The Recovery ofrnthe Westrnbv Michael Lee KellyrnA Historian and His World: A Life ofrnChristopher Dawsonrnby Christina ScottrnNew Brunswick, New jersey:rni ‘ransaction Publishers;rn272 pp., $34.95rnThere arc dangers in a daughter writingrnher father’s l:)iography: the dangerrnthat she will be too uncritieal if herrnrelationship with him were elose and affeetionate;rnor, as is more eommon theserndavs, that she will be too critical if itrnwere not. Similarly, she may rely toornmuch on her own reminiscences or otherwiserninsinuate herself into her pages.rnChristina Scott has done a superb jobrnof steering a clear course, and thoughrnher biograph of her father, ChristopherrnDawson, could hae been better, itrncould not have been much better.rnMrs. Scott has a sound sense for therntelling detail. She knows that the principlesrnrevealed in I lenry James’ rhetoricalrntjuestions apply as much to the art ofrnbiography as to the art of fiction: “Whatrnis character but the determination of incident?rnWhat is incident but the illustrationrnof character?” She spends farrnless time in telling us what was her father’srncharacter than in showing us.rnThis is as it should be.rnlake, for instance, her inclusion inrnfull of her father’s reply to ChristopherrnHill’s scathing review of Dynanncs ofrnWorld History.rnMy attention has just beenrndrawn to the article in yourrncurrent issue by Christopher Hillrnon “The Church, Marx and History,”rnin which he states that “thernlate Mr. Dawson was not a greatrnhistorian. “rn1 do not wish to assert that Irnam “great” but I do most emphaticallyrndeny that I am “late,” and Irnfeel doubtful whether a writerrnwho is unable to discover therntrutli in a contemporary matter ofrnfact which is easily ascertainablernis competent to survey the vastrnfield which he has embraced inrnhis article.rnIt seems to mc that there isrnno more sense in asking, likernMr. Hill, “What is the use ofrnhistory” than in asking what is thernuse of memory. An individualrnwho has lost his memory is a lostrnindividual, and a society that hasrnno history and historical consciousnessrnis a barbarous society.rnIt is as simple as that.rnMrs. Scott allows incident to illustraternthe character of her father’s associatesrnas well, as when she writes about E. I.rnWatkins, Dawson’s oldest and dearestrnfriend, “who once submitted arnmanuscript which he had tvped on arnmachine without a ribbon saing that ifrnthe printer held it up to the light hernwould be able to read it.”rnDawson’s work ranged from the originsrnof culture in prehistoric Europe andrnthe ancient East to the rise of Europernin the Middle Ages, from the spirit ofrnthe Oxford Movement to the entrenchmentrnof the modern totalitarian state,rnand Mrs. Scott has done an admirablernjob of summarizing it. She is also high-rn1′ successful in situating her father’s lifernwithin his intellectual milieu (hence therntitle of her book). In her preface wernread, “To write the biography of one’srnfather is a daunting enough task and itrnbecomes even more so when as it happensrnhe was a scholar who lived almostrnentirely in the mind.” She handles thisrndifficulty—so deftly that we nccrrnwould have known of it had she not toldrnus—b “treat [ing] his life as part of thernsocial and religious history of the age inrnwhich he lived.” And so ye read ofrnDawson’s fellow writers at the Catholicrnpublishing firm of Sheed & Ward; of hisrnparticipation in the Covegno Volta,rnwhere he was one of the few F^uropeanrndelegates to realize “that this was no historicalrnconference as they had been ledrnto believe but a ‘put-up job’ by Mussolini’srngovernment”; and of his Vicc-Presidencvrnof the Sword of the Spirit, CardinalrnArthur Hinsley’s ecumenicalrnmovement, which was squashed by anti-rnProtestant bigotr.rnMrs. Scott’s biography was first publishedrnill 1984 by Sheed & Ward, andrnthis reprint by Transaction Publishers asrnpart of Russell Kirk’s “Library of ConservativernThought” contains not onlyrnJames Oliver’s appreciation of Dawsonrnas a historian of ideas, which appeared inrnthe first edition, but a typically fine introductionrnwritten by Kirk for thisrnreprint and a new appendix, “Memoriesrnof a Victorian Childhood,” by Dawsonrnhimself. This last addition is espceialhrnwelcome, autobiograplu complementingrnthe biography that precedes it. Inrnit we see the insight of a true conservativernin search of historical meaning:rnWestern man is being submittedrnto the same process which he inflictedrnon more primitive peoplesrnin the last century. As the RedrnIndian and the South Sea Islanderrnsaw their world and their w’a’ ofrnli’ing destroyed by the rifle andrnthe railway and the trader, andrnwere left culturally naked in anrnalien world, so we too lia’e seenrnour world destroyed and our culturernliquidated under the pressurernof anonymous forces and impersonalrntechniques, which we createdrnwith one side of our minds asrninstruments of our limited purposes,rnbut which have become ourrnmasters. . . . But. . . we cannotrndismiss the past as dead andrnunimportant. If it is dead, it deservesrnto be recorded, no less thanrnany other vanished civilization. Ifrnit is not dead, but onl- in a staternof revolutionary change, we mustrnstudy the past in order to discoverrnwhat elements in its tradition canrnbe recovered, what is lost beyondrnrecall and what is indispensable tornthe continuity and the identit’ ofrnWestern culture.rnWhat Dawson in his study of the pastrnfound to be indispensable to the continuityrnand identitv’ of Western culture,rnindeed of all cultures, is that, in hisrndaughter’s words, “cver’ civilizationrn[must recognize! the existence of arnhigher spiritual order that [is] abovernconflicting individual interests or therncollective interests of the state.” As hernhimself put it in ReUgion and the ModernrnState, a work that should be read byrneerv conservative, “Civilization is a roadrnby which man travels, not a house forrnhim to dwell in. I lis true city is elsewhere.”rnThis overarching theme of all of Dawson’srnwork is well communicated byrnMrs. Scott. Nonetheless, we here findrnher book’s one real weakness. Evenrnthough she has summarized her father’srnwritings well, we are left wanting arnbroader, deeper analysis. To be fair, sherndid set out to write his biography andrnFEBRUARY 1993/35rnrnrn