Selected Short Writings of Russell Kirk

On American Conservatism, Government and Culture

Virtue: Can It Be Taught?
Source: Modern Age, Summer/Fall 1982
The Illusion of Human Rights
“There exists something even more important than civil liberties: the survival of legitimate governments.”
Source: © 1987 Russell Kirk. Reprinted in The Wise Men Know What Wicked Things Are Written on the Sky (Regnery 1987)
Enlivening the Conservative Mind
Source: The Intercollegiate Review, Vol. 21 (Spring 1986), pp. 25–28.
The Best Form of Government
Source: Catholic World, Vol. 192 (December 1960), pp. 156–63.
What Are American Traditions?
Source: The Georgia Review, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Fall 1955), pp. 283–89.
The Essence of Conservatism
Source: Adapted from The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Conservatism (New York: The Devin-Adair Company, 1957). Copyright © 1957 by Russell Kirk, renewed © 2002 by Annette Kirk. Used by permission.
Ten Conservative Principles
Source: Adapted from The Politics of Prudence (ISI Books, 1993). Copyright © 1993 by Russell Kirk. Used by permission of the Estate of Russell Kirk.

On Education

Prospects for American Education
An address discussing the findings of the Report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education. “There will come about a marked decline of prosperity and of national strength—with no one knowing why, or at least no one daring to explain why.”
Source: Russell Kirk, The Wise Men Know What Wicked Things Are Written on the Sky (Regnery, 1987)
Education and the Information Revolution
The major ceremonies of the academic community have traditionally been the fall convocation and the spring commencement. This year Russell Kirk, a nationally recognized historian, author, educator and political theorist, played an important role in Grand Valley’s observance of both of these occasions. Kirk, a native of Michigan who resides in Mecosta, received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree at GVSC’s 1983 commencement. He recently returned to the campus to deliver a thought-provoking convocation address which has been the subject of lively discussion throughout the Grand Valley community. His convocation remarks were taken from the following text.
Source: Horizons (Fall 1983), pp. 1–2.
The Revitalized College: A Model
Source: From Education in a Free Society, ed. Anne Burleigh (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1973), pp. 71–101.
The Inhumane Businessman
“A man is seldom more innocently occupied than when he is engaged in making money,” said Dr. Samuel Johnson. But he may be cheating himself, says an observer of modern American money-makers.
Source: Fortune, Vol. 55 (May 1957), pp. 160–61, 248.

On Literature and the Humanities

On Valerie Eliot
Dr. Lockerd reflects on the life of Valerie Eliot.
‘Warm with Generous Impulse’: Ray Bradbury, In Memoriam
Russell Kirk on Ray Bradbury, on the occasion of the death of Bradbury.
Literature and the Contract of Eternal Society
Source: From Enemies of the Permanent Things. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1969.
The Moral Conservatism of Hawthorne
Source: The Contemporary Review, Vol. 182 (December, 1952), pp. 361–66.
English Letters in the Age of Boredom
Source: Shenandoah, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Spring 1956), pp. 3–15.
Is Life Worth Living?
Concluding a public lecture, Russell Kirk once assured his listeners: “If you look for the Supernatural, you will find it. I promise you: I have.” From the concluding chapter of Kirk’s third-person autobiography.
Source: Russell Kirk. “Epilogue: Is Life Worth Living?” in The Sword of Imagination: Memoirs of a Half-Century of Literary Conflict (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), 471-76. Copyright © 1995. Reprinted by permission of the estate of Russell Kirk.
The Moral Imagination
The moral imagination is an enduring source of inspiration that elevates us to first principles as it guides us upwards towards virtue and wisdom and redemption.
Source: Russell Kirk. "The Moral imagination." in Literature and Belief Vol. 1 (1981), 37–49. Also published in Reclaiming a Patrimony (Washington, DC: The Heritage Foundation, 1982), 45–58. Copyright © 1981 Russell Kirk, Renewed 2007 Annette Kirk.

On History

Lincoln and the Dignity of the Presidency
Source: A speech given February 12, 1970 (transcribed by Brad Birzer)
The Measure of Abraham Lincoln
Source: The Month, Vol. 2 (April 1954), pp. 197–206.
The Common Heritage of America and Europe
Source: Christianity Today, Vol. 4 (January 4, 1960), pp 259–62.
Friedrich Gentz on Revolutions
Source: Contemporary Review, Vol. 190 (November 1956), pp. 283–87.

On Edmund Burke and His Thought

The Living Edmund Burke
Source: From Modern Age, Summer/Fall 1982
How Dead is Edmund Burke?
Source: Queen’s Quarterly Vol. 57 (Summer, 1950), pp. 160–171.
Burke, Providence, and Archaism
Source: A review in The Sewanee Review Vol. 69, No. 1 (January–March, 1961), pp. 179–84.
Burke Dispassionately Considered
Source: A review in The Sewanee Review, Volume LXXIV, Number 2, April–June, 1966.
Burke and the Principle of Order
Source: From The Sewanee Review, Vol. 60 (April–June 1952), p. 187–201.
Edmund Burke and the Constitution
Source: From the Intercollegiate Review, Winter 1985–86; this essay was a condensation of a longer treatment of the same subject on which Dr. Kirk was then working.
Edmund Burke and the Future of American Politics
“We are at the beginning of great troubles.”
Source: From Modern Age, Spring 1987
Why Edmund Burke Is Studied
To resist the idyllic imagination and the diabolical imagination, we need to know the moral imagination of Edmund Burke.
Source: First published in Modern Age, Summer/Fall 1986
Burke and Natural Rights
Source: Reprinted from The Review of Politics, Vol. 13. No. 4, October, 1951
Burke and the Philosophy of Prescription
Source: From Journal of the History of Ideas Vol. 14 (June, 1953), pp. 365–80.


The Surly Sullen Bell
Source: This short story was first published in The London Mystery Magazine No. 7, December 1950–January 1951. © 1950 Russell A. Kirk
Ex Tenebris
One of Russell Kirk’s most celebrated “ghostly tales,” this short story is sure to enthrall and, ironically, enlighten.
Source: Copyright © 1957 Russell A. Kirk.
A Cautionary Note on the Ghostly Tale
Source: This previously published essay appeared most recently in Ancestral Shadows: An Anthology of Ghostly Tales, by Russell Kirk, edited with an introduction by Vigen Guroian (Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004).

(Also see the Ghostly Kirk website for more on Russell Kirk’s fiction.)