In the past I have written about the life of the relatively unknown author Hubert J. Watergipridget. Being unknown, not many people know much about him. That is why he is unknown and not known. Those words, though sharing five letters, are polar opposites of one another. In a similar fashion, Hubert J. Watergipridget often considered himself the polar opposite to another writer who was active in the same period. That writer was George Orwell.
Previously it was not known exactly why the two did not get on, though Watergipridget did once tell a friend of a time in which he was holidaying in Burma, roaming around the streets dressed as an elephant ‘to learn the secrets of growing a trunk’ when all of a sudden some wispy-looking moustachioed policeman started popping shots off at him while a braying bunch of locals cheered and clapped. While Orwell may have had an incident with an elephant in Burma, the description of the man in Watergipridget’s account does not match what we know of Orwell’s appearance. Orwell, being descended from heaven itself, was well known to be a burly man-mountain of an adonis; there was no hint of wispiness about him. Besides, Orwell would not need to use a weapon to take down anything, not even an elephant. Instead, a simple flick of his large calloused hand would cause an unparalleled level of destruction to anything unlucky enough to be caught in its path.
But perhaps the enmity between Watergipridget and Orwell has now been discovered. And the cause of this rivalry is one that has over the centuries seen friendships end and empires fall: that is, the debate over whether coffee or tea is better. Orwell was in no doubt a tea man. Watergipridget, however, was not. After Orwell’s A Nice Cup of Tea was published in the Evening Standard, Watergipridget was famously said to have written a review of the piece in which he surmised: ‘The twelfth—and most glittering of golden—rule that Eric has neglected to mention, is to come to your senses while pouring hot water over some crusty old leaves, throw the damned thing in the sink and put on an espresso.’ While rather pithy by modern standards, this was back in the 1940s an insult of the most severe kind. To question a man’s adoration for tea was akin to marching up to the monarch himself and slapping him in the face. Indeed, Watergipridget was lucky to escape charges under the Speaking Ill of Tea Act (that was passed to justify Britain’s colonial excursions into Africa. With this information, we can now come to understand Orwell’s dislike—nay, hatred—of Watergipridget. But what of Watergipridget’s disdain for the Animal Farm author? From where did that originate? Well, that information too is now comprehensible to us.
For this revelation we can once again thank, and be grateful for, the work carried out by Henry Pretension, the Curator of the Hubert J. Watergipridget archive housed within the University of Cambridge. While dusting a leather-bound copy of Watergipridget’s Tiny Compendium, an A5 sheet of a thin velum-like material was found inside a secret compartment. This parchment appears to have been a draft of an article written by Watergipridget. The title of this work is A Nice Cup of Coffee and covers Watergipridget’s twelve golden rules of brewing the perfect java. Only seven of the rules had been written before being discarded. Of the seven, four are seemingly contradictory and three don’t even relate to coffee. Or the art of drinking for that matter. If this were any other work by the author, then perhaps the unfinished state of the manuscript would be yet another mystery added to the legacy of the man, but for this one, Watergipridget solves the riddle himself. Under the seventh rule, in a green ink Watergipridget was known to use for editing, a sentence is written. It reads: ’12 January 1946. He has bested me. Again. What man will read 12 rules when another man offers the same information in only 11?’
With those words, one of literature’s greatest mysteries has been solved. Historians and biographers who have spent their lives researching both men, trying to craft theories out of the most minute pieces of information must now be feeling like fools. Or rolling in their graves if they have already departed this mortal world. Tales of elephants and fist fights on the shores of Jura were nothing more than flights of fancy imagined by those who made so little progress in their investigation that they simply falsified accounts. Instead, the hatred between these two greats arose because one didn’t like tea, and the other achieved more acclaim for doing less work.
It must be a cutting thing, to know somebody who puts less effort and care into their work is infinitely more successful than you in every aspect of life.