RIP, Florence King

 

Florence KingI was saddened to see this morning that Florence King had passed yesterday. I don’t have time to write much here. National Review Online has a proper obituary.

When I was young and a budding conservative, I devoured the old National Review magazines, and one column I could not miss was the Florence King column, which I believe was on the back end of the issue. When I proclaim the rightful superiority of traditional conservatism, Florence King was one of those writers that had an impact on my thinking. Here’s how her Wikipedia entry characterizes her conservative philosophy:

King was a traditionalist conservative, but not a “movement conservative,” and she objected to much of the populist direction of the contemporary American Right. King labeled herself a “misanthrope.” She was an active Episcopalian (though she often referred to her agnosticism), a member of Phi Alpha Theta, and a monarchist.

Monarchist? Well, she probably was and that’s about as traditional a conservative as one gets. To be fair, King’s father was British, and so that may be referring to her British, Tory leanings.

But she most definitely was a misanthrope. That characteristic is the one I most remember about her. I pulled up a few of her quotes posted on Goodreads. Let me share a few.

She never married and from what I gathered she was mostly a hermit:

“Keep dating and you will become so sick, so badly crippled, so deformed, so emotionally warped and mentally defective that you will marry anybody.”

She was always ready to touch on her misanthropy:

“Misanthropes have some admirable — if paradoxical — virtues. It is no exaggeration to say that we are among the nicest people you are likely to meet. Because good manners build sturdy walls, our distaste for intimacy makes us exceedingly cordial. “Ships that pass in the night.” As long as you remain a stranger we will be your friend forever.”

She had the ability to read the very core of people:

“Hell hath no fury like a liberal arts major scorned.”

And,

“The belle is a product of the Deep South, which is a product of the nineteenth century and the Age of Romanticism. Virginia is a product of the eighteenth century. It’s impossible to extract a belle from the Age of Reason.”

Being a southerner, she frequently wrote about it.

“One of the most startling phenomena I ever witnessed occurred in the South after the Arab-Israeli Six-day War. I doubt if the world has ever seen such a rapid ceasefire in antisemitism. I heard one Southern man after another say in tones that i can only describe as gleeful: ‘by dern, those Jew boys sure can fight!’ One man seriously recommended that Congress pass a special act making Moshe Dayan an American citizen so that he could become Secretary of Defense. He had obviously found a new hero;’as he put it ‘That one-eyed bastid would wipe out anybody offin the map whut gave us any trouble.”

And

“Southerners have a genius for psychological alchemy … If something intolerable simply cannot be changed, driven away or shot they will not only tolerate it but take pride in it as well.”

But her greatest gift was her wit and way with words:

“A woman must wait for her ovaries to die before she can get her rightful personality back. Post-menstrual is the same as pre-menstrual; I am once again what I was before the age of twelve: a female human being who knows that a month has thirty days, not twenty-five, and who can spend every one of them free of the shackles of that defect of body and mind known as femininity.”

Rest in peace Florence King, I shall forever remember reading you at night in that beloved magazine.

There are 36 comments.

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  1. A-Squared Inactive

    RIP. Loved reading Ms. King. Still do.

    • #1
    • January 7, 2016, at 5:33 AM PDT
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  2. Zafar Member

    That is truly sad news. I just re-read Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady and was able to share it with my mother (who loved it).

    The world feels a little less bright.

    • #2
    • January 7, 2016, at 5:39 AM PDT
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  3. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Zafar: That is truly sad news. I just re-read Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady and was able to share it with my mother (who loved it).

    One of our households’ favorite books.

    RIP, Ms. King.

    • #3
    • January 7, 2016, at 6:02 AM PDT
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  4. Robert McReynolds Inactive

    OH that is terrible news. I too loved her pieces in the dead tree version of NR. She will be missed. RIP.

    • #4
    • January 7, 2016, at 6:17 AM PDT
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  5. Doctor Bass Monkey Inactive

    She will be missed. She didn’t pull her punches and could make you belly laugh while doing it.

    • #5
    • January 7, 2016, at 7:39 AM PDT
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  6. Sandy Member

    I loved almost every misanthropic word of hers that I’ve read, especially Southern Ladies and Gentlemen (can anyone forget “the self-rejuvenating virgin?”). She was a treasure, and I’m very sorry to hear of her death.

    • #6
    • January 7, 2016, at 7:58 AM PDT
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  7. Liz Member
    Liz

    Sandy: I loved almost every misanthropic word of hers that I’ve read, especially Southern Ladies and Gentlemen (can anyone forget “the self-rejuvenating virgin?”).

    …or “Return to sinner,” or “Oh, Law!” or “Please give me room! My womb’s falling out!”

    A unique and wonderful talent. Very sorry to have lost her.

    • #7
    • January 7, 2016, at 9:21 AM PDT
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  8. Podkayne of Israel Member

    No!!!

