'St. Mugg's' resurrection: 'Laughter is God's therapy'


The Joyful Noiseletter was honored to have as one of its consulting editors, when it first started publishing, that very Christ-like English journalist/humorist/satirist Malcolm Muggeridge.

'St. Mugg,' as Muggeridge had come to be known by both his admirers and his detractors, had agreed in 1987, in his generosity o heart, to be a consulting editor to JN.

His last book, before he died in 1990 at the age of 87, was one of the bestselling items in the JN catalog. In it, Muggeridge wrote that "there is close connection between clowns and mystics: hence, too, the juxtaposition on the great medieval cathedrals of steeples reaching up into the Cloud of Unknowing, and gargoyles grinning down at our dear earth and all its foolishness.

"Laughter, indeed, is God's therapy; He planted the steeples and the gargoyles, gave us clowns as well as saints, in order that we might understand that at the heart of our mortal existence there lies a mystery, at once unutterably beautiful and hilariously funny."

The journalist as humorist

In the 1950s, Muggeridge served as editor of the very old and famous weekly British humor magazine, Punch, which had a circulation of 184,000. In Confessions, he describes his long pilgrimage from devout atheist, when he struggled with depression and despair, to devout believer.

When he was the editor of Punch (founded in 1843 with Charles Dickens as one of its contributors, and the first publication to use cartoons), Muggeridge wrote: "Life, as I discovered, holds no more wretched occupation than trying to make the English laugh."

In the early 1930's, Muggeridge, then a committed Marxist, went to Moscow as correspondent for the Manchester Guardian. With great courage, he wrote critically about the Soviet Union and became a forceful anti-communist.

On Marx & Freud

He later wrote: "Marx and Freud are the two great destroyers of civilization, the first replacing the Gospel of love by the gospel of hate, the other undermining the essential concept of human responsibility."

Muggeridge lived to see the collapse of the Communist empire.

Muggeridge became a widely known television personality, but power, fame, money, and all the other things that men and women chase after became increasingly meaningless to him.

An agnostic most of his life, he became a Protestant Christian.

Muggeridge was not a timid soul. He poked fun at Communism, Fascism, Nazism, greedy millionaires, Freudian psychoanalysis, pop psychology, pornographers, television, the news media, among other things. He campaigned against Britain's permissive, materialistic society.

"We have now educated ourselves into a state of complete imbecility," he wrote.

He was unsparing of his own profession, journalism. "Future historians," he wrote, "will surely see us as having created in the media a Frankenstein monster whom no one knows how to control or direct, and marvel that we should have so meekly subjected ourselves to its destructive and often malign influence."

Mother Teresa of Calcutta had a powerful influence on Muggeridge. His book about her work, Something Beautiful for God, introduced Mother Teresa to the West. In 1982, at age 79, Muggeridge was received into the Catholic Church.

In Confessions, Muggeridge asks: "What, then, is a conversion?" and responds: "The question is like asking, 'What is falling in love?'"

He ended his Confessions as follows: "Some eight decades ago, I came into the world, full of cries and wind and hiccups; now I prepare to leave it, also full of cries and wind and hiccups. I live just for each day, knowing my life will soon be over, know that – Christ lives!"

Muggeridge declared: "I can say that I never knew what joy was like until I gave up pursuing happiness or cared to live until I chose to die. For those two discoveries, I am beholden to Jesus."

We miss you, St. Mugg.

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