March 31, 2024

Punch Drunk

Finest Hour 197, Third Quarter 2022

Page 44

Review by David Freeman

David Freeman is editor of Finest Hour.

Gary L. Stiles, Churchill in Punch, Unicorn, 2022, 520 pages, £50/$75. ISBN 978–1914414138

This is the book you want for Christmas. International Churchill Society member Gary L. Stiles has completed a labor of love that collects every cartoon featuring or related to Winston Churchill ever published in the pages of Punch, Britain’s premier humor magazine, from his first appearance as a newly-elected member of Parliament in 1900 to his death in 1965—more than 600 altogether.

A retired professor of cardiology at Duke University, Stiles has given us the most enjoyable type of history lesson: illustrated and humorous. In fact, Churchill himself said that, as a boy, one of his favorite pastimes was studying the cartoons in back issues of Punch. How appropriate, then, to study Churchill’s own story in the same way.

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The book divides Churchill’s life into seven sections, each beginning with an introduction to the period. At 9 x 11 inches (23 x 28 cm), the pages have plenty of room for each illustration to breathe while being reproduced in a generous size that enables readers to appreciate the skills of the artists. Each image is accompanied by a title, the name of the artist (if known), the date of publication (including even the page number), a clearly legible transcription of any caption, and an explanatory note by Stiles that sets the cartoon in context.

Punch employed artists of great caliber, and Churchill’s life is delightfully documented here by a who’s-who of twentieth-century British illustrators. Appropriately, Stiles includes short biographies of these men in an appendix. E. T. Reed, Leonard Raven-Hill, and Bernard Partridge created some of the most memorable images of Churchill’s early career. E. H. Shepherd, perhaps best remembered as the first person to illustrate Winniethe-Pooh, regularly caricatured Churchill’s mid-career, while Michael Cummings and Ronald Searle documented the later years.

Beautifully published by Unicorn, this is a coffee table book that you will dip into again and again. Heavy stock paper and sturdy binding will see it through many hours of browsing for years to come. (And careful: it weighs more than five pounds.) We seldom get books these days printed and bound to this level of quality. Unicorn cannot be praised too highly for taking on this project and producing the fine edition that it deserved.

Be very sure to tell your family now that this is the book you want!

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