Friday, November 30, 2007

The Glorious Entertainment

Favorite Barzun Quotations

Submitted by various contributors.

Arma Virumque

Rebecca Bynum and Hugh Fitzgerald

Jacques Barzun Is 100 Years Old Today, The Iconoclast, November 30, 2007

Orrin Judd

Garrison Keillor doesn't know Jacques Barzun

The Writer’s Almanac, November 30, 2007

But he does recognize today: David Mamet, Jonathan Swift, and Mark Twain.


Robert McHenry

Happy Birthday, Jacques Barzun

It was about 1988 or ’89, I think, when I attended my first meeting of the Britannica Board of Editors . . .

This excellent blog post tells the story behind Jacques Barzun’s essay Behind the Blue Pencil.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Let's All Toast JB Together!

From: Mark Halpern
Date: Nov 29, 2007 5:52 PM
Subject: let’s all toast JB together!
To: Leo Wong

Dear Leo,

I think John’s idea (see below) of simultaneous toasts to Jacques by all his admirers tomorrow is an excellent one (I had proposed such a scheduled toast just for the two of us, without thinking it through); could I persuade you to publish the idea to the list? I would guess that John is right in thinking that the best time to do it would be when it’s 8pm in San Antonio, wouldn’t you?

(excerpt from John's letter)

Your toast is an excellent idea. Alaska is one hour behind my old Bay Area stomping grounds, but how about going nationwide, even worldwide. If you write to the entire mailing list, proposing a toast that might coincide with the festivities in San Antonio (say, 8 or 9 p.m. Central), then Jacques’ admirers can raise their glasses together from coast-to-coast. You might even give the equivalent time in GMT so that folks around the world can join us. By rights, you should be the one to do so.

Historical note by Leo Wong: this is my first blog post from an ASUS Eee PC.

Music & Vision

Jacques Barzun at 100: Music and beyond, investigated by Gordon Rusmon

Writing about Jacques Barzun is rather like dancing about Baryshnikov. It tends to show the follower in a poor light. But let us begin. . . .


A Few Shiny Pebbles


Jacques Barzun

My notion about any artist is that we honor him best by reading him, by playing his music, by seeing his plays or by looking at his pictures. We don’t need to fall all over ourselves with adjectives and epithets. Let’s play him more.
— Jacques Barzun, in an interview with John C. Tibbetts


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

John Adams

Amateur Detection

I discovered Jacques Barzun in paperback. . . .


Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Photos by Charles Ford. Used here with his permission.

Readers of Portuguese and others who don’t mind Babel Fishing will find nourishment in Apagão na cultura, a 2002 telephone interview of Jacques Barzun by Carlos Graieb that appeared in the Brazilian magazine Veja along with Um século de sabedoria. The photos were taken for a Texas Monthly (September 2000) article by Anne Dingus in which Professor Barzun is called “arguably the country’s leading intellectual and the smartest guy in Texas” and is quoted as saying, “The people [of Texas] are extremely friendly and extremely polite. Perhaps not on the road, but with both feet on the ground, they display a courtesy we don’t expect any more.“

Mr. Ford wrote to me in an e-mail: “The shots were done originally for Texas Monthly Magazine in 2000. I can’t remember any specific conversation I had with Jacques but I recall that we were talking about the changes in the world and the new millennium. We also talked a little about about the artists in Paris before WWI, particularly Duchamp who I have always been fascinated with. Other than that he was very patient and cooperative during the shoot. His wife was gracious, offering us snacks. He lived in an upscale home in a very nice suburban area of San Antonio. Other than that all I can say is that he was a very nice man.”

Thanks to A Origem das Espécies and Pastoral Portuguesa.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tracy Lee Simmons

A Tribute to Jacques Barzun on His Centennial, in The University Bookman, Fall 2007

The shank end of 2007 has brought Jacques Barzun, the distinguished historian and cultural critic, to his one-hundredth birthday. This would be a notable event in any life. But for all of us who cherish the quiet witness of civilized men living decent, profitable, and orderly lives in a chaotic age, this event ought to be marked by more than a passing nod. By dint of Barzun’s steadily fine, well wrought, and penetrating writings and observations on life as it is lived and has been lived over the span of the past several centuries, this celebration should be ours as well. . . .