    • #8
    • January 7, 2016, at 11:51 AM PDT
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  9. Teresa Mendoza Inactive

    Thank you, Manny, for this great post. I too devoured NR when I was young – always starting at the back with Florence King’s column. RIP.

    • #9
    • January 7, 2016, at 12:26 PM PDT
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  10. Manny Member
    Manny Post author

    TerMend:Thank you, Manny, for this great post. I too devoured NR when I was young – always starting at the back with Florence King’s column. RIP.

    You’re welcome.

    And thanks to all who commented. She was one of a kind.

    • #10
    • January 7, 2016, at 12:55 PM PDT
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  11. Vice-Potentate Member

    I always flipped first to her column in NR. It was my favorite, bar none.

    • #11
    • January 7, 2016, at 3:36 PM PDT
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  12. tigerlily Member

    Vice-Potentate:I always flipped first to her column in NR. It was my favorite, bar none.

    Me too. Now, I have to settle for Long or Lileks. RIP.

    • #12
    • January 7, 2016, at 3:52 PM PDT
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  13. Trinity Waters Inactive

    We were lucky to read or know her.

    Her passing puts memories of Christopher Hitchens back in my head. He too had a matchless way with words.

    • #13
    • January 7, 2016, at 3:55 PM PDT
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  14. Addiction Is A Choice Member

    Stet, Damnit!” sits proudly on my shelf!

    Thank you, Manny, for the post!

    • #14
    • January 7, 2016, at 4:09 PM PDT
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  15. Percival Thatcher

    Vice-Potentate:I always flipped first to her column in NR. It was my favorite, bar none.

    I did the exact opposite. I’d wade through the dry policy stuff – “Towards a More Cosmopolitan Parochialism,” “Whither Abyssinia,” etc. – like so many servings of vegetables and save Miss King for last, the ice cream sundae with a cherry on top.

    God rest ye, nasty gentlewoman.

    • #15
    • January 7, 2016, at 4:09 PM PDT
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  16. RightAngles Member

    I loved her in NR too. I was in my 20s and a recent convert. She was a part of my conversion.

    • #16
    • January 7, 2016, at 4:27 PM PDT
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  17. Western Chauvinist Member

    Gosh, she was a lot younger than I thought! I may be embarrassing myself to admit it, but when I read the print edition of NR (back in the olden days), I wasn’t always sure her writing wasn’t a reprint of something from the past. Maybe it was her traditionalism? I loved her writing, even if it felt like a blast from the past. Or, maybe because it was reminiscent of a better time in conservative intellectual history?

    In any case, RIP Miss King. Thanks for the laughs.

    • #17
    • January 7, 2016, at 4:29 PM PDT
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  18. captainpower Inactive

    Manny: I don’t have time to write much here. National Review Online has a proper obituary.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/429353/florence-king-obituary

    Rest in Peace, Florence

    by JACK FOWLER

    January 6, 2016 8:08 PM

    • #18
    • January 7, 2016, at 5:36 PM PDT
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  19. barbara lydick Coolidge

    How many times can we say that we would read her column first when our dead tree NR arrived in the mail without it sounding stale? OK, we didn’t exhibit delayed gratification as Percival did. No self restraint…

    I’m pretty sure I have every book she wrote – and for good reason: she is a national treasure. And rereading them is such a joy – they are as fresh today as when she penned them.

    • #19
    • January 7, 2016, at 5:45 PM PDT
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  20. Manny Member
    Manny Post author

    Oh I just fully read the NRO obit by Jack Fowler. It’s great. Here’s an excerpt:

    Florence King was one of the premier writers of the 20th century. In particular, as a book reviewer, she was unrivaled. And was there a better scourge of multiculturalism than the crotchety, gin-swilling, chain-smoking, off-colored prose perfectionist who fired off verbal mortars from a nicotine-and-tar patina-d apartment on Caroline Street? I don’t think so. She is an important part of the history and fiber of this institution known for harboring great writers. Her thousands upon thousands of adoring fans — many of whom she counted as pen pals (she loved getting letters from her readers) — will agree.

    One private thing: Florence was spiritual — at least that she felt the spirit of a few departed souls, especially her famous Granny. That led her to think, maybe . . . A few months back she asked me to pray for her, and I did, and she was happy to know that rosaries on Bill Buckley’s old beads were being said for her. It gave her comfort, and maybe there were other consequences. But tonight I will say another prayer for her, and I hope you will too, because if you were someone who derived great enjoyment from reading Florence King, know that, at the end, she sought peace, and if we can help her rest in it, we should.

    Oh, do pray for her.

    • #20
    • January 7, 2016, at 6:14 PM PDT
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  21. Manny Member
    Manny Post author

    captainpower:

    Manny: I don’t have time to write much here. National Review Online has a proper obituary.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/429353/florence-king-obituary

    Rest in Peace, Florence

    by JACK FOWLER

    January 6, 2016 8:08 PM

    Thanks. I forgot to link it. I’ll link it in the OP.

