That Old Fox

Give Isaiah Berlin this much: He had the good sense to choose Henry Hardy as an editor and literary trustee.  Since Berlin’s death in 1997, Hardy has moved at a reasonable pace in releasing Berlin’s unpublished papers, but he has taken great care to do it right.

A case in point is last year’s Freedom and Its Betrayal: Six Enemies of Human Freedom, a collection of six off-the-cuff 1952 BBC broadcasts on famous (or infamous) antiliberal thinkers from Helvétius to Maistre.  Reconstructed from the broadcasts and Berlin’s own meager notes, Hardy has made the crooked path of his late friend’s idiosyncratic rapid-fire delivery (Berlin was known to pronounce epistemological as one syllable) into this straight Sunday stroll of a book.  Widely available for the first time, the addresses can now be studied and savored.

Really, “savored” is not too strong a word.  Non-book-reviewers, like non-political-science-students, may not realize what a relief it is to crack a book by any political philosopher (or “historian of ideas,” as Berlin preferred) only to learn that he could write in English.  The language is vivid—direct, playful, learned; the presentation, ordered and concise.  We may owe the limited length of the radio broadcasts for the last blessing.

Measured in terms of depth, the essays...

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