Isaiah Berlin (1909–1997) was a philosopher and historian of ideas who held the Chichele Professorship of Social and Political Theory at Oxford. The final volume of his correspondence, Affirming: Letters 1975–1997, in which the letter in the October 8, 2015 issue appears, will be published in December 2015.

IN THE REVIEW

The Unique Qualities of Joe Alsop

Joseph Alsop and Alexandra Schlesinger, New York City, early 1980s
On Tuesday, September 19, 1989, two long-standing friends of the columnist and commentator Joseph Alsop, Washington Post journalist Robert Kaiser1 and British historian of ideas Isaiah Berlin, were in the congregation at Alsop’s memorial service at St. John’s Church, Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C. Kaiser’s father was an old …

A Message to the 21st Century

The grave of Karl Marx, Highgate Cemetery, London, March 2014
I am a very old man, and I have lived through almost the entire century. My life has been peaceful and secure, and I feel almost ashamed of this in view of what has happened to so many other human beings. I am not a historian, and so I cannot speak with authority on the causes of these horrors. Yet perhaps I can try.

Shostakovich at Oxford

From right, Harold Macmillan, Hugh Gaitskell, Alan Herbert, 
and Dmitry Shostakovich, Oxford, England, June 1958
The following letter from Isaiah Berlin to his friend Rowland Burdon-Muller about Dmitry Shostakovich’s visit to Oxford appears in Berlin’s Enlightening: Letters 1946–1960, to be published in the US in late July. The book marks the hundredth anniversary of his birth in 1909. Berlin and his wife Aline were hosts …

A Letter on Human Nature

Following are excerpts from a response by Isaiah Berlin to a letter from Beata Polanowska-Sygulska, then a researcher from the Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland, who, while working on a Ph.D. thesis on Berlin’s philosophy of freedom, had written to him inquiring about his views. Dr. Polanowska-Sygulska later published a book …

Notes on Prejudice

Isaiah Berlin liked to allude to a passage in Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy where Russell says that, if we are to understand a philosopher’s views, we must “apprehend their imaginative background,” or the philosopher’s “inner citadel,” as Berlin calls it. The character of one of the main rooms …

The Arts in Russia Under Stalin

In the autumn of 1945 Isaiah Berlin, then an official of the British Foreign Office, visited Russia for the first time since he had left it in 1920, aged eleven. It was during this visit that his famous meetings with Anna Akhmatova and Boris Pasternak took place. At the end …

The First and the Last

Following are the first known piece and the last essay written by Isaiah Berlin, who died on November 5, 1997. Isaiah Berlin came to England in early 1921, aged eleven, with virtually no English. This story (untitled in the manuscript), which according to Berlin won “a hamper of tuck” in …

On Political Judgment

What is it to have good judgment in politics? What is it to be politically wise, or gifted, to be a political genius, or even to be no more than politically competent, to know how to get things done? Perhaps one way of looking for the answer is by considering …