Russell Kirk

Russell Kirk

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Russell Kirk was an American political theorist, moralist, historian
Historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

, social critic, literary critic, and fiction
Fiction
Fiction is the form of any narrative or informative work that deals, in part or in whole, with information or events that are not factual, but rather, imaginary—that is, invented by the author. Although fiction describes a major branch of literary work, it may also refer to theatrical,...

 author known for his influence on 20th century American conservatism
American conservatism
Conservatism in the United States has played an important role in American politics since the 1950s. Historian Gregory Schneider identifies several constants in American conservatism: respect for tradition, support of republicanism, preservation of "the rule of law and the Christian religion", and...

. His 1953 book, The Conservative Mind, gave shape to the amorphous post–World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 conservative movement. It traced the development of conservative thought in the Anglo-American tradition, giving special importance to the ideas of Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke PC was an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher who, after moving to England, served for many years in the House of Commons of Great Britain as a member of the Whig party....

. Kirk was also considered the chief proponent of traditionalist conservatism
Traditionalist Conservatism
Traditionalist conservatism, also known as "traditional conservatism," "traditionalism," "Burkean conservatism", "classical conservatism" and , "Toryism", describes a political philosophy emphasizing the need for the principles of natural law and transcendent moral order, tradition, hierarchy and...

.

Life


Russell Kirk was born in Plymouth, Michigan
Plymouth, Michigan
Plymouth is a city in Wayne County of the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 9,132 at the 2010 census. The City of Plymouth is an enclave completely surrounded by Plymouth Charter Township, Michigan.-Geography:...

. He was the son of Russell Andrew Kirk, a railroad engineer, and Marjorie Pierce Kirk. Kirk obtained his B.A.
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 at Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Michigan State University is a public research university in East Lansing, Michigan, USA. Founded in 1855, it was the pioneer land-grant institution and served as a model for future land-grant colleges in the United States under the 1862 Morrill Act.MSU pioneered the studies of packaging,...

 and a M.A.
Master's degree
A master's is an academic degree granted to individuals who have undergone study demonstrating a mastery or high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice...

 at Duke University
Duke University
Duke University is a private research university located in Durham, North Carolina, United States. Founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present day town of Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892. In 1924, tobacco industrialist James B...

. During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, he served in the American armed forces and corresponded with libertarian writer, Isabel Paterson
Isabel Paterson
Isabel Paterson was a Canadian-American journalist, novelist, political philosopher, and a leading literary critic of her day. Along with Rose Wilder Lane and Ayn Rand, who both acknowledged an intellectual debt to Paterson, she is one of the three founding mothers of American libertarianism...

, who helped to shape his early political thought. After the war, he attended the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. In 1953, he became the only American to be awarded the degree of Doctor of Letters
Doctor of Letters
Doctor of Letters is a university academic degree, often a higher doctorate which is frequently awarded as an honorary degree in recognition of outstanding scholarship or other merits.-Commonwealth:...

 by that university.

Kirk "laid out a post-World War II program for conservatives by warning them, 'A handful of individuals, some of them quite unused to moral responsibilities on such a scale, made it their business to extirpate the populations of Nagasaki and Hiroshima
Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
During the final stages of World War II in 1945, the United States conducted two atomic bombings against the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the first on August 6, 1945, and the second on August 9, 1945. These two events are the only use of nuclear weapons in war to date.For six months...

; we must make it our business to curtail the possibility of such snap decisions.'"

Upon completing his studies, Kirk took up an academic position at his alma mater, Michigan State. He resigned in 1959, after having become disenchanted with that university's academic standards, rapid growth in student numbers, and emphasis on intercollegiate athletics and technical training at the expense of the traditional liberal arts
Liberal arts
The term liberal arts refers to those subjects which in classical antiquity were considered essential for a free citizen to study. Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic were the core liberal arts. In medieval times these subjects were extended to include mathematics, geometry, music and astronomy...

. Thereafter he referred to Michigan State as "Cow College" or "Behemoth University." He later wrote that academic political scientists and sociologists were "as a breed—dull dogs." Late in life, he taught one semester a year at Hillsdale College
Hillsdale College
Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan, United States, is a co-educational liberal arts college known for being the first American college to prohibit in its charter all discrimination based on race, religion, or sex; its refusal of government funding; and its monthly publication, Imprimis...

, where he was Distinguished Visiting Professor of Humanities.

Kirk frequently published in two American conservative journals he helped found, National Review
National Review
National Review is a biweekly magazine founded by the late author William F. Buckley, Jr., in 1955 and based in New York City. It describes itself as "America's most widely read and influential magazine and web site for conservative news, commentary, and opinion."Although the print version of the...

in 1955 and Modern Age in 1957. He was the founding editor of the latter, 1957–59. Later he was made a Distinguished Fellow of the Heritage Foundation
Heritage Foundation
The Heritage Foundation is a conservative American think tank based in Washington, D.C. Heritage's stated mission is to "formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong...

