William F. Buckley Jr., who as author, journalist, and polysyllabic television personality did more to popularize conservatism in post-New Deal America than anyone other than Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan, died yesterday at his home in Stamford, Conn. He was 82.
He was an upper-class prep. English was not Buckley's first language: His nanny taught him Spanish, and he attended university in Mexico for some time. But there's little evidence of any Spanish influence in his Connecticut lockjaw sound. Instead, his aristocratic drawl, quasi-British pronunciations, and fondness for Latinate vocabulary seem to have originated at the schools he attended as a boy: St. John's Beaumont in England, when he was 13, followed by the Millbrook School in upstate New York. According to Buckley biographer Sam Tanenhaus, few of the writer's siblings shared his peculiar way of speaking. Tanenhaus also points out that Buckley picked up elements of a Southern drawl from his parents, both of whom were from the South.
Best of Enemies captures the legendary 1968 debates between two ideological opposites: leftist Gore Vidal and neoconservative William F. Buckley.