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... Why has the Blunt affair generated so much callous humbug? Two highly regarded spy novels of recent years – The Human Factor and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – are based on the idea of a ‘mole’ in the British Intelligence services. In neither book does any particular opprobrium attach to treachery. The emphasis is on personal ties rather than national ones (which are implied by both authors to be something of a fake ...

Going Straight

Neal Ascherson, 17 March 1983

After Long Silence 
by Michael Straight.
Collins, 351 pp., £11.95, March 1983, 0 00 217001 9
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A Matter of Trust: MI5 1945-72 
by Nigel West.
Weidenfeld, 196 pp., £8.95, December 1982, 0 297 78253 3
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... ought to be wound up after the publication of Michael Straight’s contribution. Very possibly, Anthony Blunt will one day write such a book himself. But the names have almost all been named, the questions of motive worn smooth, the titles and pensions (some of them) stripped like epaulettes, the spell in the pillory served. Let’s get the blanket ...

Great Internationalists

Rupert Cornwell, 2 February 1989

Philby: The Life and Views of the KGB Masterspy 
by Phillip Knightley.
Deutsch, 291 pp., £14.95, October 1988, 0 233 98360 0
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Mask of Treachery: The First Documented Dossier on Blunt, MI5 and Soviet Subversion 
by John Costello.
Collins, 761 pp., £18, November 1988, 0 00 217536 3
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A Divided Life: A Biography of Donald Maclean 
by Robert Cecil.
Bodley Head, 212 pp., £15, October 1988, 0 370 31129 9
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The Storm Birds: Soviet Post-War Defectors 
by Gordon Brook-Shepherd.
Weidenfeld, 303 pp., £14.95, November 1988, 0 297 79464 7
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... on the western outskirts of Moscow, when they buried Kim Philby. Guy Burgess had died in 1963, Anthony Blunt and Donald Maclean in 1983. Philby, however, was still alive when I started work in Moscow as the Independent’s correspondent there in early 1987, and his presence was a source of recurrent nightmares. Naturally I had put out feelers for an ...

Joining the Gang

Nicholas Penny: Anthony Blunt, 29 November 2001

Anthony BluntHis Lives 
by Miranda Carter.
Macmillan, 590 pp., £20, November 2001, 0 333 63350 4
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... On the afternoon of 15 November 1979 the Prime Minister announced in the House of Commons that Anthony Blunt, retired Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, fellow of the British Academy, former director of the Courtauld Institute, and the most influential figure in the establishment of art history as an academic subject in this country had indeed, as Private Eye had intimated a week before, and as Fleet Street had long been whispering, spied for the Soviet Union ...

Scholarship and its Affiliations

Wendy Steiner, 30 March 1989

... In Alan Bennett’s A Question of Attribution, Anthony Blunt instructs Her Majesty the Queen about pictures. ‘Because something is not what it is said to be, Ma’am, does not mean it is a fake.’ ‘What is it?’ she asks. Sir Anthony gingerly suggests: ‘An enigma?’ Here as in Tom Stoppard’s Hapgood, the figure of the spy illustrates the irreducibility of human and aesthetic mystery, the contradictions that all personalities enshrine, the confusion that no amount of pedantic energy can resolve ...

Official Secrecy

Andrew Boyle, 18 September 1980

The Frontiers of Secrecy 
by David Leigh.
Junction, 291 pp., £9.95, August 1980, 0 86245 002 0
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... course of my lengthy researches into the weirdly mixed social and political environment which led Anthony Blunt, among others, to play the traitor, I stumbled on evidence which the custodians of the intelligence community would have done much to suppress. That they failed in the end to intimidate either my publisher or myself was probably due to their ...

No more alimony, tra la la

Miranda Carter: Somerset Maugham, 17 December 2009

The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham 
by Selina Hastings.
John Murray, 614 pp., £25, September 2009, 978 0 7195 6554 0
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... he provoked that an attempt to publish a festschrift to him in 1954 was abandoned when only Anthony Powell and Raymond Mortimer agreed to contribute. He was deeply disappointed, that unlike Hardy and Galsworthy, he was never given the Order of Merit, having to settle instead for being made a Companion of Honour. ‘I am the greatest living writer,’ he ...

Diary

Neal Ascherson: On A.J.P. Taylor, 2 June 1983

... in these pages that he found the whole affair boring – ‘cold mutton’, as he said about the Anthony Blunt affair. Perhaps he did. Historians are queer. Still, boredom is ruder than execration. I have nearly finished imitating A.J.P. Taylor’s rhythms now. Let me add this. I once wrote a whole book in what I conceived to be his style ...

