George Orwell gets British Council apology 70 years after rejecting essay

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Animal Farm writer George Orwell died in 1950

It seems even the best of writers get rejected – but not all of them can expect an apology 70 years later.

The British Council has apologised to George Orwell after rejecting an essay of his seven decades ago.

The author of 1984 and Animal Farm wrote the piece, entitled In Defence of English Cooking, in 1946.

But the council, which promotes British relations with other countries, told Orwell it would be “unwise to publish it for the continental reader”.

The editor acknowledges it is an “excellent” essay, but “with one or two minor criticisms” – including that Orwell’s recipe for orange marmalade contains “too much sugar and water”.

‘Po-faced and risk averse’

In the essay, later published in the Evening Standard, Orwell describes the British diet as “a simple, rather heavy, perhaps slightly barbarous diet” and where “hot drinks are acceptable at most hours of the day”.

Alasdair Donaldson, British Council senior policy analyst, said: “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.”

He added: “Over 70 years later, the British Council is delighted to make amends for its slight on perhaps the UK’s greatest political writer of the twentieth century, by re-producing the original essay in full – along with the unfortunate rejection letter.”