I seem to have begun a trend of reading books about language. Right now I’m delving into H.L. Mencken’s The American Language, Fourth Edition. In addition, however, while browsing around the library website I happened upon Richard M. Weaver’s Language is Sermonic, and I can’t wait to get started on it. I’ve placed a hold, and I’ll head up there as soon as traffic dies down.
Weaver is an interesting character. Raised in rural North Carolina, he had the sagacity of an octogenarian, even at a relatively young age. His writing style reminds me of a wonderful teacher I had in college who was raised not far from Weaver’s hometown. When I finished Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences, I felt as if my whole brain had been rearranged, and in a good way. It’s one of the most important books I’ve ever read.
The careless or biased reader of Weaver might try to pigeonhole him as a Tory, or, worse, a theocrat, but based on what I’ve read of him so far, I’d be very cautious about assigning exact labels to his political thinking. He was too smart for that, for one thing. The closest one might get is by calling him some kind of old school conservative–of the John T. Flynn or Albert Jay Nock variety rather than of the Buckley or Goldwater asylum. For what it’s worth, the final chapters of Ideas Have Consequences, written already in 1948, spell out possible cures to our ailing culture: the protection of property rights (which at this point would be more like the recovery of property rights), the restoration of language, and piety and justice–which can probably be summed up as tradition, that is, respect for our fathers and our history. Notice that only one of these cures–property rights–relates even remotely to the State, and that it involves the negative role rather than the positive.
Take some time to get to know the work of this Southern aristocrat.