Thursday, 23 July 2009

280: Anthony Blunt 2

in “Private Eye” 24 June 1977

At one point the “The Times” thought it had a scoop. There was a rumour that the “Fourth Man” was an academic, whose last name was five letters beginning with “B”. They managed to get it completely wrong, though, and ran with a front page story accusing one Donald Beves, a man who had died in 1961. Which was lucky, as it turned out, because you can’t libel the dead.

It was big story, as you might imagine. And lots of Establishment figures wrote to “The Times”, rightly defending their maligned colleague. It was a campaign led by George “Dadie” Rylands (hence the letter), fellow of Kings College (easily turned in “Queens” for comic effect). Rylands’s homosexuality wasn’t exactly a closed secret anyway, which I think is obvious in the letter. E.M. Forster is a perfectly suitable comic replacement as another dead, gay Cambridge academic. Onan is a pun on Lord Annan, an academic of the time. And of course, Beves becomes Poovis. So the piece plays about with assumptions of a certain type of bachelor, whose inclinations could as easily take him to homosexuality or spying as makes no difference. But really it’s about giving a damn good kicking to the editor of the Times, William Rees-Mogg.

in “Private Eye”, 8 July 1977

And of course, Rees-Mogg had to back down and apologise. So here the “Private Eye” writers are mocking him for apologising for his mistake. Great when you can have it both ways.
“The Rt. Rev” is because Mogg had a tendency to adopt a certain church-going sanctity to himself in his claims of editorial propriety and vision for the newspaper. As usual, these sort of pieces are all about blurring and confusing of facts. “Lord Bradwell” (Tom Driberg) was indeed a roaring old poof, and had been outed by the Times as such in their obituary of him. Gradually it rattles through a whole series of associations, until it reaches its conclusion which is a complete unapology, and another reference to EM Forster’s homosexuality again, confirming yet again the Time’s inability to gets it stories straight.

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