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A Christian Humanist

Having access to personal correspondence and other private papers is every biographer’s dream, a potential difference between a decent biography and a great biography.  In the case of Russell Kirk, the advantage was huge.  Kirk maintained a “massive—in some ways, beyond comprehension—correspondence” over the course of a prolific life in letters.  For example, Bradley Birzer, professor of history at Hillsdale College (where he holds the Russell Amos Kirk Chair in American Studies), notes that in late August 1975 Kirk “devoted three full writing days to answering 180 letters.”  That was hardly unusual, as Kirk’s work ethic was legendary.  Kirk’s private papers also contain several unpublished manuscripts, outlines for books, and essays that were, for various (and sometimes unknown) reasons, never published.  In the 13 years he spent writing his To the Point column for National Review—in addition to numerous books and essays—Kirk wrote more than 1.5 million words.  He was, as Birzer suggests more than once, a sort of American Chesterton.

The similarities are more than statistical in nature.  Like Chesterton, Kirk wrote about nearly everything: domestic politics, global events, American and European history, culture, philosophy, literature, art, architecture, and the ordinary joys of everyday life.  He

offered...

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