Anybody’s

Malcolm Bull, 23 March 1995

Nicolas Poussin, 1594-1665 
by Pierre Rosenberg and Louis-Antoine Prat.
Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 560 pp., frs 350, September 1994, 2 7118 3027 6
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Nicolas Poussin 
by Anthony Blunt.
Pallas Athene, 690 pp., £24.95, January 1995, 1 873429 64 9
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Nicolas Poussin 1594-1665 
by Richard Verdi, with an essay by Pierre Rosenberg.
Zwemmer, 336 pp., £39.50, January 1995, 0 302 00647 8
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Roma 1630: Il trionfo del pennello 
edited by Olivier Bonfait.
Electa, 260 pp., July 1994, 88 435 5047 0
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Poussin before Rome 1594-1624 
by Jacques Thuillier.
Feigen, 119 pp., £40, January 1995, 1 873232 03 9
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The Expression of the Passions 
by Jennifer Montagu.
Yale, 256 pp., £35, October 1994, 0 300 05891 8
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L’Ecole du silence 
by Marc Fumaroli.
Flammarion, 512 pp., frs 295, May 1994, 2 08 012618 0
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To Destroy Painting 
by Louis Marin, translated by Mette Hjort.
Chicago, 196 pp., £31.95, April 1995, 0 226 50535 9
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... foundation. The villain of the piece (now typecast by his starring role in other dramas) is Anthony Blunt, who wrote the standard monograph on Poussin’s paintings (now republished), co-authored the five-volume catalogue of the drawings, and, in 1960, wrote the catalogue for the largest Poussin exhibition ever seen. At the time, it seemed that the ...

What sort of traitors?

Neal Ascherson, 7 February 1980

The Climate of Treason 
by Andrew Boyle.
Hutchinson, 504 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 9780091393403
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... The other day, I found myself in a taxi queue with Anthony Blunt. He looked frayed but fervently cheerful, much as if he had just been dug out of the ruins of his own bombed house. Never mind the furniture, the books and the glass: the ceiling had come down, but the dear old family dining-table had taken the strain ...

Lucky Kim

Christopher Hitchens, 23 February 1995

The Philby Files. The Secret Life of the Master Spy: KGB Archives Revealed 
by Genrikh Borovik, edited by Phillip Knightley.
Little, Brown, 382 pp., £18.99, September 1994, 0 316 91015 5
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The Fifth Man 
by Roland Perry.
Sidgwick, 486 pp., £16.99, October 1994, 0 283 06216 9
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Treason in the Blood: H. St John Philby, Kim Philby and the Spy Case of the Century 
by Anthony Cave Brown.
Hale, 640 pp., £25, January 1995, 9780709055822
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My Five Cambridge Friends 
by Yuri Modin.
Headline, 328 pp., £17.99, October 1994, 0 7472 1280 5
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Looking for Mr Nobody: The Secret Life of Goronwy Rees 
by Jenny Rees.
Weidenfeld, 291 pp., £18.99, October 1994, 0 297 81430 3
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... in a book published by the ancient firm of Lord Frank Longford) and, finally, given the belief of Anthony Cave Brown that treason is a heritable trait, the Bell Curve theory of clubland skulduggery. Yet this is the standard, both of writing and editing and research. When James Jesus Angleton, crazed and criminal head of the CIA, suffered himself to be asked a ...

Chianti in Khartoum

Nick Laird: Louis MacNeice, 3 March 2011

Letters of Louis MacNeice 
edited by Jonathan Allison.
Faber, 768 pp., £35, May 2010, 978 0 571 22441 8
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... Old Foss after Mr Lear’s famous cat. The other two might perhaps be called Barocco and Rokoko (Anthony read a paper on these last night). But cats have little interest in architecture, so perhaps Rodillardus and Chat Botté would be more appropriate – though French is so difficult to pronounce. Other charming names that occur to me are ...

Diary

Lawrence Gowing: English Romanesque at the Hayward Gallery, 19 April 1984

... ways to the Hayward (or across town to the Serpentine Gallery, where an epochal exhibition of Anthony Caro is brewing, as if to complement it and demonstrate how various the subject and the Arts Council are), concerns the real present content of the act of devotion and insight in which the professionals of the Arts Council, known with a happy irony, which ...

They never married

Ian Hamilton, 10 May 1990

The Dictionary of National Biography: 1981-1985 
edited by Lord Blake and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 518 pp., £40, March 1990, 0 19 865210 0
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... that Adams was guilty? And if we don’t, why does he get an entry? Wickedness, in the case of Anthony Blunt, actually pays off rather handsomely. He gets a four-column entry against the average two, and it is unlikely that this would have been his lot had he been listed merely as ‘art historian’ and not also as ‘a communist spy’. (Donald ...

Molehunt

Christopher Andrew, 22 January 1987

Sword and Shield: Soviet Intelligence and Security Apparatus 
by Jeffrey Richelson.
Harper and Row, 279 pp., £11.95, February 1986, 0 88730 035 9
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The Red and the Blue: Intelligence, Treason and the University 
by Andrew Sinclair.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £12.95, June 1986, 0 297 78866 3
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Inside Stalin’s Secret Police: NKVD Politics 1936-39 
by Robert Conquest.
Macmillan, 222 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 333 39260 4
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Conspiracy of Silence: The Secret Life of Anthony Blunt 
by Barrie Penrose and Simon Freeman.
Grafton, 588 pp., £14.95, November 1986, 0 246 12200 5
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... Generalisations about the ‘Cambridge Comintern’ based on the eccentric careers of Burgess and Blunt do not even fit all of the moles. The very first Cambridge recruit to the Comintern Intelligence apparat, Philip Spratt, was the withdrawn, heterosexual son of a Deptford elementary schoolmaster, who went to grammar school, won a scholarship to Downing ...

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