When Tom Driberg died in August 1976, the Times ran an obituary which, as people used to say, broke with convention. The deceased, bleated the former Thunderer, had been: 'A journalist, an intellectual, a drinking man, a gossip, a high churchman, a liturgist, a homosexual ...' There was nothing precisely objectionable about this. Tom had, after all, been indubitably the most consecrated blow-job artist ever to take his seat in either House. But the Times had never before described a public figure as a homosexual, let alone defined him as one, let alone in an obituary. William Rees-Mogg had, apparently, decided that anything less would be anodyne. This same Mogg has written elsewhere of a psychic and political link between Maynard Keynes the homosexual and Keynes the promiscuous debaucher of the currency, tying this in turn to the homosexual propensity for treason, so his appalling frankness in the case of a known political and moral outsider was of a piece with his general tendency to ethical invigilation. With Tom safely below ground, others have crept forward to say that he was a shady player in the espionage milieu, thus rounding out the picture that Mogg had begun to sketch.
LRB 10 May 1990 | PDF Download