Yesterday, I received my copy of Harvard Magazine, the alumni publication Harvard puts out in its endless and very successful effort to raise money [if you manage to get in and show up for at least a week, you are ever after considered a member of the class, even if you promptly drop out – Harvard takes the long view of these matters.] As has become my custom, I turned immediately to the obituaries at the back of the magazine, and there found two familiar names.
The first was “Stephen Joyce.” Steve shared a triple in Eliot House with two friends, Paul and Sadri. [that is to say, a suite with a living room, and bathroom, and three small bedrooms.] Paul was Paul Matisse, the grandson of Henri Matisse. Sadri was Saddrudin Aga Khan, grandson of the Aga Khan and nephew, if I have this right, of Rita Hayworth. Steve was the grandson of James Joyce. Three less serious students it would have been impossible to find. I visited their room once [my close friend, Mike Jorrin, knew Steve.] On Sadri’s desk was a photo of a New York chorus girl in a skimpy outfit. It was signed, “To Sadri, with all my love, Bubbles.” Steve was named Joyce’s literary executor, and he created an international scandal in the literary world by carrying out his grandfather’s testamentary instructions to destroy all of the great writer’s personal letters. Literary scholars never forgave him.
The other name was “Robert Tracy.” Bob was a big, bluff, good-humored Comparative Literature graduate student who wrote his doctoral dissertation under the direction of Harry Levin. Levin was an officially Big Deal, but he was hard of hearing and did not pay much attention to his students. Bob, as I recall, was writing on the performances of Chekhov in England and America. When he had finished the first half, on the performances in England, he turned it in to Levin and then went to see him for comments and criticism. As Bob told the story to all of us in the Winthrop House Senior Common Room, Levin had very little to say about what Bob had turned in, but several of his comments made Bob suspect that Levin had forgotten that the project was supposed to deal with England and America, so when Levin said that with a few emendations it was OK, Bob kept his mouth shut, ditched the American half, turned in what he had already written, and got his degree. Bob spent his career at Berkeley, so I guess it didn’t hurt him any.