, where he gave a number of lectures.

After leaving Michigan State, Kirk returned to his ancestral home in Mecosta, Michigan
Mecosta, Michigan
Mecosta is a village in Mecosta County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 440 at the 2000 census. The village is within Morton Township...

, where he wrote the many books, academic articles, lectures, and the syndicated newspaper column (which ran for 13 years) by which he exerted his influence on American politics and intellectual life. In 1963, Kirk married Annette Courtemanche; they had four daughters. She and Kirk became known for their hospitality, welcoming many political, philosophical, and literary figures in their Mecosta house (known as "Piety Hill"), and giving shelter to political refugees, hoboes, and others. Their home became the site of a sort of seminar on conservative thought for university students. Piety Hill now houses the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal
Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal
The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal is a nonprofit educational organization based out of Mecosta, Michigan. It was founded in order to continue the legacy of Dr. Russell Kirk, an American political theorist, historian, social critic, literary critic, and fiction author...

.

Kirk declined to drive, calling cars "mechanical Jacobins
Jacobin (politics)
A Jacobin , in the context of the French Revolution, was a member of the Jacobin Club, a revolutionary far-left political movement. The Jacobin Club was the most famous political club of the French Revolution. So called from the Dominican convent where they originally met, in the Rue St. Jacques ,...

," and would have nothing to do with television and what he called "electronic computers."

Kirk converted to Catholicism in 1963. In the 1976 presidential election
United States presidential election, 1976
The United States presidential election of 1976 followed the resignation of President Richard Nixon in the wake of the Watergate scandal. It pitted incumbent President Gerald Ford, the Republican candidate, against the relatively unknown former governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter, the Democratic...

, he voted for Eugene McCarthy
Eugene McCarthy
Eugene Joseph "Gene" McCarthy was an American politician, poet, and a long-time member of the United States Congress from Minnesota. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1949 to 1959 and the U.S. Senate from 1959 to 1971.In the 1968 presidential election, McCarthy was the first...

.

Kirk was a contributor to Chronicles
Chronicles (magazine)
Chronicles is a U.S. monthly magazine published by the Rockford Institute. Its full current name is Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. The magazine is known for promoting anti-globalism, anti-intervention and anti-immigration stances within conservative politics, and is considered one of...

. In 1989, he was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal
Presidential Citizens Medal
The Presidential Citizens Medal is the second highest civilian award in the United States, second only to the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It is awarded by the President of the United States, and may be given posthumously....

 by President Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

.

The Conservative Mind



The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Santayana, the published version of Kirk's doctoral dissertation, contributed materially to the 20th century Burke
Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke PC was an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher who, after moving to England, served for many years in the House of Commons of Great Britain as a member of the Whig party....

 revival. It also drew attention to:
  • Conservative statesmen such as John Adams
    John Adams
    John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States...

    , Alexander Hamilton
    Alexander Hamilton
    Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

    , Fisher Ames
    Fisher Ames
    Fisher Ames was a Representative in the United States Congress from the 1st Congressional District of Massachusetts.-Life and political career:...

    , George Canning
    George Canning
    George Canning PC, FRS was a British statesman and politician who served as Foreign Secretary and briefly Prime Minister.-Early life: 1770–1793:...

    , John C. Calhoun
    John C. Calhoun
    John Caldwell Calhoun was a leading politician and political theorist from South Carolina during the first half of the 19th century. Calhoun eloquently spoke out on every issue of his day, but often changed positions. Calhoun began his political career as a nationalist, modernizer, and proponent...

    , John Randolph of Roanoke
    John Randolph of Roanoke
    John Randolph , known as John Randolph of Roanoke, was a planter and a Congressman from Virginia, serving in the House of Representatives , the Senate , and also as Minister to Russia...

    , Joseph de Maistre
    Joseph de Maistre
    Joseph-Marie, comte de Maistre was a French-speaking Savoyard philosopher, writer, lawyer, and diplomat. He defended hierarchical societies and a monarchical State in the period immediately following the French Revolution...

    , Benjamin Disraeli, and Arthur Balfour
    Arthur Balfour
    Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour, KG, OM, PC, DL was a British Conservative politician and statesman...

    ;
  • The conservative implications of writings by well-known authors such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge
    Samuel Taylor Coleridge
    Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, Romantic, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla...