Saturday, November 24, 2007

San Antonio Express-News

The Jacques Barzun Fan Club on Facebook

I thought Facebook was only for under 30s, but perhaps the curious under 100 can peek:

The Jacques Barzun Fan Club on Facebook

Gordon Rumson

Friday, November 23, 2007

Peter Brooke

General Honors

The course met once a week with two instructors from different departments and was for discussion, not indoctrination, each session about a whole book. It always began with a question addressed to a particular student: “Mr. So-and-So, do you agree with Plato that society is in need of specially designated and trained guardians?” . . . The Columbia course was called General Honors for several years, then Colloquium on Important Books, the words Honors and Great being deemed elitist when the moral feeling swept the country.
— Jacques Barzun, The Columbia Core: A Look Back, Institute for Effective Governance, July 2006.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

National Institute of Social Science

Recently, Sandra Day O’Connor . . . looked glamorous in a lavender velvet cocktail suit as she accepted the award for Distinguished Service to Humanity at the National Institute for Social Science’s 94th gold medal dinner in NYC’s Union Club. She was joined by honorees David McCullough, America’s pet history teacher, and professor Jacques Barzun.
Liz Smith, New York Post, Nov, 22, 2007

Prof. Henry F. Graff accepted the medal for Prof. Barzun.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Andrew Klavan

Andrew Klavan . . . described Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life as “readable, earth-shaking; completely revamped my understanding of Western history. Get the hardback — the paperback is cramped and hard to read.”
— Marvin Olasky, Gifts that keep on giving, World Magazine, December 1, 2007


Ron Smith

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Confidential Resource

Sources & Methods for the Investigator

Richard McEachin, Writing is Hard Work

Monday, November 19, 2007

Max Weismann

Reminiscences of Mortimer J. Adler

Some reminiscences about Jacques, from my late dear friend and colleague, Mortimer Adler. . . .


Spinning Clio

Barzun on History includes excerpts from M. D. Aeschliman’s appreciation of Barzun in this week’s National Review

See also Bruce Chapman, The Ideas that Made the West Exceptional, Discovery Blog, November 13, 2007.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Nathan P. Bridle

80 Years Apart — With My Thanks

For what we have received may the Lord make us truly thankful. I am not a religious man — but I am very thankful for the presence of Jacques Barzun, for his work, for his influence and for his just being there for the world. . . .


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Which Doctors?

Jacques Barzun turns 100 refers to a book called Clio and the Witch Doctors.

Rafe Champion

Books, Inq.

Frank Wilson, et al.

But this is a must . . .

This post and another have comments by Susan Balée, one of which refers to this letter:

July 12, 1987, New York Times Book Review
Sense and Criticism

To the Editor:

Jacques Barzun’s essay “A Little Matter of Sense” (June 21) is the best article about current literary criticism that I've read; only a critic of Mr. Barzun’s superior caliber can write a piece like that and not seem either presumptuous or bitter. But, believe me, he articulates the thoughts of a lot of aspiring academics — I speak for myself and several of my colleagues who are Ph.D. candidates in the English department of Columbia University.

One of our clandestine enjoyments is to ridicule the egregious — turgid, passive-voiced, jargon-filled — prose of noted literary scholars (I could name big names, from Yale and France, but that seems petty). The Columbia freshmen to whom we teach composition can write more clearly and meaningfully than the most famous deconstructionists. These critics seem to be trying to construct (or deconstruct) a wall of nonsense around literature so that no one except select members of the critical club — the ones who know the “significant” password — can approach it.

I agree with Mr. Barzun that essays about literature should be clear and readable. In addition, they should be accessible not just to other scholars of literature, but to anyone who enjoys reading books. Otherwise, English professors, a k a literary critics, will find that the universities that cloister them from the rest of society are not just ivory towers, but Ivory Towers of Babble.

New York


John D. Rosenberg

“Dear Jacques”, “Dear Lionel

In 1949, when I was a Columbia College senior of quite limited means, Lionel Trilling kindly took me on as his research assistant. He and Jacques Barzun, the closest of intellectual companions, were in continual touch, and I often served as a courier between them. . . .


Friday, November 16, 2007

Anne Fadiman


“Jacques Barzun.” Those three syllables, frequently pronounced around the dinner table when I was growing up, . . .

. . . the top of the J canted at a jaunty angle and the q connected to the u from the bottom of the tail. . . .


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Jacques Barzun Recalls

Jacques Barzun, a video shown at the Gemini Ink banquet, September 7, 2006, at which Professor Barzun received the literary group’s first Lifetime Achievement Award..

Katherine Kolb

Editing Barzun

The first time Jacques Barzun asked me to read a piece of his (something relating to Berlioz, the topic of my dissertation and the occasion of our acquaintance), I did not respond quickly enough. . . .



I vividly recall that, in spite of what one would assume to be the former provost’s opposition to the actions of the demonstrators, Jacques Barzun was unfailingly courteous to those of his students who declared their support — some with unbridled enthusiasm, others with many caveats — for the occupation. Amid this Sturm und Drang he offered an alternative model of serenity and rationality, behaving as someone who, unlike many of his colleagues, had never lost his bearings.
— William R. Keylor, Simple and Direct, Columbia, Fall 2007


Humanities A

Jacques Barzun stated four crucial beliefs supporting the new course: “First, that a college granting the Bachelor of Arts degree should not merely pave the way to professional training, but should try to produce educated men. Second, that if educated men are those who possess an inner life of sufficient richness to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, they must have learned to feed their souls upon good books, pictures, and music. Third, that the memorizing of labels, catchwords, and secondhand judgments about art and books is not educative in any real sense. And lastly, that to know and to be at home with books a man must at some time or other read them for the first time.”23 Overall, Humanities A focused on important books read as humane texts rather than as adjuncts to courses in literature, philosophy, or history. The course emphasized that these books “address themselves primarily to man as man, and only secondarily to man as philosopher, historian, or college undergraduate.”24

23Jacques Barzun, “Teaching the Humanities,” Columbia University Quarterly 30 (1938), p. 197.
24[Barzun,] A College Program in Action: A Review of Working Principles at Columbia College (New York: Columbia University Press, 1946), p. 105.

