Some of the happiest memories of my collegiate days are fervent barroom debates among a small but redoubtable and congenial company of reactionaries.
The smell of spilled beer and sawdust still reminds me of those times. Outside, the 60’s raged. Hairy “students” with girlish arms and shoulders and trust funds preached revolution and the merits of Mao and Che. In the back booths of Clarence’s Bar and Grill and The Shack, however, our discussions were deeper and more serious, as well as decidedly unfashionable. What are the true principles of conservatism? Or what are the principles of true conservatism?
The argument often revolved around Russell Kirk’s six canons or James Burnham’s 29 theses. Or even around a silly collection of “conservative” writings by the then-not-yet-totally-discredited William F. Buckley, Jr. It was called I Thought I Saw a Dream Walking or some such title and was notable for the absence of almost every important American conservative thinker. Straussians and ultramontanists were well represented, but not Richard M. Weaver.
If only we had had Chilton Williamson’s Conservative Bookshelf in those days! Our discussions would have been infinitely better guided and more fruitful. Mr. Williamson’s selection of 50 works is as near perfection as is ever approached...