A Favorite Bit of Dialogue: Cato the Younger

From Cato: A Tragedy by Joseph Addison (Liberty Fund edition, ed. by Christine Dunn Henderson and Mark Yellin)

Cato the Younger

Cato the Younger

Juba: These all are virtues of a meaner rank,

Perfections that are placed in bones and nerves

A Roman soul is bent on higher views:

To civilize the rue, unpolished world,

And lay it under the restraint of laws;

To make man mild, and social to man;

To cultivate the wild, licentious savage

With wisdom, discipline, and liberal arts—

The embellishments of life; virtues like these

Make human nature shine, reform the soul,

And break our fierce barbarians into men.

Later in the play:

Juba:I blush and am confounded to appear/Before thy presence, Cato

Cato:What’s thy crime?

Juba:I’m a Numidian

Cato: And a brave one too/Thou hast a Roman soul

Juba: Hast thou not heard/Of my false countrymen?

Cato: Alas!  Young prince/Falsehood and fraud shoot up in every soil,/The product of all climes–Rome has its Caesars.

The University Bookman and Gerald Russello

One of the things I’d like to do this year while at CU-Boulder and with this blog is introduce readers to new resources available on the web (and elsewhere).  Yesterday, I mentioned the Acton Institute and Liberty Fund, each a venerable organization.

Today, I’d like to take a quick look at The University Bookman, edited by lawyer and scholar (and all-around fantastic and hilarious person), Gerald Russello.  The official website is: http://www.kirkcenter.org/index.php/bookman/

A 1979 issue of the University Bookman, still reflecting the original design.

A 1979 issue of the University Bookman, still reflecting the original design.

In a long and complicated history that is probably not worth detailing in this post, Russell Kirk (1918-1994) wanted a journal to promote liberal (as in liberal arts) scholarship in the 1950s.  He wanted it to reflect the scholarship and editorial efforts of the American and English humanists of the 1920s and 1930s.  He also wanted to correct what he perceived to be a dangerous and wrong-headed bias in certain schools of thought in the 1950s, especially after the establishment of Israel: a rather powerful strain of anti-Semitism.  Kirk believed that one of his own heroes, Leo Strauss, was being dismissed because of his Jewishness.  Hence, in 1957, Kirk published the first issue of his journal (still in existence), Modern Age.  That, too, failed, and for the same reasons that Kirk had originally created it.  By 1959, Kirk had become convinced that his editorial boarded (imposed by the publisher) had become anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic.  He resigned.

But, Kirk could not be without an editing project.  So, after resigning from Modern Age, he created The University Bookman.  Taking its name from the American humanist journal of the 1920s, The Bookman, Kirk finally had full control over his creation.  Published quarterly, The University Bookman included poetry and essays (academic as well as belle letters) on everything imaginable.  As in all things, Kirk sought dialogue, not conformity, and The University Bookman reflects this.  Writers included George Scott-Moncrief, Thomas Molnar, Ruth Bevan, Anthony Kerrigan, Gordon Tullock, Peter Stanlis, and James Schall.  An impressive list.

Kirk died in April 1994, but The University Bookman continues.  Today, as a web journal exclusively, the publication continues under the very able leadership of Gerald Russello.

The current logo of the University Bookman, an online journal edited by Gerald Russello.

The current logo of the University Bookman, an online journal edited by Gerald Russello.

The journal continues to seek dialogue, not conformity, and its fine contributors include Dan McCarthy, Allen Mendenhall, Gregory Wolfe, Winston Elliott, T. John Jamison, Jim Person, Bruce Frohnen, Chuck Chalberg, Glen Sproviero, Ted McCallister, and Ben Lockerd.  Still, an impressive list.

So, when you have a moment, and you’re looking for good new resources in the liberal arts, check out Russello’s The University Bookman.  Be careful, though.  You might very well end up missing dinner . . . as you’ll be too enraptured to hear the bell.

