NEW YORK, NY -- William Lewis Safire (1929-2009) was a redoubtable figure: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, public relations man (who orchestrated the famous “kitchen debate” between Nixon and Krushev), Presidential speechwriter, and, above all, a man for whom language was a lifetime enthusiasm and fascination, as well as the basic tool of his various trades.
As a political columnist for The New York Times (from 1973 to 2005), he embraced a position not dissimilar from that of William Cobbett, the formidable English journalist and radical, for whom he had an abiding enthusiasm. Cobbett, like Safire, was very much a member of the fourth estate, a role with which Safire fully identified, and, as Cobbett, he hewed to a position of enlightened conservatism. His speechwriting for Richard Nixon included what may be the greatest Presidential speech never given, entitled “Moon Disaster,” prepared in the event that Apollo 11 did not return. In a speech of Spiro Agnew’s, he coined the wonderfully alliterative phrase “nattering nabobs of negativism" to disparage critics, which ironically preceded Safire’s subsequent career as a gadfly. And, speaking of his sense of wordplay, Safire’s weekly New York Times Magazine column “On Language," remains beloved of logophiles everywhere, collected in over a dozen volumes including letters from his “Gotcha Gang” of devoted readers.
On weekends, Safire was known to spend time applying a proprietary salve to his leather-bound books. As his collection expanded, he resorted to hiding later volumes of works behind earlier ones and covering more walls in more rooms with bookshelves, until they covered the periphery of a basement the size of a small ballroom. Doyle is honored to offer selections of this library in upcoming auctions.
The Collection of William Safire
Rare Books, Autographs & Maps | Auction April 28
Fine Literature | Auction June 22