January 1, 1970

Introduced by Richard M. Langworth

Robert Somervell is largely regarded as having instilled Churchill’s love of English. Born in Cumberland in 1851, he died at Sevenoaks, Kent, quite close to Chartwell, in 1933 shortly after his then-56-year-old former pupil cited him as the man who taught him the most precious heritage of language. In My Early Life Churchill recalls this ‘most delightful man, to whom my debt is great … charged with the duty of teaching the stupidest boys the most disregarded thing, namely to write mere English. He knew how to do it. He took a fairly long sentence and broke it up into its components.’

In a 1935 biography of his father, Sir Donald Somervell wrote ’One compliment deserves another …. My father often spoke in after years of the remarkable English compositions Mr Churchill showed to him, sometimes on subjects quite other than that which he had selected’. Young Churchill’s imaginative essays included one in the style of John Gilpin on ‘Rhamssinitus,’ hero of Philpot’s Herodotus in Attic Greek, and an elaborate essay complete with many maps describing an imaginary battle in Russia. The latter closely prefigured what was actually to occur on the Eastern Front between the Germans and Russians in the First World War (1914-18).

Read the full article here: ‘Young Winston’s Mr. Somervell,’ by Eric and HIlda Bingham, Finest Hour 86, Spring 1995, 20.

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