Obituary: Russell Kirk
Thursday 30 June 1994
RUSSELL KIRK, the American social philosopher, was credited with being singly responsible for the resurgence of conservatism in the United States with his seminal bestseller The Conservative Mind: from Burke to Santayana (1953), sparking the political trend which eventually found its fulfilment in the presidency of Ronald Reagan.
During the same period when the activities of Senator McCarthy were deluding many into thinking he was a bona fide conservative, Kirk argued forcefully that conservatism was a coherent school of thought different from the basic doctrines of anti-Communism, and there must be room for tradition, culture and moral order.
His thesis was revised as The Conservative Mind: from Burke to Eliot in 1960, in conjunction with several more books which expanded on similar themes: A Program for Conservatives (1954), The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Conservatism (1957), Edmund Burke: a genius reconsidered (1967), Eliot and His Age (1971), and many others.
Kirk began a separate part-time career as a master of spectral and Gothic literature while studying for his DLitt at St Andrews University from 1949 to 1952. While temporarily short of funds, he contributed four ghost stories ('Behind the Stumps', 'The Surly Sullen Bell', 'Uncle Isaiah', and 'Old Place of Sorworth') to a new bimonthly, London Mystery Magazine. These tales are now recognised as modern classics.
A much later tale, 'There's a Long, Long Trail a-Winding', brought Kirk the World Fantasy Award for short fiction in 1977. Many connoisseurs of the genre rated him as the sole remaining American fantasist whose ghost stories merit legitimate comparison with the old masters, especially Blackwood, de la Mare and Wharton. Barely two dozen in number, written over a period of nearly 40 years, his ghost stories were collected in three volumes, The Surly Sullen Bell (1962; reissued as Lost Lake, 1964); The Princess of All Lands (1979); and Watchers of the Strait Gate (1984). Old House of Fear (1961), a Gothic novel set in Scotland, ingeniously combined Kirk's two favourite themes: political theory and the supernatural.
Piety Hill, Kirk's ancestral home in Michigan where he lived most of his life, has always been regarded as a benevolently haunted house, most of the ghosts being Kirk's own 19th-century relatives. In recent years he often claimed that this tall Italianate mansion was usually crowded, in addition to its spectres, by refugees from Ethiopia, Vietnam, and elsewhere - not to mention the towering hobo who, as 'Frank Sarsfield', appears in several of his stories.
- 1 Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
- 2 McKamey Manor: This 'extreme' haunted house is the stuff of nightmares
- 3 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 4 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 5 David Beckham's Haig Club whisky is exactly what’s wrong with the Highlands
Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery rumours: 'I'm living a more fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
Eleven members of same family hospitalised after eating deadly pufferfish
FCKH8: YouTube reinstates provocative anti-sexism video showing young girls swearing
Phone-hacking: The Piers Morgan connection - Mirror admits some stories during Morgan's tenure may have been obtained by illegal means
Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
Poppy Appeal 2014: This is why I won't be wearing a red poppy this year
£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...
£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...