Tag Archives: Arthur Schlesinger

Give a Harvard Kid a Book

The July 2014 issue of Harvard magazine publishes a letter to the editor from Kenneth E. MacWilliams, an alumnus of Harvard College and Harvard Business School.  He recounts receiving a telephone call this Spring from a Harvard student who was calling on the University’s behalf, soliciting MacWilliams to make his annual gift.

“After he completed his task,” McWilliams wrote, “we chatted a bit.  When I asked him his major, he said economics, and that he is thinking of going to work in Wall Street after he graduates.  While talking further about economics as a career, I happened to mention John Kenneth Galbraith.  He hadn’t heard of him.  A bit later I happened to mention Paul Samuelson.  Never heard of him, either.  Then a bit later, I mentioned Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and this time I said, ‘You certainly must know of him?’  He said ‘Yes, I do.’  To which I replied, ‘Who was he?’ He sheepishly said, ‘I just said that.  I really don’t know.’”

Mr. MacWilliams, an accomplished businessman, finished his letter by taking a shot at Wall Street.  Implicitly, his letter is a shot at Harvard too, and at one (at least) of its students.

Reading the letter, I first joined MacWilliams in feeling curmudgeonly disgust.  On further thought, I felt the shot too.

I plan to—will—give more books.

A Marietta Tree Leaf

In used book stores, I have the habit of looking for books with inscriptions that others might not notice, decipher or appreciate.

In The Strand last weekend, I found and bought a copy of Walter Lippmann and His Times, a great collection of essays edited by Marquis Childs and James Reston, published by Harcourt, Brace in 1959.

The book, a hardback in good condition, has this inscription on the flyleaf:

For Marietta and Ronny

with love


Having known Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., a little bit and having received some of his typed but signed letters, I recognized his handwriting.  His cursive “Arthur,” not entirely legible in this book, was distinctive.  (He authored, in the book, an essay, “Walter Lippmann:  The Intellectual v. Politics.”)

My indirect benefactors are Marietta Tree (1917-1991) and her husband Ronald (1897-1976).

Marietta Tree and Arthur Schlesinger were close friends.  For wonderful traces of that and many other treasures, I highly recommend The Letters of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., edited by his sons Andrew and Stephen and published late last year.

For details on Marietta Tree’s full and accomplished life, see, in addition to the Schlesinger letters, her New York Times obituary.  It includes this great, and typically striking, quotation from Arthur Schlesinger:

Her ambition was to be a combination of Mrs. Roosevelt and Carole Lombard.  And that is what she was.