Memoirs of a British Agent.

By R H Bruce Lochart

Printed: 2003

Publisher: THe Folio Society. London

Dimensions 17 × 25 × 4 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 17 x 25 x 4

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In a fitted box. Navy cloth spine with gilt title. Yellow patterned boards with photographs on the front board.

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As new, this is a book to treasure and keep

When first published in 1932, this memoir was an immediate classic, both as a unique eyewitness account of Revolutionary Russia and as one-mans story of struggle, and tragedy set against the background of great events. Aged 25, Lockhart became the British Vice-Consul to Moscow in 1912. With revolution in the air, it was dangerous, decadent posting. The ‘Boy Ambassador’ became an eyewitness to pivotal events and in 1918 was charged with establishing a diplomatic understanding with the Bolsheviks, to ensure that Russia remained in the war against Germany. It was a precarious mission: Whitehall could not be seen support revolutionaries; Lockhart grew wary of his master’s secret machinations; while Lenin and Trotsky’s cordial relations with the British agent never quite dispelled their mistrust of the nation he represented. When Lockhart met Moura Budberg, who became the great love of his life, he was in an increasingly vulnerable position. In September 1918 he would be falsely accused of a counter-revolutionary plot to overthrow the Bolsheviks and sent to the Lubyanka. His account even inspired a Hollywood movie. From his evocative descriptions of revolutionary Moscow, where the champagne flowed as the bourgeoisie trembled, to his audiences with Trotsky and his brushes with death, this is a vivid, unique memoir.


The author came once and addressed this reviewer’s school, of which he was a former inmate. He described himself to us as “a rolling stone who has gathered some moss”.

The descriptions of the author’s young life with the rubber planters in Malaya are fun, but the really fascinating chapters are towards the end of the book, when he describes his many meetings with Trostky and Lenin and other leaders of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia towards the end of the First World War, and his failed attempts to dissuade the Western Allies from intervening to try and defeat the nascent revolution. Then being accused, falsely, by Bolshevik elements of being behind the assassination attempt on Lenin, resulting in his imprisonment in the Lubyanka and the Kremlin before being released in a spy swap, as Lenin recovered from his serious injuries.

Some of the middle parts of the book can be a bit tedious, as we are introduced to one Russian after another, but the gripping final chapters fully reward perseverance. The author’s son provides a useful forward, which casts light on all the many activities that his father was involved in during the rest of his unusually eventual life.

This is much more than a spy novel. It is a history book related by someone who was there, on the spot. The first world war, the role of Russia, the Bolshevik revolution, are all here. I was enthralled reading it. The sheer number of foreigners and foreign delegations in Moscow and St. Petersburg surprised me. What times! It gives a picture of how history can be shaped by small events and how important is the role of these in situ. Truly fascinating.

This is the story of Bruce Lockhart the British consular official and representative in Russia just before the overthrown of the Czar and during the early years of Lenin. The first chapters give a picture of Lockhart in his early years in Britain and Europe and when he was in Malaya. They are essential to understand the character of the man. The pace changes dramatically as he recounts his days in Russia, especially in Moscow. He was , in my opinion, an excellent writer and also a fine human being so that he tends to look at nearly everyone through their good points rather than their bad ones. What does come out is that the left hand of the Public Service, the Military and the Politicians had often little idea what the right hand was doing. It is a great read ,especially for anyone trying to understand Sidney Reilly .

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