May 6, 2009

Q. I am looking for the brief speech that Churchill made to the graduating class of, I believe, Oxford or Cambridge. Memory serves that the speech was simply “Never give up, Never give up, never give up.” Is this correct?

A. This is our most frequent quote request. The speech was made 29 October 1941 to the boys at Harrow School. “This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” The full speech is contained in The Unrelenting Struggle (London: Cassell and Boston: Little Brown 1942, and is found on pages 274-76 of the English edition). It may also be found in The Complete Speeches of Winston S. Churchill, edited by Robert Rhodes James (NY: Bowker and London: Chelsea House 1974).

Listen the the speech here.

Q. President Kennedy, in presenting Churchill with honorary American citizenship, said, “He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.” I have heard this line was said earlier. If so, by whom?

 A. Edward R. Murrow, in his Columbia LP recording entitled “I Can Hear It Now” (and possibly elsewhere) actually coined that phrase. JFK borrowed it without attribution, but then again, Churchill often did the same with lines that appealed to him. The full quote occurs in Murrow’s introduction to his Churchill war speech excerpts, as Churchill takes office in 1940: “Now the hour had come for him to mobilize the English language, and send it into battle, a spearhead of hope for Britain and the world. We have joined together some of that Churchillian prose. It sustained. It lifted the hearts of an island of people when they stood alone.”

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Q. Who was Lady Astor and what was her relationship with Churchill?

 A. Nancy Witcher Langhorne Astor, Viscountess Astor, b.1879, first woman Member of Parliament (elected 1919, served until 1945) and wife of Waldorf Astor. She was an American, born in Greenwood, Virginia. 

 Although a Conservative, like Churchill after 1924, she clashed often with him over Dominion Status for India and British relations with Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. She was a strong backer of the appeasement policies of Prime Ministers Baldwin and Chamberlain. The famous exchange between them is apparently not apocryphal, as we had previously believed: “Winston, if I were married to you I’d put poison in your coffee”….”Nancy, if I were married to you I’d drink it.” This occurred during a weekend house party at Blenheim Palace in the early 1930s.

 Another amusing encounter in the House of Commons is reported to have occurred as Churchill was orating about mankind, saying “Man” this and “Man” that. Every time he would mention “Man,” Lady Astor would interject: “…And Woman, Mr. Speaker…And Woman!” Finally Churchill is supposed to have exclaimed, “In this context, Mr. Speaker, the understanding is that Man EMBRACES Woman.” This did not improve his relations with the Noble Lady.

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