Malcolm Muggeridge 1903-1990
(Born Thomas Malcolm Muggeridge) English journalist, literary critic and novelist.
Muggeridge spent several decades as a journalist writing for English and Indian newspapers. His biting, satiric wit propelled him onto television and radio in the aftermath of World War II and, from 1953 to 1957, he served as editor of the British humor magazine Punch. During the 1960s Muggeridge, a socialist who had condemned the Soviet system early in his career, began modifying his views on politics, economics and religion, joining the Roman Catholic Church in 1982. From this time forward his writings centered increasingly on religious experience, emphasizing the development of Muggeridge's own faith. But Muggeridge never eased up on his caustic analysis of British and American culture, maintaining until his death an energy and style that make many of his essays classics in the satiric genre.
Muggeridge was born on March 24, 1903 in Croydon, England. His father was an ardent socialist who was active in local politics and eventually served as a Member of Parliament. Graduating from Cambridge University in 1924, Muggeridge went to India to work as a teacher. He returned to England in 1927, married Katherine Dobbs, niece of Fabian Socialist leaders Sidney and Beatrice Webb, and worked for six months as a substitute teacher. He then traveled to Egypt where he took up journalism as a vocation. Muggeridge spent the winter of 1932-33 in the Soviet Union working as a correspondent for the Manchester Daily Guardian. Muggeridge was the first Western reporter to write truthfully regarding the Soviet government's role in causing the death and destruction of the Ukrainian famine. Because of his dispatches and two books based on his experiences, Muggeridge became somewhat of an outcast among English intellectuals and journalists, and so accepted an editorial position in India soon after his return to England. During World War II Muggeridge served in England's intelligence service. After the war he returned to journalism and enjoyed great success as a radio and television commentator, mercilessly criticizing the media and popular culture. His tenure as editor of Punch was marked by controversy as he refused to spare even the English Royal Family from satiric barbs. Beginning in the 1960s, Muggeridge began moving away from his youthful socialism toward a more conservative political vision and toward an acceptance of religious faith. He came to reject his former lifestyle, which had included serial extramarital affairs and alcoholism, but continued scourging English and American moral lapses even as he penned works of religious devotion. Muggeridge died on November 14, 1990.
Early in his career Muggeridge published a play, Three Flats (1931), but it was his experience in the Soviet Union that brought his writing to wide public notice. Soon after returning to England he published two books based on his experiences. The satirical novel Picture Palace (1934) was withdrawn in response to a libel suit filed by Muggeridge's newspaper. The journalistic observations published as Winter in Moscow (1934) quickly solidified Muggeridge's reputation as an iconoclast who would question opinions generally accepted by those on both the right and the left wings of the political spectrum. Next Muggeridge penned a biography of Samuel Butler, The Earnest Atheist (1936), then, two years later, another novel, In a Valley of This Restless Mind (1938). Both works emphasize skepticism concerning human nature and the existence of any higher meaning to life. In 1940 Muggeridge's The Thirties appeared. In this, his first book to receive significant notice since Winter in Moscow, he used satiric sketches of personalities and customs to portray a decadent, world-weary England. After World War II, Muggeridge continued his extensive writing even as he took on the persona and duties of a public personality, but most of these writings consisted of shorter pieces for magazines and newspapers. Many of these were collected in Tread Softly for You Tread on My Jokes (1966). A number of Muggeridge's media performances were collected as Muggeridge Through the Microphone (1967). Soon thereafter Muggeridge began writing overtly Christian works, beginning with Jesus Rediscovered (1969) and his treatment of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Something Beautiful for God (1971). Muggeridge quickly became a prominent figure among Christian apologists, co-authoring a biography of Saint Paul, Paul (1972) and commencing a series of autobiographical works emphasizing his spiritual journey from hedonism and socialism to ascetic Christianity. He published two of three proposed volumes of his autobiography, Chronicles of Wasted Time: The Green Stick (1973) and Chronicles of Wasted Time: The Infernal Grove (1974), later completing the autobiography through publication of his diaries, Like It Was (1981) and the contemplative Conversion (1988). During this period Muggeridge also published another volume of Christian apologetics, Jesus (1975) and a highly critical commentary on the media's treatment of religion, Christ and the Media (1976).
