Sunday 26 May 1996
Neal Ascherson writes: Laurence was the acknowledged master, the Vermeer, of the Sunday newspaper profile. With silent alacrity, often at a couple of days' notice or even less, he would deliver the portrait of a human being to which the career, the skill, the current episode which made his subject famous or notorious, formed a rich background. Not all of his subjects liked what he found in them. Most, all the same, were amazed at how accurate his sense of character was after so brief an encounter.
He wrote fastidiously, often beautifully. He never ranted or mocked; that was not in the style of this courteous, self-effacing man. But his sky-blue eyes, his long silent gazes, could intimidate. In a Laurence profile, there was never any doubt whether he approved or disapproved of his target, although he never spelt his feelings out.
Most of his profiles, in his Observer years, were anonymous. This allowed him to lift the whole genre onto a higher level. Profiles ceased to be pseudo-factual, with a few forecasts about the subject thrown in. Laurence raised them to literature, a family of biographical miniatures which did not conceal the personal taste and art which had gone into their composition. After the eclipse of the great Times leader-writers, Laurence became the most influential of all nameless journalists, his identity known to only a handful of people. When he worked for this newspaper, he agreed, reluctantly, to write under his own name. The authority of his profiles did not diminish at all.
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Power of Nepal earthquake was equivalent to 20 huge atomic bombs
Nepal earthquake video: Terrifying footage shows moment avalanche hit Everest Base Camp
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...
£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...
£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...