The University Bookman is a project of the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal, Mecosta, Michigan, led by a force of nature, Annette Kirk.



At another website, Stormfields, I have begun to scan and post issues of The University Bookman.  I only have ten done so far, but I plan to continue when I return to Michigan in July 2015:  http://en.search.wordpress.com/?q=University+Bookman&site=stormfields.wordpress.com

Liberty and the Declaration of Independence


Pierre Goodrich founded Liberty Fund in 1960. It continues to thrive as one of the single most important organizations in the world promoting great ideas and great works.

I just this morning returned from an excellent conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Sponsored by the Acton Institute and Liberty Fund and directed by the always impressive Charissa Romens, I had the great fortune of leading roughly 16 ministers (and a few from other assorted professions) in six 90-minute discussions.  In Socratic seminars, we covered everything from the Magna Carta to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Professor James Stoner, Louisiana State University and Princeton.

Professor James Stoner, Louisiana State University and Princeton.

The intellectual highlight of the weekend, though, was getting to enjoy a lecture by Professor Jim Stoner, head of the political science department at Louisiana State University.  A student of Harvey Mansfield (Harvard) and a sometime professor at Princeton, Stoner justly holds a very high reputation in academia.  I’ve had the privilege of seeing him lecture three times now, and each was wonderfully evocative of the true nature of scholarship–wit, wisdom, deep scholarship, and a nice dose of mischief.

Also excellent was an opening lecture by John Pinheiro, professor of history and Director of Catholic Studies, Aquinas College, Grand Rapids.

Father Robert Sirico and Kris Mauren founded the Action Institute in 1990.  It has grown mightily over its mere 24-year history and has done great good in the world.  For more information, go here.

Indiana businessman and man of letters, Pierre Goodrich, founded Liberty Fund in 1960 as a non-profit organization to evangelize the great works of world civilization.  Liberty Fund impressively, if somewhat shockingly, holds almost 150 seminars every year, all across the globe.

The Indianapolis based non-profit also sells its beautifully bound books at cost.

Its main online outreach, though, is the Online Library of Liberty, a virtual library that houses thousands of books in at least three, and sometimes as many as five, formats, all gratis!  To download almost every imaginable “great work” of the western tradition, go here.

I’ve had the privilege of being involved with Acton and Liberty Fund since 1991.  Long may the relationship continue!

acton institute

Robert Sirico and Kris Mauren founded Acton in 1990.

Batman is 75 Today

Wait a minute–a conservative blog praising Batman.  What’s going on?  So far, I’ve covered Colorado patriotism, Bob Higgs, Eva Brann, Aeneas, and George Washington.  Today, Bruce Wayne.

The various incarnation of Batman by Phil Cho.  Taken from: http://phil-cho.deviantart.com/

The various incarnations of Batman by Phil Cho. Taken from: http://phil-cho.deviantart.com/

Just in case you thought conservatives were stuffy–loving things such as The Aeneid and The Federalists Papers–let me state that I also love Detective Comics (DC), progressive rock music, and science fiction novels.  But, today, I’ll stick with DC and Batman.

Seventy-five years ago, Bob Kane and Bill Fingers released their first The Bat-Man story in Detective Comics 27.  The cover date read May 1939, but it actually appeared on the stands, July 23, 1939.  It’s worth remembering that America was still in a Great Depression, Europe was on the verge of massive war (though, few knew it), and pulp still ruled on book shelves.

How could Kane and Fingers have known they were creating an American legend?

I first encountered Batman in a coloring book my beloved grandparents gave me around 1971.  I still have the coloring book.  It’s rather silly–Batman taking on some kind of frog people–but I loved it.  Of course, I was only 3, and, most likely, my grandparents bought it to keep me busy and give them a little breathing space from a rather energetic young boy.  It worked.  Here I am, age 46, and still a Batman fan.

I won’t go into a lot of details in this piece (though I’ll link to some others–mine as well as to an excellent piece by my friend, philosopher Aeon Skoble), but I would like to offer three brief thoughts.

