Robert Chesshyre

The Man Who Listened

The Anatomist: The Autobiography of Anthony Sampson

By

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Anthony Sampson was a rare journalist in that he left an indelible mark on the profession. He created a genre of writing that both made his name and spawned many imitators. In an era when reporters were admitted, if at all, via the tradesman’s entrance, Sampson (Westminster and Christ Church) was carriage trade: he entered by the front door and interviewed on terms of equality. How, his well-breeched victims wondered, could this cultured and self-effacing gent be anything other than ‘one of us’? And Sampson listened. Head on one side, hand supporting his chin, he was a sympathetic audience. While many journalists enjoy nothing more than the sound of their own voices, Sampson’s attentive silence invited indiscretion. People talked. When interviewing the great and the good for The Anatomy of Britain, he often didn’t even produce a notebook, never mind a tape recorder. His style – sustained in these posthumous memoirs – was to be unthreatening.

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