Sir Winston’s health and alertness continued to decline but he still played backgammon and bezique with family and friends. His animals provided him with much joy. He had a poodle and a cat, but his favourite was a green parakeet named Toby.
A few public outings, particularly meetings of The Other Club with his son-in-law, Christopher Soames, enlivened his existence somewhat, but most of his time was spent reading.
He read mostly historical novels but he also liked autobiographies. Among his favourite authors were Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Lady Churchill also read voraciously. She shared her husband’s taste for autobiography but also enjoyed romantic novels, particularly those by Barbara Cartland. She was more inclined to read titles from the best-seller lists.
His books were selected for him by his secretaries at the public libraries at Kensington or Westerham. He usually read half the titles they brought him but they knew his tastes so well that he seldom disapproved of any selection.
It was a fitting way to culminate the life of a man who, although not particularly successful in formal education, had been uniquely and remarkably determined to be self-educated. Prolific as a writer, he had been an equally active reader since those torrid days in India when he had read his way through Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, Macaulay’s History of England and Essays, Plato’s Republic and Lecky’s European Morals.