Malcolm Muggeridge (24 March 1903 – 14 November
1990), known professionally as Malcolm Muggeridge, was a British
journalist and satirist. As a young man, Muggeridge was a left-wing
sympathiser but he later became a forceful anti-communist. During
World War II, he worked for the British government as a soldier and a
spy. He helped bring
Mother Teresa to popular attention in the West.
In his later years he was outspoken on religious and moral issues. He
wrote two volumes of an acclaimed—and unfinished—autobiography
Chronicles of Wasted Time.
1 Early life and career
3 Return to India
4 World War II
5 Post-war period
5.1 Conversion to Christianity
5.2 Criticism of Life of Brian
5.3 Later years
9 See also
10 Further reading
12 External links
Early life and career
Muggeridge's father, Henry (known as H. T. Muggeridge) served as a
Labour Party councillor in the local government of Croydon, South
London, as a founder-member of the Fabian Society, and as a Labour
Member of Parliament for
Romford (1929–1931, during Ramsay
MacDonald's second Labour government). Muggeridge's mother was Annie
The middle of five brothers, Muggeridge was born in Sanderstead,
Surrey. He grew up in
Croydon and attended
Selhurst High School
Selhurst High School there,
Selwyn College, Cambridge
Selwyn College, Cambridge for four years. While still a
student he had taught for brief periods in 1920, 1922 and 1924 at the
John Ruskin Central School, Croydon, where his father was Chairman of
the Governors. After graduating in 1924 with a pass degree in natural
sciences he went to
India for three years to teach English Literature
at Union Christian College Aluva, Kerala. His writing career began
during his time in Kerala, via an exchange of correspondence on war
and peace with Mahatma Gandhi, with Muggeridge's article on the
interactions being published in Young India, a local magazine.
Returning to Britain in 1927, he married Katherine "Kitty" Dobbs
(1903–1994), the daughter of Rosalind Dobbs (a younger sister of
Beatrice Webb). He worked as a supply teacher before moving to
teach English Literature in
Egypt six months later. Here he met Arthur
Ransome, who was visiting
Egypt as a journalist for The Manchester
Guardian. Ransome recommended Muggeridge to the editors of the
Guardian, who gave him his first job in journalism.
Initially attracted by Communism, Muggeridge and his wife travelled to
Moscow in 1932, where he was to be a correspondent for The Manchester
Guardian, standing in for William Chamberlin, who was about to take a
leave of absence. During Muggeridge's early time in Moscow, his main
journalistic concentration was in completing a novel, Picture Palace,
loosely based on his experiences and observations while at The
Manchester Guardian. This was completed and submitted to publishers in
January 1933, but there was concern by the publishers with potential
libel claims and the book was not published. This setback caused
considerable financial difficulties for Muggeridge, who was not
employed at the time, being paid only for articles which were
accepted. Increasingly disillusioned by his observations of communism
in practice, Muggeridge decided to investigate reports of the famine
in Ukraine, travelling there and to the
Caucasus without obtaining the
permission of the Soviet authorities. Reports he sent back to The
Manchester Guardian in the diplomatic bag, thus evading censorship,
were not fully printed and were not published under Muggeridge's name.
At the same time, rival journalist Gareth Jones, who had met
Muggeridge in Moscow, published his own stories that served to confirm
the extent of the famine. Writing in The New York Times, Walter
Duranty denied the existence of any famine, and was awarded the
Pulitzer Prize. Gareth Jones wrote letters to The Manchester Guardian
in support of Muggeridge's articles about the famine.
Having come into conflict with British newspapers' editorial policy of
not provoking the authorities in the Soviet Union,
Muggeridge turned back to novel writing. He wrote Winter in Moscow
(1934), which describes conditions in the "socialist utopia" and
satirises Western journalists' uncritical view of Joseph Stalin's
regime. He was later to call Duranty "the greatest liar I have met in
journalism". Later, he began a writing partnership with Hugh
Kingsmill. Muggeridge's politics changed from an independent socialist
point of view to a right-wing religious stance that was no less
critical of society. He wrote later:
I wrote in a mood of anger, which I find rather absurd now: not so
much because the anger was, in itself, unjustified, as because getting
angry about human affairs is as ridiculous as losing one's temper when
an air flight is delayed.