    , Sir Walter Scott, Alexis de Tocqueville
    Alexis de Tocqueville
    Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville was a French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution . In both of these works, he explored the effects of the rising equality of social conditions on the individual and the state in...

    , James Fenimore Cooper
    James Fenimore Cooper
    James Fenimore Cooper was a prolific and popular American writer of the early 19th century. He is best remembered as a novelist who wrote numerous sea-stories and the historical novels known as the Leatherstocking Tales, featuring frontiersman Natty Bumppo...

    , Nathaniel Hawthorne
    Nathaniel Hawthorne
    Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer.Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 in the city of Salem, Massachusetts to Nathaniel Hathorne and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. His ancestors include John Hathorne, a judge during the Salem Witch Trials...

    , James Russell Lowell
    James Russell Lowell
    James Russell Lowell was an American Romantic poet, critic, editor, and diplomat. He is associated with the Fireside Poets, a group of New England writers who were among the first American poets who rivaled the popularity of British poets...

    , George Gissing
    George Gissing
    George Robert Gissing was an English novelist who published twenty-three novels between 1880 and 1903. From his early naturalistic works, he developed into one of the most accomplished realists of the late-Victorian era.-Early life:...

    , George Santayana
    George Santayana
    George Santayana was a philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist. A lifelong Spanish citizen, Santayana was raised and educated in the United States and identified himself as an American. He wrote in English and is generally considered an American man of letters...

    , Robert Frost
    Robert Frost
    Robert Lee Frost was an American poet. He is highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech. His work frequently employed settings from rural life in New England in the early twentieth century, using them to examine complex social and...

    , and T. S. Eliot
    T. S. Eliot
    Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

    ;
  • British and American authors such as Fisher Ames
    Fisher Ames
    Fisher Ames was a Representative in the United States Congress from the 1st Congressional District of Massachusetts.-Life and political career:...

    , John Randolph of Roanoke
    John Randolph of Roanoke
    John Randolph , known as John Randolph of Roanoke, was a planter and a Congressman from Virginia, serving in the House of Representatives , the Senate , and also as Minister to Russia...

    , Orestes Brownson
    Orestes Brownson
    Orestes Augustus Brownson was a New England intellectual and activist, preacher, labor organizer, and noted Catholic convert and writer...

    , John Henry Newman, Walter Bagehot
    Walter Bagehot
    Walter Bagehot was an English businessman, essayist, and journalist who wrote extensively about literature, government, and economic affairs.-Early years:...

    , Henry James Sumner Maine
    Henry James Sumner Maine
    Sir Henry James Sumner Maine, KCSI , was an English comparative jurist and historian. He is famous for the thesis outlined in Ancient Law that law and society developed "from status to contract." According to the thesis, in the ancient world individuals were tightly bound by status to traditional...

    , William Edward Hartpole Lecky
    William Edward Hartpole Lecky
    William Edward Hartpole Lecky, OM was an Irish historian.-Early life:Born at Newtown Park, near Dublin, he was the eldest son of John Hartpole Lecky, a landowner....

    , Edwin Lawrence Godkin
    Edwin Lawrence Godkin
    Edwin Lawrence Godkin was an American journalist and newspaper editor. He founded The Nation, and was editor-in-chief of the New York Evening Post 1883-1899.-Biography:...

    , William Hurrell Mallock
    William Hurrell Mallock
    William Hurrell Mallock was an English novelist and economics writer.-Biography:He was educated privately and then at Balliol College, Oxford. He won the Newdigate prize in 1872 and took a second class in the final classical schools in 1874, securing his Bachelor of Arts degree from Oxford...

    , Leslie Stephen
    Leslie Stephen
    Sir Leslie Stephen, KCB was an English author, critic and mountaineer, and the father of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell.-Life:...

    , Albert Venn Dicey, Robert Nisbet
    Robert Nisbet
    Robert Alexander Nisbet was an American sociologist, professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Vice-Chancellor at the University of California, Riverside and as the Albert Schweitzer Professor at Columbia University.-Life:Nisbet was born in Los Angeles in 1913 and raised in the small...

    , Paul Elmer More
    Paul Elmer More
    Paul Elmer More was an American journalist, critic, essayist and Christian apologist.-Biography:More was educated at Washington University in St. Louis and Harvard University...

    , and Irving Babbitt
    Irving Babbitt
    Irving Babbitt was an American academic and literary critic, noted for his founding role in a movement that became known as the New Humanism, a significant influence on literary discussion and conservative thought in the period between 1910 to 1930...

    .

The Portable Conservative Reader (1982), which Kirk edited, contains sample writings by most of the above.

