Crook, who spent almost his whole life working for the Times Literary
Supplement, and was editor for his final 15 years there, died on 15
July, aged 93.
At the age of 14, his father, a Times linotype
mechanic, got Arthur a job as a messenger on the paper. Before long his
abilities were being noticed, and he was transferred to the library,
where he was known as a voracious reader. When he was 18, he became a
clerk on the Literary Supplement, where Bruce Richmond had been the
editor since 1902 (and would remain so until 1937).
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young Arthur soon knew everything there was to know about the
personnel, practices and policies of both The Times and the TLS.
war gave him his opening. After a spell in the RAF, he came back to
Printing House Square in 1941, and was promoted to editorial assistant
by the paper’s second editor, DL Murray. The TLS staff all hurried home
every day as early as they could for fear of air raids, and Arthur was
left to do the firewatching, sleep on the premises, and in the end
virtually to edit and bring out the whole paper.
Arthur became an indispensable member of the TLS under the first two post-war editors, Stanley Morison and Alan Pryce-Jones.
was especially indebted to him, since he was always going abroad at
short notice and leaving Arthur, by now his deputy, to pick up the
Pryce-Jones widened the scope of the paper brilliantly –
but it was said that he once was unable to find the way to Printing
House Square. He was determined that Arthur should succeed him as
editor, and although many powerful literati were scheming for the job,
he got his way. Arthur was appointed editor of the TLS in 1959.
was an outstanding editor. He knew how to delegate, and at the same
time quietly steer things the way he wanted them to go. He brought in
many young writers, such as Martin Amis and Piers Paul Read, and helped
to set them on their way.
Arthur became friends with innumerable
reviewers, including many great scholars, yet he never allowed them to
puff their friends or harm their enemies.
controversy and wit in his pages, presiding over battles between
literary figures such as R Leavis and CP Snow, and political writers
such as EH Carr and Isaiah Berlin.
Once when Noel Annan was
threatening to sue the paper for libel, he went to the Swiss Cottage
pool where Annan swam every morning, bobbed up with him, and as they
dried themselves persuaded Annan to withdraw his action.
the Astor regime gave way to the Thomson regime at The Times, Arthur
found himself under pressure to give up the principle of anonymity for
reviewers, which he stoutly defended.
However, it was probably a
factor in the TLS appointing a new editor, John Gross, in 1974, three
years before Arthur was due to have retired.
He remained bitter
about this, but had many years of happy retirement living in Primrose
Hill with Juliet Wrightson, whom he married when he was 90.
Derwent May, feature writer, The Times