I first came upon Russell Kirk thirty years ago when I was foraging among political philosophers for some help in understanding why I was rejecting the liberalism that only recently had seemed to me so obvious, sensible, and right. Kirk gave me little satisfaction. He’s an essayist, not a theorist, a man of letters by his own description, not a builder of systems. I was a graduate student at the time, and I had yet to read deeply in John Henry Newman, making me susceptible to the lure of theory and system. As a consequence, Kirk’s reliance on aphorism, image, and episode...


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