Not everyone agreed with Kirk's reading of the conservative heritage and tradition. For example, Harry Jaffa (a student of Leo Strauss
Leo Strauss
Leo Strauss was a political philosopher and classicist who specialized in classical political philosophy. He was born in Germany to Jewish parents and later emigrated to the United States...

) wrote: "Kirk was a poor Burke scholar. Burke's attack on metaphysical reasoning related only to modern philosophy's attempt to eliminate skeptical doubt from its premises and hence from its conclusions."

Russello (2004) argues that Kirk adapted what 19th century American Catholic thinker Orestes Brownson
Orestes Brownson
Orestes Augustus Brownson was a New England intellectual and activist, preacher, labor organizer, and noted Catholic convert and writer...

 called "territorial democracy" to articulate a version of federalism that was based on premises that differ in part from those of the Founders and other conservatives. Kirk further believed that territorial democracy could reconcile the tension between treating the states as mere provinces of the central government, and as autonomous political units independent of Washington. Finally, territorial democracy allowed Kirk to set out a theory of individual rights grounded in the particular historical circumstances of the United States, while rejecting a universal conception of such rights.

Principles


Kirk developed six "canons" of conservatism, which Russello (2004) described as follows:
  1. A belief in a transcendent order, which Kirk described variously as based in tradition, divine revelation, or natural law
    Natural law
    Natural law, or the law of nature , is any system of law which is purportedly determined by nature, and thus universal. Classically, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature and deduce binding rules of moral behavior. Natural law is contrasted with the positive law Natural...

    ;
  2. An affection for the "variety and mystery" of human existence;
  3. A conviction that society requires orders and classes that emphasize "natural" distinctions;
  4. A belief that property and freedom are closely linked;
  5. A faith in custom, convention, and prescription, and
  6. A recognition that innovation must be tied to existing traditions and customs, which entails a respect for the political value of prudence.


Kirk said that Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 and Western Civilization
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

 are "unimaginable apart from one another." http://theoccidentalquarterly.com/vol5no2/52-griffin.html and that "all culture arises out of religion. When religious faith decays, culture must decline, though often seeming to flourish for a space after the religion which has nourished it has sunk into disbelief." http://www.thomasaquinas.edu/news/pressroom/inthenews/other/books_faith.html

Kirk and Libertarianism


Kirk grounded his Burkean conservatism in tradition, political philosophy, belles lettres, and the strong religious faith of his later years; rather than libertarianism
Libertarianism
Libertarianism, in the strictest sense, is the political philosophy that holds individual liberty as the basic moral principle of society. In the broadest sense, it is any political philosophy which approximates this view...

 and free market
Free market
A free market is a competitive market where prices are determined by supply and demand. However, the term is also commonly used for markets in which economic intervention and regulation by the state is limited to tax collection, and enforcement of private ownership and contracts...

 economic reasoning. The Conservative Mind hardly mentions economics at all.

In a polemic essay, Kirk (quoting T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

) called libertarians "chirping sectaries," adding that they and conservatives have nothing in common (despite his early correspondence with the libertarian Paterson). He called the libertarian movement "an ideological clique forever splitting into sects still smaller and odder, but rarely conjugating." He said a line of division exists between believers in "some sort of transcendent moral order" and "utilitarians admitting no transcendent sanctions for conduct." He included libertarians in the latter category. Kirk, therefore, questioned the "fusionism"
Fusionism (politics)
Fusionism is an American political term for the combination or "fusion" of traditional conservatives with some libertarians and some social conservatives, forming the American conservative movement.-History and positions:...

 between libertarians and traditional conservatives that marked much of post-World War II conservatism in the United States.

Kirk's view of "classical liberals" is positive though; he agrees with them on "ordered liberty" as they make "common cause with regular conservatives against the menace of democratic despotism and economic collectivism."

Tibor R. Machan
Tibor R. Machan
Tibor Richard Machan, Ph.D. is a Hungarian-American philosopher. A professor emeritus in the department of philosophy at Auburn University, Machan holds the R. C...

 defended libertarianism in response to Kirk's original Heritage Lecture. Machan argued that the right of individual sovereignty is perhaps most worthy of conserving from the American political heritage, and that when conservatives themselves talk about preserving some tradition, they cannot at the same time claim a disrespectful distrust of the individual human mind, of rationalism itself.

Jacob G. Hornberger of the Future of Freedom Foundation
Future of Freedom Foundation
The Future of Freedom Foundation is a nonprofit libertarian advocacy group based in Fairfax, Virginia. It was founded by libertarian author and former defense attorney Jacob G...

 also responded to Kirk.

