A Jacques Barzun Compendium

Select Links to Online References

I. Life & Work
II. Obituaries & Remembrances

This listing of online materials related to the life and work of cultural historian Jacques Barzun (1907-2012) was created in honor of his centenary in November 2007, and has been expanded since then. New items [marked ] will continue to be added as warranted. Compiled by Louis Torres.

March 2013

I. Life & Work

Barzun, Aristos, and What Art Is
* Letters From. Comments on Aristos and What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand, as well as on the arts and esthetics.
* Book TV Remarks on What Art Is (May 6, 2001): Asked by a viewer (during the last half hour of his "In Depth" interview on Book TV [C-SPAN2]) what he thought of Ayn Rand's work, Barzun replied:

I've not read her work, though I know a good deal about one aspect of it. Her theory of art has been the subject of a large and very interesting and thorough book by Louis Torres [and Michelle Marder Kamhi]. . . . I was privileged to see some advance pages of that and finally read the whole book . . . and so I not only remedied my ignorance of the work of Ayn Rand but I admire a great part (not all) of her theory of art.

Barzun's comment can be heard at the C-SPAN Video Library. Click on full screen icon, adjust volume control, and slide the time bar to (or just before) 2:38:39. Click on the play button.
* "Yours, Jacques." An account of Aristos co-editors' brief meeting with Jacques Barzun in 1988, and of the epistolary friendship that ensued.

Essential Websites
* Barzun 100: Celebrating Jacques Barzun. This pioneering website by Leo Wong has continued posting new material beyond Barzun's centenary year. Its archive, from October 2005 to the present, is a treasure trove and a delight to peruse, with surprises of both word and image at every turn.
* Jacques Barzun Centennial. Edited by Leo Wong. Includes tributes by friends and admirers (among them Aristos co-editors Louis Torres and Michelle Kamhi [see below]) and much more of interest.
* Gentle Rereader. Founded and edited by John Adams, Barzun's bibliographer, this website aims to compile a complete listing of Barzun's work. Meanwhile, Adams posts reflections on whatever comes to mind in pursuit of this and related projects.
* Strolling with Jacques Barzun. An open information-sharing discussion group.

The Concert
* "Concert to Honor Barzun," David Hendricks, San Antonio Express-News (My San Antonio), April 23, 2012.
* "Berlioz and Barzun," a free concert by the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra. Ticket information, biography, and program, San Antonio Symphony website, May 15, 2012.
* "Barzun Honored with Concert of Berlioz Faves," David Hendricks, San Antonio Express-News (My San Antonio), May 15, 2012.
* "Honoring Jacques Barzun with Berlioz," Incident Light, Mike Greenberg, May 17, 2012.
* Funeral March for the last scene of Hamlet, from Tristia, no.3 (H 103 and 119B) - The Hector Berlioz Website [6'20"]
* Funeral March [8' 57"] [more]
* Photo of Barzun addressing the audience.

104th Birthday
* "Jacques Barzun's Century," Rafe Champion, Quadrant Online, November 30, 2011. This essay was first published in the April 2007 issue of Quadrant.
* "A Special Birthday," Bill Katz, Power Line, November 29, 2011.

103rd Birthday
* Happy 103rd Birthday, Jacques Barzun! Five items on Barzun in Aristos Notes & Comments, November 2010.

* "For Jacques Barzun on His 100th Birthday," Robert Wilson, American Scholar, Winter 2008.
* Jacques Barzun Turns 100," Conrad Kiechel, Wall Street Journal, December 1, 2007.
* "Age of Reason," Arthur Krystal, New Yorker, November 14, 2007.
* "Barzun Centenary," Aristos, Notes & Comments, November 2007.
* "From Dawn to Decadence? The Amazing Century of Jacques Barzun," Modris Eksteins, The Underhill Review: A Forum of History, Ideas, and Culture, Fall 2007. A delightful informed appreciation.

95th Birthday
* Greetings from the editors of Aristos and other friends and admirers. The Website of Mary Murphy and Leo Wong.

Jacques Barzun: Portrait of a Mind, by Michael Murray (Savannah, Georgia: Frederic C. Beil, 2011).
* "Jacques Barzun, Wisdom and Grace," Rebecca Bynum, New English Review, February 2012. Bynum ends with the recommendation that readers "visit Leo Wong's excellent site, the Jacques Barzun Centennial for more." Includes a link to the biographical video produced in 2007 when the Society of Columbia Graduates and the Provost of Columbia University presented Barzun with the University's Great Teacher Award.
* "The Story of a 104-Year-Old Life: 'Jacques Barzun: Portrait of a Mind ,'" Michael Dirda, Washington Post, January 18, 2012.
* "Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction / First Look at New Books, December 23, 2011" Bette-Lee Fox, ed., Library Journal, December 22, 2011. Review is by David Keymer, who calls the biography "judicious," concluding that it is "serious," "solid," and "substantial." In between these estimates, Keymer faults Murray for quoting too much and failing to "confront" Barzun, though the book is "by no means a hagiography."
* "A Work in Progress," Gerald J. Russello, American Spectator, December 1, 2011. The subhead of this review, "The great Jacques Barzun turned 105 yesterday," should have read "turned 104."
* "Wisdom of the Ancient," Thomas Vinciguerra, Columbia, Fall 2011.

