Recent links of note:
“The Ghost of Russell Kirk”
Matthew Continetti, The Washington Free Beacon
Russell Kirk’s centenary last week inspired many to reconsider the legacy of the great twentieth-century Michigander whose focus on the “permanent things” in his 1953 classic The Conservative Mind reinvigorated the conservative movement—and whose ghost stories always kept dinners exciting. The New Criterion hosted a conference last Friday, which would have been Kirk’s hundredth birthday, with panelists including Daniel McCarthy, the editor of Modern Age; R. R. Reno, the editor of First Things; Gerald Russello, the editor of Kirk’s own University Bookman; and others. A selection of those essays will be published in our January issue. For more on Kirk, read Matthew Continetti’s conjuring of Kirk’s advice for today’s conservatives, Stephen Schmalhofer’s review of a selection of Kirk’s short stories, and John Miller’s feature on Kirk’s wife, Annette, who survives him and runs the Russell Kirk Center from Piety Hill, their home in Mecosta, Michigan. Or go straight to the source and see how Kirk confronts the ills of his age with the “sword of the imagination” by adding his Gothic horror novel Old House of Fear to your reading list this Halloween.
“Communing with Mrs. Gaskell”
Nell Stevens, NYR Daily
The writer Elizabeth Gaskell (1810–65), a contemporary of Thackeray, Trollope, and the Brontës, wasn’t granted the posthumous fame she deserved. So Nell Stevens attended a séance to ask her what she thought of the death of her literary reputation. What else could a biographer of a Victorian do? In fact, Gaskell’s circle of expatriates in Rome would have found this a perfectly logical approach: they were “spiritualists” who believed that the dead could be contacted by the living through mediums. And the dead sometimes responded quite enthusiastically: Byron, Keats, and Shelley “dictated” a collaborative posthumous work to the medium Thomas Lake Harris in 1856. Although Stevens received no messages from Gaskell, the experience helped her to understand an era in which the dead still had much to say those they left behind. And at least at the Spiritualist Church of New York, many believe we still live in that world today.
“Lionel Trilling: America’s Matthew Arnold”
Edward Alexander, Standpoint
Lionel Trilling (1905–75) is still a household name in many intellectual circles—partly because his name trips so delightfully from the tongue. But the details of the literary critic’s legacy and his life would cause many a Jeopardy contestant to stumble. Edward Alexander describes Trilling’s struggle to gain, and to keep, his reputation as an eminent literary critic and professor in the early- to mid-twentieth century, first because of his Jewish background and later because of his turn against liberalism as a whole and against modernism in literature. For more on Trilling, read Life in Culture: Selected Letters of Lionel Trilling, out last month from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. And be sure to look for Paul Dean’s review of the letters in a forthcoming issue of The New Criterion.
“Fourth Annual Poetry Reading”
James Matthew Wilson, First Things
Join the poet, philosopher, and professor James Matthew Wilson for a night of poetry in the “high Christian humanist tradition,” as Dana Gioia puts it. Wilson will read from his poetry from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. on Sunday, October 28, at Immanuel Lutheran Church on East Eighty-eighth Street in New York. If you can’t make it to the event Sunday, check out his most recent poetry collection, with the Kirk-echoing title Some Permanent Things, and The Fortunes of Poetry in an Age of Unmaking, his denunciation of the state of contemporary poetry.
From our pages:
Notes on Elina