— Timothy P. Cross, An Oasis of Order: The Core Curriculum at Columbia College, Chapter 2.

See also Faculty Profiles.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Library Thing

Monday, November 12, 2007

Hippocrates, Jr.

A Loyalty Oath for Scholar, originally published in The American Scholar, Summer 1951.

I swear by Socrates the thinker, by Horace Mann, by Truth, by Mark Hopkins’ log, and by all the doctors of philosophy, born and to be born, making them my witnesses, . . .


Arthur Krystal

Age of Reason, from The New Yorker, October 22, 2007

Friday, November 09, 2007

Association nationale Hector Berlioz

Thursday, November 08, 2007

John Lukacs


Georges Bernanos once wrote: “A civilization disappears with the kind of man, the type of humanity, that has issued from it.” . . .


Forbidden Planet

Don’t know how much of this is copyrighted, but here goes:

Taken from The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log.

The Ephemerist

Jean-Claude Floc’h

Joost Swarte

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Rhoda Nathan

An Independent Shavian

Jacques Barzun was not only my professor at Columbia University, but is the first name on the Advisory Board of the Bernard Shaw Society. . . .


Ted Price

The Truth About Jacques Barzun

Although I write this on Nov. First. I’m dating this Nov 5 because that’s my birthday (83). I’m probably one of Mr. Barzun’s oldest students still alive, . . .


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

James Murphy

At the End of a Procession

I sometimes wonder if I was the last of Jacques Barzun’s doctoral candidates.&nbps;. . .


Monday, November 05, 2007

John Simon

More Enduring Than Brass

Everything about Jacques Barzun is impressive, even his resistance to being edited. . .


In Blogs

John J. Reilly, The Long View

The Dreadlocked Geekgrrl, Dreaded Memes

Irving Louis Horowitz

Jacques Barzun: Intellect Trumps Ideology

It is with pleasure that I join others in celebrating the one hundredth year in the life of Jacques Barzun. I met Dean Barzun at Columbia University in 1951, . . .


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Jerry Pournelle

From Chaos Manor

I first encountered Teacher in America in about 1949 when I was still in high school.  . . .

Pournelle’s tribute caught the eye of James Nicoll.

8:04PM: 6 hours after Pournelle wrote, The Jacques Barzun Centennial has had more than 800 “hits,” most of them to his tribute. This map shows where the most recent visitors are:



On From Dawn to Decadence.

Of course there are many reviews of the book in

On the Clerihew

. . .
So let us concentrate on form.
In clerihews it is the norm
For rhythmic anarchy to reign.
The poet, though, will not disdain,
Even as he acts the vers-libriste
And treats the famous like a beast,
To let the sound regale the ear
And make rhetorically clear
The pregnant vision or the myth
He hopes to leave his reader with.
This purpose uppermost in mind,
He is to ruthlessness inclined:
Line Two is factual and curt,
The Third is planned to disconcert—
A “sprung” or “contrapuntal” stab;
The varying last may clinch or jab,
While strange but rigorous rhymes in pairs
Impress the memory unawares.
. . .
— “The Muse is Speaking” in The Clerihews of Paul Horgan, with graphic intelligence by Joseph Reed and an introductory ode by Jacques Barzun, Wesleyan University Press, 1985.

Jacques Barzun
Ain’t Tarzan,
Yet it isn’t fibbin’
To class him with Gibbon.
Eric Wehl

See also Clerihews for the Clerisy.

Carnegie Council

In honor of Jacques Barzun’s 100th birthday, the Carnegie Council website is featuring his 1986 Morgenthau lecture, Is Democratic Theory for Export?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Talk Radio

Jacques Barzun discusses From Dawn to Decadence, The Connection, WBUR Boston, July 5, 2000.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Arthur E. Bestor

Arthur E. Bestor Papers, 1852-1962, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Herb London

An Assignment from Professor Barzun

In 1992 I had the distinct pleasure of having lunch with Professor Barzun to discuss a new edition of his superb book The American University, originally published in 1968. . . .


Jeffrey Hart

Jacques Barzun at 100, in The New Criterion, November 2007


Barzun is one of those unusual teachers and writers who became part of a permanent conversation in my mind, and in the widely disparate minds of many others.