We Need More Stalwart Conservative Fathers Like Henry James

by evanmcmurry

One of the strangest effects of conservative thought is the way it tries to claim everything old as on its ideological side; this is the primary definition of conservative, more in the Edmund Burke-through-William F. Buckley sense of the word than the Daily Caller/Michele Bachmann contemporary usage. Give any cultural figure long enough, and he’ll eventually be invoked to make the current limp-wristed know-nothing liberal grad students look like effete poofs.

But culture doesn’t necessarily soak up conservativism as it ages the way wine gets oaky from the barrel. Hence the strange arguments when conservatives try to make Thomas Mann or Goethe into some old guard of dignified, classical restraint or some nonsense. Were Thomas Mann alive today, he would cause the Breitbarts to make tax cuts in their pants; only his publishing date makes him of any use in a condemnation of contemporary liberalism.

Anyway, double this when someone tries to turn Henry James into the tribune of the nuclear family.

Up next week: what Mrs. Dalloway can tell us about housekeeping.