Several faculty members have died of late. Such occasions bring out the best and worst in survivors. For some it’s time to turn on the cliché spigot and let the gassy commonplaces of sentiment flow. I almost admire the ease with which some people say nothing at great length. Others are noble in their brevity. One man was admirably terse: “I liked her a lot.” Worthy of inscription on stone. Another, speaking of the same newly dead woman, I stopped listening to immediately. Some are clumsy with words and probably stammer in the drive-through line at McDonald’s. Others mistake flowery gush for Periclean eloquence.
My taste in eulogy runs to Dr. Johnson’s “On the Death of Mr. Robert Levet, a Practiser in Physic,” especially the eighth line: “Of every friendless name the friend.”