Brian Barry, RIP

I learn from here and here that Brian Barry has died. Glancing at the various Barry books I’ve got scattered around the place, I see that he he was one to pay tribute to his cat Gertie in the Prefaces of his later works.

Justice as Impartiality (1995 – I only have the Spanish version to hand, oddly enough, since I don’t really read Spanish): “… y puedo decir sin faltar a la verdad que apenas hay una página de manuscrito que no muestre signos de haber sido completamente hollada por una pata felina.”

Culture and Equality (2001)  “Like the cat on Shackleton’s Endurance, Gertie oversaw the entire operation, and made much the same kind of contribution as Mrs. Chippy, her speciality being to hide the scissors and stapler (essential tools of the trade if you write the way I do) by settling down on top of them and yielding them up only under protest.”

Why Social Justice Matters (Polity, 2005): “Those who have persevered through my previous books (or at least their prefaces [a pre-emptive reference to the Virtual Stoa – ed.]) will not be surprised by my acknowledging the role played in writing this one by Gertie. Cats have been shown to lower blood pressure, and I am sure that she succeeded in doing this every time – and there were a lot of them – that I felt I had bitten off more than I could chew. Perhaps I had, but at least I finished the book, with Gertie keeping me company almost to the last iteration of the optimistically titled ‘final draft’. However, she died at the age of 18 just before that, and this showed that I had if anything underestimated the difference she had made.”

His early books, by contrast, are free of references to cats. Political Argument (1965) thanks his two D.Phil examiners, for example (Strawson and Plamenatz), and chaps like Hart and Rawls, but no cats, and my copy of the Midway Reprint edition of Sociologists, Economists and Democracy doesn’t seem to thank anyone for anything at all (quadruped or otherwise).

(On reflection, if there is a Stoa-reader out there who would like a copy of the Spanish editions of Theories of Justice and Justice as Impartiality, do get in touch, and we can work out how to get them to you.)

12 thoughts on “Brian Barry, RIP”

  1. No cats in “The Liberal Theory of Justice”, but he does thank the officers and crew of the Greek freighter the Hellenic Halycon, especially Captain Anastasios Moumoulidos, upon which he was the only passenger for a four month round trip in 1972. Strikingly (for me, anyway, or others with a Wadham background), the two people he thanks for reading the full draft are Hart and John Flemming.

  2. Siegbert Tarrasch wrote:

    As Rousseau could not compose without his cat beside him, so I cannot play chess without my King’s Bishop.

    But is that actually true of Rousseau?

  3. Rousseau was much better known as a dog person. He had two dogs – Sultan and Turk – who became very well known, especially in England. (The recent book on Rousseau’s unfortunate spell in England was called Rousseau’s Dog in recognition of the importance of his dog.) But Rousseau was also very fond of cats. On one occasion in the later 1750s, I think, someone visited Rousseau at his place outside Paris, and found him asleep with his cat on his lap, and made a very quick drawing of the scene, which is reproduced as one of the plates in Leo Damrosch’s recent biography. That cat had a terrific name – though I can’t remember it all offhand. I’ll look it up when I get home this evening.


  4. Yes – but I think that was only part of her name. I think the full version ended with “La Doyenne”, and it’s the first half of her name that’s escaping me. I remember it as a very distinguished name indeed.

  5. “her speciality being to hide the scissors and stapler (essential tools of the trade if you write the way I do) ”

    I really don’t know what to make of this. All i have in my head is an image of Brian Barry arranging staples into mythical glyphs, attaching them to pieces of paper, cutting around said staple-glyphs and sending the product to bewildered publishers who, upon receiving packets of staples shout “the cat man’s sent us another load of staples – what aspect of justice should we label this lot?”

  6. According to the late John McManners, Rousseau’s dog “turk” was originally named “duke”. Rousseau changed the name to avoid hurting the feelings of his patron, the Duc De Luxembourg.
    See McManners’ illuminating essay, “The Social Contract and Rousseau’s Revolt against Society”, which is reprinted in the old, but still valuable, Maurice Cranston/Richard Peters anthology of essays on Hobbes and Rousseau.
    In case some of the readers of this site may not know, McManners was one of the last, perhaps the last, great scholar/clerics to be produced by the Anglican church. His speciallty was Christanity, and especially Catholic Chrisitanity, in eighteenth and nineteenth century France. He was alos chaplain of All Souls for a long time, where the audience for his sermons-reportedly, very good sermons- would usually consist of a weeping A.L. Rowse and a bored John Sparrow.

  7. Is Britain the only country that’s played host to a political party that once appointed a cat as its deputy leader?

    Sadly, he died in a road accident a year later, though I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to vote for the party, and for that reason.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.