Author Iris Murdoch was denied an honour “until she had done something better”, it has been claimed.

Newly-released Government documents, obtained by the Mail on Sunday under the Freedom of Information Act, show officials considered granting the novellist a CBE in 1959.

However, it was commented that she was “still very young”, despite being 40 at the time.

Ms Murdoch, pictured, studied classics at Somerville College in Oxford in 1938, and returned to live in the city in 1948.

She was eventually awarded a CBE in 1976 and then a damehood in 1987.

She lived in and around Oxford until her death in 1999, aged 79.