Kirk and Neoconservatism


Late in life, Kirk grew disenchanted with American neoconservatives
Neoconservatism
Neoconservatism in the United States is a branch of American conservatism. Since 2001, neoconservatism has been associated with democracy promotion, that is with assisting movements for democracy, in some cases by economic sanctions or military action....

 as well. On December 15, 1988, he gave a lecture at the Heritage Foundation, titled "The Neoconservatives: An Endangered Species." As Chronicles editor Scott Richert describes it,
[One line] helped define the emerging struggle between neoconservatives and paleoconservatives. "Not seldom has it seemed," Kirk declared, "as if some eminent Neoconservatives mistook Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv , officially Tel Aviv-Yafo , is the second most populous city in Israel, with a population of 404,400 on a land area of . The city is located on the Israeli Mediterranean coastline in west-central Israel. It is the largest and most populous city in the metropolitan area of Gush Dan, with...

 for the capital of the United States." A few years later, in another Heritage Foundation speech, Kirk repeated that line verbatim. In the wake of the Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

, which he had opposed, he clearly understood that those words carried even greater meaning.http://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/Chronicles/July2004/0704Richert.html


Midge Decter
Midge Decter
-Biography:Midge Rosenthal Decter was born on July 25, 1927 in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She attended the University of Minnesota, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and New York University....

, director of the Committee for the Free World, called Kirk's line "a bloody outrage, a piece of anti-Semitism
Anti-Semitism
Antisemitism is suspicion of, hatred toward, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage. According to a 2005 U.S...

 by Kirk that impugns the loyalty of neoconservatives."
She told The New Republic
The New Republic
The magazine has also published two articles concerning income inequality, largely criticizing conservative economists for their attempts to deny the existence or negative effect increasing income inequality is having on the United States...

, "It's this notion of a Christian civilization. You have to be part of it or you're not really fit to conserve anything. That's an old line and it's very ignorant."http://www.cofcc.org/foundation/neoconservatism.htm

Samuel T. Francis called Kirk's "Tel Aviv" remark "a wisecrack about the slavishly pro-Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 sympathies among neoconservatives.

Man of letters


Kirk's other important books include Eliot and his Age: T. S. Eliot's Moral Imagination in the Twentieth Century (1972), The Roots of American Order (1974), and the autobiographical Sword of the Imagination: Memoirs of a Half Century of Literary Conflict (1995). As was the case with his hero Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke PC was an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher who, after moving to England, served for many years in the House of Commons of Great Britain as a member of the Whig party....

, Kirk became renowned for the prose style of his intellectual and polemical writings.

Fiction


Beyond his scholarly achievements, Kirk was talented both as an oral storyteller
Storytelling
Storytelling is the conveying of events in words, images and sounds, often by improvisation or embellishment. Stories or narratives have been shared in every culture as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and in order to instill moral values...

 and as an author
Author
An author is broadly defined as "the person who originates or gives existence to anything" and that authorship determines responsibility for what is created. Narrowly defined, an author is the originator of any written work.-Legal significance:...

 of genre fiction
Genre fiction
Genre fiction, also known as popular fiction, is a term for fictional works written with the intent of fitting into a specific literary genre in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre....

, most notably in his telling of consummate ghost stories
Ghost story
A ghost story may be any piece of fiction, or drama, or an account of an experience, that includes a ghost, or simply takes as a premise the possibility of ghosts or characters' belief in them. Colloquially, the term can refer to any kind of scary story. In a narrower sense, the ghost story has...

 in the classic
Classic book
A classic book is a book accepted as being exemplary or noteworthy, either through an imprimatur such as being listed in any of the Western canons or through a reader's own personal opinion. The term itself is closely related to Western Canon and to various college/university Senior Comprehensive...

 tradition of Sheridan Le Fanu
Sheridan Le Fanu
Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu was an Irish writer of Gothic tales and mystery novels. He was the leading ghost-story writer of the nineteenth century and was central to the development of the genre in the Victorian era....

, M. R. James
M. R. James
Montague Rhodes James, OM, MA, , who used the publication name M. R. James, was an English mediaeval scholar and provost of King's College, Cambridge and of Eton College . He is best remembered for his ghost stories, which are regarded as among the best in the genre...

, Oliver Onions
Oliver Onions
George Oliver Onions was a significant English novelist who published over forty novels and story collections. Originally trained as a commercial artist, he worked as a designer of posters and books, and as a magazine illustrator, before starting his career in writing...

, and H. Russell Wakefield
H. Russell Wakefield
Herbert Russell Wakefield was an English short story writer, novelist, publisher, and civil servant chiefly remembered today for his ghost stories.-Life:...

