Con­tin­ued from Page 11

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Feature - Ex­tracted from Out­sider II: Al­ways Al­most: Never Quite

re­porters were al­ready clus­tered at the door of the block, pre­vented by the hall porter there from en­ter­ing. I took a suit­case with an old loose over­coat that had be­longed to my step­fa­ther, muf­flers and a broad-brimmed stitched tweed hat that I wore when walking dogs in the rain. Leav­ing the car un­locked in the road, I went into Port­sea Hall and, with­out hes­i­ta­tion, up the stairs to the sixth floor, sug­gest­ing, I hoped, to any­one who might be look­ing, that I was on my way only to the first.

An­thony let me in. John Gaskin I in­structed to take their bags, walk down the stairs and, as un­hur­riedly as he could man­age, put them in the boot of the car and then sit be­hind the driver’s seat — the front pas­sen­ger seat was al­ready far back on its run­ners so as to ac­com­mo­date An­thony’s long legs. Squint­ing through a crack in the cur­tains I could see that he had at­tracted no at­ten­tion. That much achieved I, with An­thony muf­fled as an in­valid and lean­ing heav­ily on me, took the lift to the ground floor, tot­tered past the hall porter (who knew per­fectly well who we were) and, deep in con­ver­sa­tion, made our slow way across the fore­court to the car. There was an awk­ward moment with his long legs as I got him into his seat, but not once did I look back at the re­porters and it was only when I started the en­gine that one of them be­gan to run.

On the way to Raven­scourt Park An­thony gave me very clear in­struc­tions. He pre­sumed that the run­ning re­porter had a note of the car’s reg­is­tra­tion plate and that I would soon be be­sieged. I was to keep the press oc­cu­pied and him in­formed if they lit on any­thing par­tic­u­larly ghastly — as one pa­per im­me­di­ately did with the claim that An­thony, in be­tray­ing them to the Nazis, had been re­spon­si­ble for the deaths of 49 Bri­tish se­cret agents in oc­cu­pied Hol­land. A jour­nal­ist was kind enough to tell me my tele­phone was be­ing tapped and that I should not use it for any call I did not want the au­thor­i­ties to hear, by which I sup­posed him to mean MI5 and MI6; thus I made my calls to An­thony from the Kens­ing­ton Court flat of Joe McCrindle, an art col­lec­tor and friend.

Re­porters and pho­tog­ra­phers massed in my front garden day and night, fol­lowed me to Kens­ing­ton Gar­dens in the early morn­ing when I walked my dogs, watched me shop in Glouces­ter Road, and one of them even brought a bi­cy­cle when I took to rid­ing mine in an ef­fort to evade them, dis­cov­er­ing my use of Joe’s tele­phone and brib­ing the porter of his block; noth­ing I did went un­ob­served.

In ret­ro­spect it would have been wiser to dis­obey An­thony, say noth­ing and do noth­ing, for ev­ery scrap of re­but­tal to a mob of jour­nal­ists de­ter­mined on oblo­quy and odium served only to re­in­force their sav­agery. It has been said that An­thony was dis­pleased by much of what I said and did, but he said noth­ing at the time, of­fered no change of in­struc­tion and the ex­haust­ing pan­tomime con­tin­ued. John Gold­ing or James Joll could eas­ily have told me of An­thony’s dis­plea­sure — if any — but did not, and when, with the publi­ca­tion of Mi­randa Carter’s book in 2001 I first learnt of it, I sensed the voice of Gold­ing, al­ways more pos­ses­sive of An­thony’s friend­ship than I ever was, more ex­clu­sive, and by the time he talked to Miss Carter he had been the vic­tim of my com­ments on him as a painter.

At the time, I could not un­der­stand how An­thony’s pres­ence in the Gold­ing-Joll house had been dis­cov­ered — to be fol­lowed by a mad dash back to Port­sea Hall and the tele­vised press con­fer­ence ar­ranged by Ru­bin­stein — and it was only from Miss Carter’s book that I learnt the rea­son: James Joll, in re­spond­ing to a ra­dio ‘‘ phone-in’’ pro­gramme, had re­vealed it. That I should be re­viled by the Gold­ing fac­tion when it was it­self re­spon­si­ble for be­tray­ing An­thony’s where­abouts seems par­tic­u­larly wry.

From An­thony’s brothers, Christo­pher and Wil­fred, on the other hand, there was a deal of en­cour­age­ment to con­tinue the di­ver­sion. Christo­pher wrote: ‘‘ The pur­pose of this let­ter is to ex­press the great­est ap­pre­ci­a­tion from both of us for the de­fence of An­thony you put up — some­thing nei­ther Wil­fred nor I is qual­i­fied to do. We want you to know how deeply grate­ful we are.’’ There was even more re­as­sur­ance from Michael Ru­bin­stein from whom, at the time, I had sup­port al­most amount­ing to in­struc­tion. Years later, long af­ter An­thony’s death, when an odd sort of ‘‘ clear­ing the decks’’ friend­ship had devel­oped be­tween us, Michael con­fessed that his ini­tial ad­vice, based on the con­vic­tion that he could scup­per Boyle’s book, had been in er­ror, that ev­ery­thing that fol­lowed had been an ad hoc re­sponse and that the press con­fer­ence he had ar­ranged at The Times, far from set­tling the mat­ter, had in­flamed it. When I asked if the state­ment then read by An­thony, so un­char­ac­ter­is­tic in style and tem­per, had been writ­ten, not by him but (as I sus­pected) by the Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Sir Robert Arm­strong, he de­flected the ques­tion at some length, leav­ing it unan­swered.

