Malcolm Muggeridge Criticism - Essay

John Cournos (review date 1934)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

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Paul Beard (review date 1938)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

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George Orwell (review date 1940)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

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R. H. S. Crossman (review date 1958)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

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Joseph Epstein (review date December 1966)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

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Time (review date 6 January 1967)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

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Gerald Weales (review date 24 March 1967)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

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Jeffrey Hart (review date 2 December 1969)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 954 words.)

Anthony Lejeune (review date 21 December 1973)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

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Jonathan Dimbleby (essay date March-April 1974)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

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Haven Bradford Gow (review date fall 1974)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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.

—Leo Tolstoy...

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Don Cupitt (review date 25 September 1975)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

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John B. Breslin (essay date 11 October 1975)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

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Malcolm Muggeridge with William Murchison (interview date 16 September 1977)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

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J. W. Gregg Meister (review date April 1979)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

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Anthony Powell (essay date 1982)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

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Robert Inchausti (essay date 16 October 1985)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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....

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Richard Ingrams (essay date 1987)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

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William F. Buckley, Jr. (review date 19 February 1988)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

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Russell Kirk (essay date 1993)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

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Richard Ingrams (essay date 1995)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

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Gregory Wolfe (essay date 1995)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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.

William Blake

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...

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Henry M. W. Russell (essay date 5-12 June 1996)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

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Mark Falcoff (essay date September-October 1996)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

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