The Letters of Russell Kirk
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Imprint: The University Press of Kentucky
Russell Kirk (1918–1994) is renowned worldwide as one of the founders of postwar American conservatism. His 1953 masterpiece, The Conservative Mind, became the intellectual touchstone for a reinvigorated movement and began a sea change in the nation's attitudes toward traditionalism. A prolific author and wise cultural critic, Kirk kept up a steady stream of correspondence with friends and colleagues around the globe, yet none of his substantial body of personal letters has ever been published—letters as colorful and intelligent as the man himself.
In Imaginative Conservatism, James E. Person Jr. presents one hundred and ninety of Kirk's most provocative and insightful missives. Covering a period from 1940 to 1994, these letters trace Kirk's development from a shy, precocious young man to a public intellectual firm in his beliefs and generous with his time and resources when called upon to provide for refugees, the homeless, and other outcasts. This carefully annotated and edited collection includes correspondence between Kirk and figures such as T.S. Eliot, William F. Buckley Jr., Ray Bradbury, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Charlton Heston, Nikolai Tolstoy, Wendell Berry, Richard Nixon, and Herbert Hoover, among many others.
Kirk's conservatism was not primarily political but moral and imaginative, focusing always on the relationship of the human soul in community with others and with the transcendent. Beyond the wealth of autobiographical information that this collection affords, it offers thought-provoking wisdom from one of the twentieth century's most influential interpreters of American politics and culture.
"Outstanding. Kirk was a lively and lucid writer, and the letters speak wonderfully well for themselves. The result is an engrossing set of stories that work together to present the life and character of an important and fascinating thinker—and an important and fascinating personality."~Bruce Frohnen, author of Virtue and the Promise of Conservatism: The Legacy of Burke and Tocqueville
"Person is to be commended. He has done an extraordinary job in choosing, editing, and annotating the letters."~Bradley J. Birzer, author of Russell Kirk: American Conservative and American Cicero: The Life of Charles Carroll
This is the first collection of Kirk's considerable correspondence, and it is a great service to American intellectual history generally and to that of conservatism in particular. Person's excellent selections explain Kirk's work and his enduring themes, and provide context on important events of the moment.~National Review
Imaginative Conservatism is worthwhile for laymen and scholars alike—a very personal journey through one great man's attempt at bringing great ideas to the world, one letter, one connection, one article, and one book at a time.~University Bookman
A leisurely encounter with this correspondence allows one to appreciate the multiple ways Kirk aimed to sustain and renew a "moral imagination" rooted in the spiritual and cultural patrimony of Western civilization.~Law and Liberty
A real gem.~The Heavy Laden Bookshelf
[A] rich, entertaining, and often instructive selection of Kirk's letters from James E. Person, Jr., a Kirk scholar who was also a Kirk friend and associate. The volume Person has assembled... deepen[s] our encounter with Kirk (1918-1994) as man, father, philosopher, and author.~Law and Liberty
- Paolucci Book Award
- J. Franklin Jameson Award