There were some students and post-docs who did not really catch on to Eysenck's unique persona, which included a rather devilish and ironic sense of deadpan humor. In their superficial view of him, they often mistook this for egotism and arrogance. It was a part of his public "performance." Not a few people were noticeably irritated by it, and I sensed that Eysenck rather enjoyed their irritation, because this side of him was exercised almost exclusively when he was in the company of those most likely to be irritated. For instance, one morning at coffee in the Maudsley cafeteria, Eysenck joined a table with three of us post-docs and one member of the faculty, a statistician. Eysenck brought along a pre-publication copy of his latest book (The Dynamics of Anxiety and Hysteria), which he had received from the publisher that very morning. He began silently reading the book, paying no attention to any of us at the table. Finally, one post-doc asked: "Looking for misprints?" Eysenck: "No, I'm just reading it for sheer pleasure." Faculty member: "Sir Cyril Burt once remarked that he was depressed by reading his own writings." Eysenck: "And well he should be. I grant his reputation for possessing a sharp critical judgment."
Professor Arthur R. Jensen
In my last very brief conversation with Eysenck, at the ISSID meeting in Aarhus, Denmark in July, 1997, I told him that my wife and I would be coming to London the following spring, and planned to stay for a full year. Eysenck, who for nearly a year was sadly afflicted by a terminal brain cancer that caused some difficulty in speaking, said quite matter-of-factly, "I won't be here by then." I was rather taken aback by his surprisingly blunt statement, and, hardly knowing how to respond, I could only say, "I'm sure, Hans, that you must have some philosophic attitude about it." His reply seemed pure Eysenck. After a moment's hesitation, he said, "There's no philosophy about it. When there's a fact there's no need for philosophy." (He died less than two months later.) His words reminded me of a remark he made 40 years earlier on the first occasion that I was invited to his home. I was telling him about a Stanford philosophy professor that I knew whose specialty was analyzing psychological concepts. Eysenck shook his head, saying "Philosophers just talk, talk, talk. You mention a fact and they fall on their face.".
Hans Eysenck's prolific output of publications was always a source of wonder to his co-workers and students. Besides sheer talent, it resulted also from the fact that he never seemed to waste a moment or miss a beat. For instance, he gave a perfectly excellent one-hour extempore lecture on the history of personality research to a group of graduate students and post-docs. Right after I was so impressed by all its interesting information and clarity of expression that I suggested he should find the time to write it for publication. Smiling, he replied that he had just done so while giving the lecture, and pointed to the tape recorder behind his desk. Several months later I read the article in the British Journal of Psychology; it was just as I had remembered it from the lecture.
While he was a guest lecturer at a large university, Eysenck was warned that a member of the faculty who opposed his view of psychology as a natural science would be in the audience. He had announced to his classes that he would thoroughly discredit Eysenck's position during the question and answer period following his lecture. Sure enough, the man boldly stood up and vociferously delivered a short speech denouncing Eysenck's whole approach to personality research. Eysenck's rebuttal, as was typical for him, was notably calm, polite, measured -- and absolutely devastating. Many of the audience must have felt for this rash critic, who remained speechless and looked humiliated, so cogent was Eysenck's reply. Afterwards I asked Eysenck what he thought of this fellow. "Oh, he's alright, he said. "Nothing wrong that another 20 IQ points wouldn't cure."
Hans and Sybil Eysenck
Another example of Eysenck's deadpan tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. He had just begun work on his book "Genius: The Natural History of Creativity" (1995) and we were talking about the subject over dinner in a San Francisco restaurant. I mentioned Richard Wagner as a perfect example of the psychoticism traits that Eysenck's theory posited as characteristic of many historic geniuses. I told him how Wagner, at age 18 and long before he became famous, had begun a diary with words to the effect that he thought the world would one day appreciate having a daily record of the thoughts and activities of one of its great geniuses. Eysenck's quick reply: "Now why didn't I think of that!"