At the Gargoyle with Dylan Thomas and Guy Burgess

Guy Burgess

‘Philby: The Spy Who Betrayed a Generation was published before Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross were exposed as double agents by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  The book focused on the three defectors, Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, and Donald Maclean, and included an anecdote about a night Burgess spent at the Gargoyle club with the poet Dylan Thomas, 

“[Brian] Howard’s work for MI 5 was supposed to be selecting potential fascist sympathizers among his upper-class acquaintances, an assignment which he interpreted as a licence to blackmail his many enemies. Another of his night-club evenings with Guy Burgess provides perhaps as perfect a vignette of the period as one could ask for. The details are supplied by Mrs Marie-Jacqueline Lancaster, who was then working in the War Office. She found herself at a table in the Gargoyle with Burgess, Howard and Dylan Thomas.

Mrs. Lancaster was wearing leg-paint, because stockings were in short supply. Thomas, gargantuanly drunk, insisted on licking the paint off ‘in time to the music of the rather old-fashioned band the Gargoyle affected.’ When the band ended the evening with a limping version of the National Anthem, Burgess refused to stand up (not, as it happened, out of ideology but because he had lumbago and was very drunk). In an unexpected fit of patriotism Thomas, applauded by Howard, leant across the table and knocked Guy out.”

Philby The Spy Who Betrayed a Generation, Bruce Page, David Leitch and Phillip Knightley, Andre Deutsch Lts., 1968.

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