitable. Whatever the validity of his philosophy in its own right, it effect upon his novel is unfortunate; his characters have not the self-sustaining quality of characters in memorable novels, being conceived as illustrations of the gloomy thesis. Mr Orwell confines his attention chiefly to the young lady of his title. Dorothy is an earnest but not especially bright girl whose life is taken up with attending to the duties her father neglects in his parish. By a strange stroke of fate she is swept, successively, into the hop fields, the resorts of the down-ands outs in London, and a girls’ school of more than Dickensian squalor. Her experiences in these places cause her to lose her faith, which has carried her through the horrors of parish visiting and children’s theatricals, but they do not rid her of a morbid distaste for marriage, and Mr Orwell, with some satisfaction, though he is not hard-hearted, leaves her ‘pasting strip after strip of paper into place, with absorbed, with pious concentration, in the penetrating smell of the gluepot. ’ One is tempted to believe that her story was written under similar conditions.