Jacques Barzun: An appreciation

Historians in the News

Joseph Epstein's latest book, "Essays in Biography," has just been published by Axios Press.

I first met Jacques Barzun in the autumn of 1974. I had just been named editor of The American Scholar, the quarterly magazine published by Phi Beta Kappa, and he had long been on its editorial board and was among its leading contributors. He seemed to embody the best of the magazine in its intellectual aspirations and cultural standard. He had earlier told me, by letter, that he was planning to leave the editorial board, and the prospect so alarmed me that I made a special trip from Chicago to New York to try to dissuade him from doing so.

We met at the Columbia Faculty Club. He was as I imagined him from author's photographs on his books, tall, with excellent posture, handsome, elegant in an understated way. He was born in France, to a family whose intellectual connections extended to friendships with the poet and art critic Guillame Appollinaire, the composer Edgar Varese, and the novelist and biographer Stefan Zweig. Jacques came to this country at age 13, had thoroughly Americanized himself, yet had never quite altogether lost the aura of a bred-in-the-bone superior old-world culture. He was cosmopolitan in an elegant way that intellectuals rarely are....

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Jacques Barzun, 1907-2012

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