Blunt reveals a spy's life from beyond the grave

Thu Jul 23, 2009 7:31am EDT
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By Luke Baker

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - One of Britain's most notorious spies, Russian mole Anthony Blunt, has finally revealed snippets of his clandestine life and complex motivations in a memoir brought to light 25 years after his death.

Blunt, a former Cambridge professor and renowned art historian, was unmasked publicly as a spy by former prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1979, 15 years after privately confessing to being part of a four-man Soviet ring that included Britain's most infamous Cold War traitor, Kim Philby.

After his confession, Blunt was given immunity in exchange for information and allowed to continue in his role as surveyor of the Queen's pictures and a professor of art history.

But after his public exposure, which prompted him to contemplate suicide, Blunt sat down and wrote a 30,000-word manuscript that amounts to a short account of his life, from birth through to the moment of his unmasking.

Following his death in 1983, the memoir was anonymously donated to the British Library on condition that it not be made available for 25 years, a restriction that has now expired.

While the account largely avoids his activities in the 1940s and 1950s when he was a key agent for the KGB, it does provide his account of how he came to be recruited and, 30 years later, exposed as one of Russia's highest-level agents in Britain.

"Although it contains no revelations, the memoir is important as an account of Blunt's life and motives in his own words and with his own emphasis," said Frances Harris, head of modern historical manuscripts at the British Library.

"It is the one central document bearing on this long, complex and controversial episode in recent history which has been known to exist, but has not hitherto been accessible."   Continued...