It is hard to say which one valued most in Priscilla Buckley, her kindness or her intelligence… she had so much of both, and she was always so generous in sharing them. Priscilla never married and had no children, but to all of us who dealt with National Review during her long years as Managing Editor, she was a benevolent matriarch, the one who held the talented, quirky NR “family” together and kept eccentrics, prima donnas and feuding ideologues focused on the task of pulling together to make National Review the world class publication it became during her tenure. I think there were even times when she had a commendable calming effect on her brilliant but sometimes impulsive kid brother, Bill, of whom she once told an interviewer, “When you’re 12, what an 8-year-old says has absolutely no importance in your life. And it stays with you even when you’re adults.”
Some years after Priscilla retired from NR — and had authored two delightful and insightful memoirs about her long career in journalism (A String of Pearls and Living It Up With National Review, which any aspiring young writer can learn a lot from), we had a long conversation at a Washington reception. Priscilla, gracious as ever, made a few kind remarks about my own writing. I won’t bore you with them, but I will say that I was genuinely touched because, besides being a kind and nurturing editor, Priscilla was one of the wisest and most rigorous judges of the written word I have ever known. She had the gift of bringing out the best in those around her, especially writers.
All the Buckleys are charming but, to me at least, Priscilla was the one with the calmest, steadiest glow. That glow will never fade in the memories of those who had the privilege of knowing her, as I had for over forty years.