Digitised for the first time by the British Library, Eliots rejection is now available to read alongside others including Virginia Woolfs to James Joyce

The letter in which TS Eliot rejects George Orwells allegory Animal Farm because we have no conviction that this is the right point of view from which to criticise the political situation has been published online for the first time by the British Library, alongside a wealth of other material from 20 th-century writers.

Addressing the author as Dear Orwell, Eliot, then a director at publishing firm Faber& Faber, writes on 13 July 1944 that the publisher will not be acquiring Animal Farm for publishing. Eliot described its strengths: We agree that it is a recognise piece of writing; that the fable is very skilfully managed, and that the narrative holds ones interest on its own airliner and that is something very few writers have achieved since Gulliver.

Animal Farm, a beast fable that satirised Stalinism and illustrated Stalin as a traitor, was rejected by at least four publishers, with many, like Eliot, feeling it was too controversial at a time when Britain was allied with the Soviet Union against Germany.

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In this country intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face George Orwell. Photograph: Mondadori via Getty Images

I suppose my own displeasure with this apologue is that the effect is simply one of negation. It ought to excite some empathy with what the author wants, as well as compassion with his objections to something: and the positive point of view, which I take to be generally Trotskyite, is not convincing, wrote Eliot to Orwell. And after all, your pigs are far more intelligent than the other animals, and therefore the best qualified to run the farm in fact, there couldnt have been an Animal Farm at all without them: so that what was needed( someone might argue ), was not more communism but more public-spirited pigs.

Animal Farm went on to be published by Secker& Warburg in August 1945. In a foreword by Orwell , not printed until 1972, the author says that when he wrote the book, in 1943: It was obvious that there would be great difficulty in getting it published.

If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution, but because they are frightened of public opinion. In this country intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a novelist or journalist has to face, and that fact does not seem to me to have had the discussion it deserves, wrote Orwell.

At this moment what is demanded by the prevailing orthodoxy is an uncritical admiration of Soviet Russia. Everyone knows this, nearly everyone acts on it. Any serious criticism of the Soviet regime, any disclosure of facts which the Soviet government would prefer to keep hide, is next door to unprintable.

Eliots letter is one of more than 300 items which have been digitised by the British Library, a mix of drafts, diaries, letters and notebooks by writers ranging from Virginia Woolf to Angela Carter and Ted Hughes. The literary repository reveals that Orwell was not the only major writer to suffer a series of rejections: the British Library has also digitised a host of rejections for James Joyces A Portrait of the Artist as a Young man, showing how his patron Harriet Shaw Weaver attempted to find a printer for the novel she had published in serialised kind in The Egoist.

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