Muggeridge's provocative style, his vigorous criticism of established persons and pieties, and his ideological and religious shift late in life combine to make the status and importance of his work a subject of significant debate. His works of fiction were not critically successful at any time during his career, at least on their own merits. Muggeridge's notoriety as a Christian apologist in later life led to republication of several of his earlier novels. But these efforts are of interest more for their author than their contents, with the single exception of Winter in Moscow, a collection of journalism reputed for its subject matter and satiric skill. Critical interest in Muggeridge rests on three bases: his personal story as a self-indulgent intellectual who slowly develops a passionate religious faith; his iconoclastic scourging of the famous and powerful, which has taken the form of many short pieces of powerful satiric prose; and his Christian apologetics. In perhaps none of these areas did his work excel to such an extent as to gain him a place among the first rank of literary talents. But the contradictions of his personality and career, combined with the place accorded Winter in Moscow, renders his career as a whole a subject of enduring critical interest.
Three Flats (play) 1931
Picture Palace (novel) 1934
Winter in Moscow (journalism) 1934
The Earnest Atheist: A Study of Samuel Butler (biography) 1936
In a Valley of This Restless Mind (novel) 1938
The Thirties: 1930-1940 in Great Britain (history) 1940; published in the United States as The Sun Never Sets: The Story of England in the 1930s, 1940
Tread Softly for You Tread on My Jokes (essays) 1966; published in the United States as The Most of Malcolm Muggeridge, 1966
Muggeridge Through the Microphone (essays) 1967; revised and expanded edition published as Muggeridge: Ancient and Modern, 1981
Jesus Rediscovered (philosophy) 1969
Something Beautiful for God (biography) 1971
Paul: Envoy Extraordinary [with Alec Vidler] (biography) 1972
Chronicles of Wasted Time, Volume I: The Green Stick (autobiography) 1973
Chronicles of Wasted Time, Volume II: The Infernal Grove (autobiography) 1974
Jesus: The Man Who Lives (philosophy) 1975
Christ and the Media (lectures) 1976
Like it Was: The Diaries of Malcolm Muggeridge (diaries) 1981
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SOURCE: Cournos, John. Winter in Moscow. The Criterion: 1922-1939 (1967): 670-73.
[In the following review of Winter in Moscow, originally pubished in 1934, Cournos praises Muggeridge for his blunt honesty and his humor in describing the actions of the Soviet government.]
There is something refreshing in Mr. Muggeridge's approach to the problem of Russian Communism which, during his eight months' tenure as Moscow correspondent of the Manchester Guardian, he has had ample opportunity to observe in practice, on and behind the scene. Whereas other writers who visited Russia for brief terms under the personal guidance of the Intourist or for long stays of observation in the guise of onlookers have striven to give an appearance of dubious ‘objectivity’ to their chronicles, in Winter in Moscow Mr. Muggeridge quite boldly flings down the gauntlet to all such witnesses by stating clearly at the very beginning that there can be no dispassionate approach to Russian Communism, or rather to the Soviet régime, if it is to be judged by its practice. ‘It is no more possible’, he asserts with commendable vigour, ‘to describe the Dictatorship of the Proletariat dispassionately than to describe a mad bull rushing round a field dispassionately. The moment you become dispassionate you automatically make the false assumption that the bull is not mad, and therefore vitiate anything...
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SOURCE: Beard, Paul. In a Valley of This Restless Mind. The Criterion: 1922-1939 (1967): 375-78.
[In the following review of In a Valley of This Restless Mind, originally published in 1938, Beard criticizes Muggeridge's combination of philosophical and moral skepticism as leading to a degrading acceptance of contemporary society's more base and decayed habits and practices.]
Mr. Muggeridge has added another to those perplexed enquiries into the state of the modern world, and like one or two of his predecessors he has followed the Pilgrim's Progress as a model. In a series of loosely-linked fantasies, In a Valley of this Restless Mind endeavours, according to its dust-cover, to destroy some contemporary spiritual absolutes accused of disguising materialism; a task which may bear the emphasis either of defending the spiritual, or of attacking it. A short comparison between his world and Bunyan's may best show Mr. Muggeridge's viewpoint, and incidentally suggest that his choice of model is not altogether appropriate.
First, the vision of a Heavenly City has disappeared, its absence as unquestioned as was, to Bunyan, its existence; Mr. Muggeridge's world is completely bounded within the orbit of the here and now, untroubled even by any thought of Utopian futures. The pack of sins no longer carries a burden of expiation into the pilgrim's future; the meaning of...
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SOURCE: Orwell, George. “The Limit to Pessimism.” In The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell Vol I: An Age Like This, 1920-1940, edited by Sonia Orwell, pp. 533-35. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. 1940.
[In the following review of The Thirties, Orwell finds Muggeridge's skepticism useful for analyzing a corrupt era, without precluding patriotism.]
