Henry Irving and I go way back. His father was my godfather and our mothers had been classmates. But he was younger than I, and we grew up in different places, so our lives didn’t often intersect. But Henry was a great connector, and he stayed in touch with me, as with many others. One day he discovered this blog. I frequently wished he hadn’t, as he regularly excoriated me for my egregious politics and stunning wrong-headedness. It was odd, because Henry was diffident and soft-spoken, but as a Republican in Cambridge, Mass., who had once even run for office (“Both I and my opponent knew I didn’t have a chance”), he was unafraid to voice his opinions, which certainly differed from mine. Although I desperately wanted readers, I sometimes hoped this one would go away. But his denunciations continued to arrive in my inbox, and I realized I had no more engaged reader. Amidst our heated exchanges, our friendship flourished. Later I discovered that he recommended the blog to his friends. He was old-fashioned – he believed ideas should be tested in the arena and that friendship transcended politics.
Henry called about a year ago to say he had lymphoma. He sounded shaken but upbeat, and I followed him as he wrestled with that awful disease. When he didn't respond to my last query, I made a note to follow up.
The email from our friend Peter said simply: “Jamie, Sad news. Henry died Saturday afternoon at home. David [his brother] calls him The Great Henry.”