Saturday, December 30, 2006

Boritt and Tibbetts

While waiting for the ball to drop to initiate the year in which Jacques Barzun celebrates his 100th birthday, enjoy audio and visual treats from two men who have been influenced by him:

Gabor Boritt, Budapest to Gettysburg, a film by Jake Boritt

John C. Tibbetts, The World of Robert Schumann


Friday, December 29, 2006

Louise Varèse Papers

are in the Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College

finding aid

JB praised LV's translations of Rimbaud. EV and HMB were friends. LV has a paragraph on JB in her Looking-Glass Diary.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Toledano and Smith

Thank you for Tom Vinciguerra ’85’s fine tribute to Jacques Barzun ’27 [January], his contributions to scholarship and his academic and intellectual achievements.

I would have added only a greater recognition of his greatness as a teacher in a university that has across many decades been distinguished for its faculty. Of my years at Columbia, I can hold in esteem and look back with nostalgia at professors such as Raymond Weaver (Class of 1910) and Irwin Edman ’16. But what has lived most glowingly with me has been the impact of the honors course, Senior Colloquium, presided over by Barzun and Lionel Trilling ’25.

For Barzun, teaching itself was a discipline, unbuttoning the denotations and connotations of the literature, philosophy and history of the great works that we discussed. As a teacher and an individual, Barzun carried with him an abiding wit (his books and articles are full of it), a love of the pun, an interest in writers as diverse as the 18th century’s Restif de la Bretonne and the 20th’s Raymond Chandler, a disdain for false scholarship and a zest for the precise life of the mind. Teacher in my undergraduate days and since then friend, he was what generations of his students have acknowledged: in lumine tuo videbimus lumen.

Ralph de Toledano ’38
Washington, D.C.

In the profile of Jacques Barzun ’27, the author cites Edward Rothstein’s characterization of cultural history as not just “tracing a philosophical idea through time, but seeing how that idea is woven into a cultural fabric.” That is true enough, but it fails to highlight the revolution involved. The cultural history Barzun championed and taught for so long owed its origin to historian GM Trevelyan, who at the turn of the last century challenged the prevailing idea that history must be confined to the record of nations and empires, parliaments and congresses, diplomacy and way. He insisted, instead, that history should become the narrative of what people ate and drank, the homes they lived in, the cities they built, the arts they created, the books they read, the entertainments and recreations they engaged in, the beliefs they lived by, the scientific discoveries they made — in short, the entire gamut of human experience, the substance of culture and civilization. Barzun was a master of this approach; witness his course “The Nineteenth Century.”

John E. Smith ’42
Clark Professor Emeritus of
Philosophy, Yale
Hamden, Conn.

Letters to the Editor, Columbia College Today, May/June 2006


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Rafe Champion

Rafe Champion, Review-Essay on Jacques Barzun

See also Rafe Champion, Jacques Barzun.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Treva Kelly

I have been informed that Treva Kelly died in November.

Of Treva Kelly, Jacques Barzun wrote in From Dawn to Decadence:

For turning the entire book into type several times and finally on to disk, I am indebted to the skill, accuracy, and intelligence of Treva Kelly.

In an interview, Mr. Barzun told the Austin Chronicle:

AC: Tell me about writing From Dawn to Decadence.

JB: I began thinking about this monster around about 1935. And I started it after retiring from Scribners. As usual I made a lot of plans, about scope, organization, features, what to put in, what to leave out, but not with the idea that once I had decided on a plan, I would follow it to the last detail. I left myself flexibility. I spent about three years on that, including the ordering of the notes and books which I’d been accumulating from 1929. I still have all of those notes from graduate school. Then after two years of mulling, I began to write. In the middle of that, my physical well-being called for a move. My wife is from San Antonio, we’d been coming here for spring break. She has a daughter here and two sons.

Anyway, that was quite an upheaval. First I had to sort out and give away things I had accumulated in 35 years, including 2,700 books that I gave to Columbia University. I kept about 2,500. But they got badly mixed up, they were put in boxes and all that sort of thing. So it took me several months here to recover momentum. And besides that, moving affected me physically, so for a time I was not in a bad way, but a very disturbing way. I had four physicians trying to put me back on track. During that period, I didn’t know whether I would live to finish the work. So I took a little time off to write a sort of summary in 40 or 50 pages, which happily proved to be unnecessary. I finished, and had the good fortune to get it accepted at once, with a very large advance, from my old editor at Harpers, to whom I'd been talking about my book for 15 years. My troubles weren’t over, because I was required to turn in a disc. As you’ve seen the book, well, it has certain features that are unusual. The software used to translate the disc into typeset upset instead of setting. It was heartbreaking. There were paragraphs missing, lines transposed — utter chaos. So, with the help of a wonderful copy editor, Treva Kelley, who was the first really good one, I managed to reconstruct what I had written.

— Roger Gathman, The Man Who Knew Too Much: Jacques Barzun, Idea Man, The Austin Chronicle, October 13, 2000

In a letter to me (June 27, 2001), Mr. Barzun referred to:
. . . my invaluable aid-to-production, Treva Kelly, now retired in N.J. from years of top-notch service to C.U.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Andrew Ferguson

The most satisfying response invariably came from Jacques Barzun, who was then what he is now, at 99 — the country’s leading man of letters. He’d corresponded with Andre Gide and Raymond Chandler, befriended Auden and Eliot, been an intimate of Trilling and a wayward disciple of Dewey. He had traveled everywhere, known everyone, learned everything, and found time along the way to write a half dozen books of enduring value. His recommendations never fell short of what we’d hoped for. From the store of his reading that year — unimaginably vast and various — he’d place a book about minor-league baseball alongside a new free verse translation of Rimbaud up against an unusually clever, and hard to find, how-to manual about woodworking. I don’t think I ever got around to reading any of the books, but I slept better knowing that Jacques Barzun had.
— Andrew Ferguson, Contribution to Books for Christmas, The American Spectator, 12/12/2006.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Nero Wolfe

[Wolfe] nodded. “You’re right.” He switched the reading light on and picked up the book he was just starting, Science: The Glorious Entertainment, by Jacques Barzun. [Discussion on automation follows.]
— Rex Stout, A Right to Die, 1964, 126.

See also Excerpts from A Right to Die.


“William James Explains U.S. Middle East Policy” is a quotation from Barzun’s A Stroll with William James.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

L. O. McDuff

Perhaps the most intriguing of Some Favorite Quotations selected by Jacques Barzun is the last:

To make life seem agreeable, disagreeables first.
— L. O. McDuff