Mr Malcolm Muggeridge's “message”1—for it is a message, though a negative one—has not altered since he wrote Winter in Moscow. It boils down to a simple disbelief in the power of human beings to construct a perfect or even a tolerable society here on earth. In essence, it is the Book of Ecclesiastes with the pious interpolations left out.
No doubt everyone is familiar with this line of thought. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. The Kingdom of Earth is forever unattainable. Every attempt to establish liberty leads directly to tyranny. One tyrant takes over from another, the captain of industry from the robber baron, the Nazi gauleiter from the captain of industry, the sword gives way to the cheque book and the cheque book to the machine-gun, the Tower of Babel perpetually rises and falls. It is the Christian pessimism, but with this important difference, that in the Christian scheme of things the Kingdom of Heaven is there to restore the balance:
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SOURCE: Crossman, R. H. S. “Vanity of Vanities: Malcom Muggeridge.” In The Charm of Politics, and Other Essays in Political Criticism, pp. 110-13. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1958.
[In the following review of The Thirties, Crossman argues that Muggeridge's acserbic observations do not rise to the level of great satire because they fail to contrast society's evils with any vision of a higher good.]
‘Men aim at projecting their own inward unease on as large a screen as possible. When they tremble, the universe must.’ Thus Muggeridge on his first page; and his judgment upon the human race applies with peculiar appropriateness to his own mordant sketch of this country's recent history. This scrapbook of the thirties,1 with its strange mixture of wit and facetiousness, of debunking caricature and sharp observation, has the semblance of history. The Thirties, in racing language, is a thoroughbred out of The Waste Land by Eminent Victorians and trained by C. P. Scott; or, to put it in another way, it is the confessions of a member of that sensitive generation of post-war intellectuals who combined an ironic reaction against Georgian poetry and Victorian morals with a strong Liberal belief in justice and liberty. Like Mr. Aldous Huxley, Mr. Muggeridge is tormented by the feeling that the stable civilization, which he could simultaneously debunk and reform in the...
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SOURCE: Epstein, Joseph. “Enfant Terrible.” Commentary 42, no. 6 (December 1966): 94-6.
[In the following review of The Most of Malcolm Muggeridge, Epstein pronounces Muggeridge's biting criticism self-indulgent and unseemly, but at times an amusing and useful corrective to mass-media fed hero worship.]
Malcolm Muggeridge revels in undocumented revelation. A piquant example is to be found in the essay on Max Beerbohm in this volume. “Beerbohm, it seems to me to emerge,” he writes, “was in panic flight through most of his life from two things—his Jewishness and his homosexuality.” Nor is Muggeridge skimpy with hyperbole; in a piece about his lecturing experience in the United States, he reports that “Americans for the most part talk without listening, and do not expect, or particularly want, to be listened to.” The sacred is not of itself necessarily profane for Muggeridge, but anyone or anything which attains sacrosanct status is—and duly receives profane treatment at his hands. He takes unmistakable delight in romping through the modern pantheon, throwing darts and penciling in mustaches. Among the portraits he has recently disfigured have been those of T. S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Evelyn Waugh, Winston Churchill, Pablo Picasso, and—perhaps the most devastating defacement of all—John F. Kennedy. Here is how he disposes of E. M. Forster: “Does anyone read those...
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SOURCE: “Dance of the Iconoclast.” Time 89, no. 1 (6 January 1967): 36.
[In the following review of The Most of Malcolm Muggeridge, the editors of Time characterize Muggeridge's career as a reaction to a series of ideological disappointments, culminating in mellowed religious reverence.]
In his five years as Punch's editor in the 1950s, Malcolm Muggeridge quickened the dowdy humor magazine with pungent political satire. Circulation shot up. But when Muggeridge proposed lampooning Prince Charles's boarding school, he went too far even for Punch and was forced to quit. Nothing daunted, hardly loath and all that, he went on to ridicule the whole monarchy in a savage piece in the Saturday Evening Post. For that breach of British etiquette, he was roundly denounced, ostracized by his friends—and even banned, for a while, by the BBC.
The end of his career? Hardly. The irrepressible iconoclast bounced back, not by showing restraint but by being more boisterous than ever. As a TV interviewer, he became a master of the elegant insult. Even the people who hate him love to watch him. London's “Pop Socrates,” as he is called, is equally intemperate in his writings, some of which have now been collected in a book, The Most of Malcolm Muggeridge. Muggeridge, says London Critic Colin MacInnes, has the “gift of absolutely compulsive readability.”...
