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Finest Hour 174

Finest Hour 174, Autumn 2016

Page 10

By Bradley Tolppanen

Bradley Tolppanen is the author of Churchill in North America 1929 (2014).


After disembarking at New York on 8 December 1900 after a six-day voyage from Liverpool, Winston Churchill was met by Major J. B. Pond, America’s leading lecture agent. He had come to North America at Pond’s invitation to undertake a lecture tour that would eventually encompass at least thirty-seven lectures in thirty-one cities. Unlike Churchill’s first visit to America five years before, this trip was about earning money, as Churchill wrote a friend, “I pursue profit not pleasure in the States this time.”1

At twenty-six Churchill had high expectations for the lecture tour. After garnering £3,700 the previous month for lecturing in Britain, he arrived in New York with a £1,000 guarantee and the hope for as much as £5,000. Churchill was encouraged in his expectations by James Burton Pond, who in his career as a lecture agent had done much to “revolutionize” the field of booking prominent figures for speaking engagements. He had managed “all the famous speakers in the country,” including Mark Twain. While he liked Pond, Twain also observed that he was “neither truthful nor sensible.”2

After receiving a letter from Pond in March 1900 while he was still with the army in South Africa, Churchill followed up with the agent that summer after he was back in London. They exchanged letters confirming the date and length of the tour as well as the material for the lectures. Titled “The War as I Saw It,” Churchill’s lecture narrated his capture and escape from the Boers, the relief

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Finest Hour 174, Autumn 2016

Page 40

By Michael McMenamin


ATD Label12125 Years ago
Autumn 1891 • Age 17
“He is just at the ‘ugly’ stage”

Lady Randolph had written Lord Randolph in late July that Winston “has improved very much in looks.” She wrote to him again on 25 September that “on the whole he has been a very good boy— but honestly he is getting to be too old for a woman to manage and he really requires to be with a man…He is just at the ‘ugly’ stage—slouchy and tiresome.” In the first volume of the Official Biography of his father, Randolph Churchill wrote of his grandmother that “Unless Winston’s looks greatly fluctuated, it would seem that Lady Randolph was somewhat capricious in her judgment for only two months earlier she had written that he had improved very much in looks.”

His mother’s “ugly” comment, however, was not directed toward her son’s looks. Rather, it was directed at Winston’s manners and maturity, especially towards his mother. That “ugliness” of which she wrote was in full bloom as he reached his seventeenth birthday. The occasion for such a prolonged display of “ugliness” was the desire of Harrow’s Head Master that Winston stay the Christmas holidays with a French family so as to improve his French in preparation for the Sandhurst exams. In this, the Head Master was simply carrying out Lord Randolph’s desire that everything be done at Harrow to ensure that Winston made it into Sandhurst.

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Finest Hour 174, Autumn 2016

Page 47

Edwina Sandys, Winston Churchill: A Passion for Painting, Donning, 2015, 128 pages, $49.95. ISBN 978–1681840109


Sandys copy copyWhat I love about this book is the love within it. Edwina Sandys is not only a granddaughter of Sir Winston, she is herself a professional artist. “People frequently ask me if my grandfather was a good painter,” she recalls. “I always answer emphatically ‘YES!’ He was good because he painted the things he loved.”

We have had important books about Churchill as a painter before, most notably those by his daughter Mary, his granddaughter-in-law Minnie Churchill, and the leading authority on Churchill canvasses David Coombs. This newest volume must be considered another essential element in the library about Churchill the artist.

The impetus for Winston Churchill: A Passion for Painting was a wonderful exhibit of Churchill canvasses put on with the support of the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, and displayed at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis. Timothy Riley, paintings curator at Fulton, put the exhibit together and provides the information about each painting reproduced in this book. An interesting detail includes a list of all the exhibits each canvas has appeared in before.

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Finest Hour 174, Autumn 2016

Page 44

Kevin Ruane, Churchill and the Bomb in War and Cold War, Bloomsbury, 2016, 402 pages, $34.95. ISBN 978–1472523389

Review by Christopher Sterling

Chris Sterling, recently retired after thirty-five years of teaching and administration at George Washington University, is a frequent reviewer for Finest Hour.


BombOne of those relatively rare academic writers who can make document-based research both readable and interesting (and I say that as a retired academic), Kevin Ruane takes his readers back to the 1940–55 era of rapid atomic and thermonuclear weapon development to illustrate just how dominant fear of the bomb was in policymaking circles. He centers his history on the socalled “special relationship” between the US and Britain, though for much of this period, “special” meant precious little, as the British quickly learned.

