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Russell Kirk and the Negation of Ideology

“The magnificent cause of being, / The imagination, the one reality /
In this imagined world . . . ”

—Wallace Stevens

Though ten years have passed since his death on April 29, 1994, Russell Kirk has yet to be the subject of a definitive intellectual biography.  In his own posthumously published autobiography, The Sword of Imagination: Memoirs of a Half-Century of Literary Conflict (1995), Kirk did not pretend to present a comprehensive summary of his thought, striving instead to render imaginatively the most important scenes of his life.  The result is a book that many of us who knew Kirk find ourselves returning to more and more as time goes by, not to remind ourselves where he stood on thus-and-such, but to conjure his shade when our memories, sadly, grow dim.  The third-person narrative, about which I had my doubts when I reviewed the memoirs for Chronicles, now seems a comfort, because Kirk’s voice comes through perhaps more strongly than it would have if he had written in the first person.  Despite its great charms, however, The Sword of Imagination is not the place for the student of Kirk to discover the fullness of the content of Kirk’s thought.

Nor, for that matter, is James E. Person, Jr.’s admirable Russell Kirk: A Critical Biography of a Conservative...

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