Saturday, March 25, 2006

Carolyn Heilbrun

No picture of him I have seen, whether rendered by a photographer or by an artist, captures either his physical or his inner qualities. Obvious to the mere observer or the frightened student were his aristocratic way of carrying himself, suggesting arrogance, his impeccable clothes, his neat hair, his studious, exact, but never hesitant speech, his formidable intelligence. I have known history students tempted for the first time in their lives to plagiarize a paper because they could not imagine themselves writing anything that would not affront his critical eye, let alone satisfy him. This was the outer Barzun…. As one came somewhat to know the inner Barzun, nothing of the first, terrifying impression was exactly transfigured. Only now one knew that beneath that stiff exterior he was capable of kindness, attention to others, courtesy of a sort only described by the worn phrase “old-fashioned,” and consideration beyond expectation.—Carolyn G. Heilbrun, When Men Were the Only Models We Had: My Teachers Barzun, Fadiman, Trilling, 2002, pp. 116–117.