September 19, 2014
Literary Editor Mark Amory retires from The Spectator, but will he be replaced? (UPDATE: He has been replaced.)
by Zeljka Marosevic
UPDATE: Sam Leith has just been named literary editor of The Spectator.
Mark Amory, the literary editor of The Spectator magazine, has announced his retirement. In a farewell letter printed in the paper this week, he admits: “I used to claim that I had been literary editor of The Spectator for over 25 years; now I say almost 30. The trouble is I am not quite sure and it is curiously difficult to find out.” In any case, he is surely one of the longest-serving literary editors in the country today.
Amory uses his piece to reflect back on his time at the paper, and summons up what now seems a romantic image of old-fashioned journalism. He remembers going into the office in the early Eighties: “I wrote theatre reviews and one late afternoon went round to Doughty Street, where The Spectator then was. I could find no one sober in the building. How did it manage to come out so promptly each week?”
There are also stories of famous figures such as Kingsley Amis who during the paper’s Thursday lunches “used to wave a fork in the air to convey that he still had the floor” when the cook dared to interrupt his stories, and Margaret Thatcher’s presence at the magazine’s summer party. But trouble struck later on in his career:
One day we were told that we had made a profit. ‘Very bad news,’ said the ancient librarian. ‘They’ll expect us to do it always now.’ Auberon Waugh did not welcome success either. His view was that ‘There are only nineteen thousand agreeable people in Britain and they all read The Spectator already.’
Amory himself appears to have remained very agreeable, despite the odd devious poet among the office’s ranks:
There was an excellent deaf poet who used to come into my room and simply make off with something he fancied. Perhaps genuinely unaware of my cries of protest, he would slip through the door without turning round and make his getaway.
For his final issue, Amory has brought together all the former literary editors of the magazine to contribute to the books pages, including Karl Miller, Hilary Spurling and A.N. Wilson. But The Spectator remains cagey about whether there will be any future literary editors, with a spokesperson telling The Bookseller that a replacement would “probably” be appointed.
Amory commandeered one of the best book sections in existence today: eight pages of long, intelligent reviews, plus a featured poem. He was also that rare thing: a literary editor who reads your emails, and, practically unheard of, replies to them. I’ll be very sad to see him go. Amory again:
I have always hated people who say that it has been a privilege to be allowed do their job and am not keen on those who remember how much they used to laugh, but it has been and we did. I wouldn’t have stayed so long if I didn’t like it, would I?
Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.