The Place to Find All Things Churchill

That Other Winston Churchill

Finest Hour 106, Spring 2000

Page 22

BY RICHARD M. LANGWORTH

“I propose to become Prime Minister or Great Britain. Wouldn’t it be a great lark ir you could be President of the United States at the same time?”
-Winston Spencer Churchill to Winston Churchill, 1903


AS A bookseller specializing in Winston Churchill the Englishman, I am constantly offered novels by Winston Churchill the American. Thinking readers might welcome a brief account of the American—but with no hope that people will stop offering me his books—I am prompted to write this capsule history of Sir Winston’s distant relative, who had an interesting career of his own.

Winston Churchill was born in St. Louis, Missouri on 10 November 1871 and educated in the city’s public schools (“public” in the American sense, “state schools” in the British sense). In 1894, a year before his English counterpart graduated from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, Churchill graduated from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. After the Naval Academy, he served briefly on the editorial staff of the Army and Navy Journal. In 1895, when Winston Churchill of England was paying his first visit to the United States, American Winston became managing editor of Cosmopolitan magazine. Three decades later, English Winston would begin a lengthy series of articles for the same journal.

The two Churchills became aware of each other in 1900 when books by the English author began to join those of the already-well-established American. Indeed, such was the American’s prominence at the time that Winston Spencer Churchill wrote him a polite letter promising to use his middle name to distinguish himself from the far better-known American. The latter replied that had he a middle name he would have been pleased to return the compliment! The amusing correspondence between them (“Mr. Winston Churchill to Mr. Winston Churchill”) appears in English Winston’s autobiography, My Early Life.

In 1901, the young authors met in Boston during English Winston’s lecture tour, when his American relative threw a dinner for him. Great camaraderie prevailed and each agreed there would be no more confusion…but English Winston got the bill! From 1903 to 1905, American Winston was a member of the New Hampshire legislature, to this day the third largest representative body in the world after the Indian and British Parliaments. His election caused English Winston, already established as a Member of the British House of Commons, to write: “I propose to become Prime Minister of Great Britain. Wouldn’t it be a great lark if you could be President of the United States at the same time?”

American Winston was an early recruit of the famous artist and writer colony at Cornish, New Hampshire, that brilliant “aristocracy of brains” founded by Augustus Saint-Gaudens in the 1890s. Among its distinguished cadre Cornish counted illustrators Stephen and Maxfield Parrish, the garden designer Charles A. Platt, and artists Kenyon Cox, Florence Scovel Shinn and Willard Metcalf. Statesmen, notably Theodore Roosevelt, were among its occasional visitors. That the two Churchills were not political soul-mates is suggested by American Winston’s close friendship friendship—which was shared by Maxfield Parrish—with Teddy Roosevelt, who nursed a famous antipathy toward English Winston. (See Finest Hour 100, p. 46.) American Winston actually ran for Governor of New Hampshire on the ticket of TR’s Progressive Party in 1911, but was not elected. I believe, though I cannot prove it, that Roosevelt’s influence had something to do with the two Churchills’ lack of contact as the 1900s wore on. When American Winston visited London during the Great War to interview leading statesmen for his only non-fiction work, A Traveller in Wartime, he paid no call on English Winston.

That the two Churchills were not political soulmates is suggested by American Winston’s close friendship— which was shared by Maxfield Parrish—with Teddy Roosevelt, who nursed a famous antipathy toward English Winston. (See Finest Hour 100, p. 46.) American Winston actually ran for Governor of New Hampshire on the ticket of TR’s Progressive Party in 1911, but was not elected. I believe, though I cannot prove it, that Roosevelt’s influence had something to do with the two Churchills’ lack of contact as the 1900s wore on. When American Winston visited London during the Great War to interview leading statesmen for his only non-fiction work, A Traveller in Wartime, he paid no call on English Winston.

While English Winston published only one novel, Savrola, American Winston devoted almost his entire career to fiction, and his books are still common in New England. Rich in the panoply of 19th century American history and New England politics, they include Richard Carvel, The Inside of the Cup, A Modern Chronicle, A Far Country, The Crossing, The Title Mart, The Celebrity, Mr. Crewe’s Career, and a notable Civil War novel, The Crisis. American Winston died in Florida on 12 March 1947, less than three weeks after the death of English Winston’s brother Jack.

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