First, Bruce Wayne/Batman is as popular a character as any fictional character in America’s literary history.  Whether this is good or bad might be a cause for debate, but few would debate his popularity.  Perhaps we should know Natty Bumppo, Nick Adam, and Bishop Latour better.  But, we know Bruce Wayne.  Only Huck Finn surpasses Wayne, and barely.

Second, the character of Batman is extremely American and, indeed, Western.  He’s part vampire hunter, part inventor, part detective, part entrepreneur, part patron. . . what’s not to love?  He’s also part St. Michael, part King Arthur, and part Beowulf.

Third, we Americans, whether we recognize it or not, crave myth, story, and heroism.  Bruce Wayne is the personification of charity while Batman is the personification of justice.  The ancients had their gods and demigods, the medievals their saints, and we have post moderns have our superheroes.

Happy Birthday, Batman.  I would guess you’ll be as well known at 200 as you are at 75.


Aeon Skoble on Frank Miller’s Batman (and Superman)


Me: From Aeneas to Batman


Me: Batman: Western Man


Me: Happy Birthday, Batman!


What Aeneas Told Washington

VITAL REMNANTS (ISI Books, 1998), edited by Gary L. Gregg II.

VITAL REMNANTS (ISI Books, 1998), edited by Gary L. Gregg II.

Well, ok, the two never met.  At least not in this reality.  Still, many Americans of the day regarded George Washington as the American Aeneas.  Of course, he was also known as the American Cato the Younger, the American Cicero, the American Achilles (his only Greek title, as far as I know), and the American Cincinnatus.

A lot of scholarship has examined the English (from King Alfred on), the liberal/Enlightenment, republican, and the Protestant influences on the culture and ethos of Revolutionary America.  Sadly, though, very few scholars have looked at the classical and antique origins of America.

Of those few, however, one of the very best is CU’s very own Chris Kopff, a professor in Boulder since 1973.  A classicist with a love of the American Founding, Kopff has not only absorbed the literature that exists on the subject, but he’s also contributed some very original thoughts to it as well.

Kopff, as many can attest, is an excellent speaker as well as writer.  One of my favorite pieces he wrote, “Open Shutters on the Past: Rome and the Founders,” can be found in an excellent anthology put together by Gary Gregg and published in 1998, Vital Remnants: America’s Founding and the Western Tradition.

The opening paragraph will give you a sense of Kopff’s abilities as a scholar and writer:

If direct contact with the classical tradition was essential for the American Found, it may be equally essential for a contemporary attempt to restore freedom and creativity to the United States.  If the classical tags of eighteenth-century political debate were as incidental to the achievements of that age as its powered wigs and snuffboxes, the classical past will be all the more irrelevant to our age and its dilemmas (Vital Remnants, pg. 71)

Kopff, not surprisingly, finds the past very relevant to the present, noting that while the Founders did not try to recreate the classical world, they did live and breathe it in their actions, their ideas, their letters, their debates, and their architecture.

And, this takes us back to Aeneas.  In Virgil’s classic story of the men of Troy searching for a home in the Mediterranean, Aeneas, through a myriad of trials against human and god, comes to forge a new civilization on the Tiber.  Neither Trojan nor Latin, it combined into the best of each, thus assuring the firm foundations of the republic and (unfortunately) the empire.

Washington in his own words and actions did the same in America, at least at a deeply symbolic level.  Just as with Aeneas, Washington sought not to create an entirely new civilization, but, instead, sewed together pieces of the past to make something acceptable to the present.  America was not something entirely new.  Instead, it was Hebraic, Christian, American Indian (the equivalent of the Latins in the Aeneid), Greco-Roman, and very English.

Though perhaps the least liberally educated of the American Founders, Washington exemplified the spirit of antiquity.  He possessed the physical prowess of Achilles, the fortitude of Cato, the humility of Cincinnatus, the wisdom and patience of Cicero, and the hope of Aeneas.