Mark Amory, who edited the pioneering volume of Evelyn Waugh’s letters that appeared in 1980, has recently announced his retirement as Literary Editor of The Spectator. He went to work there in “about 1985.” In his valedictory article announcing his departure, he recalls that in his early days he would arrive at his office only to find no one on the premises sufficiently sober to compose a magazine, but was impressed that it still managed to appear each week.
A similar situation seems to have prevailed at Amory’s retirement party, also held in The Spectator’s offices. This event was reported by Jeremy Clarke (author of the magazine’s “Low Life” column) in this week’s edition. Clarke arrived late, well primed by a few pints in the pub across the street, and worked his way drink-by-drink to the back of the room where Amory sat at a table with his two daughters. On his way, Clarke recalled earlier meetings with Amory:
At a Spectator party in Doughty Street I’d sought him out and said, ‘Was it really you who edited Evelyn Waugh’s letters?’ He said that it was. Had he met him? He had. He was friends with Auberon as a schoolboy, and he used to stay at Combe Florey in the holidays. I was inarticulate, he said, only managing the most common expletive by way of a reply. And at virtually every summer party since then, I’ve lurched or bounded up to him and said, ‘Go on, then. What was He like?’…Being a perfectly polite man, every year Mark Amory pretends to consider my inane question afresh, and every year he had said, as though suddenly struck by a very new aspect of the man, ‘He wanted you to please him; and he made you want to please him.’
Unfortunately, on this occasion Amory spotted Clarke as he lurched toward the table and made “a dash for it… shepherding his girls ahead of him, saying that he was leaving for Ireland.” Clarke concludes with a description of own journey into ever increasing stages of inebriation at other nearby venues as the caterers cleared up after Amory’s last Spectator party