Return to India
After his time in Moscow, Muggeridge worked on other newspapers,
The Statesman in Calcutta, of which he was editor in
1934–36. In this second stint in India, he lived by himself in
Calcutta, having left behind his wife and children in London. (Between
1930 and 1936 the Muggeridges had three sons and a daughter.) His
office was in the headquarters of the newspaper in Chowringhee.
World War II
When war was declared, Muggeridge went to
Maidstone to join up but was
sent away—"My generation felt they'd missed the First War, now was
the time to make up." He was called into the Ministry of
Information, which he called "a most appalling set-up", and then
joined the army as a private. He joined the Corps of Military Police
and was commissioned on the
General List in May 1940. He
transferred to the Intelligence Corps as a lieutenant in June 1942.
Having spent two years as a Regimental Intelligence Officer in
England, by 1942 he was in MI6, and had been posted to Lourenço
Marques as a bogus vice-consul (called a
Special Correspondent by
London Controlling Section).
His mission was to prevent information about Allied convoys off the
coast of Africa falling into enemy hands—he wrote later also
that he attempted suicide at this time. After the Allied occupation of
North Africa he was posted to
Algiers as liaison officer with the
French sécurité militaire. In this capacity he was sent to Paris at
the time of the liberation, working alongside Charles de Gaulle's Free
French Forces. He had a high regard for de Gaulle, and considered him
a greater man than Churchill. He was warned to expect some
anti-British feeling in Paris because of the attack on Mers-el-Kébir.
In fact, Muggeridge (speaking on the
BBC retrospective programme
Muggeridge: Ancient & Modern) said that he encountered no such
feeling—indeed he had been allowed, on occasion, to eat and drink
for nothing at Maxim's. He was assigned to make an initial
investigation into P. G. Wodehouse's five broadcasts from Berlin
during the war. Though he was prepared to dislike Wodehouse, the
interview became the start of a lifelong friendship and publishing
relationship, as well as the subject for several plays. It was also
during this period that he interviewed
Coco Chanel in Paris, about the
nature of her involvement with the Nazis in Vichy France during the
war. Muggeridge ended the war as a Major, having received the
Croix de Guerre from the French Government for undisclosed reasons.
He also wrote for the
Evening Standard and the Daily Telegraph, where
he was appointed Deputy Editor in 1950. He was editor of Punch
magazine from 1953 to 1957, a challenging appointment for one who
claimed that "there is no occupation more wretched than trying to make
the English laugh". One of his first acts was to sack the illustrator
E. H. Shepard. In 1957 he received public and professional
opprobrium for criticism of the
British monarchy in a US magazine, The
Saturday Evening Post. Given the title "Does England Really Need a
Queen?", its publication was delayed by five months to coincide with
the Royal State Visit to Washington, D.C. taking place later in the
year. While the article was little more than a rehash of views
expressed in a 1955 article "Royal Soap Opera", its timing caused
outrage back in Britain, and he was sacked for a short period from the
BBC, and a contract with
Beaverbrook newspapers was cancelled. His
notoriety propelled him into becoming a better-known broadcaster with
a reputation as a tough interviewer.
From the early 60s he became a vegetarian so that he would be "free to
denounce those horrible factory farms where animals are raised for
He took to frequently denouncing the new sexual laxity of the swinging
sixties on radio and television. He particularly railed against "pills
and pot"—birth control pills and cannabis. He was contemptuous of
His book Tread Softly for You Tread on My Jokes (1966), though acerbic
in its wit, revealed a serious view of life. The title is an allusion
to the last line of the poem
Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven by
William Butler Yeats: "Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."
In 1967, he preached at Great St Mary's, Cambridge, and again in 1970.
