26 / CHRONICLESnBest Western Civ by Robert Nisbetn”Sic omnia fatis in peius ruere ac retro subhpsa referre.”n(All mortal things are subject to decay.)n—VergilnThe Triumph of the West: ThenOrigins, Rise, and Legacy of WesternnCiviUzation hy J.M. Roberts,nBoston: Little, Brown; $19.95.nThis is a handsome book in allnpertinent respects. It is stately ofnsubject, nicely written, well-edited,nand eye-winning in cover—especiallynthe jacket. Roberts, a well-known Britishnhistorian and university chancellor,nhas written the book, we are told,nto accompany a 13-part television seriesnwhich will bear the same title.nGiven the BBC genius for dramatic,nespecially historical, presentations,nAmericans should be in for anothernlustrous television experience, one tonmatch, let us hope, Lord Clark’s nownalmost legendary Civilization.nAll the familiar, traditional settings,npersonages, and events are found innthe book, the ones the moderatelyneducated viewers will look forward tonfrom the very beginning of the series:nRome’s decline and fall; the rise ofnChristianity; Charlemagne’s crowning;n1066; the repulse of Islam in time’snnick; the slumbering Middle Ages; thenredemption of the West by the Renaissancen(here denoted “New Age”); thenblessed Enlightenment with its gifts ofnfreedom, justice, democracy, andnnnother good things; Western expansionnto the outermost limits, imperialism,ncolonialism, Americanism, and industrialism;nand the never-ending pilingnup of technological marvels and, withnthese, of envies, resentments, jealousies,nalienations, anxieties in a massnand on a scale never before seen in thenworld.nWithout doubt, the television viewersnwill watch the old familiar pageantnunfolding on the screen with the kindnof pleasure that comes with putting onna comfortable sweater or sensiblenshoes. The 13 episodes will come andnpass too quickly; left will be wishes thatnmore had been shown on the Christiansnbattling the Saracens, the Wars ofnthe Roses, the tournaments, HenrynVIIFs wives and their decapitations,nthe grave philosophes planning thenworld’s salvation from Christianity,nLuther nailing his theses up on thenchurch door, Puritans looking thenpart, Calileo liberating mankind fromndarkness and ending once and for allnthe hive of superstitions that was thenMiddle Ages, the colorful Renaissancen•ushering in true rationalism for the ,nfirst time in human history, and so on,nnot forgetting of course the two worldnwars of this century and the triumph ofnliberalism.nIt’s hard to know how to react to anbook of this sort. Reviewing the Lord’snPrayer would be easier. Of course wencherish our heritage, as the phrase hasnit, and of course we believe in traditionnand in the sanctity of the past. But innthe interest of the West’s true riches,nwon’t some kindly historian comenalong one of these days and chinnhimself on the edge of his fur-linednrut, look out on a different world, andnthen return to his desk to real workninstead of the inditing once again ofnthe old familiar epic: first this, andnthen, and then, and then . . . Thenformat was old when “Omer smote ‘isnbloomin’ lyre” and from the beginningnto the present moment has been betternadapted to the telling of sad stories ofnthe death of kings than to the kind ofncreative use of the past that our epochnand our people so badly need—indeednthat all epochs and peoples have needed.nSometimes I wonder which is real-nRohert Nisbet’s most recent books arenConservatism: Dream and Realitynand The Making of Modern Society.n