Although he was a frequent subject of reviews, reconsiderations, and other commen-tary in The New Criterion, the celebrated writer and scholar Jacques Barzun, who died in October at 104, contributed only one essay to our pages. It was a review of Hector Berlioz’s opera Les Troyens at the Metropolitan Opera. That was in 1984, our second season, and Barzun had already been a grand old man of American letters for some years.

Born in France in 1907, Barzun had been a presence on the American intellectual and academic scene since the 1950s. From his perch at Columbia University, where he collaborated with the critic Lionel Trilling on a humanities course that deeply influenced a generation of students, Barzun (like Trilling) was part of the intellectual conscience of his age. He was a public intellectual before that role had been hollowed out by celebrity and the demotic faddishness ...