Having been elected rector of Edinburgh University, Muggeridge was
goaded by the editor of The Student, Anna Coote, to support the call
for contraceptive pills to be available at the University Health
Centre. He used a sermon at
St. Giles' Cathedral
St. Giles' Cathedral in January 1968, to
resign the post in protest against the Student Representative
Council's views on "pot and pills". This sermon was published under
the title "Another King".
Muggeridge was also known for his wit and profound writings, often at
odds with the opinions of the day: "Never forget that only dead fish
swim with the stream", he liked to quote. He wrote two volumes of an
autobiography called Chronicles of Wasted Time (the title is a
Shakespeare's sonnet 106). The first volume (1972)
was The Green Stick. The second volume (1973) was The Infernal Grove.
A projected third volume The Right Eye covering the post-war period
was never completed.
Conversion to Christianity
An agnostic for most of his life, he became a Christian, publishing
Jesus Rediscovered in 1969, a collection of essays, articles and
sermons on faith. It became a best seller. Jesus: The Man Who Lives
followed in 1976, a more substantial work describing the gospel in his
own words. In A Third Testament, he profiles six spiritual thinkers,
whom he called "God's Spies", who influenced his life: Augustine of
Hippo, William Blake, Blaise Pascal, Leo Tolstoy, Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
and Søren Kierkegaard. In this period he also produced several BBC
religious documentaries, including In the Footsteps of St. Paul.
Muggeridge became a leading figure in the Nationwide Festival of Light
in 1971, protesting against the commercial exploitation of sex and
violence in Britain and advocating the teaching of Christ as the key
to recovering moral stability in the nation. He said at the time: "The
media today—press, television, and radio—are largely in the hands
of those who favour the present Gaderene slide into decadence and
Criticism of Life of Brian
In 1979, along with Mervyn Stockwood, then Bishop of Southwark, he
John Cleese and
Michael Palin "dishonest" during an edition of
the chat show Friday Night, Saturday Morning. Muggeridge declared
their film Life of Brian to be "buffoonery", "tenth-rate", "this
miserable little film", and "this little squalid number". Muggeridge
regarded the film as blasphemous, despite having arrived late for the
showing, according to Palin, thus missing the two scenes in which
Jesus and Brian were shown as two separate people at the same time.
The comedians expressed disappointment in Muggeridge, whom all in
Monty Python had previously respected as a satirist. Cleese said that
his reputation had "plummeted" in his eyes, while Palin commented, "He
was just being Muggeridge, preferring to have a very strong contrary
opinion as opposed to none at all."
In 1982, aged 79, he was received into the Catholic Church along with
his wife Kitty. This was largely under the influence of Mother Teresa,
about whom he had written a book, Something Beautiful for God, setting
out and interpreting her life. His last book Conversion (1988)
describes his life as a 20th-century pilgrimage, a spiritual journey.
In his book The Missionary Position:
Mother Teresa in Theory and
Practice and also in a 1994 documentary entitled Hell's Angel the
Christopher Hitchens derided Muggeridge as "that old fraud
and mountebank". Hitchens dismissed as risible the account of a
"divine light" miracle which Muggeridge said he had witnessed in
Calcutta's House of the Dying. On viewing footage of the film
Something Beautiful for God, Muggeridge attributed the clarity of the
images to Teresa's "divine light". Although the more prosaic and
realistic explanation was that the
BBC cameraman had loaded a new
faster film for some poorly lit indoor shots, Muggeridge promoted this
"heavenly aura event" as a miracle narrative to the media. Hitchens
considered that Muggeridge's subjective interpretation of the events
he witnessed in
Calcutta and the consequent publicity surrounding
those events contributed to Mother Teresa's seraphic reputation.
An eponymous literary society was established on 24 March 2003, the
occasion of his centenary, and it publishes a quarterly newsletter,
The Gargoyle. The
Malcolm Muggeridge Society, based in Britain, is
progressively republishing his works. Muggeridge's papers are in the
Special Collections at Wheaton College, Illinois.
