I’d like to join in the chorus of Russell Kirk memorials that have graced the PowerBlog these past few days to commemorate Kirk’s 100th birthday. Over at The Federalist today, I can only hint at the significant contributions Kirk wrote on behalf of conservatism, sound economics and Christian humanism.
Herewith a brief excerpt:
[H]e was so much more than a Cassandra ceaselessly caviling against Communism. More to our great fortune, Kirk scoured the world’s great literature, philosophy, and political theory. From these bricks of wisdom he constructed an edifice alternately ivory tower in its erudition; Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Xanadu in its gothic grandeur; “Walden” in its embrace of anti-materialism; and synagogue and cathedral in its embrace of the enduring moral order—often all at once. “The Conservative Mind” was originally titled “The Conservative Rout,” which indicates the steep pitch of the liberal roof Kirk recognized he was attempting to scale.
The building materials he gathered for this endeavor were at the time random cornerstones of conservatism. Beginning with Edmund Burke, the 18th-century statesman and political thinker, and ending with George Santayana at first, Kirk later added his friend T.S. Eliot to his selective conservative pantheon (and later wrote perhaps the most perceptive book-length study of Eliot’s poetry, prose, and drama).
In between Burke, Santayana, and Eliot are names either well-known or obscure to the average reader: Samuel Adams, John Randolph, Orestes Brownson, Irving Babbitt among them. The mortar binding these bricks together is equally impressive: Montesquieu, the Bible, Cicero, Dante.
Kirk spent the remainder of his life after “The Conservative Mind” on projects wide and varied but also remarkably consistent in his Christian, conservative, and humanist approach. Had someone else authored “The Conservative Mind” and updated it at the end of the last century, they most certainly would’ve concluded the book with a chapter on Kirk.
[Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain]