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A sentence from George Orwell's Animal Farm:

In past years Mr. Jones, although a hard master, had been a capable farmer, but of late he had fallen on evil days.

You can find the entire chapter at this link.

What does of in "of late" mean, and how is it used here?
What does "had fallen on evil days" mean? Is it an idiom?
What does the whole sentence mean?

I noticed "had been a capable farmer" and "had fallen" are using the same tense, but I guess by using "but of late", there should be some differences between the two timings.

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To expand on the answer given by Ankit:

of late = recently

had fallen on evil days = had been having problems, or difficulties. I would not consider it an idiom myself, but perhaps it was a more common usage in the author's era.

To re-word the sentence in an attempt to make its meaning clearer:

Mr. Jones had always been a hard master, but he had also always been a capable farmer until recently, when some problems developed that he was unable to resolve satisfactorily.

  • This is a good answer. The only thing I would add is the meaning of "evil" in context. Here it does not mean "morally reprehensible". It means "causing harm, marked by misfortune". – David42 Aug 3 '17 at 15:22
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Here "of late" means recently and "had fallen on evil days" means "hard times".

  • I was quite surprised to find that evil days was actually more common (in print, at least) that hard times right up until the early 70s. I though it was just that Orwell had already used hard master, so he needed a different expression. But apparently he was using the standard one for his time. – FumbleFingers Dec 30 '13 at 4:25

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