In November 2008, on the 75th anniversary of the Ukraine famine, both
Muggeridge and Jones were posthumously awarded the Ukrainian Order of
Freedom to mark their exceptional services to the country and its
Malcolm Muggeridge's predatory behavior towards women during his BBC
years was brought to the attention of the public by a book about the
recent history of the BBC. He is described as a "compulsive
groper" reportedly being nicknamed "The Pouncer" and as "a man fully
deserving of the acronym NSIT – not safe in taxis". However, while
confirming the facts and the suffering inflicted on his family as a
result, his niece underlines that he totally changed his behavior when
he converted to Christianity in the 1960s.
Three Flats: A Play in Three Acts, (1931)
Winter in Moscow, (1934)
Picture Palace, (1934, 1987) ISBN 0-297-79039-0
La Russie. Vue par Malcolme (sic) Muggeridge. Paris, Imprimerie
Pascal, N.d.(c. 1934) 14pp.
The Earnest Atheist: A study of Samuel Butler, London: Eyre &
The Thirties, 1930–1940, in Great Britain, (1940, 1989)
Affairs of the Heart, (1949)
How can you Bear to be Human, (1957) by Nicholas Bentley (Muggeridge
wrote the introduction)
Tread Softly for You Tread on My Jokes, (1966)
Jesus Rediscovered, (1969) ISBN 0-00-621939-X
Something Beautiful for God, (1971) ISBN 0-00-215769-1
Paul, Envoy Extraordinary, (1972) with Alec Vidler,
Chronicles of Wasted Time: An Autobiography, (1972, 2006)
Jesus: The Man Who Lives, (1975) ISBN 0-00-211388-0
A Third Testament: A Modern Pilgrim Explores the Spiritual Wanderings
of Augustine, Blake, Pascal, Tolstoy, Bonhoeffer, Kierkegaard, and
Dostoevsky, (1976, 2002) ISBN 0-87486-921-8 Full text online.
Christ and the Media, (1977) ISBN 0-340-22438-X
In a Valley of This Restless Mind, (1978) ISBN 0-00-216337-3
Things Past (1979)
The End of Christendom, (1980) ISBN 0-8028-1837-4
Like it Was: The Diaries of Malcolm Muggeridge, (1981)
Conversion: The Spiritual Journey of a Twentieth Century Pilgrim,
(1988, 2005) ISBN 1-59752-101-9
Chronicles of Wasted Time: volumes I & II including 'The Right
Eye', (2006) ISBN 978-1-57383-376-9
Ultimate Concern: 'Am I a Christian?', etc., Cambridge, (1967)
Living Water, Aberdeen, (1968), ISBN 0-7152-0016-X
Another King, St Andrews Press (1968)
Still I Believe: Nine Talks Broadcast during Lent and Holy Week,
(1969), ISBN 0-563-08552-5
Light in our Darkness, Edinburgh, (1969), ISBN 0-7152-0069-0
Fundamental Questions: What is Life About?, Cambridge, (1970)
"America Needs a Punch," Esquire (April 1958), 59–60, 60
I'm All Right Jack
I'm All Right Jack (1959) - T.V. Panel Chairman
Heavens Above! (1963) - Cleric
Herostratus (1967) - Radio Presenter (voice)
Samuel Butler – the subject of Muggeridge's 1936 study.
The 2011 television film Holy Flying Circus, broadcast on
BBC Four in
October 2011, which features a fictional account of Muggeridge and the
Pythons' debate on the above programme.
Beside the Seaside, 1934 –
Bournemouth Contains commissioned article
about this seaside resort
Ingrams, Richard, Muggeridge: The Biography, London: HarperCollins,
1995. ISBN 0-00-638467-6
Wolfe, Gregory, Malcolm Muggeridge: A Biography, London: Hodder &
Stoughton, 1995. ISBN 0-340-60674-6
Hunter, Ian, Malcolm Muggeridge: A Life, London: Collins, 1980.
Muggeridge, Ancient & Modern / edited by Christopher Ralling and
Jane Bywaters; with drawings by Trog, London, BBC, 1981.
ISBN 0-563-17905-8. This is a revised edition of Muggeridge
Through the Microphone (1967).
