Every Time A Gay Cipher In A John Le Carré Novel Indirectly Accuses A Colleague Of Being A Gay Cipher

I won’t put this exactly right, but as far as I can remember Grace put it something like this: British spy stories, from Le Carré to Another Country to The Prisoner, is mostly about how being gay and aristocratic turns England’s sons against her. Gay men have to be spies, because they’re tapped early on by a quiet homosexuality-detecting government department and pressed into service, where they begin to blackmail one another out of fear of being blackmailed themselves, and thus Smiley’s Circus is mostly a collection of genteelly-closeted gentlemen all fanatically suspicious of one another’s closetedness. And it is true that Le Carré has more ways of gently raising the possibility of you-know, pound for pound, than most of his contemporaries:

“D’Arcy’s judgements of people and problems were largely coloured by what he considered “seemly” (a favourite word) and by an effeminate malice towards his colleagues. After a while Fielding asked who was replacing Rode during his absence, to which D’Arcy said, “No one,” and added unctuously: “It was a terrible shock to the community, this affair.”

Two points each for “effeminate,” “malice,” and “unctuous,” an automatic three-pointer on the preoccupation with seemliness, and a bonus point for a dramatic announcement on behalf of the entire community and their terrible shock.

Smiley’s glass was empty and D’Arcy, without consulting Fielding, filled it for him from the decanter. His hands were polished and hairless, like the hands of a girl. “But,” he continued, “I must be honest. Mrs. Rode did not adapt herself so willingly to our ways.” Still smiling, he sipped delicately from his glass.

Excuse me while I subtly undermine our host’s authority through sinister, womanish means, with my sinister, womanish hands and my sinister, womanish manner of drinking sherry!!!!

“Of course Saint Antony’s is redbrick; it makes no difference there’s a little bit of sandstone in the same street, even if he was your protégé. I expect he’s Bill Haydon’s now—don’t tip him, it’s my party, not yours. Father to them all, Bill is—always was. Draws them like bees. Well, he has the glamour, hasn’t he; not like some of us. Star quality I call it, one of the few. I’m told the women literally bow down before him, if that’s what women do.”

Whatever it is women do — I’m not sure — there’s a report on my desk if you care to try to puzzle it out for yourself.

“Sheer lack of will-power,” he told himself as he courteously declined the suggestions of a lady in a doorway. “One calls it politeness, whereas in fact it is nothing but weakness. You featherhead, Martindale. You pompous, bogus, effeminate, nonproductive—” He stepped widely to avoid an unseen obstacle.


“Here’s Bill,” said Lauder, very pleased to have his prognostication so promptly confirmed. In a strip of light, as he entered it, Guillam noticed the queer colour of Haydon’s cheeks. A blushing red, daubed high on the bones, but deep, made up of tiny broken veins. It gave him, thought Guillam in his heightened state of nervousness, a slightly Dorian Gray look.

Under great levels of stress, gay spies sometimes develop natural blush-points; in extreme conditions, their eyelashes might even grow in double-rows.

Bill in turn was also very little by himself: that while his admirers (Bland, Prideaux, Alleline, Esterhase, and all the rest of the supporters’ club) might find in him completeness, Bill’s real trick was to use them, to live through them to complete himself, here a piece, there a piece, from their passive identities, thus disguising the fact that he was less, far less, than the sum of his apparent qualities...and finally submerging this dependence beneath an artist’s arrogance, calling them the creatures of his mind...

Is he, you know — always using his little club of admirers to live through, consume, and then discard in turn, developing a maddening attitude of private superiority and condescension but unable to form normal, satisfying personal connections, always desperate to mask a certain undeniable insufficiency?

Smiley shrugged it all aside, distrustful as ever of the standard shapes of human motive. He settled instead for a picture of one of those wooden Russian dolls that open up, revealing one person inside the other, and another inside him. Of all men living, only Karla had seen the last little doll inside Bill Haydon.

Only the Soviets know how gay any of us really are.

“Subject! I’m afraid we don’t have subjects here. None of us has read a word on any subject since we left university.” He lowered his voice and added darkly, “That’s if we went to university. D’Arcy teaches French. D’Arcy is Senior Tutor by election, bachelor by profession, sublimated pansy by inclination…and his subject is other people’s shortcomings. He is principally, however, self-appointed major-domo of Carne protocol. If you wear a gown on a bicycle, reply incorrectly to an invitation, make a fault in the placement of your dinner guests or speak of a colleague as ‘Mister,’ D’Arcy will find you out and admonish you.”

