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Normally First Class

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The BBC has released some papers relating to the hiring and the employment of Guy Burgess. One of the more amusing details is Burgess’s habit of writing memos on the back of the expense forms; another, his fondness for first-class travel and his justifications for it:

If you will refer to your papers you will see that in the past I successfully established the principle of travelling first class when at work, under war-time conditions, on Corporation business. I think you will find this on your predecessor’s minutes. I normally travel first class and see no reason why I should alter my practice when on BBC business particularly when I am in my best clothes to attend a Service.

Other papers make you wonder whether Burgess travelled first class less because he wanted to protect his suits and more because he considered himself inherently first class. Plenty of other people, after all, had said he was. In letters written in support of his candidacy for a job at the BBC, Burgess is always first rate. Cambridge’s Appointments Board wrote to the corporation:

He is a somewhat highly-strung fellow, too, but gets on uncommonly well with people, including being notably successful with a number of stupid pupils whom he supervised for his College during his last year here. He really seems a most versatile fellow. He seems to have a real gift for friendship in quite a wide circle, including a close friendship with an ex-miner here. He has done a good deal of journalistic work. Burgess is a man of considerable self-assurance and a fellow for whom it is easy to feel both admiration and liking.

And from G.M. Trevelyan:

I believe a young friend of mine, Guy Burgess, late a scholar of Trinity, is applying for a post in the BBC. He was in the running for a Fellowship in History, but decided (correctly I think) that his bent was for the great world – politics, journalism, etc. etc. –and not academic. He is a first rate man, and I advise you if you can to try him. He has passed through the Communist measles that so many of our clever young men go through, and is well out of it. There is nothing second rate about him and I think he would prove a great addition to your staff.

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