    • #21
    • January 7, 2016, at 6:15 PM PDT
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  22. Percival Thatcher

    Manny:Oh I just fully read the NRO obit by Jack Fowler. It’s great. Here’s an excerpt:

    Florence King was one of the premier writers of the 20th century. In particular, as a book reviewer, she was unrivaled. And was there a better scourge of multiculturalism than the crotchety, gin-swilling, chain-smoking, off-colored prose perfectionist who fired off verbal mortars from a nicotine-and-tar patina-d apartment on Caroline Street? I don’t think so. She is an important part of the history and fiber of this institution known for harboring great writers. Her thousands upon thousands of adoring fans — many of whom she counted as pen pals (she loved getting letters from her readers) — will agree.

    One private thing: Florence was spiritual — at least that she felt the spirit of a few departed souls, especially her famous Granny. That led her to think, maybe . . . A few months back she asked me to pray for her, and I did, and she was happy to know that rosaries on Bill Buckley’s old beads were being said for her. It gave her comfort, and maybe there were other consequences. But tonight I will say another prayer for her, and I hope you will too, because if you were someone who derived great enjoyment from reading Florence King, know that, at the end, she sought peace, and if we can help her rest in it, we should.

    Oh, do pray for her.

    I shall.

    • #22
    • January 7, 2016, at 6:34 PM PDT
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  23. EThompson Inactive

    A true quirkster. She shall be missed.

    • #23
    • January 7, 2016, at 7:55 PM PDT
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  24. Lash LaRoche Inactive

    I loved it when she smacked down Molly Ivins twenty years ago.

    • #24
    • January 7, 2016, at 10:00 PM PDT
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  25. Podkayne of Israel Member

    I had always meant to write her a fan letter detailing how much her writing meant to me and how much pleasure it gave me over the years, but I kept putting it off. Now, needless to say, it’s too late.

    I first encountered Miss King’s rapier-sharp prose and unsparing eye when I was a kid in 8th grade. I was spending the night in the hayloft of my aunt and uncle’s barn with a passle of cousins. In between the rope swing and picking hay out of my training bra, I was reading an excerpt from “Southern Ladies and Gentlemen” by flashlight from one of my aunt’s old Rebook magazines.
    I was delighted, and made a point of remembering her name and looking for the book at the library years later. I had spent much of my childhood as an alien in the American South, and until reading Florence King, I never realized that it was a culture, what regionalism was, or that my long years in North Carolina could ever have been an advantage to me.

    Florence King was my first gateway drug to conservative curmudgeondom, if that is a word. She changed my mind, my life, and my writing style. She will be missed.

    • #25
    • January 8, 2016, at 12:56 AM PDT
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  26. Manny Member
    Manny Post author

    Podkayne of Israel:I had always meant to write her a fan letter detailing how much her writing meant to me and how much pleasure it gave me over the years, but I kept putting it off. Now, needless to say, it’s too late.

    I first encountered Miss King’s rapier-sharp prose and unsparing eye when I was a kid in 8th grade. I was spending the night in the hayloft of my aunt and uncle’s barn with a passle of cousins. In between the rope swing and picking hay out of my training bra, I was reading an excerpt from “Southern Ladies and Gentlemen” by flashlight from one of my aunt’s old Rebook magazines. I was delighted, and made a point of remembering her name and looking for the book at the library years later. I had spent much of my childhood as an alien in the American South, and until reading Florence King, I never realized that it was a culture, what regionalism was, or that my long years in North Carolina could ever have been an advantage to me.

    Florence King was my first gateway drug to conservative curmudgeondom, if that is a word. She changed my mind, my life, and my writing style. She will be missed.

    Exceptional comment! Thanks.

    • #26
    • January 8, 2016, at 4:35 AM PDT
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  27. The Cloaked Gaijin Member

    I remember one column where she said that the president of the United States should be a bachelor. I guess this was around 1999. She favored Fred Thompson as a possible candidate as at least he was divorced at the time.

    Perhaps what did her in was the thought of Lindsey Graham as the Southern bachelor warrior president.

    • #27
    • January 8, 2016, at 4:54 AM PDT
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  28. Look Away Inactive

    She will always have a presence in our Family bookshelf.

    • #28
    • January 8, 2016, at 6:39 AM PDT
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  29. barbara lydick Coolidge

    Mike LaRoche:I loved it when she smacked down Molly Ivins twenty years ago.

    Any chance that there is a transcript??

    • #29
    • January 8, 2016, at 8:24 AM PDT
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  30. barbara lydick Coolidge

    Podkayne of Israel: I had always meant to write her a fan letter detailing how much her writing meant to me and how much pleasure it gave me over the years, but I kept putting it off. Now, needless to say, it’s too late.

    You and me both. But my procrastination was borne of the fear I’d make some stupid grammatical errors – and writing to the master would have felt like taking a final in Eng Comp. Tho, learning that she so enjoyed receiving fan mail, I should have thanked her for the sheer pleasure she brought me through her writing.

    • #30
    • January 8, 2016, at 8:38 AM PDT
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