In an age of swagger and bluster coupled with ignorance of the best writing, Hilton Kramer quietly maintained the standards of civility, wide-ranging erudition, and precision of expression he had learned from his family and from his school. Like many strong leaders, Hilton had and often displayed moments of acerbitism.
But unlike many strong leaders, he accepted his mortality and prepared a successor to take over when he failed. In Roger Kimball, he found the successor he wanted. Hilton told me when he interviewed Roger for a post with The New Criterion that he so quickly recognized the talent Roger would bring to the magazine that his only words at the end of the interview were, “When can you start?” When the time came for Hilton to retire, the banquet in his honor featured the best intellectuals of his day—men and women who took literature and art seriously. Hilton’s name will always be associated with the magazine he founded and nurtured to health, The New Criterion.