The Conservative Aesthetic: Theodore Roosevelt, Popular Darwinism, and the American Literary West offers an alternative origin story for American conservatism, tracing it to a circle of writers, artists, and thinkers in the late nineteenth century who yoked popular understandings of Darwin to western literary aesthetics. That circle included writer Owen Wister, artist Frederic Remington, entertainer William "Buffalo Bill" Cody, historian Frederick Jackson Turner, and a young Theodore Roosevelt. The book explores how their lives and their writing intertwined with their conservative sensibilities. For them, going west was akin to time travel, a retrogression into an earlier and hardier age. It was through those retrogressions into the American state of nature, they imagined, that society could discover its finest and fittest citizens. Such a society would be the modern realization of Thomas Jefferson's century-old dream of a "natural aristocracy." Theirs was a new conservatism, rooted not in a history of European monarchy but rather in stories about American individualism and the frontier west, updated for the age of Darwin.