Monday, February 26, 2007

35 Years Ago

L–R: Carol ?, Jacques Barzun, Virginia Xanthos Faggi, Flo Grant, Douglass Hunt. Photo from Florence J. Grant

Carol’s last name escapes me. She was hired as Virginia’s assistant for a short time. I recall we had lunch that day at the Terrace Restaurant in Butler Hall for whatever occasion. It must have been a rainy day because both Mr. B. and Douglass Hunt are carrying umbrellas. — Flo in Low


Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Curious Diagram

Social Network Diagram for BARZUN JACQUES

If this link does not work, start with NameBase.

Friday, February 23, 2007

‘A Very Trifling Incident’

In A Stroll with William James, which I remember staying up all night to read when it was first published, the way some read mystery novels, Jacques Barzun writes:

James’s heroism, then, was both of the public and the quotidian kind, which is not spectacular, barely describable, except perhaps in the admirable words of William’s sister Alice: ‘the only thing which survives is the resistance we bring to life and not the strain life brings to us.’ In William, the last record of fortitude is the remark of his final days that his death ‘had come to seem a very trifling incident.’

— Patrick Kurp, ‘A Very Trifling Incident’

See also Kurp, ‘Clarity, Individuality, Beauty of Writing’.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


While [Langston] Hughes was in his prime as a writer, in the 1930s, historian Jacques Barzun wrote Race: A Study in a Modern Superstition. In this timely book, Barzun looked across the Atlantic at the looming blitzkriegs and the early rumblings of a Final Solution and south across the Mason-Dixon line, where lynchings were still impromptu festive holidays in hundreds of towns and where the Klan was the most influential political machine in several states. In exposing — unsuccessfully, it now seems — race as an “intellectually revolting” superstition that “denies individual diversity,” Barzun warned that talking about race is “always charged with hatred and hypocrisy.”

No matter who wins the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination — no matter who becomes our next president — let’s hope that the emerging conversation about the junior Illinois senator’s “race” will inspire Americans take up the task Hughes, [Charles W.] Chesnutt, Barzun and others have left for us to finish.

— James D. Bloom, Obama’s candidacy reopens debate on race

Race: A Study in Modern Superstition (1937) was revised as Race: A Study in Superstition (1965). Mr. Barzun’s first published work of history was The French “Race”: Theories of Its Origins and Their Social Political Implications prior to the Revolution (1932).

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Case Closed

Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor selected 50 Classics of Crime Fiction 1900–1950 (Garland, 1976) and 50 Classics of Crime Fiction 1950–1975 (Garland, 1983), many of which are shown in this photograph taken at a 2005 exhibit called A Talent to Deceive: Mystery and Detective Fiction in the Rare Book Collection [of the University of North Carolina]

The UNC Barzun-Taylor Mystery-Detective Collection contains 12,500 volumes, and the UNC manuscripts department houses the Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor Papers.

The prefaces to the first series of Classics of Crime Fiction were collected in Barzun and Taylor, A Book of Prefaces.

Here are the titles in the two series by year of original publication. The CC numbers are from Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor, A Catalogue of Crime, Revised and Enlarge Edition, (Harper & Row, 1988).