Following by only three years Graham Farmelo’s well-received Churchill’s Bomb: How the United States Overtook Britain in the First Nuclear Arms Race (Basic Books, 2013) [Reviewed in FH 162], Ruane had a difficult task on his hands. The two British authors take a different approach to their accounts of the same period and people. For one thing, Farmelo is a physicist, while Ruane is an historian. The differences in their studies build on the authors’ academic training by emphasizing different aspects of the complex story. Briefly, Farmelo focuses more on the scientists who did the work while, Ruane centers his study on Churchill himself.

Ruane sees Churchill as playing three related yet quite different roles: the “bomb-maker” during the Second World War; the “atomic diplomatist” during the decade after 1945; and the “nuclear peacemaker” toward the end of his second period as prime minister (1951– 55). His well-written study melds Churchill and key figures close to him—Frederick Lindemann (the “Prof” as the simplifier of complex technologies), Anthony Eden (frustrated by years of waiting for Churchill to retire), Sir John Anderson (chief official of the British “tube alloys” research), Roosevelt (the American president with on-again, off-again views on working with the British in tube alloys), and many others on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Finest Hour 174, Autumn 2016

Page 49

Susan Elia MacNeal, The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent, Bantam, 2014, 306 pages, $16. ISBN 978–0345536747

Review by Michael McMenamin

Portrayal of Churchill **1/2 Worth Reading ***


secret agentThe Prime Minister’s Secret Agent is the fourth book in the Maggie Hope series to be reviewed in Finest Hour. The first three are Mr. Churchill’s Secretary (FH 156), Princess Elizabeth’s Spy (FH 158), and His Majesty’s Hope (FH 160).

In The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent, Maggie is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to her last mission to Berlin. Unfortunately, Ms. MacNeal succumbs to the same temptation as other novelists who employ Churchill as a literary character and has Maggie describe her very real PTSD as something akin to Churchill’s “Black Dog” because “She’d once heard Winston Churchill describe his own melancholy as his ‘Black Dog.’” Maggie does have very real psychiatric problems, including insomnia and nightmares over her ordeal in Berlin, where she had killed a man and helplessly watched a little Jewish girl shoved into a cattle car. The reference to Churchill’s “Black Dog,” however, is gratuitous, entirely unnecessary, and wrong. As I noted in “Churchill as a Literary Character” in FH 173, “Churchill never suffered from clinical depression at any point in his life. Ever. Full stop. See “The Myth of the Black Dog” (FH 155). Hence, much as I really enjoy the Maggie Hope novels, I have docked her half a star for her portrayal of Churchill, which is otherwise very good and worth three stars.

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Finest Hour 174, Autumn 2016

Page 43

Alan Watson, Churchill’s Legacy: Two Speeches to Save the World, Bloomsbury, 2016, 204 pages, $25/£16.99. 978–1408880210

Review by Peter Clarke

Peter Clarke’s new book, The Locomotive of War: Money, Empire, Power and Guilt, will be published in February by Bloomsbury in London and New York.


WatsonWinston Churchill, like many old men, very much enjoyed the sound of his own voice. Unlike most of them, he still had some important things to say at seventy-one, his age in 1946 when he delivered two famous speeches: one in February at Fulton, Missouri, and the other in Zurich, Switzerland, in September of the same year. He had recently been voted out of power in Britain but was probably the most famous person in the world at the time and was now free to accept invitations to countries less afflicted than Britain by postwar privations. The Fulton speech was titled “The Sinews of Peace” but is often hailed as recognizing the beginning of a cold war that was to polarize the world for most of the next half-century. It is remembered in particular for its graphic comment on the state of Europe: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.” The Zurich speech projected a more optimistic view, but one equally striking, in saying that “we must re-create the European family in a regional structure called, it may be, the United States of Europe.”

One of our debts to Alan Watson in producing this slim but fascinating book is that he gives us the full text of both speeches in an easily accessible form. Each of them has been selectively quoted in the course of the last seventy years and, at the very least, it is good to read them for ourselves and see what all the fuss was about. Churchill’s secretary, accompanying him to Fulton to type out last-minute amendments, wrote home to her parents after the speech’s delivery: “it hasn’t half kicked up a shindig here” (83). True enough, Churchill was taken by many Americans to be stirring up trouble with the Soviet Union; and

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Finest Hour 174, Autumn 2016

Page 45

David Cannadine, Heroic Chancellor: Winston Churchill and the University of Bristol, 1919–65, Institute of Historical Research, 2016, 78 pages, $15. ISBN 978-1909646186

Review by Christopher Sterling


Heroic ChancellorOf the many “Churchill and...” or “The Untold Story of...” titles, this brief book really is an untold story of one aspect of Churchill’s life few of us know. A man who never attended university, Churchill served as chancellor of the University of Bristol for the last thirty-six years of his life. This booklet is based on a lecture Sir David Cannadine delivered in observance of the half-century anniversary of Churchill’s death.