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SOURCE: Weales, Gerald. “The Most of Malcom Muggeridge.” Commonweal LXXXVI, no. 1 (24 March 1967): 21-2.
[In the following review of The Most of Malcolm Muggeridge, Weales attacks Muggeridge's literary and social criticism as self-indulgently cynical.]
Malcolm Muggeridge is presumably a selling name, an advertisable presence for any magazine which prints him. Yet, his name on a cover elicits in me an inevitable response, a mixture of distaste and boredom. When TV Guide proclaimed that Muggeridge, “a British wit,” was going to hold forth in its pages on “Is Anyone Really Listening?”, I muttered, “Not Muggeridge again,” and “Who cares what he thinks about television,” and tossed the magazine aside. When I finally got around to reading the article more than a month later, driven to it by duty not pleasure, I found that it was standard Muggeridge, a neatly written piece mixing personal reminiscence and doubtful generalization and coming to quite ordinary conclusions—that television is no more culturally underweight than the other popular media and that it makes no difference in any case because, although the sets are on, probably no one is listening. His position is debatable, but it is hardly startling.
How could the prospect of so innocuous an article have called forth so strong a negative reaction in me? I felt that I ought somehow to answer...
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SOURCE: Hart, Jeffrey. “The Conversion of Malcom Muggeridge.” National Revew 21, no. 47 (2 December 1969): 1228-29.
[In the following review of Jesus Rediscovered, Hart praises Muggeridge for his lively portrayal of Jesus and his harsh criticisms of contemporary liberalism, but criticizes him for failing to treat important theological issues seriously.]
In Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis tells us in some detail about his conversion, and, since he was a complicated person, the process of his conversion was far from simple. Yet at a pivotal moment he had to answer a simple, if overwhelming, question: Was Jesus actually God? He returned to the gospel narrative and one thing struck him forcefully: that the claims made by Jesus would ordinarily be evidence of madness, but that the person who made them here in fact radiated sanity. From this contradiction Lewis deduced that the claims were true. Malcolm Muggeridge's conversion—the subject of this book—is less philosophical than that of Lewis, but equally indebted to a confrontation with the reality represented in the New Testament narratives.
“Each generation of Christians,” he writes [in Jesus Rediscovered], “inevitably seeks to fashion its own Christ from the austere figures carved in wood of the early Middle Ages, through the ebullient Renaissance Christs, through the weird efforts of our own time,...
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SOURCE: Lejeune, Anthony. “No Regrets.” National Review 25, no. 51 (21 December 1973): 1418-19.
[In the following review of Chronicles of Wasted Time, Volume I: The Green Stick, Lejeune praises Muggeridge for skillfully showing the failings of the persons and institutions he studied during his long career in journalism and for pointing to faith as the sole answer to life's disappointments.]
Some years ago, seeking to prove the obvious, I listed all the participants in a season of television talk-shows, dividing them into left wingers, right wingers, and nonpolitical. The overwhelming majority, of course, were left wingers. But one name didn't fit into any category—Malcolm Muggeridge. He is that rarest of things, a man who speaks and writes with an absolutely individual voice. During the past few years he has mellowed and ripened (though without losing any of his sharpness), and become a sort of Christian guru, exasperating or admirable according to taste but incapable of being dull.
When the first volume of his autobiography, Chronicles of Wasted Time, was published in Britain last year, it was hailed by almost everybody who reviewed it as a marvelously rich book, fascinating in its highly personal commentary on people and events, corrosively witty, profoundly serious, and beautifully written. Muggeridge bows to none of our modern idols, subscribes to none of the...
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SOURCE: Dimbleby, Jonathan. “Intellectual in Search of Salvation: Malcom Muggeridge, A Profile of the Maverick at 70.” The Critic 32, no. 4 (March-April 1974): 38-44.
[In the following essay, Dimbleby emphasizes the influence of Muggeridge's jocular yet cynical personality on his written work.]
No man is easier to caricature than Malcolm Muggeridge. Walking through the steep narrow streets of the mountain village of Aspremont, bestowing beneficent smiles on old brown Provencal faces or stopping to pat the head or kiss the cheek of a pretty child, St. Mug has the benign air of a visiting emissary from the Kingdom above. In the village shop, speaking in immaculate Old English French (where words matter more than accent) he engages in appropriate pleasantries. In the church for the celebration of Mass his unmistakable voice intones the litany in French, and, unmindful of its effect upon the listening ear, booms stentorian and tuneless through the responses. And, when the moment comes, his eye dwells with affection and approval upon the young of the village as they advance towards the altar to receive the Sacrament which he, but not they, understand.
