Robert Silvers, a Founding Editor of New York Review of Books, Dies at 87

He arrived at the office early and left late, if at all, to the kind of heavyweight cocktail party that was, for him, a happy hunting ground for writers and ideas. For many years, his companion was Grace, the Countess of Dudley, with whom he shared a passion for opera and a vacation home in Lausanne, Switzerland. She died in December. Mr. Silvers is survived by nieces and nephews.

His myriad enthusiasms found their way into a publication that was edited for an audience of one. When asked to describe readers, he once said, “I really don’t know too much about them.”

He was happiest surrounded by stacks of manuscripts by the writers he pursued with flattery and guile; in one typical instance, he drafted Jonathan Miller to write about John Updike’s novel “The Centaur” for the first issue of The Review by waylaying him after a performance of “Beyond the Fringe” on Broadway. He would inundate them with newspaper clippings, afterthoughts, helpful notes and suggestions for further reading as they toiled over their assignments.

It was routine for him to hunt down contributors on their vacations. The Christmas-morning phone call was not unknown.

Most writers regarded him with admiration verging on awe.

“He was one of those rare editors who is also one’s ideal reader,” Ian Buruma, a marquee writer for The Review since 1985, said in a phone interview for this obituary in 2011. “He was not only sympathetic, but you knew that he would get it, and not try to rewrite because he really wanted to be a writer. He was unusual in being interested in so many things, in a profound way — a polymath who knew a tremendous amount about many subjects.”

Robert Benjamin Silvers was born on Dec. 31, 1929, in Mineola, N.Y., a village on Long Island. His father, James, was a businessman who left Manhattan to live the rural life. His mother, the former Rose Roden, was the music critic for…

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