And gladly would he teach

The Spring issue of the Claremont Review of Books (subscribe here) has just been published. In the issue Daniel Oliver reviews the life and work of the late, great William F. Buckley, Jr. Much has been written of Buckley’s accomplishments lately, but Oliver reviews Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription, a recent collection of correspondence from National Review’s long-running Notes & Asides column, to remind us of Buckley’s singular wit, his capacity for friendship, and his skills as a master journalist.

The title of the book, Oliver recalls, comes from Buckley’s reply to an irate NR subscriber who wrote in saying: “Three cheers to Dr. Ross Terrill. He slashed you to bits as you have been doing to yourself for the past year. Cancel my subscription.” But wit aside, no one was a truer or more loyal friend than Bill Buckley. In fact, Buckley’s last essay for the CRB was on this very topic.

Buckley’s success in forming and leading the conservative movement was in part due to this capacity for friendship, and also to his natural knack for teaching. “In Cancel,” Oliver writes, “one finds no dreary doctrines but wit enough for a lifetime; and not just pretty little baubles in the air but wonderful instruction. Buckley was a born teacher (he once described his favorite occupation as correcting other people’s errors), in a world where the reigning Zeitgeist—central planning in its many guises—was one huge error.”

And who will teach conservatives now that Buckley is gone? “Now,” Oliver writes, “the conservatives, with their disparate interests, wander, not yet having found a new banner to march under. Hence the grousing. That’s not Buckley’s fault. He led them to the promised land. What they do after feasting on milk and honey is their responsibility.” Oliver’s review/essay is “A born teacher.”


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