Whether out in the village or at home in the villa he has rented for the winter, where at the drop of the right question he will rail against the “Gadarene descent” of our civilization or aim a perfect malicious verbal dart at some...
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SOURCE: Bradford Gow, Haven. “A Retreat from Utopia.” Modern Age 18, no. 4 (fall 1974): 426-29.
[In the following review of Chronicles of Wasted Time, Volume I: The Green Stick, Gow praises Muggeridge for pointing out the hypocrisy of Soviet communism's claim to value humanity, and the hypocrisy of liberal intellectuals who defended the Soviet system.]
I used to believe that there was a green stick buried on the edge of a ravine in the old Zakaz forest at Yasnaya Polyana, on which words were carved that would destroy all the evil in the hearts of men and bring them everything good.
The Stalinist intellectuals of the 1930's, as George Watson informed us in the December, 1970 issue of Encounter, are nowadays something of a joke. How could such intelligent men of the world as George Bernard Shaw and Sidney Webb support Stalinist Russia? Could they have been deceived? Mr. Watson's view is that the evidence “does not bear out the myth of innocence and deception.” Indeed, the evidence demonstrates that the Western apologists for Stalinist Russia “were attracted to the most violent system on earth because it was just that.” To them
the Soviet dictatorships looked like a highly disciplined system that could, and should, conquer the world: the God that...
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SOURCE: Cupitt, Don. “Scrap of Paper.” The Listener 94, no. 2425 (25 September 1975): 405.
[In the following review of Jesus, Cupitt criticizes Muggeridge for failing to present a sustained argument and for indulging in harsh criticism of contemporary moral and religious practices.]
‘It is one thing to be crucified: it is quite another thing to be a Professor of the fact that someone else was crucified,’ wrote Kierkegaard, showing that it is possible for a great religious writer to be waspish. But great religious writers are excessively rare. Their mark is a certain perfectly sustained purity and intensity, such as would be destroyed at once by the slightest taint of the borrowed, the self-conscious or the meretricious.
On this count, Mr Muggeridge['s Jesus] cannot be considered successful, for his style and tone are astonishingly uneven. Even in his best passages—those on madness, and on the two great commandments—he strains after his effects. Sometimes he writes pastiche of John Donne: as, on his own death, ‘see my ancient carcass, prone between the sheets, stained and worn like a scrap of paper dropped in the gutter …’ or ‘I never knew what joy was until I gave up pursuing happiness, or cared to live until I chose to die.’ Sometimes he reaches a banality seldom equalled even in the pulpit: as, on donkeys, ‘it is one of Christianity's minor, but...
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SOURCE: Breslin, John B. “Jesus and St. Mug.” America 133, no. 10 (11 October 1975): 207-10.
[In the following essay, Breslin contrasts Muggeridge's iconoclastic reputation with his increasingly Christian outlook on life.]
In a review of the second volume of his autobiography, I referred to Malcolm Muggeridge as a “formidable commentator” on the follies of the recent past and present. As I traveled down from London to spend an afternoon with him at his cottage in Sussex several weeks ago, that phrase came back to haunt me.
I took some comfort from the assurances of people I knew who had met Mr. Muggeridge that he was both gracious and genial in person, even to interviewers. But the baleful look I remembered so well from BBC telecasts and the astringent tone of the two books I had just finished reading made me wonder again whether I was heading for the lion's den with eyes wide open. For was I not a member, if only tangentially, of a generation he had largely despaired of—the young whose rebellion against the phony world of their fathers had led them down an even more dismal road littered with artificial stimulants and casual commitments?
And even if my profession might absolve me on that score, did it not identify me with an institutional church Mr. Muggeridge delighted in castigating for its abject surrender, with few exceptions, to the Mammon of secular...
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SOURCE: Murchison, William. “The Cheery Doomsayer: William Murchinson.” National Review 29, no. 35 (16 September 1977): 1050-51.
[In the following interview, Muggeridge presents contemporary society as beyond hope, and sees this as reason to hope for religious salvation.]
The face is familiar. The snow-white fringe of hair, the broad-tipped nose, the inimitable smile, with the corners of the mouth stretched wide as though fleeing panic-stricken from each other. The Malcolm Muggeridge who lounges comfortably in desert boots and work shirt has the outward look of that mass of electronic impulses the television talk-show hosts call “Muggeridge.” But the fleshly Muggeridge radiates warmth and friendship. He is a far more arresting presence than his electronic alter ego.
