Gratitude absolved of responsibility

Lately I’ve gotten interested in reading Clyde Barrow‘s Universities and the Capitalist State: Corporate liberalism and the reconstruction of higher education, 1894-1928. It’s out of print, but I found it used and had it delivered. When I cracked the cover open after a couple of weeks, I was interested to find this note on the inside cover, written in a nice cursive script in what looks like blue ballpoint:

barrow inscription

To Kent,

Thanks for all of your help. I won’t hold you responsible for its content, but it couldn’t have been written without your assistance many years ago.

Clyde W Barrow

It’s always curious to encounter the traces of strangers’ personal relationships to each other. One gets the sense that these two people didn’t know each other all that well, that they had encountered each other “years ago” when Barrow was working on his dissertation, and that when the book finally appeared in print, the author, still then near the start of his career, was delighted to finally be able to show people what he had produced. There’s a nice sense of self injected into the professionally cordial tone of this note; while the author signs his full name instead of just his first name, he signals that the project was dependent on this other person, that it “couldn’t have been written without your help.”

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