photo of Basil Guy in 1964
In Memoriam: Professor Emeritus Basil Guy

We are sad to report that Professor Emeritus Basil Guy died on June 11, 2023 in Albany, California at the age of 97.

Professor Guy was a specialist in eighteenth-century French literature known for his work on Voltaire, Charles-Joseph (Prince de Ligne), Charles Péguy, comparative literature, and the history of ideas. His books include The French image of China before and after Voltaire, an edition of the correspondence of Charles-Joseph (Charles-Joseph. Prince de Ligne: Selected Letters) as well as a critical anthology (Oeuvres choisies du prince de Ligne: Nouvelle anthologie critique), an edited English translation of Prince de Ligne’s Coup-d’Oeil at Beloeil, and an edition on the Domestic Correspondence of D-M. Varlet, Bishop of Babylon, 1678-1742. He authored numerous articles and served on the editorial boards of major journals in his field.

Basil Guy was born April 12, 1926 In Lynn, Massachusetts, the only child of Basil J. T. Guy and Emma May (Houchin) Guy. After serving in the US Army from 1944-46 in Europe, he resumed his undergraduate studies at Bowdoin College and studied abroad in Geneva. Following his graduate studies at Yale, Basil was appointed to the Berkeley faculty in 1954. He was a Fulbright Scholar (1953-54) as well as a Guggenheim Fellow (1964-65).

Basil loved to teach and was known as one of the department’s best teachers. Students’ comments bear witness to the great affection, esteem, and gratitude they held for him.

In an essay on his approach to teaching, Professor Guy asserted that “the subject matter of a course—literature, grammar, history of ideas, etc.—is of less importance than attitudes and the common recognition of the results to be achieved. For when we teach, we teach what we are—not really what we know, and certainly not always what we think. We teach convictions transmuted by personality, since beyond the ephemera of mode and mood there has to be commitment and a striving—no matter what the obstacles—for the student’s better good. In the singularly privileged relationship between teacher and student, if there is this mutual respect, the student can only profit. And the student, in this perspective, is our greatest asset and resource, especially as I have come to view my acquaintance with some two and one-half generations of Californians here at Berkeley. Fantastic!”

Debra Zaller, former French Department Manager recalls: “I had the privilege of knowing Mr. Guy (as he was called by staff and students) from 1974-2000. With quiet style, he personified values absorbed during his New England education.  If he could be of assistance on a departmental, or a student's, committee, he stood ready to serve.  He was notably kind to students, with a gift for seeing each one as unique and important. If a student faced difficulties in completing a degree, Mr. Guy would pursue every means UC had for assisting—and would ask think-outside-the-box questions along the way. He was exemplary in ways often unsuspected, and quite ahead of his times.”

A memorial gathering for Professor Guy was held at Northbrae Community Church in Berkeley on September 20. Please contact April McMahon ( for details.