One of Churchill’s Most Important Works Remains Scarce, But
His Journalism Remains Relevant to Students and Scholars
Following the publication of The Collected Works of Winston Churchill in the mid-1970s by the Library of Imperial History, the publisher reacted to criticism that the thirty-four volume set did not include most of the articles Churchill wrote for periodicals or the introductions that he provided for books by others. Michael Wolff, one of Randolph Churchill’s former assistants on the Official Biography, was commissioned to compile all such essays that Churchill himself did not publish in anthologies such as Thoughts & Adventures or Great Contemporaries, and thus already included in the Collected Works. The result was a major contribution to Churchill studies but one which has never been re-printed. Though published in two editions, both sets were pricey then and are much pricier now. Consequently, an important research tool has become all but inaccessible to most people.
The title of the set is rather a misnomer as “Collected Journalism” more accurately describes the contents. But in his introduction, Wolff makes clear that the material “represent[s] the authentic voice of Winston Churchill in a way that can otherwise be captured only in his speeches.” The speeches have become so legendary that one can easily forget that journalism was the primary medium Churchill had for communicating with the public through most of his career. Proceeds from his journalism also provided the bulk of his income.
Whereas Churchill revised the texts of his books many times and sought input from others in the process to produce highly polished results, his writings for periodicals did not undergo such refinements. The result is a kind of “Churchill in the raw”. While the style is not always his best or arguments always properly developed, Wolff notes “Churchill was almost incapable of writing or speaking a dull sentence, and his ideas were nearly always imaginative.” Throughout the books are found such Churchillian gems as this: “The limitation of man’s intellect does not govern the scale of his affairs.”
Wolf arranged the essays in four volumes under the titles “Churchill and War”, “Churchill and Politics”, “Churchill and People” and “Churchill at Large”. Articles within each volume are ordered chronologically. The vast majority of these date from the period between the two World Wars, when Churchill was at the height of his rhetorical powers and feverishly writing to support his family and preferred lifestyle. Unfortunately, the books are not indexed making it harder for researchers. Harder still, though, is locating a set in the first place.
The Collected Essays were published in two versions: the first in full calf-skin vellum with green leather slipcases to match the Collected Works and a less-expensive edition quarter-bound in navy blue morocco and blue cloth. Contents of both are printed on 500-year archival paper and are identical except that the “blue” set is labled as the “Centenary Edition.”
Marc Kuritz, proprietor of The Churchill Book Collector in San Diego, CA reports: “Sets bound either in the vellum or the quarter morocco are both quite scarce and expensive. Of the two, stand alone vellum sets in slipcases are both more scarce and more expensive, as they are an essential element in completing a uniform set of all 38 volumes of the Collected Works. Cost for Centenary Edition sets varies from roughly $1,400 to $2,200 USD, depending upon condition. On the rare occasions they are seen, collector-worthy sets of The Collected Essays in full vellum with the accompanying green leather slipcases tend to command $2,500 USD or more.”
A feature story providing further details about the history and content of The Collected Essays will appear later this year in our quarterly print journal Finest Hour. To join The Churchill Centre and obtain a subscription to Finest Hour, please CLICK HERE. For those interested in purchasing a set of The Collected Essays, please contact one of these fine dealers: