Peter Quennell, New Statesman and Nation
23 March 1935, p. 422
Peter Quennell (b. 1905), English biographer of Byron (1935), Ruskin (1949) and Pope (1968).
A Clergyman’s Daughter is ambitious yet not entirely successful. Up to page 93, Dorothy is the mild, repressed, self-effacing daughter of an East Anglian parson. At that point, however, after a distressing episode with Mr Warburton, the local ‘bad hat, ’ she loses her memory, wanders away from home and wakes up to find herself in London. There she joins a group of tramps bound for the hopfields. From Kent, she wanders back again to Middlesex; and in Chapter Three Mr Orwell treats us to an elaborate set-piece, laid among penniless down-and-outs condemned to spend a night shivering on the benches of Trafalgar Square. This passage would be more impressive if it were less reminiscent of the celebrated Nighttown scenes at the end of Ulysses. A good deal of the writing is uncommonly forceful; but Dorothy, alas! remains a cipher. She is a literary abstraction to whom things happen…. We have no feeling that her flight from home and her return to the rectory have any valid connection with the young woman herself.