Year  CC
1900 1566 Green, Anna Katharine, The Circular Study
1902 1142 Doyle, A. Conan, The Hound of the Baskervilles
1911 3677 Chesterton, G. K., The Innocence of Father Brown
1912  226 Bentley, E. C., Trent's Last Case
1912 3802 Freeman, R. Austin, The Singing Bone
1914 3635 Brahmah, Ernest, Max Carrados
1915 2603 Onions, Oliver, In Accordance with the Evidence
1922 2504 Milne, A. A., The Red House Mystery
1926  777 Christie, Agatha, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
1927  863 Cole, G. D. H. & M. Postgate, The Murder at Crome House
1929  989 Crofts, Freeman Wills, The Purple Sickle Murders
1929 2043 Kindon, Thomas, Murder in the Moor
1930  583 Burton, Miles, The Secret of High Eldersham
1930    * Wade, Henry, The Dying Alderman
1930 2948 Sayers, Dorothy L., Strong Poison
1931 2677 Phillpotts, Eden, "Found Drowned"
1931 3377 Webster, Henry Kitchell, Who Is the Next?
1932 3031 Snow, C. P., Death Under Sail
1932 3445 Wilkinson, Ellen, The Division Bell Mystery
1933 2529 Morrah, Dermot, The Mummy Case Mystery
1935  521 Bullett, Gerald, The Jury
1935 1767 Hilton, James, Was It Murder?
1937   60 Allingham, Margery, Dancers in Mourning
1938 1738 Heyer, Georgette, A Blunt Instrument
1938 2338 McGuire, Paul, A Funeral in Eden
1938 3093 Stout, Rex, Too Many Cooks
1938 3238 Upfield, Arthur W., The Bone Is Pointed
1939 1851 Huxley, Elspeth, The African Poison Murders
1940 1555 Grafton, C. W., Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
1942 1877 Innes, Michael, The Daffodil Affair
1943  734 Chandler, Raymond, The Lady in the Lake
1944 1412 Gardner, Erle Stanley, The Case of the Crooked Candle
1944 2649 Perdue, Virginia, Alarum and Excursion
1945 2172 Lewis, Lange, The Birthday Murder
1945 3475 Witting, Clifford, Measure for Murder
1946 1201 Eustis, Helen, The Horizontal Man
1946 1221 Fearing, Kenneth, The Big Clock
1946 2326 McGerr, Pat, Pick Your Victim
1946 2626 Page, Marco, The Shadowy Third
1947  345 Blake, Nicholas, Minute for Murder
1948 2093 Kyd, Thomas, Blood on the Bosom Devine
1949  815 Clark, Philip, The Dark River
1949  962 Crispin, Edmund, Buried for Pleasure
1949 1663 Hare, Cyril, When the Wind Blows
1949 1705 Heberden, M. V., Engaged to Murder
1949 2433 Marsh, Ngaio, A Wreathe for Rivera
1950 1030 Daly, Elizabeth, Death and Letters
1950 1453 Garve, Andrew, No Tears for Hilda
1950 1499 Gilbert, Michael, Smallbone Deceased
1950 1691 Head, Matthew, The Congo Venus
1950 2307 Macdonald, Ross, The Drowning Pool
1951  372 Bonett, John, A Banner for Pegasus
1952  462 Brown, Fredric, The Deep End
1952  625 Cannan, Joanna, The Body in the Beck
1952 1190 Ellin, Stanley, The Key to Nicholas Street
1952 1893 Innes, Michael, One-Man Show
1953 2285 MacDonald, John D., Dead Low Tide
1953 3142 Tey, Josephine, The Singing Sands
1954 3112 Symons, Julian, The Narrowing Circle
1954 3206 Tyrer, Walter, Such Friends Are Dangerous
1955  143 Atkinson, Alex, Exit Charlie
1955 2104 Landon, Christopher, Stone Cold Dead in the Market
1955 2517 Mole, William, Small Venom
1956  113 Arthur, Frank, Another Mystery in Suva
1956 1585 Grierson, Edward, The Second Man
1956 2731 Procter, Maurice, The Pub Crawler
1958 1270 Fitzgerald, Nigel, Suffer a Witch
1958 1631 Hamilton, Bruce, Too Much of Water
1958 2091 Kuttner, Henry, Murder of a Wife
1959 2212 Longmate, Norman, Strip Death Naked
1960  498 Bruce, Leo, Furious Old Women
1960 2891 Robertson, Helen, Swan Song
1961  675 Carr, Glyn, Death Finds a Foothold
1961 2956 Scholey, Jean, The Dead Past
1962 1324 Francis, Dick, Dead Cert
1962 1807 Hough, S. B. The Bronze Perseus
1962 1913 James, P. D., Cover Her Face
1962 2570 Nash, Simon, Killed by Scandal
1963 1096 Dewey, Thomas B., A Sad Song Singing
1963   ** Van Gulik, Robert, The Lacquer Screen
1964  997 Cross, Amanda, In the Last Analysis
1964 3355 Waugh, Hillary, The Missing Man
1965 2544 Moyes, Patricia, Johnny Under Ground
1966 1995 Keith, Carlton, The Crayfish Dinner
1966 2124 Lathen, Emma, Murder Makes the Wheels Go 'Round
1966 2720 Priestley, J. B., Salt Is Leaving
1967  *** Rendell, Ruth, New Lease of Death
1968 2405 Marric, J. J., Gideon's River
1969 3190 Troy, Simon, Swift to Its Close
1969 3351 Watson, Colin, Just What the Doctor Ordered
1970 1817 Hubbard, Margaret Ann, High Tide
1970 3106 Swinnerton, Frank, On the Shady Side
1971  672 Carr, A. H. Z., Finding Maubee
1971 1763 Hillerman, Tony, The Fly on the Wall
1973  908 Constantine, K. C., The Man Who Liked to Look at Himself
1973 2488 Miles, John, The Night Hunters
1976 2663 Peters, Ellis, Never Pick Up Hitch Hikers
1976 3605 Barzun & Taylor, eds., Classic Stories of Crime and Detection
1976 3607 Barzun & Taylor, eds. (Bailey, H. C.), Mr. Fortune, Eight of His Adventures
1983 3606 Barzun & Taylor, eds., Classic Short Stories of Crime and Detection

   * 2149 in CC(1971)
  ** 2129 in CC(1971)
 *** Not listed in CC

Compare the list in Barzun and Taylor's Classic Crime Novels.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Jacques Barzun Centennial Celebration

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Streaming Barzun

On indefinite loan to

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Wouk and Hillerman

A reader of this blog sends these references to “Barzun” in fiction:

The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk, page 293, Captain Queeg speaking to his executive officer:

“Tell you a little story, Steve. Dates back quite a ways to peacetime. Had a little mystery like this aboard a destroyer, the Barzun, back in ’37, when I was a lowly ensign, in charge of general mess. Matter of a discrepancy of five pounds of cheese in the cook’s accounts. …”

