The noted biographer Justin Kaplan, who won both a Pulitzer Prize and an American Book Award for his biographies of Mark Twain, Lincoln Steffens, and Walt Whitman, has died at the age of 88. He had a long and distinguished career in American letters, not just with his biographies but as an editor of such writers as Bertrand Russell, Will Durant, Nikos Kazantzakis, and C. Wright Mills.
He also edited the 16th edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, published in 1992. I wrote a review of that book. I can’t recall where it appeared, nor can I find it on the web. But along with praise for many of the changes he made, notably in making it fresher and more multicultural, I did note one concern with his selections, which I suggested was common among East Coast intellectuals:
The dozen years since the fifteenth edition have been marked by a worldwide turn toward markets, from Reagan and Thatcher to the New Zealand Labor Party’s free-market reforms to the fall of Soviet communism. This historical trend seems to have escaped editor Kaplan, of Cambridge, Mass., who has given us more quotations from Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and Robert Heilbroner, while virtually eliminating F. A. Hayek and Milton Friedman, the intellectual gurus of the free-market revolution. A bust of Hayek now sits in the Kremlin, but Cambridge is holding out against the tide.
Hayek has been reduced to two quotations, neither of which reflects his particular contributions to social thought. Friedman is represented by three, including the wrongly attributed aphorism, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Meanwhile, the towering figure of John Kenneth Galbraith receives 11 citations. (William F. Buckley, Jr., is unrepresented.)
As in 1980, the Bible is second only to Shakespeare in the number of quotations included. But Ayn Rand, who came in second to the Bible in a 1991 Gallup survey on most influential authors, gets only three citations. Margaret Thatcher likewise is represented with three quotations, none of which captures her free-market radicalism.