On their re­turn to Port­sea Hall

af­ter the in­ter­view, An­thony and John were vir­tu­ally im­pris­oned by the con­tin­u­ing at­ten­dance of jour­nal­ists and pho­tog­ra­phers. An­thony could have braved them, but John could not and in­stead in­sisted on re­vert­ing to the regime of the days be­fore their flight to John Gold­ing’s house, re­fus­ing to switch on the lights or pull the lava­tory chain, point­less de­pri­va­tions that de­ceived no one, and that ended when An­thony could stand the stink no longer.

Michael Kit­son, An­thony’s one loyal sup­porter in the Courtauld In­sti­tute, Anita Brookner, Joe McCrindle and I (and, no doubt, oth­ers too) took them food and drink un­til An­thony felt able to brave a lo­cal su­per­mar­ket; Joe and I, hav­ing pre­pared the ground by telling the staff what we pro­posed to do, walked him to lunch in the fa­mil­iar Ital­ian restau­rant and the wel­come was won­der­fully emo­tional. There were, he told me, episodes of jostling and shout­ing in the street that un­nerved him, but when th­ese died away he man­aged well enough. The cru­ellest blow was struck by the Courtauld, sud­denly for­bid­den to him — but Anita Brookner broke the sanc­tion and fer­ried li­brary books to and fro.

Fol­low­ing An­thony’s ex­po­sure, three of many let­ters of sup­port for him were pub­lished by The Times on Novem­ber 17. Mine con­cluded with a dec­la­ra­tion that ‘‘ the fifth man is dead’’, for the press, hav­ing la­belled An­thony the fourth man af­ter Burgess, Maclean and Philby, were al­ready busily hunt­ing for the fifth. It was disin­gen­u­ous of An­thony to tell the press that he had no idea who was in my mind — it was, of course, An­drew Gow, to whom he him­self had sent me all those years be­fore — and yet, in a tricky way it was true, for we had never dis­cussed that bur­den­some in­ter­view at which I had formed the not un­rea­son­able as­sump­tion that as Gow had clearly played fa­ther con­fes­sor to An­thony, he might well have been his pup­pet master too — and pos­si­bly for oth­ers. Later, when the press had hounded Leo Long (again, I saw An­thony weep), John Cairn­cross and oth­ers, it be­came ev­i­dent that the process was not un­like par­ing away the lay­ers of an onion and that each rev­e­la­tion ex­posed an­other, but the sleuths even­tu­ally lost in­ter­est and never ex­posed the onion’s core. When, very shortly be­fore his death, An­thony asked who my fifth man was, he did not de­mur when I said, ‘‘ An­drew Gow’’, but broke eye con­tact and stared out of the win­dow.

In his po­lit­i­cal life, An­thony drifted, un­cer­tain, in­flu­enced by friends and lovers un­til, trapped by af­fec­tions and un­wise pri­vate loy­al­ties, he be­came a Com­mu­nist spy of sorts. It is dif­fi­cult to be­lieve that he en­joyed the dan­gers and ab­sur­di­ties of this as an in­tel­lec­tual game, or that so in­tel­li­gent a man could not see that, com­pelled to de­pend on ob­vi­ously un­re­li­able friends, he was sow­ing the seeds of his own de­struc­tion. At heart he had no pol­i­tics and never voted in any gen­eral elec­tion; he was touched by Bri­tain’s ev­i­dent poverty in the Thir­ties, touched by the tragedies of the Span­ish Civil War, touched by the in­evitabil­ity of con­flict with Ger­many, but it is to be doubted that he had any pro­found in­ter­est in the po­lit­i­cal rea­sons or reme­dies for any of them.

How then could so scrupu­lously schol­arly a man, so dry, pre­cise, con­sid­ered and unemo­tional in ev­ery­thing he wrote of art and ar­chi­tec­ture, be such a fool as to put his schol­ar­ship at risk for a po­lit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy in which he had vir­tu­ally no be­lief? And to this the an­swer is Guy Burgess, with whom he per­haps never went to bed, but who won from him undy­ing loy­alty — Burgess, at first hand­some, charm­ing, witty and ho­mo­sex­u­ally amoral, at last a scruffy drunken slob with the hal­i­to­sis of a dragon. The ob­vi­ous ques­tion to ask is why was Guy a Com­mu­nist? Had he not been, nor would An­thony.

An­thony Blunt, above, with Queen Elizabeth II at the Courtauld In­sti­tute, Lon­don, in 1959; Guy Burgess, far left; and Kim Philby, left

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