. He also wrote other admired and much-anthologized works
Work of art
A work of art, artwork, art piece, or art object is an aesthetic item or artistic creation.The term "a work of art" can apply to:*an example of fine art, such as a painting or sculpture*a fine work of architecture or landscape design...

 that are variously classified as horror
Horror fiction
Horror fiction also Horror fantasy is a philosophy of literature, which is intended to, or has the capacity to frighten its readers, inducing feelings of horror and terror. It creates an eerie atmosphere. Horror can be either supernatural or non-supernatural...

, fantasy
Fantasy
Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common...

, science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

, and political satire
Political satire
Political satire is a significant part of satire that specializes in gaining entertainment from politics; it has also been used with subversive intent where political speech and dissent are forbidden by a regime, as a method of advancing political arguments where such arguments are expressly...

. These earned him plaudits from fellow creative writers
Creative writing
Creative writing is considered to be any writing, fiction, poetry, or non-fiction, that goes outside the bounds of normal professional, journalistic, academic, and technical forms of literature. Works which fall into this category include novels, epics, short stories, and poems...

 as varied and distinguished as T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

, Robert Aickman
Robert Aickman
Robert Fordyce Aickman was an English conservationist and writer of fiction and nonfiction. As a writer, he is best known for his supernatural fiction, which he described as "strange stories".-Life:...

, Madeleine L’Engle, and Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury
Ray Douglas Bradbury is an American fantasy, horror, science fiction, and mystery writer. Best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 and for the science fiction stories gathered together as The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man , Bradbury is one of the most celebrated among 20th...

.

Though modest in quantity—it encompasses three novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

s and 22 short stories
Short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...

—Kirk's body of fiction was written amid a busy career as prolific nonfiction
Non-fiction
Non-fiction is the form of any narrative, account, or other communicative work whose assertions and descriptions are understood to be fact...

 writer
Writer
A writer is a person who produces literature, such as novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, or other literary art. Skilled writers are able to use language to portray ideas and images....

, editor
Managing editor
A managing editor is a senior member of a publication's management team.In the United States, a managing editor oversees and coordinates the publication's editorial activities...

, and speaker. As with such other speculative fiction
Speculative fiction
Speculative fiction is an umbrella term encompassing the more fantastical fiction genres, specifically science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and alternate history in literature as well as...

 authors as G. K. Chesterton
G. K. Chesterton
Gilbert Keith Chesterton, KC*SG was an English writer. His prolific and diverse output included philosophy, ontology, poetry, plays, journalism, public lectures and debates, literary and art criticism, biography, Christian apologetics, and fiction, including fantasy and detective fiction....

, C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
Clive Staples Lewis , commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as "Jack", was a novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist from Belfast, Ireland...

, and J. R. R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College,...

 (all of whom likewise wrote only nonfiction for their "day jobs"), there are conservative
Traditionalist Conservatism
Traditionalist conservatism, also known as "traditional conservatism," "traditionalism," "Burkean conservatism", "classical conservatism" and , "Toryism", describes a political philosophy emphasizing the need for the principles of natural law and transcendent moral order, tradition, hierarchy and...

 undercurrents—social
Social conservatism
Social Conservatism is primarily a political, and usually morally influenced, ideology that focuses on the preservation of what are seen as traditional values. Social conservatism is a form of authoritarianism often associated with the position that the federal government should have a greater role...

, cultural
Cultural conservatism
Cultural conservatism is described as the preservation of the heritage of one nation, or of a shared culture that is not defined by national boundaries. Other variants of cultural conservatism are concerned with culture attached to a given language such as Arabic.The shared culture may be as...

, religious
Orthodoxy
The word orthodox, from Greek orthos + doxa , is generally used to mean the adherence to accepted norms, more specifically to creeds, especially in religion...

, and political
Conservatism
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism...

—to Kirk's fiction.

His first novel, Old House of Fear (1961, 1965), as with so many of his short stories, was written in a self-consciously Gothic
Gothic fiction
Gothic fiction, sometimes referred to as Gothic horror, is a genre or mode of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance. Gothicism's origin is attributed to English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled "A Gothic Story"...

 vein. Here the plot is concerned with an American assigned by his employer to a bleak locale in rural
Rural
Rural areas or the country or countryside are areas that are not urbanized, though when large areas are described, country towns and smaller cities will be included. They have a low population density, and typically much of the land is devoted to agriculture...

 Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

—the same country
Country
A country is a region legally identified as a distinct entity in political geography. A country may be an independent sovereign state or one that is occupied by another state, as a non-sovereign or formerly sovereign political division, or a geographic region associated with a previously...

 where Kirk had attended graduate school
Graduate school
A graduate school is a school that awards advanced academic degrees with the general requirement that students must have earned a previous undergraduate degree...