Porter, David, A Disciple of Christ: conversations with Malcolm
Muggeridge, Basingstoke: Marshalls, 1983. ISBN 0-551-01059-2
Malcolm Muggeridge's Conversion Story
McCrum, Robert, Wodehouse, A Life, London, New York: W. W. Norton,
Malcolm Muggeridge on Faith, San Francisco, CA: Ignatius
Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1-58617-068-4
Flynn, Nicholas, Time and Eternity: Uncollected Writings 1933–1983,
Darton, Longman and Todd, 2010. ISBN 978-0-232-52808-4
^ GRO Register of Births; Malcolm Muggeridge, My Life in Pictures.
^ My Life in Pictures ISBN 0-906969-60-3
^ a b Nicholas Flynn, "Obituary: Kitty Muggeridge", The Independent,
20 June 1994. This article gives her birth name as "Kathleen", but
this appears to be an error, see Albin Krebs, "Malcolm Muggeridge,
Writer, Dies at 87", New York Times, 15 November 1990, and other
BBC World Service "The Useful Idiots"
^ Malcolm Muggeridge, Chronicles of Wasted Time: Chronicle 1: The
Green Stick, Quill, New York, 1982, p. 274.
^ Krebs, Albin (15 November 1990). "Malcolm Muggeridge, Writer, Dies
at 87". New York Times. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
^ Muggeridge Ancient And Modern, BBC
^ "No. 34853".
The London Gazette
The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 May 1940.
^ "No. 35590".
The London Gazette
The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 June 1942.
^ Thadeus Holt, The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second
World War, New York: Skyhorse Publishing Inc., 2007, p. 332.
^ Muggeridge, Ancient & Modern BBCTV
^ The Archive Hour, St Mugg, First broadcast
BBC Radio 4, 19 April
^ "Censorship Defied: An authentic reminiscence by Gabrielle
Labrunie", Chanel's War.
^ "E. H. Shepard" Archived 4 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine.,
Marian Burros (October 13, 1982). "In Defense of Vegetarianism:
Seven Yeas". The New York Times. Retrieved July 10, 2017.
^ Nigel Rees, The Quote ... Unquote Book of Love, Death and the
Universe, 1980, ISBN 0-04-827022-9
^ "Rallying for love and family life". Glasgow Herald. 12 July
^ Cleese and Palin relive the 1979 Life of Brian debate,
^ Hell's Angel, BBC, 1994
Malcolm Muggeridge Society.
^ "Welsh hero of Ukraine recognized". BBC. 18 November 2009.
^ "Pinkoes and Traitors: The
BBC and the Nation, 1974-1987", by Jean
Seaton, publisher: Profile, London, 2015, 416 pages,
^ Ben Farmer (24 February 2015). "
Malcolm Muggeridge was a serial
groper who 'caused much hurt to those close to him', niece admits".
^ Taken from How can you Bear to be Human published in the UK by
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Malcolm Muggeridge
Malcolm Muggeridge, A Third Testament, 1976, 1983, Little Brown and
Company. (Examines the lives of St. Augustine, Blaise Pascal, William
Blake, Søren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, and
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Retrieved 2011-05-29)
Something Beautiful for God:
Mother Teresa of Calcutta, By Malcolm
Muggeridge, HarperCollins, 1971 – Muggeridge introduced Mother
Teresa to the world with this book
Malcolm Muggeridge Society.
Malcolm Muggeridge by
William F. Buckley
William F. Buckley on Buckley's
Firing Line program.
Interview by Mike Wallace, 19 October 1957
Memories of Muggeridge by Ravi Zacharias
Krebs, Albin (15 November 1990). "Malcolm Muggeridge, Writer, Dies at
87". The New York Times. p. B19. Retrieved 14 April 2009.
Malcolm Muggeridge Papers, 1920–1990, Wheaton College Archives &
Special Collections .
Deputy Editor of the Daily Telegraph
James Robertson Justice
Rector of the University of Edinburgh
ISNI: 0000 0001 1023 364X
BNF: cb11917168n (data)