Alexander Chancellor (1940-2017): Savior of The Spectator

Journalist and editor Alexander Chancellor has died at the age of 77. He is probably best known as the man who saved the Spectator. He became editor at a low point in 1975 and remained for 9 years during which the magazine recovered and prospered. According to his obituary in the Daily Telegraph by Harry Mount:

When Chancellor took over the Spectator in 1975, it was said he got the job because he was the only journalist known to the proprietor, Henry Keswick, chief of Jardine Matheson, the mighty Asian business conglomerate, and a fellow Old Etonian and Cambridge graduate. He shook up the Spectator, lending it a funny, cynical, mischievous quality. Its circulation soon began to climb.

It was Chancellor’s inspired idea to pair columns by Taki, the fast-living Greek shipping heir, and Jeff Bernard, the gloomy, vodka-loving denizen of Soho. In his High Life column, Taki fearlessly dissected the questionable mores of the billionaire jetset. In Low Life, Bernard analysed the drink-fuelled, disaster-filled saga of his bohemian life with mordant wit. Chancellor also signed up his old friends, Auberon Waugh and Ferdinand Mount (my father), to inject a political, literary and satirical touch. With the cartoons of Nick Garland and Michael Heath, the magazine became a must-read from the mid-1970s onwards.

Evelyn Waugh was an admirer of the Spectator throughout his career. According to Donat Gallagher (Essays, Articles and Reviews, pp. 111-12):

Waugh summed up his attitude towards journalism and money…”Either one writes to be read by intelligent people…or for money.”…  In most circumstances Waugh would write entertainingly for a high fee. He would write seriously for no fee (e.g. for the Tablet) or for a small fee (e.g. for the Spectator).

Alexander Chancellor was related to the Waugh family by marriage. His daughter Eliza is the wife of Alexander Waugh, an Honorary Vice President of the Society. See earlier post.

Chancellor was still actively at work as a journalist when he died. He was editor of the Oldie and writing the “Long Life” column for the Spectator where his final article (about Donald Trump) was published last month: “Donald the Elephant’s days are numbered.”

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