Notebook

Lees had left school at fourteen and was one of a small group of former miners supported by the Miners’ Welfare Fund. Baldish and spectacled, he was a member of the Independent Labour Party. Burgess later admitted that Lees “taught him a lot and troubled his conscience.” Lees would tell Burgess despairingly that he would “get a First because your energies are not exhausted by life, because of the class-prejudice of the examiners, and because you got here easily and aren’t frightened by it. I shall do ten times as much work as you – and get a good Second.”

Burgess accepted that although Lees knew far more history than he did, that was the likely scenario. “He was interested in truth, I in brilliance. I made epigrams: he got the right answers.” Lees proved right. Whilst he managed a Second, Burgess in his first-year college exams was awarded a First — the only one of the thirteen Trinity historians in his year to do so.

Andrew Lownie, “Stalin’s Englishman: The Lives of Guy Burgess”.

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