Memoirs of Fellows and Corresponding Fellows of the Medieval Academy of America

Barolini, Teodolinda; Hollander, Robert; Kirkham, Victoria

Vittore Branca was a prodigy of nature. After having taken on the United States when he was by no stretch of the imagination a young man, his visits here were marked by an iron discipline and indefatigable energy. He would start his morning calls at 7 A.M., rousing us from our slumbers for the tasks at hand; then after his appointed rounds of giving lectures or taking meetings with provosts or presidents whose institutions required his guidance, always punctuated by commotion-provoking visits to the Frick or the Morgan or other excursions that were part of an active and unceasing scholarly existence, in the evening he would outlast younger friends and colleagues in conversation and social intercourse. The balance between a genuinely outgoing and interested nature and a fierce sense of self-direction that could seem to preclude hearing others-ah those sidewalk conversations arm-in-arm when we would stop traffic as he came to a particularly important point and one would be simultaneously fascinated and vigilantly on the lookout for the opportunity to make a point of one's own-was a constant and fertile tension of his existence. Now that he is gone it is clear that he heard, and that we experienced him as hearing: it is clear from how bereft we feel as we reach mentally for the pen with which to write him (Branca was an avid correspondent, and he used a fountain pen) and from how much we miss the opportunity to solicit his opinion. For this was an authentically wise man, not just erudite and intelligent but wise in the ways of the world, in the words of Dante's Ulysses, "del mondo esperto" (Inferno 26.98).


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April 1, 2013