January 1, 1970

Finest Hour 190, Fourth Quarter 2020

Page 36

Famous men accrue good stories and quotations. Sadly, one of Winston S. Churchill’s most famous supposed exchanges with the celebrated author and playwright George Bernard Shaw did not take place. The debunking of this story will disappoint many, but Churchill and Shaw themselves were the ones who debunked it. The story, which circulates in variant forms, is set out in the typewritten portion of the letter to Shaw reproduced on the left-hand side below. In his own hand, Shaw wrote at the bottom of the letter that the story was “a flat lie” and hints at legal action if any version of it is published. The letter on the right from Churchill’s personal secretary Elizabeth Gilliat (EG) shows that Churchill agreed with Shaw’s assessment of the tale. Shaw’s personal secretary believed that the apocryphal story may have arisen because Shaw had a neighbor named “Mr. Winsten” to whom theatre tickets may have been offered.

A typescript note from Churchill’s personal secretary to Mr. Tatham, 26 September 1949.

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