Here in Dallas, buckle of the Sunbelt, sits the genuine article, sipping debased American tea and talking of the end of the world, or at any rate the world as we know it. To talk in Dallas of such an outlandish event as the end of the world is no small feat. Whereas Detroit and Gotham, to say nothing of Manchester and Birmingham, may be rusting in the corrosive air of the post-industrial age, Dallas is on the boom. Its churches, too, by modern standards, are stuffed on Sundays.
There are likelier pulpits than Dallas for the apostle they call St. Mugg. Yet St. Mugg, as guest lecturer for two weeks at...
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SOURCE: Meister, J. W. Gregg. “Christ and the Media.” Theology Today 36, no. 4 (April 1979): 137-38.
[In the following review of Christ and the Media, Meister criticizes Muggeridge for failing to put his criticism of television in academic or historical context.]
When the Berlin Wall was first constructed, two East German policemen dramatically leaped off the wall to freedom. According to eyewitness accounts, the soldiers had to jump three times before their leap was deemed visually acceptable for the television news team.
Lacing his book, Christ and the Media, with such anecdotes, Malcolm Muggeridge underscores his thesis that not only does the camera always lie, but it must by its own nature distort reality. Therefore, Muggeridge takes the position that the “reality of Christ” cannot be “injected into the fantasy of the media.” Even to work as a Christian within the media to reform the media is destined to fail. In his view, only on rare occasions and with such singular personalities as Mother Teresa can the reality of Christ somehow overcome the sophistry of television.
Christ and the Media, consisting of three lectures and a transcript of the questions and answers which followed each lecture, reflects Muggeridge's considerable experience as a British journalist and author. He writes with imagination—would Christ accept the...
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SOURCE: Powell, Anthony. “The London Charivari.” In To Keep the Ball Rolling: The Memoirs of Anthony Powell, Vol. IV, pp. 47-65. London: Heinemann, 1982.
[In the following excerpt, Powell describes Muggeridge's contentious tenure as editor of the English humor magazine Punch.]
Not long after moving to the country I lunched at the Authors' Club with Malcolm Muggeridge …, then Deputy Editor of The Daily Telegraph. The job seemed to suit him pretty well, his heart being in ‘news’ journalism, while the particular gradation of rank—so to speak third in command—represented a reasonably powerful sphere of influence not oppressively incommoded by too much responsibility.
During the course of luncheon Muggeridge told me that he had been offered the editorship of Punch. Foreseeing amusing possibilities he had decided to accept, notwithstanding the satisfactory nature of his position at the DT and its good prospects. He suggested that I might follow him to Bouverie Street as Literary Editor. We talked this over at the time, and after further discussions about detail it was settled that I should begin work on Punch in the spring of 1953.
When my parents were living in St John's Wood … my father had acquired in a saleroom a bound set of Punch running from the paper's début in 1841 to the end of the century; so that from the age of...
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SOURCE: Inchausti, Robert. “Interpreting Mother Teresa.” The Christian Century 102 (16 October 1985): 919-20.
[In the following essay, Inchausti praises Muggeridge's Something Beautiful for God for capturing the power of Mother Teresa's simple faith.]
Goodness, like beauty, leaves us mute, unable to speak. And when we finally do produce halting words to express what goodness invokes in us, they always seem weak and inappropriate. So we look to skilled writers to capture for us the words over which saints bound on their way to God.
Many books about Mother Teresa have been written in the past ten years, each attempting to interpret her life. Yet—although it sounds odd—most of these biographies, essays, interviews and memoirs end up being unintentionally comic. The clash between Mother Teresa's wordless deeds of love and the writer's need for a good story almost always results in a parody of whatever genre the writer uses.
For example, one journalist attempted to uncover the historical origins of Mother Teresa's social mission by interviewing her colleagues from the time when she was a high school principal. To the writer's surprise, few could remember her, and those who did remarked only about her ordinariness. For a Christian servant, this lack of recognition may be high praise, but the uninitiated see it only as weak material for a story.
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SOURCE: Ingrams, Richard. “Introduction.” In Picture Palace, pp. vii-xiii. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1987.
[In the following introduction to Muggeridge's Picture Palace, Ingrams reviews events behind the novel's genesis and suppression and finds it valuable more as historical record than novel.]
A first edition of [Picture Palace], which came out in 1934, must be one of the rarest books in existence. For although it was published and review copies sent out they were almost immediately withdrawn following legal action by Malcolm Muggeridge's former employees the Manchester Guardian (now the Guardian). [It] has waited for over fifty years to see the light of day again.
