Archive of retained correspondence from the files of his first publisher, Victor Gollancz, relating to the publication of A Clergyman's Daughter.8 Nov 1934-22 July 1983 Stock Code: 131751
NotesVictor Gollancz's archived correspondence regarding the publication of George Orwell's first novel, A Clergyman's Daughter, including the original contract for the novel. Present are two typed letters, two autograph letters, and two autograph postcards, all signed by Orwell; all such material is uncommon in the market.
Orwell began to write the novel in January 1934. It was not a book that gave him satisfaction, and his letters over the next few months show his disillusionment with his own writing. He later told Henry Miller "that book is bollox, but I made some experiments in it that were useful to me" (cited in Fenwick, Orwell Bibliography, p. 31), and asked for it to not be reprinted after his death, apart from cheap editions to make a few pounds for his heirs. Though today the novel is probably the least-read of Orwell's major books, it is also his most experimental novel, influenced by modernist trends (Orwell read James Joyce's Ulysses while writing the novel, which he said gave him an inferiority complex), and a notable stage in his literary development.
Orwell finished the novel in October 1934, and sent it to Gollancz via his literary agent Leonard Moore. The archive opens with a reader's report for Gollancz by Gerald Gould (fiction editor of the Observer, appointed by Gollancz as manuscript reader), dated 8 November 1934. Gould states that the book is of great merit and should be published, but also draws attention to what he sees as literary flaws, as well as to libel and obscenity concerns. Another reader's report, from Gollancz's solicitor Harold Rubenstein, also generally commends the novel, but criticizes certain scenes, especially the section about the protagonist's life as a schoolmistress, which he feels falls far outside the general realist approach of the novel.
Gollancz wrote to Moore on 13 November 1934 requesting that he ask Orwell to make changes to the schoolmistress section. Moore replied to say that Orwell had insisted the school "is totally imaginary, though of course I have drawn on my general knowledge of what goes on in schools of that type". Gollancz responded that irrespective of whether it was imaginary, people will still find it unbelievable. Orwell responded with a typed letter signed (all the signatures here use his real name, Eric Blair) on 17 December 1934, enclosing two pages of his corrections, although he is resistant to extensive changes to the school section.
Gollancz commissioned a further reader's report from Norman Collins, dated 1 January 1935. Collins, who has read Rubinstein's report, continues to raise concerns about the school scene, and says "the chaotic structure of the book would suggest some kind of mental instability", and that the manuscript is "in many ways one of the oddest that I have ever read". Gollancz sent the manuscript to Rubinstein again on 4 January 1935, asking him to review it for libel, even though Orwell hadn't made all the literary changes that he would like. Rubinstein responded to say that the book should be safe from libel, as long as Orwell can confirm that all the characters are not linked to, or resemble, any people that he knows.
Gollancz sent Orwell a letter enquiring into this, and Orwell replied with a typed letter signed clarifying that none of the characters in the books could be linked to any persons living, and altering a few minor other business and street names. Gollancz checked with Rubinstein again, who reiterated a few libel issues, and asked for a detailed response from Orwell on the concerns. Gollancz sent a copy to Orwell, who replied in a lengthy autograph letter signed, answering Rubinstein's concerns point by point, with a sentence or paragraph of commentary for each. He asks Gollancz to "excuse bad handwriting". Orwell forgot a detail, and sent an additional autograph letter signed the same day. Gollancz checked with Rubinstein, who now approved it, other than suggesting one minor change. Orwell responded with an autograph postcard signed, 4 February 1935, confirming this change. Gollancz requested one more emendation, which Orwell again approved with another autograph postcard signed.
The collection then includes the original contract for the novel, dated 5 February 1935, initialed by Orwell on each of the first four pages and signed by him on the last page, with one additional manuscript correction which he has also initialled. The contract gave Orwell slightly better terms than for his previous book (Burmese Days) and gave Gollancz first refusal for his next two novels. The archive then closes with a note dated 3 July 1950 saying that the rights to Clergyman's Daughter (and Wigan Pier and Inside the Whale) have reverted to Sonia Orwell following the death of George Orwell, and a list of copies of letters given to a scholar in 1983.
