Column: Author led charge for classic Western thought

Thanks to Jacques Barzun for a life of teaching that began at age 9 and erupted in an unbelievably great book at the age of 92. He died in October at 104, leaving thousands grateful for all those years of giving.

I am among those thousands, happy as can be that he left France in his youth, becoming an American citizen who embraced the greatness of Western civilization just as he understood some of its weakening ways.

Though I first encountered some of Barzun’s books in my teens, it was not until its publication 12 years ago that I could peruse my favorite, “From Dawn to Decadence: 500 years of Western Cultural Life.” It was written in San Antonio.

A New York Times obituary says Barzun moved there in his late 80s out of love for the Texas landscape. For much of his life, he had been a New Yorker, a valedictorian as a student at Columbia University and later a professor, provost and dean of faculty there, helping to design its curriculum.

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