Malcolm arrived at the Guardian in August 1930. He was twenty-seven. His previous job had been as a lecturer in English at Cairo University and it was there that he met Arthur Ransome, now best known for his children's stories like Swallows and Amazons, then a regular contributor to the Manchester Guardian. Malcolm had for some months been submitting reports on Egypt to the Guardian as a freelance and Ransome was asked by E. T. ‘Ted’ Scott, his editor, to pay a call on this promising young journalist with a view possibly to offering him a job on the staff. Ransome reported very favourably to Scott on 15 December 1929:
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SOURCE: Buckley, William F. Jr. “Uncovering Stalinism.” National Review 40, no. 3 (19 February 1988): 56.
[In the following review of Winter in Moscow, Buckley praises Muggeridge's command of detail and his ability to write convincing vignettes.]
Before there was Solzhenitsyn, or Pasternak, or Djilas, or Orwell, or Koestler, there was Muggeridge. He covered, or uncovered, the Soviet Union for the Manchester Guardian in 1932-33, laying bare its stupendous horrors even as Walter Duranty and Claud Cockburn were dutifully retailing their obsequious lies about Stalin for American and English readers. He told the West about the Ukrainian famine, a feature of Stalin's farm-collectivization program whose magnitude—on the order of 14 million deaths—is only now penetrating the consciousness.
The truth about Stalin was only part of the story Muggeridge had to tell, the other part being the lies of the tyrant's Western sycophants. In Winter in Moscow—first published in 1934 and now reissued by Eerdmans in a handsome paperback edition, with an eloquent introduction by Michael Aeschliman—Muggeridge uses the medium of a satirical novel to tell the world about the role of his contemptible journalistic colleagues, without whom the Gulag would not have been possible.
Solzhenitsyn gives us the scope and scale of Stalinism. Muggeridge's beat is the detail,...
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SOURCE: Kirk, Russell. “Malcom Muggeridge's Scourging of Liberalism.” In The Politics of Prudence, pp. 125-41. Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 1993.
[In the following excerpt, Kirk praises Muggeridge's ability to recognize liberalism's key weaknesses and powerfully point them out to his audience.]
In the preceding three chapters, and in this one, I discuss eminent conservative men of letters whom I have known. They have all crossed the bar and put out to sea now. My proclivity for quoting such vanished friends provoked a certain auditor at a large gathering, a few years past, into observing aloud, “Dr. Kirk, you're an anomaly: all of your friends are dead.”
Malcolm Muggeridge, the subject of this present chapter, for decades believed himself to be tottering on the brink of eternity, but he survived most of his generation, standing at the height of his fame in his closing years. His many books are so quotable that one is tempted to compose an essay entirely of passages from Muggeridge, unadorned by comments. Restraining myself, nevertheless, I try here to trace the course of Malcolm Muggeridge's abhorrence of the political and moral attitude that is called liberalism.
Muggeridge was the author of the most moving and memorable autobiography of the twentieth century, Chronicles of Wasted Time. His memoirs were supposed to run to...
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SOURCE: Ingrams, Richard. “Epilogue.” In Muggeridge: The Biography, pp. 247-52. London: Harper San Francisco, 1995.
[In the following excerpt, Ingrams reports on the varied assessments of Muggeridge's career that appeared upon news of the writer's death.]
Malcolm's death was reported throughout the world and there were lengthy obituaries in all the British and most of the major American newspapers. They ranged from the affectionate memoirs of his many journalistic friends to the pious platitudes of the Catholic Press. The word ‘irreverent’ was in constant use. The New York Times paid tribute to his ‘impeccable prose style’, a writer in the Guardian called him ‘the most gracefully tongued and limelight-drenched cynic since Diogenes’.
Some years previously Malcolm had asked his old friend A. J. P. Taylor to deliver his funeral address, but it was not to be, as Taylor pre-deceased him. Proving, however, that Malcolm's hunch had been right, Taylor had previously written (while Malcolm was still alive) an obituary for the Guardian which somehow managed to catch the real Muggeridge better than any of Malcolm's co-religionists.
Answering the charge that Malcolm had been, for much of his life an embittered cynic, Taylor replied: ‘Malcolm was a cynic who got great fun out of it.’ To Taylor, the title of Malcolm's early novel In a...
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SOURCE: Wolfe, Gregory. “Muggeridge One, Two or Three?.” In Malcom Muggeridge: A Biography, pp. vi-vxiii. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1995.