Articles About
* "Four Revolutions," Christopher Faille, Jamesian Philosophy Refreshed (weblog), August 18, 2012.
* "The Mind of Jacques Barzun: A Pedagogy for Writers," Christopher Reid, Suite101, March 15, 2012.
* "A Man for All Reasons: Jacques Barzun" [complete text except for 3 pages], Arthur Krystal, Chapter 6, Except When I Write: Reflections of a Recovering Critic, June 2011.
* "Jacques Barzun," Jay Nordlinger, Awards & Honors: 2010 National Humanities Medalist, National Endowment for the Humanities.
* "A Small Act of Piety: Honoring Jacques Barzun with an Essay," J. Hanson, Catholic Phoenix, December 1, 2010.
* "At 103, Jacques Barzun Is a Wealth of Knowledge," Cary Clack, San Antonio Express-News, November 29, 2010.
* "Honour and Humanity," Harry Eyres, Financial Times, October 8, 2010.
* "Writing Was 'Only Career' for Barzun," Steve Bennett, San Antonio Express-News, September 12, 2010.
* "Simple and Direct" [see photograph of Jacques Barzun from 1947], William R. Keylor, in Columbia (The Magazine of Columbia University), Fall 2007. A former student recalls Barzun's clarity of mind and pen.
* "Living Legacies: Jacques Barzun '27," Thomas Vinciguerra (chapter from Living Legacies at Columbia, ed. by William Theodore de Bary), reprinted in Columbia College Today, January 2006.
* "Jacques Barzun," adapted from Timothy P. Cross, An Oasis of Order: The Core Curriculum at Columbia College (1995), in "Columbia 250: C250 Celebrates Columbians Ahead of Their Time" (2004).
* "The Man Who Knew Too Much," Roger Gathman (Austin Chronicle, October 13, 2000).
* "Jacques Barzun: A Sojourner in the Past Retraces His Past," Edward Rothstein, New York Times, April 15, 2000.
* "Despite His Move to San Antonio, Barzun Keeps Ties to Columbia," Fred Knubel (Columbia University, The Record, April 25, 1997).
* Time Magazine cover image of Barzun for issue featuring "America and the Intellectual: The Reconciliation," June 11, 1956.

* "Jacques Barzun," Old New York Stories, October 29, 2011. A wide-ranging recorded interview of two and a half hours. The very brief transcript provided is of some interest, but of little use in following the recorded interview itself. (Barzun was 101 at the time, not 103 as indicated; and the date of the interview was April 23, not April 19 as noted on the transcript.)
* "Interview: Jacques Barzun" [pdf, with photo], The Women's Quarterly , Autumn 2000.
* "A Conversation with Jacques Barzun," Charlie Rose Show, PBS (May 29, 2000).
* "In-Depth with Jacques Barzun" on C-SPAN, Book-TV [See "Book TV Remarks on What Art Is"] (May 6, 2001).

* 2010 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal Ceremony. Humanities medal awarded to Barzun, accepted by his wife Marguerite [18:51-19:36], March 2, 2011.
* "What Is a School?" The Great Ideas Online, January 2011, No. 602). See video of lecture.
* "Jacques Barzun." Shown at the presentation to Jacques Barzun of the Society of Columbia Graduates' 59th Annual Great Teacher Award, October 18, 2007 (see Columbia News announcement ).
* "Jacques Barzun." From his home in San Antonio, Texas, Barzun expresses his gratitude to Gemini Ink for having awarded him its Lifetime Achievement Award. (September 7, 2006).
* "What Is a School?" C-SPAN Video Library. Lecture, October 24, 2001, Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. (See text of lecture at "On Teaching and Learning," below.)

* "Jacques Barzun and Civilization in Decline," On Point with Tom Ashbrook, October 29, 2012. "The great historian Jacques Barzun is dead at 104. He said western civilization is in decline. We'll debate. . . . Was he right?" Guests: Michael Murray is the author of Jacques Barzun: Portrait of a Mind and editor of A Jacques Barzun Reader; John Lukacs, historian and longtime friend of Barzun, is the author of many books, including The Future of History (for an excerpt that may suggest the basis of this friendship, search for "Barzun" and then scroll down to pages 86-90; see also the two oldest customer reviews and especially the comments on these reviews); and James Miller, professor of political science and liberal studies at the New School.
* "God's Country and Mine," WNYC, Books and Authors Luncheon, June 24, 1954. (Barzun's lecture follows an introduction about four minutes long.)


