Over 70 years after rejecting an essay by the legendary George Orwell, the British Council has apologised and tried to make amends by publishing it in full – along with its rejection letter.

Orwell, the author of 1984 and Animal Farm, had written for the British Council, but seemed to have cooled on the institution. He once wrote: “The effort is too much to make if one has already squandered one's energies on semi-creative work such as teaching, broadcasting or composing propaganda for bodies such as the British Council.”

The British Council has now admitted that he may had had good reason to be irritated with them. In 1946, it commissioned his essay in essay ‘In Defence of English Cooking’ – but then refused to publish it.

“It seems that the organisation in those days was somewhat po-faced and risk-averse, and was anxious to avoid producing an essay about food (even one which mentions the disastrous effects of wartime rationing) in the aftermath of the hungry winter of 1945,” the council admitted.

A rather mortified rejection letter from the British Council Publications Department and the editor’s notes acknowledge the ‘excellent’ essay, but ‘with one or two minor criticisms’ – one of which seems to be that Orwell’s recipe for orange marmalade contains ‘too much sugar and water’.


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