[In the following excerpt, Wolfe points out the seeming contradictions between perceptions of Muggeridge as journalistic iconoclast and Christian apologist.]
I give you the end of a Golden String, Only wind it into a ball, It will lead you in at Heaven's Gate Built in Jerusalem's Wall.
As a media figure for more than half a century, Malcolm Muggeridge understood the strange metamorphosis that turns an individual into an image. His face, his voice and his name were multiplied and reproduced innumerable times—on radio waves, television screens and in books and newsprint. For decades he had provided the news-hungry with dispatches from Our Own Correspondent in Cairo, Calcutta, Moscow, Washington and other points around the globe. At the dawn of the electronic age, he became one of the original Talking Heads—an interviewer, distinguished panellist, cultural critic.
While this public exposure appealed to his vanity, Malcolm also discovered the darker side of life as a creature of the media. “There is something very terrible in becoming an image … You see yourself on a screen, walking, talking, moving about, posturing, and it is not you. Or is it you, and the you looking at...
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SOURCE: Russell, Henry M. W. “Late to the Vineyard: Explaining Malcom Muggeridge.” The Christian Century 113, no. 19 (5-12 June 1996): 624-29.
[In the following essay, Russell argues that Muggeridge did not give up his skeptical objectivity in converting to Catholicism.]
Malcolm Muggeridge was aware that to account for his conversion to Christianity, many people might look for a “sinister explanation, expatiating upon how old lechers when they become impotent are notoriously liable to denounce lechery, seeking to deprive others of pleasures no longer within their reach; how a clown whose act has staled will look around for some gimmick, however grotesque and unconvincing, to draw attention to himself.” Though Richard Ingrams knows that Muggeridge wrestled with religion at least since his Cambridge days (he writes that “the mistake his attackers made was to think that Malcolm had only come to Christianity in old age, when in fact it had been something of a life-long obsession”), his own analysis comes perilously close to replicating the banalities suggested in Muggeridge's prophecy.
Like a movie based on a book, the title suggests the banal, the sensational, the warmed-over gestures of an original tricked out with a veneer of glittering details. The book was projected as early as 1982, to come out after Malcolm and Kitty Muggeridge's deaths (1990; 1994). Ingrams, a journalist...
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SOURCE: Falcoff, Mark “Muggeridged by Reality.” The American Enterprise 7, no. 5 (September-October 1996): 22-23.
[In the following essay, Falcoff praises Muggeridge's insight into the weaknesses of public figures, particularly those on the political left.]
For Americans born after 1960, the name Malcolm Muggeridge, if it means anything at all, refers to an eccentric English writer best known for his defense of orthodox Christianity. A handful of graduate students or lettered conservatives may know him as well from two volumes of memoirs published in 1972-3 under the provocative title, Chronicles of Wasted Time. The truth is, there have been several Muggeridges along the way, and in this brief but remarkably complete biography Richard Ingrams gives us a glimpse of each.
Born in 1903 at the height of Edwardian England's glory, Muggeridge died in 1990 at the age of 87, having lived a remarkably full and adventurous life. The son of a Labour councillor and M.P., he won a scholarship to Cambridge and, after a brief period teaching at a Christian school in India, launched into a career as a journalist. He married Kitty Dobbs, the niece of Sidney and Beatrice Webb, thus forming an alliance with what might be called the Royal Family of British Socialism.
After a time writing editorials for the Manchester Guardian, the paper sent him to Russia as its...
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Ingrams, Robert. Muggeridge: The Biography. New York: HarperCollins, 1995, 288 p.
Lists books written, co-written, and edited by Muggeridge.
Hunter, Ian. Malcolm Muggeridge: A Life. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1980, 270 p.
Outlines and evaluates Muggeridge's life and writings.
Hart, Jeffrey. “Stop the Milieu, I've Got to Get Off.” National Review 18, no. 40 (October 4, 1966): 999-1001.
Praises Muggeridge's ability to see through ideological rhetoric to concrete actions and their effects on individuals.
Ricks, Christopher, “Muggeridge's Bedpan.” The Listener 88, no. 2270. (September 28, 1972): 414-15.
Dismisses Muggeridge's cultural criticism as formulaic statements of ill-will.
Additional coverage of Muggeridge's life and career is contained in the following sources published by the Gale Group: Authors in the News, Vol. 1; Contemporary Authors, Vol. 101; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vols. 33, 63; Literature Resource Center; and Major 20th-Century Writers, Eds. 1, 2.
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