By BARRY SINGER
As wartime Prime Minister, Winston Churchill had few opportunities for relaxation. He painted only one canvas during the war and barely laid a brick. One small pleasure was a periodic visit to the Smoking Room of the House of Commons, where he enjoyed sitting, sipping a glass of port, and welcoming anyone who might walk in.
“‘How are you?’ he calls gaily to the most obscure Member,” noted Harold Nicholson in his diary on 17 October 1940. “It is not a pose. It is just that for a few moments he likes to get away from being Prime Minister and feels himself back in the smoking room. His very presence gives us all gaiety and courage.”
In the above illustration from the mid-1880s, Prime Minister William Gladstone is caricatured sitting on the floor of the Member’s Smoking Room along with other leading politicians of the day including Lord Randolph Churchill, Winston’s father, seated just left of Gladstone.
Barry Singer is the author of Churchill Style (Abrams Image, 2012) and the proprietor of Chartwell Booksellers in New York City.