Spring 1923 (Age 48)

“A Whale Among Minnows”

The first volume of Churchill’s war memoirs, The World Crisis, was published on 10 April. Its publication raised a great deal of tumult, adulation and criticism. The question was asked in the Commons whether it was proper for a former member of the government to profit from such a publication and the answer, forced from the Prime Minister, was “no.”

But the book received tremendous reviews. The Observer commented that “Mr. Churchill, when they attack him, defends himself. He does it with such an amplitude of evidence, and a panoply of proof and a general effect so wicked that his habitual accusers must regard his book as not only a misdemeanor, but an outrage… .Much the best of all war books on the British side.” The reviewer, J. L. Gavin, called the book “a whale among minnows.”

‘Winston wanted to be a war wizard, and there he failed, but in the wizardry of words he is triumphant.’

In America, The New York Times said: ‘Winston wanted to be a war wizard, and there he failed, but in the wizardry of words he is triumphant. Over his own vicissitudes he casts the spell… it is the spell of a calculated— sometimes an artificial … detachment… He makes no excuses… He avoids the querulous, the malicious, the jealous note… He does not pretend to have been consistent. Good, bad or indifferent, he gives his reasons for whatever was done or left undone. The reasons are those noted at the time… there is no wisdom after the event. It is clever. It is masterful. But it is also Churchill … Churchill is too interesting for real sagacity.”

While people talked about Churchill’s book, they also discussed his political future. His career, like those of the rest of the ex-Coalition leaders, had reached a crisis, but the others—Birkenhead, Balfour, Austen Chamberlain, Lloyd George—had seats in Parliament. Churchill was disenchanted with Lloyd George and his sympathies were dearly with the Conservatives. He told Sir Robert Horne, a leading Conservative, “I am what I have always been—a Tory Democrat. Force of circumstance has compelled me to serve with another party, but my views have never changed, and I should be glad to give effect to them by rejoining the Conservatives!’

In May he spoke on “The Political Scene from a Distance” to an Aldwych Club luncheon in London. He was critical of Conservative leader Andrew Bonar Law for breaking up the coalition particularly when he did not see an appreciable difference in the policies of the Bonar Law administration from its predecessor. (Churchill was unaware of the seriousness of Law’s illness): “The present Government is using up very rapidly the prestige of Conservatism. I am astonished to see the rate at which their credit has declined. I would not have believed it possible that in six months a new, homogeneous Administration could have lost so much in public esteem. In two years, perhaps in less, the Government may collapse..It will be said on every side, ‘The Coalition was tried; it was unpopular. The Tories have tried, they have failed. The Liberals are still quarrelling among themselves. Now it is the turn of the Labour Party. Let them have their chance.”’

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