May 24, 2013


Finest Hour 147, Summer 2010

Page 60

As Others Saw Him – Encounters with the Good and the Great

Compiled By Dana Cook

National WWI Museum and Memorial, Kansas City

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Finest Hour is pleased to revive an old department originally offered in 1972 by editor Dal Newfield: vignettes showing what interesting contemporaries thought of Churchill when they met him. Dana Cook’s collections of literary, political and show business encounters have appeared in a wide range of newspapers, magazines and journals. He may be reached at: [email protected]

Mock Napoleon, 1911

LONDON— Winston Churchill dined with us….[He] was on his way to a Court Ball and was in full dress uniform, looking like a mock Napoleon. He talked high politics, which sounded to me almost like high Mathematics, for he is very rhetorical, and has a volcanic, complicated way of talking, which is difficult to listen to, or to gather what he really thinks.
OTTOLINE: THE EARLY MEMOIRS OF LADY OTTOLINE MORELL (LONDON: FABER AND FABER, 1964)

Personal Grandeur, 1942

LONDON— I [had] a memory of having met Churchill once before in the mid-Thirties, at which time he was looked upon as a rebel and was in disfavour with the Establishment. Randolph [Churchill] had invited my wife, Dorothy, and me to a weekend of golf at Chartwell, his father’s country place, and I had sat silently then as a young man through a long lunch listening to Churchill complain about the lack of military preparedness in England. So, when I came to the Duff Coopers’ party that night in 1942, I was eager to see Churchill again, now at the height of his political and personal powers.

He truly was a great human being. The public and the private man were one and the same; vision and reality came together in a single truth. Churchill had about him that rare quality of personal grandeur, not only upon the world stage but at the dinner table. The legend of his fabulous capacity for drinking, I think, has been exaggerated. At political and military meetings, I have been told, he drank hardly at all and only chewed the end of a long cigar. But when he relaxed in the evening, he relaxed according to legend: cocktails, wine through dinner, champagne after, then brandy. But he scarcely showed it. His was a tongue that hardly needed loosening.
—WILLIAM S. PALEY, FOUNDER,COLUMBIA BROADCASTING SYSTEM, AS IT HAPPENED: A MEMOIR (NEW YORK: DOUBLEDAY, 1979).

Baby Bulldog Face, 1940s

LONDON— I was meeting people I would never have expected to meet, let alone be in friendly terms with. The most impressive was Prime Minister Churchill himself….One day I was sitting in the car waiting for the General [Eisenhower] in front of the building near St. James’s Park where he often met with the P.M. I looked up to see him walking toward the car accompanied by a familiar figure. The P.M.! I hopped out and stood at attention. Churchill looked just like all the photographs and cartoons—that same baby bulldog face, with eyes as blue as Eisenhower’s. He wore his famous siren suit. This was his own wartime uniform and of his own design. The best way I can describe it is to say that it was very similar to a baby’s one-piece sleeping suit. He liked it because he could thrust his stubby legs into it, pull it up, push his arms into the sleeves—and zip, he was dressed. He usually wore slippers with it when he was indoors.

The General introduced us, and the P.M. was absolutely charming. He told me that he had heard what a good driver I was and said, “Now, I want you to take good care of your general. We need him.”
—KAY SUMMERSBY MORGAN, ARMY CHAUFFEUR AND SECRETARY, PAST FORGETTING: MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (NEW YORK: SIMON AND SCHUSTER, 1975).

Moving Target, 1940s

CHARTWELL—Presently the great man appeared in his “siren suit” and the operation began. I soon discovered that my model, however efficient in other ways, was no great shakes at keeping still. My target turned out to be a moving one. But I had often drawn charming but restless children before, and was now to tackle a somewhat similar proposition. In this case, I was limited to a single sitting, so had to make the most of it. On the whole the result was not too bad, I thought, considering the difficulties in my way….

He was evidently unhappy under my scrutiny. How else to explain these fits and starts, these visits to the mirror, this preoccupation with the window curtains, and the nervous fidgeting with his jowl? All this agitation didn’t help me in the least, and with only an hour or two at my disposal (without counting a rest now and then), it was all I could do to keep calm myself and avoid an explosion. But I was aware of the alternative which faced me. You can draw a man, or you can punch him; you cannot do both.
—AUGUSTUS JOHN, ARTIST, AUTOBIOGRAPHY (LONDON: JONATHAN CAPE, 1975).

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