The archive of Victor Gollancz was sold by the firm's parent company in recent years, from whom the correspondence was directly acquired.
Full list of contents:
1. Reader's report by Gerald Gould (fiction editor of the Observer, appointed by Gollancz as manuscript reader), 8 November 1934. Gould states that the book is of great merit and should be published, but draws attention to flaws and to libel and obscenity concerns. With some manuscript annotations.
2. A duplicate of the above.
3. Letter from Gollancz's solicitor Harold Rubinstein, 12 November 1934, giving his opinion on the book without paying attention to questions of libel, at Gollancz's request. Rubinstein generally commends the novel, but criticizes certain scenes, especially the school scene.
4. Carbon from Gollancz to Orwell's literary agent Leonard Moore, 13 November 1934, raising Rubinstein's concerns, and asking if Orwell would make the changes to the school scene.
5. Response from Moore, 13 November 1934, stating that Orwell had already said the school scene was imaginary.
6. Carbon from Gollancz to Moore, 14 November 1934, saying that the fact it is imaginary is irrelevant, and that people will still find it unbelievable.
7. Typed letter signed from Orwell to Gollancz, 17 December 1934, enclosing two pages of alterations to the manuscript, in line with his concerns, but defending certain passages, including keeping the school section.
8. A further reader's report from Norman Collins, 1 January 1935. Collins, who has read Rubinstein's report, continues to raise concerns about the school scene, and says "the chaotic structure of the book would suggest some kind of mental instability".
9. Carbon to Rubinstein, 4 January 1935, asking him to review the manuscript for libel, even though Orwell hasn't made all the changes he'd like.
10. Response from Rubinstein, 8 January 1935, outlining potential libel issues and the need for Orwell to confirm there are no references to living persons, and suggesting very minor alterations.
11. Two duplicates of the above.
12. Carbon of letter to Orwell, 9 January 1935, enclosing Rubinstein's suggestions for emendation of potential libel.
13. Typed letter signed from Orwell to Gollancz, 10 January 1935, with a further page of alterations. Orwell returns the manuscript with some alterations, though still justifying certain changes he did not make.
14. Letter from Dorothy Horsman (Gollancz's production manager) to Rubinstein, 26 January 1935, enclosing proof of the book and the correspondence with Orwell.
15. Response from Rubinstein, 31 January 1935, reiterating libel concerns despite Orwell's emendations, and asking for a detailed response from Orwell about his concerns.
16. Carbon to Orwell, 31 January 1935, enclosing a copy of Rubinstein's continued concerns, together with the copy, as later returned, with manuscript notes.
17. Lengthy autograph letter signed from Orwell (two pages of close handwriting on single sheet), 1 February 1935, responding to Rubinstein's concerns. Mostly yes or no to the points Rubinstein raises, with commentary.
18. Additional autograph letter signed from Orwell, 1 February 1935, adding another detail.
19. Carbon to Rubinstein dated 1 February 1935, regarding Orwell's emendations, and asking if it now looks okay.
20. Rubinstein's response, 1 February 1935, saying that there should now be no risk of libel, but suggesting one other change.
21. Autographed postcard from Orwell, 4 February 1935, accepting the change.
22. Carbon from Gollancz in response to Orwell's response to Rubinstein's final change, and proposing one final change, 5 February 1935.
23. Autographed postcard from Orwell, 6 February 1935, agreeing to this change.
24. The original contract for the novel, 5 February 1935, initialed by Orwell on the first four and signed by him on the last (one manuscript correction with an extra initial). Orwell received slightly better terms than for his previous novel. A new development was that Gollancz got first refusal to his next two novels.
25. Carbon note, 3 July 1950, noting that the rights to Clergyman's Daughter (and Wigan Pier and Inside the Whale) have reverted to Sonia Orwell.
26. Copy of note of Xeroxed letters given to Professor Peter Davison and Ian Angus on 22 July 1983.
Housed in a green morocco album with centre tool to spine separated by raised bands by the Chelsea Bindery.
Some light creasing and nicking; overall in very good condition.
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