Guy Burgess at the BBC | The early career of the Cambridge spy
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J. Burnaby, M.A.
10th August 1936
Dear St John,
Guy Burgess is an exceptionally able young man, with perhaps the liveliest mind I
have known in any of my pupils for five years. After a period of enthusiastic
communism during his last years here, he has now I believe arrived at some form of
left wing conservatism; but how long that will last I should be sorry to predict.
Since he went down he has been doing a good deal of free lance journalism, and had
a temporary post with The Times. I think journalism is his first love, and that
what he really likes is the varied and exciting life of knocking up and down
behind the scenes of politics. He is very good company, and I like him personally.
But there is no doubt that he has the faults of a nervy and 'mercurial' temperament,
and if by 'taking him without qualms' you mean taking him with complete confidence
in his reliability - well, he is not that sort of man. I do not mean that he is
untrustworthy in the sense that you could not be sure of his doing what he was told.
But if you take him, you will be getting quite first class and extremely fertile
brains, and a most vigorous personality; and you will be taking risks. On the whole
I think that if I were in your place I should think it worth while to take them.
[Signed] J. Burnaby
[handwritten note] I think we need not worry any more about this now
[handwritten note] C(A) Thank you
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Document Type | Letter
10 August 1936
Guy Burgess' personal tutor presents an insightful analysis of the young man's character, abilities and potential as a future BBC employee. It is interesting to see how much of what he says is borne out by other documents in this collection.
After serving as a tutor until 1938, Burnaby became a college lecturer in theology. Later, he was renowned as an expert on Saint Augustine and rose to become Regius Professor of Divinity at Trinity College. He was ordained in 1941 and listed acting, rock-climbing and reading Russian among his hobbies.
The relative merits of three Cambridge graduates are assessed by the university.
A Cambridge don provides a reference for Guy Burgess
An astute assessment of Burgess' strengths and weaknesses by his Cambridge University tutor.
Burgess is pursued for a photograph by an exasperated BBC administrator.
Burgess, as a BBC producer, advises Blunt about speaking on the radio
Burgess recounts his conversation with a mistrustful Churchill.
Burgess fails to clear his desk when he leaves the BBC.
Burgess forgets to sign his BBC staff contract and is unhappy with the salary offered.
The case of the locked door.
A concerned Director of Talks reports on his handling of Burgess and the locked door incident.
Burgess gives his version of events in the case of the locked door.
Burgess insists on travelling first class and claims for visiting the House of Commons.
A revealing insight into Burgess' working day from an exasperated administrator.
Alarm is expressed at Burgess' profligate use of BBC funds for entertaining MPs.
'MPs are expensive to entertain.'
Burgess' case for travelling first class is disputed.
Burgess persists with his claim for first-class travel.
His country needs him: Burgess is required for essential war work.
The head of the Talks Department is reluctant to let Burgess go.
Guy Burgess plans to leave the BBC to join the Foreign Office.
The manner and timing of Burgess' departure from the BBC causes concern.
A summary of Burgess' strengths, weaknesses and suitability for re-employment.
The BBC may have uncovered a clue to Burgess' recent movements.
The BBC and the Foreign Office are called to account for employing Burgess.
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