Finest Hour 156, Autumn 2012
Quotes Churchill Really Said
Churchill in His Own Words: The Life, Times and Opinions of Winston Churchill, Richard M. Langworth, ed. Ebury Press, softbound, illus., 620 pp., £10.50 ($17) Amazon UK (amzn.to/P9K7n1). A RosettaBooks E-book will follow.
By Paul H. Courtenay
Richard Langworth OBE (our esteemed editor) first published this book in 2008 with the title Churchill By Himself, with a second revised edition in 2010. After six months’ prodigious checking and rechecking every entry against original appearances (some of which disagree with each other!), it has been republished under a new title with a snappy and evocative cover. My only minor and constructive criticism is that one or two of the captions still require fine-tuning. So far the book is available in the U.S. only online from Amazon UK, but an e- book will follow by the end of the year.
A key improvement is the new Key Word and Phrase Index, supplementing the main index and simplifying the loca- tion of your favourite quotations.
The new edition contains some newly-verified items, while deleting one well-known entry now proven bogus. Commendations by Lady Soames and Sir Martin Gilbert give it an authenticity which it would be impossible to challenge: it must surely be the Bible of Churchill quotation books. The general layout is unchanged, with thirty-four chapters covering such fields as Maxims, America, Germany, War, People, the two World Wars, Painting, Leadership, Army and Navy, “Churchillisms,” Britain etc.
What makes this book especially valuable is that every one of the 4120 entries is backed by verifiable sources: no item is included unless it can be attributed. This is much more than can be said about other (much shorter) books of this kind, which seem to include every unattributed anecdote and bogus rumour under the sun. As before, there is an interesting appendix, “Red Herrings,” which records a number of “well-trod” Churchill sayings which are either inventions or cannot be attributed. OEE regrets that he didn’t have space to insert the Shaw Red Herring, which he has expunged from the main body of the book. This was the amusing exchange of messages in which Bernard Shaw is stated to have sent WSC two tickets to the opening night of his new play, adding “Bring a friend—if you have one.” Churchill is supposed to have responded “I cannot come on the first night, but shall come on the second night—if there is one.” (See FH 152:7, where Allen Packwood of the Churchill Archives Centre reveals a pair of letters showing that each of the two men denied that he had ever made the alleged remark.)
As it happens, while writing footnotes for James W. Muller’s new edition of Churchill’s Great Contemporaries (FH 155:53), I had reached the point in Churchill’s essay on Shaw in which he refers to the play Saint Joan, when I heard of Allen’s discovery. I had been on the point of writing a note including this very tale, when I was surprised to learn that it was untrue. Kay Halle (Irrepressible Churchill) and Dalton Newfield (FH‘s 1970-75 editor) had been deceived. Out it came, just in time! Churchillians will always want to be able to avoid a faux-pas of this kind, so—even if you own one of the earlier editions—you would do well to obtain this new version, which is not expensive to order online, even by airmail.