. This was Kirk's most commercially
Commerce
While business refers to the value-creating activities of an organization for profit, commerce means the whole system of an economy that constitutes an environment for business. The system includes legal, economic, political, social, cultural, and technological systems that are in operation in any...

 successful and critic
Critic
A critic is anyone who expresses a value judgement. Informally, criticism is a common aspect of all human expression and need not necessarily imply skilled or accurate expressions of judgement. Critical judgements, good or bad, may be positive , negative , or balanced...

ally acclaimed fiction
Fiction
Fiction is the form of any narrative or informative work that deals, in part or in whole, with information or events that are not factual, but rather, imaginary—that is, invented by the author. Although fiction describes a major branch of literary work, it may also refer to theatrical,...

al work, doing much to sustain him financially
Finance
"Finance" is often defined simply as the management of money or “funds” management Modern finance, however, is a family of business activity that includes the origination, marketing, and management of cash and money surrogates through a variety of capital accounts, instruments, and markets created...

 in subsequent years.

Later novels were A Creature of the Twilight (1966), a dark comedy
Black comedy
A black comedy, or dark comedy, is a comic work that employs black humor or gallows humor. The definition of black humor is problematic; it has been argued that it corresponds to the earlier concept of gallows humor; and that, as humor has been defined since Freud as a comedic act that anesthetizes...

 satirizing
Satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 postcolonial
Postcolonialism
Post-colonialism is a specifically post-modern intellectual discourse that consists of reactions to, and analysis of, the cultural legacy of colonialism...

 Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

n politics
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

; and Lord of the Hollow Dark (1979, 1989), set in Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, which explores the great evil
Evil
Evil is the violation of, or intent to violate, some moral code. Evil is usually seen as the dualistic opposite of good. Definitions of evil vary along with analysis of its root motive causes, however general actions commonly considered evil include: conscious and deliberate wrongdoing,...

 inhabiting a haunted house
Haunted house
A haunted house is a house or other building often perceived as being inhabited by disembodied spirits of the deceased who may have been former residents or were familiar with the property...

. During his lifetime, Kirk also oversaw the publication of three collections which together encompassed all his short stories. (Three more such collections have been published posthumously, but those only reprint
Reprint
A reprint is a re-publishing of material that has already been previously published. The word reprint is used in many fields.-Academic publishing:...

 stories found in the earlier volumes.)

Among his novels and stories, certain characters
Character (arts)
A character is the representation of a person in a narrative work of art . Derived from the ancient Greek word kharaktêr , the earliest use in English, in this sense, dates from the Restoration, although it became widely used after its appearance in Tom Jones in 1749. From this, the sense of...

 tend to recur, enriching the already considerable unity and resonance of his fictional canon
Canon (fiction)
In the context of a work of fiction, the term canon denotes the material accepted as "official" in a fictional universe's fan base. It is often contrasted with, or used as the basis for, works of fan fiction, which are not considered canonical...

. Though—through their themes
Theme (literature)
A theme is a broad, message, or moral of a story. The message may be about life, society, or human nature. Themes often explore timeless and universal ideas and are almost always implied rather than stated explicitly. Along with plot, character,...

 and prose
Prose
Prose is the most typical form of written language, applying ordinary grammatical structure and natural flow of speech rather than rhythmic structure...

-style—Kirk’s fiction and nonfiction works are complementary, many readers of the one have not known of his work in the other.

Having begun to write fiction fairly early in his career, Kirk appears to have stopped after the early 1980s, while continuing his nonfiction writing and research through his last year of life. For a comprehensive bibliography of his fiction, see the fiction section of his bibliography.

Non-Fiction

  • John Randolph of Roanoke: A Study in American Politics (1951)
  • The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot (1953)
  • Prospects for Conservatives (1954)
  • Academic Freedom: An Essay in Definition (1955)
  • Beyond the Dreams of Avarice: Essays of a Social Critic (1956)
  • The American Cause (1957)
  • The Library of Conservative Thought 30 Vols. Editor (1963–1993)
  • Confessions of a Bohemian Tory (1963)
  • The Political Principles of Robert A. Taft (1967) With James McClellan
  • Edmund Burke: A Genius Reconsidered (1967)
  • Enemies of the Permanent Things: Observations of Abnormality in Literature and Politics (1969)
  • Eliot and His Age: T. S. Eliot’s Moral Imagination in the Twentieth Century (1971)
  • The Roots of American Order (1974)
  • Russell Kirk: A Bibliography (1981)
  • The Portable Conservative Reader (1982)
  • The Wise Men Know What Wicked Things are Written on the Sky (1987)
  • Economics: Work and Prosperity (1988)
  • America’s British Culture (1993)
  • The Politics of Prudence (1993)
  • The Sword of Imagination: Memoirs of a Half-Century of Literary Conflict (1995)
  • Redeeming the Time (1996)
  • Rights and Duties: Reflections on Our Conservative Constitution (1997)
  • The Essential Russell Kirk (2007)

Fiction


  • Old House of Fear (1961)
  • The Surly Sullen Bell: Ten Stories and Sketches, Uncanny or Uncomfortable (1962)
  • A Creature of the Twilight: His Memorials (1966)
  • The Princess of All Lands
    The Princess of All Lands
    The Princess of All Lands is a collection of stories by Russell Kirk. It was released in 1979 and was the author's first book published by Arkham House. It was published in an edition of 4,120 copies...

