A Man of Imagination

In youth [Russell Kirk] had thought now and again of becoming a soldier, a professor, a lawyer—or better, a judge. Yet without quite intending it, he became a man of letters. Having drawn the sword of imagination, he ventured, in the words of Pico della Mirandola, to “join battle as to the sound of a trumpet of war,” assailing the vegetative and sensual errors of his time.

In the heat of combat, he learned how to love what ought to be loved and how to hate what ought to be hated. Buffeted in the Battle of the Books, he bore on his shield the device of the Permanent Things. As Flannery O’Connor would come to write of his literary crusade, “Old Russell lays about him.” There was no discharge in that Fifty Years’ War, so hard fought. Possibly his adventures and misadventures, like those of the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance, may be found amusing. Yet unlike Don Quixote de la Mancha, Kirk generally kept a cheerful countenance, to the vexation of certain reviewers of his books. (The Sword of Imagination, 2)


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