Roger Kimball took the occasion of William F. Buckley Jr.’s posthumous 87th birthday to remember a friend he describes, in conscious emulation of that particular friend’s fondness for sesquipedelian expression, as “an affirmative, not an apophatic, character.”
Emerson, who wasnâ€™t wrong about everything, devoted a book to Representative Men, men who epitomized some essential quality: Shakespeare; or, the Poet; Napoleon; or, the Man of the World; Goethe; or, the Writer. Bill was, in Emersonâ€™s sense, a Representative Man. One cannot quite imagine Emerson getting his mind around a character like William F. Buckley Jr. But if one can conjure up a less gaseous redaction of Emerson, one may suppose him writing an essay called Buckley; or, the Conservative. …
Being conservative may commit one to certain political positions or moral dogmas. But it also, and perhaps more importantly, disposes one to a certain attitude toward life. The 19th-century English writer Walter Bagehot touched upon one essential aspect of the conservative disposition when, in an essay on Scott, he observed that â€œthe essence of Toryism is enjoyment.â€ Whatever else it was, Billâ€™s life was an affidavit of enjoyment: a record of, an homage to, a life greatly, and gratefully, enjoyed. What delight he took inâ€“well, in everything. Playing the piano or harpsichord, savoring a glass of vinho verde, dissecting the latest news from Washington, inspecting with wonder the capabilities of email and internet service on a Blackberry handheld.
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Though it’s sad that Buckley is gone, we can console ourselves with the thought that he, at least, was spared seeing Barack Obama re-elected.