A word of background for those used to American university practice: in Britain, a university chancellor normally plays only a ceremonial role (as when conferring honorary degrees at graduation, for example), rather than being a fulltime, active administrator. Further, in Churchill’s time an appointment as a university chancellor was typically held for life. This is no longer the case at Bristol, which leaves Churchill the university’s longest-serving chancellor and likely to remain so.

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Finest Hour 174, Autumn 2016

Page 45

Leslie Hossack, Charting Churchill: An Architectural Biography of Sir Winston Churchill, 2016, CAD $196.49. Available exclusively online at www.chartingchurchill.com

Review by Stefan Buczacki

Professor Stefan Buczacki is the author of Churchill and Chartwell: The Untold Story of Churchill’s Houses and Gardens (2007). His latest book is My Darling Mr. Asquith: The Extraordinary Life and times of Venetia Stanley.


Charting ChurchillThere is a late nineteenth-century volume in my library in which the author begins his introduction thus: “There are already so many books in the world that it is incumbent upon anyone writing another to justify its existence.” It is a maxim I have used many times, but when Leslie Hossack’s book arrived on my desk, my first impression was that this glorious and sumptuous work surely had no need to defend itself. It is without doubt the most beautiful book ever published about Churchill’s life; it has the finest photographs, and it ventures down some seldom explored by-ways. And it is innovative in offering us such unexpected images as those of his tailor’s premises and his London wine merchants, as well as of more familiar and expected places: the Houses of Parliament, Chartwell, and Blenheim Palace.

So much for this large, splendid, if costly volume and what it is; but now for what it is not. It is certainly not, as Ronald Cohen in his foreword suggests, the first to tell the Churchill story “via the buildings…which were part of his life.” Nor does the book even cover all his residences, because there are several inexplicable exclusions. For instance, his first, albeit brief, childhood home at 48 Charles Street in Mayfair was arguably the most attractive of all the town

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Finest Hour 174, Autumn 2016

Page 46

Iain Sproat, Adam Sykes, Pat Morgan, editors, The Wit & Wisdom of Sir Winston Churchill, G2 Entertainment, 2015, 134 pages, £8.99, $14.95. ISBN 978–1909040052

Tom Curran, Grand Deception: Churchill and the Dardanelles, Big Sky Publishing, 2015, 416 pages, $29.95. ISBN 978–1925275001

Review by David Freeman

David Freeman is the editor of Finest Hour.


Grand DeceptionHard to find and hardly worth it, the latest “wit & wisdom” book came out in 2015 as an obvious attempt to capitalize on events commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Churchill’s death. Paradoxically, the book’s initial availability through online sellers seemed harder to nail down than the smoke from Sir Winston’s cigar. By 2016, though, the book had been remaindered and sold at a steep discount.

Churchill quote books have proliferated for decades. Most are worthless, and this is no exception. The editors provide a list of books at the end from which they apparently have drawn their material. Most quotations are not cited, however, except for a few extracts from speeches. Unsurprisingly, then, the text includes its fair share of misquotes and misattributions. Once again, readers are reminded that their best resource for this genre is Richard M. Langworth’s Churchill in His Own Words.

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Finest Hour 174, Autumn 2016

Page 42

Candice Millard, Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill, Doubleday, 2016, 400 pages, $30. 978–0385535731

Review by Con Coughlin

Con Coughlin is the author of Churchill’s First War (2013).


EmpireWhen the young Winston Churchill set off to cover the Boer War as a newspaper correspondent in 1899, his overriding ambition was to make a name for himself. Aged just twenty-four, Churchill had already risked life and limb on two previous occasions in his bid to win public acclaim serving as an officer with the British Army in India and Sudan. But it was not until he travelled to South Africa as a war correspondent for London’s Morning Post that his heroic exploits succeeded in making him a household name. And it was as a direct result of this experience that his was able to fulfil his ultimate ambition—to win election as a Member of Parliament.

The three-year conflict between Britain and the Boers was brutal and bloody, with heavy casualties suffered on both sides. But, as Candice Millard explains in her well-researched and highly-readable account of Churchill’s exploits in South Africa, Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape and the Making of Winston Churchill, young Winston could not wait to get to the centre of the action.

But Churchill’s high hopes for his assignment were thwarted soon after he arrived in South Africa when he suffered the indignity of being captured and taken into captivity. This major setback occurred when the armoured train Churchill was travelling on suddenly came under attack by a well-organised group of Boer guerrillas. After the train was brought to a shuddering halt, Churchill displayed enormous bravery in his efforts to rally the British force to defend their positions.

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