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February 5, 2013

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Adlai Stevenson II (1900-1965), governor of Illinois and twice presidential candidate on the Democratic Party ticket. His final political role was as American ambassador to the United Nations.

In his day Stevenson was considered something of an intellectual among politicians; he certainly would be considered that today. He was not the best judge of character—in 1949 he testified at a Congressional hearing in defense of Alger Hiss—nor the best...

January 30, 2013

When I first read it, years ago, I thought that Louis Chaigne's biography of Paul Claudel was the best-written biography I had ever come across. The book appeared in 1961, six years after Claudel's death at the age of 86.

Paul Claudel: The Man and the Mystic covers the three men who were Claudel: the diplomat, the poet and playwright, and the Catholic. Chaigne writes lovingly and insightfully of the man who was his friend for thirty years. By the end of the book, I felt...