* At Amazon.com.
* On LibraryThing, a comprehensive listing of Barzun's books, ranked by members of this online book club. Includes reviews and book descriptions.
* "From the Barzun File," (see links in last line and sidebar). Excerpts from books and essays culled by Leo Wong.
* "In Depth with Jacques Barzun," Book TV on C-Span 2, May 6, 2001.

From Dawn to Decadence:1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life (HarperCollins, 2000). [The hardcover edition is much easier to read.]
* Browse Inside
* Excerpt (NPR Books): Part I: From Luther's Ninety-five Theses to Boyle's "Invisible College": The West Torn Apart, pp. 3-5.
* Expand Table of Contents (chapters, verbal "portraits," themes, etc., compiled by Leo Wong.)

A Jacques Barzun Reader, Introduction by Michael Murray (HarperCollins, 2002).
* Browse Inside

The House of Intellect
* See "Barzun on Intellect," by D.G. Myers, A Commonplace Blog, October 26, 2012, for a selection of "some of the best sentences" from this "critique and an apologia for the role [of public intellectual].")

Reviews of Barzun's Books

From Dawn to Decadence
* BookBrowse. Excerpts from periodical reviews and comments by prominent writers. Dates, links, and sources are inexplicably missing from this otherwise interesting and useful listing.
* WritersReps. Excerpts, both brief and generous, from reviews in such notable sources as Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, New York Times Book Review, and Times Literary Supplement. Dates omitted.
* GoodReads. Brief reviews and ratings.
* "Jacques Barzun, 1907-2012," Roger Kimball, Minding the Campus, October 29, 2012. Despite the title, this is mainly an essay-review of From Dawn to Decadence (2000), published when Barzun was 93.
* "Idea Man." William R. Everdell, New York Times, May 21, 2000. A succinct, substantive review, with the lead: "Jacques Barzun doesn't know everything; it just seems that way."
* Booklist, March 1, 2000. To read, you must subscribe, or access through your library.

The Culture We Deserve
* "America's Fin de Siecle: End of a Century or a Civilization?," Gleaves Whitney, University Bookman, Summer 1990.

The Use and Abuse of Art
* "Put the Genius Back in the Bottle," All Manner of Thing (weblog), February 14, 2008.

Teacher in America
* "Teacher in America," Chet Raymo, Science Musings Blog, November 8, 2012.

Pleasures of Music (ed. & Introd. by Barzun)
* "About Music & Musicians," Roland Gelatt, Saturday Review, January 26, 1952.

On Teaching and Learning
* "Teacher in America," Chet Raymo, Science Musings Blog, November 8, 2012. Raymo, a novelist and emeritus professor of science, muses on Barzun's book.
* "Jacques Barzun, A Return Engagement," Maxine McClintock, Formative Justice, October 29, 2012. Thirty-three years after having first read Teacher in America, and having taught history in public and private high schools as well as at the college level for thirty-two years, McClintock wondered if the book could still inspire teachers six decades after its publication. In this essay on the nature of teaching, she makes a compelling argument that it indeed can.
* Preface to the 1983 Edition of Teacher in America.
* Teacher in America [Preface ], (1945, 1981, 1988)
* Begin Here: The Forgotten Conditions of Teaching and Learning, 1991.
* "What Is a School? An Institution in Limbo" and "Trim the College!: A Utopia," 2002. These two essays, published together in booklet form by the Hudson Institute, "state in brief form what [Barzun] believes might be done to cure the ills of American education." A generous portion of "What Is a School?" is available on the Institute's website.
* "What Is a School?" C-SPAN Video Library. Lecture, October 24, 2001, Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. (See text of lecture at "On Teaching and Learning," above.)
* "What Is a School?" The Great Ideas Online, January 2011, No. 602). See video of lecture.

Articles and Essays
* "The Book[s] That Changed My Life," Jacques Barzun, National Book Foundation, 2007.
* Barzun's Contributions to The American Scholar--with Additions, Barzun 100: Celebrating Jacques Barzun, November 10, 2006; 59 items from 1940 to 2006. Compiled by Mark Halpern.
* "Is Music Unspeakable?" American Scholar, Spring 1996. Reprinted in A Jacques Barzun Reader, 2002.
* "The Cradle of Modernism," American Scholar, Autumn 1990. Reprinted Winter 2008.
* "Venus at Large: Sexuality and the Limits of Literature," Encounter, March 1966. Abridged in A Jacques Barzun Reader, 2002.
* "Meditations on the Literature of Spying," American Scholar, Spring 1965. Reprinted, Winter 2008.
* "The New Man in the Arts," Arts in Society, January 1958 (reprinted from The American Scholar, Autumn, 1956).
* "To the Rescue of Romanticism," American Scholar, Spring 1940. Reprinted Winter 2008.
* "Is Democratic Theory for Export?" Sixth Morgenthau Memorial Lecture on Ethics & Foreign Policy, Ethics & International Affairs, Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs, 1987.
* "William James as Artist," The Book: An Online Review at The New Republic, February 15, 1943.

