Readers will no doubt have marked by now the passing of Lawrence Auster, at 3:56 AM on Good Friday.
Lawrence was a fighter by nature, fearsome to foes, a lion of the traditionalist movement in America. To the extent that such a movement exists at all, Larry (as his friends knew him) was a foundational figure who has left a lasting mark on our world. His work inspired affection, admiration, and, of course, bitter opposition. He was treated coldly by a post-War conservative movement that had moved decisively in the direction of accepting and accommodating basic liberal premises, premises which Larry spent two decades of his life exposing and criticizing with an uncompromising ferocity.
That ferocity won him conspicuously few friends within the establishment, and Larry’s practical influence was constrained by this estrangement to a regrettable degree. In spite of his almost inhuman productive capacity as a blogger, he never published books, never occupied positions of influence in the academy, never founded or attained to membership in any conservative think tank. Even his membership in the Anglo-Catholic communion, which conferred on him his Christian baptism, eventually flagged over that Church’s various surrenders on essential principle. This sort of unofficial exile was not his personal preference and he took no pride in it, knowing it as a burden and a void in his life. What is more, Larry was temperamental, given to a much-noted tendency to falling out with potential allies and, it must be admitted, a keen sensitivity to personal slight.
These facts have come unfairly to obscure his most admirable qualities, which were not really intellectual, but moral. Yes, as everyone knows, Larry was tough-minded and firm on principle. No doubt many observers are skeptical of his protestations of reluctance to spending so much of his life’s energies engaged in intellectual warfare. However, to spend an hour with the man was to encounter an expansive and generous spirit, kindly and reassuring. Despite his sometimes brutal honesty, Larry hated for other human beings to feel themselves diminished or embarrassed. Speaking for myself, I knew him as a man quick to apology for any sharpness, gentle with those more meek than himself, and broadly forgiving of human frailty.
So it is not surprising that, like a more curmudgeonly Mister Rogers, many people felt themselves close to Larry who never knew him well. He inspired a tremendous following and a great many people who liked to think of themselves as his friends. His ability to seem to speak directly to his readers, most of whom he of course never had met, was perhaps his singular gift of skill. The encouragement of others sustained Larry in a lonely and difficult vocation, and I can attest that his appreciation of such correspondents was deep and heartfelt. In person, he repaid any interest in his work with a sincere desire to reflect the love of life and the wonder at the world that was the true inspiration of his sometimes lonely crusade, and he was much too genteel ever to be grim on such occasions.
Larry and I had a few strange things in common, and at our first meeting he was surprisingly quick to identify them, preferring not to talk about himself, but taking an eager interest in the stories of those whom his work had brought into his circle. His handshake was gentlemanly, formal without a trace of austerity. He was able to discuss almost anything, but preferred to listen, especially to his elders. His eyes conveyed true openness of mind, and whenever I spoke to Larry, the edges of his mouth were always upheld by the faintest appreciative smile, so deeply did he relish the exchange of ideas, even on such subjects as the virtues of the fedora. What higher compliment can I pay him, but that I shall miss him, though we met only a few times? The memory of our last parting is a pang in my heart that will not soon fade.
I know that I will not be alone in having typed the first few letters of his web address, only to stop and wonder that this unflagging purveyor of “observations on the passing scene” is now gone. His work will live on, in some form, and it is to be hoped that with the passage of time a fuller appreciation of his thought—comfortable with paradox and mystery, but sharply inductive and often surprising—will emerge. We are poorer for his absence, but so much richer for his having lived, and though he now stands before the face of God, yet we know that Lawrence Auster is among us still.
May he know eternal pardon and peace, and rest now at the feet of One whose Word may satiate him everlastingly.