     (1979)
  • Lord of the Hollow Dark (1979)
  • Watchers at the Strait Gate
    Watchers at the Strait Gate
    Watchers at the Strait Gate is a collection of stories by author Russell Kirk. It was released in 1984 and was the author's second book published by Arkham House, and Kirk's third collection of supernatural stories...

     (1984)
  • Off the Sand Road: Ghost Stories, Volume One (2002)
  • What Shadows We Pursue: Ghost Stories, Volume Two (2003)
  • Ancestral Shadows: An Anthology of Ghostly Tales (2004)

Further reading


Modern Age articles available online via Ebsco.
  • Attarian, John, 1998, "Russell Kirk's Political Economy," Modern Age 40: 87–97. Issn: 0026-7457.
  • Brown, Charles C. ed. Russell Kirk: A Bibliography (2nd ed. 2011: Wilmington, ISI Books, 2011) 220 pages; replaces Brown's 1981 bibliography
  • John P. East, 1984, "Russell Kirk as a Political Theorist: Perceiving the Need for Order in the Soul and in Society," Modern Age 28: 33–44. Issn: 0026-7457 .
  • Kirk, Russell, 1995. The Sword of Imagination: Memoirs of a Half-Century of Literary Conflict. Kirk's memoirs.
  • McDonald, W. Wesley, 1982. The Conservative Mind of Russell Kirk: `The Permanent Things' in an Age of Ideology. Ph.D. dissertation, The Catholic University of America
    The Catholic University of America
    The Catholic University of America is a private university located in Washington, D.C. in the United States. It is a pontifical university of the Catholic Church in the United States and the only institution of higher education founded by the U.S. Catholic bishops...

    . Citation: DAI 1982 43(1): 255-A. DA8213740. Online at ProQuest
    ProQuest
    ProQuest LLC is an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based electronic publisher and microfilm publisher.It provides archives of sources such as newspapers, periodicals, dissertations, and aggregated databases of many types. Its content is estimated at 125 billion digital pages...

     Dissertations & Theses.
  • --------, 1983, "Reason, Natural Law, and Moral Imagination in the Thought of Russell Kirk," Modern Age 27: 15–24. Issn: 0026-7457.
  • --------, 2004. "Russell Kirk and The Age of Ideology." University of Missouri Press.
  • --------, 1999. "Russell Kirk and the Prospects for Conservatism," Humanitas XII: 56–76.
  • --------, 2006. "Kirk, Russell (1918–94)," in "American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia". ISI Books: 471–474. Biographical entry.
  • Nash, George H., 1998. The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America.
  • Person, Jr., James E., 1999. "Russell Kirk: A Critical Biography of a Conservative Mind". Madison Books.
  • Russello, Gerald J., 1996, "The Jurisprudence of Russell Kirk," Modern Age 38: 354–63. Issn: 0026-7457. Reviews Kirk's writings on law, 1976–93, exploring his notion of natural law
    Natural law
    Natural law, or the law of nature , is any system of law which is purportedly determined by nature, and thus universal. Classically, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature and deduce binding rules of moral behavior. Natural law is contrasted with the positive law Natural...

    , his emphasis on the importance of the English common law
    Common law
    Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

     tradition, and his theories of change and continuity in legal history
    Legal history
    Legal history or the history of law is the study of how law has evolved and why it changed. Legal history is closely connected to the development of civilizations and is set in the wider context of social history...

    .
  • --------, 2007. "The Postmodern Imagination of Russell Kirk". University of Missouri Press.
  • --------, 1999, "Time and Timeless: the Historical Imagination of Russell Kirk," Modern Age 41: 209–19. Issn: 0026-7457.
  • --------, 2004, "Russell Kirk and Territorial Democracy," Publius 34: 109–24. Issn: 0048-5950.
  • Whitney, Gleaves, 2001, "The Swords of Imagination: Russell Kirk's Battle with Modernity," Modern Age 43: 311–20. Issn: 0026-7457. Argues that Kirk used five "swords of imagination": historical, political, moral, poetic, and prophetic.

External links