Anthony Blunt (2)

The excellent radio programme about Anthony Blunt on Saturday has made me think more and re-read Miranda Carter’s biography about his actions in the war. On the one hand, his actions as an art historian were remarkable and entirely laudable. He had been appointed as a research fellow at the Warburg Institute in 1937, helped establish the Journal of the Warburg Institute which first appeared in 1938, wrote articles for it on the Hypnertomachia Poliphili and Blake, and completed the research and writing of his book on Artistic Theory in Italy which was published in 1940 with its acknowledgement to Guy Burgess for ‘the stimulus of constant discussion’. Even during the early years of the war, he was able to write and publish a pioneering monograph on the work of François Mansart. And yet, at the same time, and with equal diligence, he was shovelling huge numbers of top secret documents into his briefcase on a weekly basis and handing them over to Boris Kreshin, his contact in the Russian Embassy, so that they could be copied over night, collected by him in the morning and returned to MI5. There are various excuses which are used for this action: that he was motivated by ideology, but he doesn’t seem to have been particularly ideological at this or any other point in his life, except perhaps briefly in 1933; that he was sucked into it by his friendship with Guy Burgess and once involved found it hard to escape, but this doesn’t entirely explain the skill and persistence with which he did it; that he enjoyed it as an intellectual game, demonstrating that he was much cleverer than his colleagues in MI5. Years later, after he had been exposed, he said to his brother Wilfrid, with whom he had remained very close, ‘You must admit I’m a very good actor’, a comment which suggested that he enjoyed the intrigue, irrespective of the consequences.


3 thoughts on “Anthony Blunt (2)

  1. Hi Charles, it was a fascinating broadcast from start to finish.  I really didn’t know much of Mr Blunt’s background and roles. But it was fascinating the way Burgess impressed him and how the Russians didn’t really trust the five. I felt Blunt was misunderstood. And his sad demise.

  2. Thomas Ponsonby says:

    Thanks very much for drawing my attention to this interesting programme which I would otherwise have missed.

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