Remembering Jacques Barzun Remembering Robert Pitney
Paul Devlin is the editor of Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones (University of Minnesota Press, 2011). He has written for Slate, The Root, the San Francisco Chronicle, and other publications.
Jacques Barzun, one of the brightest intellectual lights of the twentieth century died last week at the age of 104. Tributes to Barzun, who authored a massive shelf full of books from 1932-2004, will and have been manifold. From Race: A Study in Modern Superstition (1937) to the bestselling tome From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life (2000), Barzun held aloft the lamp of knowledge. Aside from being an astute culture critic and a wide-ranging intellectual historian and man of letters, he taught at Columbia University from 1928-1975 and wrote extensively on teaching and higher education. The 2007 profile of him in the New Yorker says more than I ever could. I never met him and only know him through his writings, yet I think it’s safe to say that at this time of his departure, he’d want us to also remember his dear friend and intellectual comrade Robert Henry Pitney, who was also born in 1907, but died in 1944, when he and Barzun were both 37. Since Barzun was blessed with an extraordinarily long life, it seems fitting that we remember his friend who had a short one....
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