Some Favorite Quotations, selected by Jacques Barzun
WARNING: Some Favorite Quotations contains misquotations.
Copies of Some Favorite Quotations may still be available from Gemini Ink.
Celebrating Jacques Barzun
Jacob Soll, an associate professor of history at Rutgers University-Camden, has been named the recipient of the 2005 Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History from the American Philosophical Society in recognition of his book Publishing the Prince: History, Reading, and the Birth of Political Criticism (Michigan, 2005). He will receive the prize at the society’s meeting in San Francisco in November.
The prize is awarded annually to the author or authors whose book exhibits distinguished work in American or European cultural history, and is considered a top honor in that discipline.
Philadelphia Inquirer, September 17, 2006
A[ustin]C[hronicle]: Since you were in Columbia in the Fifties, you were also at the center of the Beats, since they all went there.
JB: Allen Ginsberg was a student of Lionel’s, and of mine, not in our joint course, but separately. But we joined together to save him from the penalties of the law, because he was involved in a very bad affair with an older man who seduced him sexually and used him to help dispose of the corpse of a man that this fellow had killed. Poor Allen, aged 17 or 18, helped to dump this body into the Hudson River. Well, was he in trouble there! With the help of the dean of the college, who also knew Allen, the dean, Lionel, and I waited on the district attorney who fortunately was a Columbia graduate and we said, “This youth is really innocent, although he committed an awful blunder and he’s also very gifted in the English Department.” We didn’t say he was a poet or that might have queered his chances! And that it would be a catastrophe to turn him over to a criminal court and put him in jail. We had to go again to a judge in Brooklyn, I think, because Allen came from Brooklyn or something. Anyway, the district attorney wasn’t enough, so we went to a second hearing, which was much more sticky. But Allen was let off.
AC: You knew he was a poet even back then.
JB: Oh yes. He showed me his writing. He’d send me things.
AC: Did he send you “Howl”?
JB: No, I don’t think he did. He sent me a letter from India, where I think he got a fellowship to spend a year or so. He sent me a letter that read, I’ve just met a wonderful guru who can read minds. “I want you to” — Allen had a way of saying “I want you to do this, I want you to do that” — “I want you to get him a position in the Philosophy Department.” I wrote back, “Dear Allen, the members of the Philosophy Department want nothing so little as to have their minds read.”
— Roger Gathman, The Man Who Knew Too Much: Jacques Barzun, Idea Man, Austin Chronicle, October 13, 2000.
Honored with Gemini Ink’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award was San Antonio transplant Jacques Barzun, whose masterwork, From Dawn to Decadence, he completed here. Barzun was unable to attend the gala at the St. Anthony Hotel.
In a tribute to the Columbia professor emeritus, author of more than 30 books over 80 years, Express-News Senior Critic Mike Greenberg praised the “honesty and tenacity, the beauty and wit” of Barzun's writing.
“At the core of Jacques Barzun's way of thinking is his use of language,” Greenberg said. “He is an amazing writer. Hardly a paragraph passes without something that sings, zings and sometimes stings.”
In a videotaped response, Barzun said he was “greatly flattered and deeply touched” by the award, thanking his family in his formative years, notably a great-grandmother, born in 1830, “who made school history real.”
— Steve Bennett, San Antonio Express-News, Sept. 7, 2006
Literacy won’t be dead in San Antonio as long as Gemini Ink’s around — and last week’s Inkstravaganza fundraiser was the best ever.
Lifetime Achievement honoree Jacques Barzun seemed young despite his 98 years, in a clear, eloquent videotaped response to the honor. (He would have been there, he told [executive director Rosemary] Catacalos ahead of time, but he doesn’t have the energy to go out at night when he’s working all day on his new book.)
— Susan Yerkes, San Antonio Express-News, Sept 10, 2006
Let us try to cut to the core of Burke’s thought. I first tried this in a Columbia graduate seminar taught by Jacques Barzun and Lionel Trilling. I offered this: “Most of the things we do are done by habit. If you tried to tie your shoes every morning by reason, you would never get out of the house. Try playing a violin by reason.” Barzun accepted this and raised me. “Burke,” he said, “wants his morning newspaper delivered on time.” In other words, social institutions are the habits of society. They make society work.
But suppose serious change becomes necessary. For Burke, you don’t judge change necessary by appealing to abstractions, to pamphleteers and journalists. You appeal to the man of experience, the statesman. In the Reflections, the statesman is Lord Somers, who knew the institutions of England and knew in 1688 that James II had to go. That kind of knowledge cannot be taught but only absorbed from experience.
—Jeffrey Hart, Contribution to a symposium on What is Left? What is Right? Does it Matter?, The American Conservative, August 28, 2006.