Malcolm Muggeridge, 87, the British journalist, author and social critic whose pungent and irreverent commentaries and observations made him a media celebrity, died yesterday at a nursing home in Sussex, England. He suffered a stroke about three months ago.
Mr. Muggeridge was a gifted and prolific writer, a television panelist and the author of a two-volume autobiography called "Chronicles of Wasted Time," which was his most widely acclaimed publication. For four years in the mid-1950s, he was editor-in-chief of the British satirical magazine Punch.
He was known for a caustic and lively wit and a readiness to debunk most of Britain's most cherished institutions, ranging from the royal family, whose activities he compared to a "soap opera," to Winston Churchill, whom he called "a disaster -- he failed to notice the British Empire was over."
During World War II, he was a spy in what then was the Portugese East African city of Lourenco Marques, now Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. At other periods in his career he was a news correspondent in Moscow and Washington, a school teacher and a writer for newspapers in Britain, Egypt and India. The advantages of being a journalist, he once said, included the opportunity "for contact with the eminent without being under the necessity to admire them or take them seriously."
In fact, there was little that Mr. Muggeridge did take seriously. "There is nothing serious under the sun except love: of fellow mortals and of God," he once said.
As a young man and through mid-life, Mr. Muggeridge struggled with religion and theology. He was author of a 1969 book, "Jesus Rediscovered," in which he described his spiritual journey toward embrace of the Christian faith. The book drew mixed reviews, and not all critics were convinced of its sincerity.
His son, John Muggeridge, a Canadian scholar and author, wrote in the Toronto Globe and Mail that for his father, "committing himself to Christ was a way of dramatizing the role of social critic: guerrilla theology. We need men like Muggeridge to puncture our complacency."
At the age of 80, Mr. Muggeridge left the Anglican Church and converted to Roman Catholicism, a decision he described as "picking up the lost threads of life." His inspiration, he said, was Mother Theresa.
Born in the London suburb of Croydon, Mr. Muggeridge studied at Selwyn College of Cambridge University, where he received a degree in 1923. While there he met his future wife, Katherine Dobbs, the niece of the celebrated Beatrice and Sidney Webb, two of the founders of the Fabian socialist movement.
Mr. Muggeridge later wrote that taking the Fabians seriously was one of the great blunders of the 20th century. "Plans so conceived for perfecting human existence, when they are put into effect, invariably result in making it even more unsatisfactory than it was before," he wrote.
As a young man he was a teacher in Egypt and India, then joined the staff of the Manchester Guardian, which in 1932 assigned him as its Moscow correspondent. A committed Marxist, Mr. Muggeridge soon became disillusioned with communism. He left the Soviet Union a year later and thereafter never "had the faintest expectation that in earthly terms anything could be salvaged."
Later he was an editor in India, a writer for the "Londoner's Diary" in Lord Beaverbrook's Evening Standard, and a book reviewer for the Daily Telegraph. He also wrote books on British history of the 1930s.
After his World War II service, Mr. Muggeridge was Washington correspondent for the Daily Telegraph in 1946 and 1947 and its deputy editor in London from 1950 to 1952.
He became a freelance journalist after stepping down as editor of Punch in 1957, and he was widely known as a frequent television panelist.
He displayed a healthy contempt for popular culture. The fictional British spy, James Bond, for example, was nothing more than author Ian Fleming's "glamorized view of himself," in Mr. Muggeridge's view.
"The truth is, of course, that best-sellers are born of hopeless yearnings, not fulfillment. Fleming's squalid aspirations and dream fantasies happen to coincide with a whole generation's. He touched a nerve.
"The inglorious appetite for speed at the touch of a foot on an accelerator and for sex at the touch of a hand on the flesh found expression in his books. We live in the Century of the Common Bond, and Fleming created him."
In addition to his wife, whom he married in 1927, Mr. Muggeridge is survived by three children and nine grandchildren.
DAVID de LIMA
ABC News Researcher
David de Lima, 31, a former researcher and unit manager here for ABC News, died Nov. 9 at his home in Washington of complications due to AIDS.
He had worked for the television network for about 10 years and in recent years was business manager for a musical group, Julia & Co.
Mr. de Lima was a native of Chappaqua, N.Y., who moved to Washington as a teenager to attend Georgetown Preparatory School.
As business manager for Julia & Co., he helped organize a number of benefit concerts for organizations such as the Names Project and the Child Welfare League of America.
Mr. de Lima is survived by his companion, Craig Brownstein of Washington, and a brother, Edward de Lima of Greenwood Lake, N.Y.
DELONE NORWOOD BOYER
Delone Norwood Boyer, 52, manager of the Raleighs clothing store at Springfield Mall, died of respiratory failure Nov. 6 at George Washington University Hospital. He had AIDS.
Mr. Boyer, a resident of Washington, was born in Kittanning, Pa. He served in the Army from 1961 to 1967, and he was stationed in Ethiopia for part of that time.
He was a partner in Moesta & Son Inc., a clothing business in Kittanning, before moving to Washington in the early 1970s and joining the staff of Raleighs at Springfield Mall.
Mr. Boyer was a Mason.
His marriage to Jean Boyer ended in divorce.
He leaves no immediate survivors.
JOHN D. EDGERTON
John D. Edgerton, 71, a retired head of the legal department at the Army's Harry Diamond Laboratories, died of cardiac arrest Nov. 13 at George Washington University Hospital. He was stricken while attending a meeting of the Harvard Club of Washington at the National Press Club.
Mr. Edgerton, a resident of Washington, was born in Ithaca, N.Y., and he moved here as a boy. He attended Harvard and Cornell and received a law degree from George Washington University.
In 1948, he joined the staff of the Federal Communications Commission as a lawyer. About 1950, he went to work at the Harry Diamond Laboratories as a technical writer. He later became a patent lawyer, and he was chief of the legal office when he retired in 1970.
Mr. Edgerton was a member of All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, where he was a trustee and an usher, and the Sufi Order in the West, a religious organization. He also was a volunteer at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of Natural History and the Library of Congress, where he recorded books for the blind.
His marriage to Mildred Edgerton ended in divorce.
He leaves no immediate survivors.