Reviews By
* "Great Books Matter," on Why Trilling Matters by Adam Kirsch, Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2011. Barzun and Trilling (1905-1975) were close friends and colleagues at Columbia University for many years.
* "Read. Do Not Run," on How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler, American Conservative, March 9, 1940 (Re-printed July 30, 2012).

Cited In
* "Is This the Golden Age of the Amateur?" Andrew Stout, SFWeekly, November 6, 2012.
* "Lawyers and the Uses of Language," Carl McGowan, American Bar Association Journal, September 1961. Barzun is here referred to as Dean Barzun (he was Dean of the Graduate Faculties at Columbia University in the 1950s).
* "Art Center Shows Children's Books," Sunday Morning Star, November 18, 1945. Barzun was one of the jurors who selected the 20 books for the exhibition.

Archived Papers
* Jacques Barzun papers, ca 1900-1999, Columbia University Libraries, Archival Collections.
* See also "The professional and personal papers of Jacques Barzun" (note long list of correspondents, page 20). A recent addition is "Box 454, 30 letters from Barzun to Christopher Faille, 1985-1992." Gift of Christopher Faille, a member of the Strolling with Jacques Barzun discussion group on Facebook.

Letters From
Comments on Aristos and What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand [more ], as well as more generally on the arts and esthetics.

"I found the latest issue [of Aristos (January 1988)] well worth reading and applauded particularly your article on children's poetry ['The Child as Poet: An Insidious and Injurious Myth']. . . ." [For the full text of this letter, and a brief response by Louis Torres, see "Readers' Forum," Aristos, December 1988.] (June 30, 1988)
"Reading Aristos has given me much pleasure and instruction." (February 17, 1989; March 2, 1995)
"I find ['Ayn Rand's Philosophy of Art: A Critical Introduction,' Aristos, 1991-92] excellent in two points of view--one, it is so detailed that I feel confident of its fairness to the text; and two, I admire the analytic skill with which merits and demerits are laid out. The reader has a chance to weigh their application, instead of reading only conclusions and judgments." (October 11, 1991)
"[T]he latest issue of Aristos [August 1993] with its argumentative letters [on 'Ayn Rand's Philosophy of Art'] was, as usual, instructive. . . . I wonder if you have ever come across A Study in Aesthetics (London, 1931), by Louis Arnaud Reid [more] [more ] (1895-1986), an English philosopher. He seems to me to have written the best account so far of art-as-expression. Unless you have read and dismissed it, the work might be a useful subject for one of your critical articles. I would propose doing it myself if I had not taken a vow not to interrupt my present writing project." (October 6, 1993)
"At last I have found enough uninterrupted time to read What Art Is from end to end, and I report my enthusiastic appreciation and enjoyment. You have done a splendid piece of work--research, reflection, and writing are worthy of all praise. . . . Your scholarly treatment of modern art, your Appendices, your Notes are full of facts, comparisons and judgments that come to grips suggestively with the elusive double topic, Art and the arts. . . . [A]s I see it, you and Rand and I all repudiate art that is not made but found, or simply assembled, or is a mere arrangement of lines and colors. When I look at a Rothko [more], I may admire the subtle gradation of colors and the shimmering, but I feel 'This isn't enough.'" (August 6, 2000)
"I have reread a large part of your What Art Is and . . . particularly admire your treatment of music, which I find parallels my own thought on a number of points. And the views in which we concur need to be disseminated, because the confusion that reigns is dense and desperately repetitive in itself and its offshoots. I enclose a short piece of mine ["Is Music Unspeakable?" The American Scholar, Spring 1996] which is perhaps my fifth or sixth effort to make a simple point since I began to put it into words fifty years ago in Berlioz and the Romantic Century." (November 29, 2000)
"Yours is the kind of work that makes its way slowly but lasts long, both because its subject is perennial and because of the breadth and depth of your treatment." (October 5, 2001)
"Your last message was very gratifying: you were busy with the happy consequences of your fine book, answering comments, amplifying your website, and the like. It is encouraging to see that from time to time works of intellectual weight travel instead of sinking." (March 6, 2002)
"I [am] glad to hear that Aristos continues in existence and that you and it remain pillars in the edifice of art education and appreciation in this country. I agree with you that much put forward as art these days is a product of either charlatanism or invincible ignorance." (September 10, 2006)

Obituaries & Remembrances