The British Library made public yesterday a 30,000-word memoir in which Anthony Blunt, one of Britain’s most renowned 20th-century art historians, and curator of the Queen's art collection, described spying for the Soviet Union, beginning in the mid-1930s, as “the biggest mistake of my life.”
The NY Times reports on the unsealing of the memoir after twenty five years. Blunt intended it as a testament to family and friends, and it was given to the British Library in 1984 by the executor of Blunt’s will, John Golding, on the condition that it be kept secret for 25 years. Frances Harris, the library’s head of modern historic manuscripts, told the BBC on Thursday that its existence was so closely guarded that even she had not read it until recently.
The memoir’s tone of regret for the price Blunt paid personally for betraying his country, coupled with the absence of any apology to those who suffered as a result of his actions, including secret agents working for Britain whose identities he passed to the Russians during World War II, contributed to harsh criticism of the document on Thursday from British historians and commentators.