The Fly on the Wall by Tony Hillerman, pages 231–232, reporter/narrator John Cotton reminiscing:

He drank margueritas — tequila cut with lime juice and served with the glass rimmed with salt. Drank and remembered. Frank’s Lounge in Santa Fe, when he was young, and the Sunday edition had gone to press, with Mygatt, Peterman and Peterson, Hackler and Bailey and Alding, celebrating the end of another week, and the sweatshirt crowd jamming the bar, checking their parlay card point spreads against the sport-page results. And the bar on top of the San Antonito in Ciudad Juárez, cool in the Mexican heat, when he’d been exhausted and exultant, with Rick Barzun, celebrating blanking AP on the finish of the Pan-American Road Race. How many was it? Eleven dead and eighteen hospitalized. A Porsche it had been. Not one of the Porsche team but an Argentine driver, skidding into the crowd on that fast final run from Chihuahua to the Juárez airport. And the luck of finding the Mexican colonel who had handled the army ambulances, and of having the radio-telephone link open to the Dallas UPI bureau. He remembered every detail. But where was Barzun now? Where were they all? Scattered and lost. . . .


Friday, February 09, 2007

The Barzun-Trilling Seminar

Like General Honors, which Jacques and I held in pious memory, the Colloquium met, all sections of it, in the evening, at a time which came to be regarded as canonical: Wednesdays from 7:30 to 9:30. The curriculum of the first year began with the Iliad and did twenty-eight great books up through the Novum Organum. The second year of the course, which traditionally ended with Freud, began with Voltaire and went on to Rousseau and Diderot.

 . . . sitting side by side with Jacques at the head of a long table week after week made the intellectual ground on which I walked and the intellectual air I breathed.

— Lionel Trilling, “A Personal Memoir,” in Dora B. Weiner and William R. Keylor, From Parnassus: Essays in Honor of Jacques Barzun (New York, Harpers, 1976).

Trilling and Barzun gave a section of the second year of the Colloquium on Important Books, which later they gave as a graduate seminar, at a session of which this photograph was taken.

See also John Fraser, Saying Simply.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Napoleon’s Campaign in Egypt

or, rather, the savants’ expedition accompanying it, is recounted in several delightful pages of Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence (read an excerpt). Here are some scenes from the Description de l’Égypte mentioned by Barzun.

I am told that Mr. Barzun’s editor, Hugh Van Dusen, read from this section of From Dawn to Decadence at the National Book Awards Finalists readings at the National Book Foundation, New School University, NYC, on November 14, 2000. Characteristically, Mr. Barzun kept his selection under the five-minute time limit, unlike some of the other finalists.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Ralph de Toledano, 1916–2007

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Eric Bentley at 90

Eric Bentley was born on September 14, 1916. He and Jacques Barzun have been friends for more than 60 years.

People want me to be just the author of The Life of the Drama. When I was given the Thalia Prize in Korea, the minister of culture said that when he was a drama student, the book was The Life of the Drama. I wish he had said the book was The Kleist Variations, though it hadn’t appeared yet when he was a student. The other thing is that, as a writer facing a public, it is easier to be young than to be old. It is easier to be immature and wild rather than to be controlled and have a bit of common sense. All my first efforts were received much more favorably than my later efforts. That’s something that disappoints me very much, because I feel that my later efforts were better.
— David Ives, “In Conversation with Eric Bentley,” The Dramatist, January/February 2007.


Saturday, February 03, 2007

David Lehman

Say you want to read a novel by a prolific crime author such as Agatha Christie or John Dickson Carr, and you don't know which to read in which order, and which to avoid. Let Barzun and Taylor be your guide. Revised and enlarged several times since it was first published in 1971, A Catalogue of Crime is the single best annotated compendium of mystery and espionage literature ever assembled. There are more than 5,000 entries in this work of heroic scholarship by emeritus Columbia Prof. Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor, Barzun’s late partner in crime-fiction criticism of the most practical kind. The editors render their generally reliable judgments succinctly and with a suitable amount of caprice. Nicholas Blake's “Thou Shell of Death” has “complex situations and killings” and, oh yes, a “good use of snow.” The book proves once and for all that the murder mystery is, in Barzun’s words, “a highbrow enterprise, inescapably.”
— David Lehman, “Whodunnit? The four finest mystery anthologies, and one vital guide”, Opinion Journal.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

“History is what you remember”

Like his monumental book, From Dawn to Decadence (New York, 2000), Jacques Barzun’s contribution [“Fourteeen Points about Berlioz and the Public, or Why There is Still a Berlioz Problem”] was written almost entirely from memory.
— Peter Bloom, ed., Berlioz: Past, Present, Future (Rochester, 2003)

Point Three. Berlioz alive or dead has never had the backing of his native country. Though this may seem a curious need, the lack of that support is damaging. National pride promotes and defends. Only in France could it happen that among the concerts explicitly given in Berlioz’s honor on the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth, two of the half-dozen contained not a note of his music. Such facts carry a message and have influence. Until today, the attitude of more than one French critic toward Berlioz has been grudging and, at times, openly hostile.
— Jacques Barzun, ibid., p. 194.