What a bitch!!!!

“Fielding’s giving another dinner party tonight.”

“He’s pushing the boat out these days,” Caley replied, with disapproval.

“Suppose the food in your house is worse than ever?”

“It’s his last Half before he retires. He’s entertaining every don and all the wives separately by the end of the Half. Black candles every evening. For mourning. Hells extravagant.”

“Yes. I suppose it’s a sort of gesture.”

“My Pater says he’s a queer.”

Occasionally one of them just comes right out and says it. Very jarring.

Her husband was tall and thin, with an agreeable stoop. He held his sherry glass between straight, slender fingers as if it were a chemical retort and when he spoke he seemed to address the sherry rather than his listener.

“I’m sorry, I was speaking to the sherry.”

“It was during the war,” said Smiley. “His brother told me. Up in the North. It was hushed up, wasn’t it?”

Rigby nodded. “So far as I heard, only the D’Arcys knew; and the Master, of course. It happened in the holidays—some Air Force boy. The Chief was very helpful…”

Very…ellipses….you know. He was…up North…his brother heard…of course, it did happen. Luckily…understanding…count on…Chief…

He has squared his legs and pushed out his rump like somebody about to play a croquet shot, and there is a tilt to his haunches that, by nature or intent, suggests a certain femininity.

Well all right then, John!!

In the afternoon, Corkoran took Jonathan on a grand shopping spree in Freetown. Corkoran was in an erratic mood. Several times he paused to refresh himself at nasty little bars, while Jonathan drank Coke. Everyone seemed to know Corkoran, some people a little too well. Frisky trailed them at a distance. They bought three very expensive Italian business suits—trousers to be adjusted by yesterday, please, Clive, darling, or the Chief will be furious—then half a dozen town shirts, socks and ties to match, shoes and belts, a lightweight navy raincoat, underclothes, linen handkerchiefs, pajamas and a fine leather sponge bag with an electric razor and a pair of handsome hairbrushes with silver T’s: “My friend won’t accept anything that isn’t done to a T—will you, heart?”

Me? I’m straight for noticing the provenance and make of all these luxurious little appurtenances, but him? He’s gay for noticing the provenance and make of all these luxurious little appurtenances.

The same affected detachment, the same donnish conceits; the same horror of draughts; courteous according to a formula miles removed from Leamas’ experience. The same milk-and-water smile, the same elaborate diffidence, the same apologetic adherence to a code of behaviour which he pretended to find ridiculous.

There's only two kinds of guys who pretend to find their own codes of behavior ridiculous: gay guys and big fat party animals. And this guy doesn’t look like a party animal to me!

Tall, with rather curly brown hair, orange tie, and pale green shirt; a little bit petulant, a little bit of a pansy, thought Leamas. Could be a schoolmaster, ex–LSE and runs a suburban drama club. Weak-eyed.

Gay, but probably not gayer than everyone else I already know.

Would he keep his best card to the end and sell it dear? Peters didn’t think so; Leamas was too much off balance to monkey about. He was a man at odds with himself, a man who knew one life, one confession, and had betrayed them. Peters had seen it before. He had seen it, even in men who had undergone a complete ideological rehearsal, who in the secret hours of the night had found a new creed, and alone, compelled by the internal power of their convictions, had betrayed their calling, their families, their countries.

Maybe it was a mistake, exclusively peopling the intelligent apparatus of the state with self-loathing closet cases who long to betray the state….No. The constant agitation keeps everyone in line.

Martindale’s tongue poked out its head again, reconnoitred and withdrew, leaving a thin smile like a trail. “I’m told that you and Bill shared everything once upon a time,” he said. “Still, he never was orthodox, was he? Genius never is.”

I know you are, of course, always have; you never fooled me for a minute. But your gayness was just a copy of someone else’s better, finer, more aristocratic gayness. You knew that, of course? I’d hate to imagine you thought you were in the same class of traitorous homosexual as Bill Haydon. Never came near him, you. There was a queer you’d hope to get sold out by. Sleep well, darling.

From Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, The Night Manager, and A Murder Of Quality.

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