Winston Churchill Criticism - Essay

Wallace Rice (review date January 1901)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of London to Ladysmith via Pretoria and Ian Hamilton's March, in The Dial,Vol. 30, No. 351, January 1901, p. 77.

[In the following review, Rice praises the reality with which Churchill recorded events in London to Ladysmith via Pretoria and Ian Hamilton's March.]

The two books of Mr. Winston Spencer Churchill, London to Ladysmith via Pretoria and Ian Hamilton's March, form a continuous narrative of the author's numerous adventures and narrow escapes, from the beginning of the war to the capture of Pretoria. The inclusion of the diary of Lieutenant Frankland, an officer in the unfortunate Dublin Fusileers, carries on the tale of the prisoners at Pretoria from the time of Mr. Churchill's escape until his return to that city with the British column. It is not necessary here to praise Mr. Churchill's methods of presenting his facts. He is writing in the field and his letters appear in a London paper before they are printed in book form; but it is doubtful if any revision or care could give them the air of reality they now convey.

John Freeman (essay date April 1927)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Mr. Winston Churchill as a Prose-Writer,” in London Mercury, Vol. 15, No. 90, April 1927, pp. 626-34.

[In the following essay, Freeman evaluates Churchill's abilities as a prose writer, finding that his writing will endure for its style and dramatic effect alone.]


Fame is the spur, I suppose, when a man of affairs, a Cabinet Minister, takes upon himself the task of telling the story of the deadliest struggle in which a Great Nation has ever engaged. I do not mean his own fame, or fame in any narrow sense, although Mr. Churchill has been at pains to vindicate his own reputation, but fame in Milton's sense, that quick, generous and...

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Richard Lodge (review date October 1934)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Marlborough: His Life and Times, in English Historical Review, Vol. 49, No. 196, October 1934, pp. 715-20.

[In the following review, Lodge finds the first volume of Churchill's biography of Marlborough to propose unpopular and somewhat naive explications of historical and biographical events.]

The first volume of Mr. Churchill's long-expected study of Marlborough [Marlborough, His Life and Times] has appeared in imposing panoply, a handsome cover, 35 illustrations, 3 facsimiles of documents, 14 maps and plans, 2 appendixes, and a bibliography. There is a general consensus that he has exceptional qualifications for the task. He has had...

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E. S. P. Haynes (review date November 1934)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Marlborough: His Life and Times, Vol. II, in London Mercury, Vol. 31, No. 181, November 1934, pp. 73-74.

[In the following review, Haynes offers high praise for Churchill's ability to write a factually accurate and intellectually stimulating biography.]

Mr. Churchill's second volume [Marlborough: His Life and Times, Vol. II] is quite up to the standard of the first volume, and it derives an exceptional advantage from the recent discovery of Marlborough's private letters to Godolphin and his wife. Marlborough's efficiency is perhaps his most striking characteristic. Most men with his energy (e.g., Napoleon) are like motor-cars...

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Violet Barbour (review date January 1936)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Marlborough: His Life and Times, Vol. IV, in American Historical Review, Vol. 41, No. 2, January 1936, pp. 332-34.

[In the following review, Barbour praises Churchill's biography but notes that it is unlikely to endure as a “historical achievement.”]

In these volumes [Marlborough: His Life and Times, Volume III, 1702-1704; Volume IV, 1704-1705] Marlborough is seen majestical and triumphant at the climax of his career. Unused letters from the Blenheim archives add something to our knowledge of him as a person, and more to our understanding of the difficulties which gave him more trouble than did the armies of Louis XIV. That the...

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Violet Barbour (review date January 1938)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Marlborough: His Life and Times, Vol. V, in American Historical Review, Vol. 43, No. 2, January 1938, pp. 376-77.

[In the following review, Barbour asserts that while Churchill's biography of Marlborough cannot be considered a great historical accomplishment, it is enjoyable and highly readable.]

Now that this biography has reached its penultimate volume [Marlborough: His Life and Times, Volume V, 1705-1708], its merits and shortcomings may be weighed with greater presumption of fairness than when the work was in its earlier stages. There is still to come the severest test of objectivity, the story of Marlborough's fall from power and...

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Violet Barbour (review date August 1939)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Marlborough: His Life and Times, Vol. VI, in American Historical Review, Vol. 44, No. 4, August 1939, pp. 886-87.

[In the following review, Barbour discusses the merits of the final volume of Churchill's biography of Marlborough, assessing the unity of the multi-volume work as a whole.]

With this volume [Marlborough: His Life and Times, Volume VI, 1708-1722] Mr. Churchill lays down his pen as one who sheathes an avenging sword. Marlborough, persistently vilified by two of the sharpest, most incessant pens of his own day, Swift's and Defoe's, his memory brilliantly aspersed in the nineteenth century by Macaulay and Thackeray, has now...

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William T. R. Fox (review date April 1949)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Second World War, Vol. I, The Gathering Storm, in American Political Science Review, Vol. 43, No. 2, April 1949, pp. 357-58.

[In the following review, Fox discusses Churchill's role in the beginnings of World War II as recounted in the first volume of his memoir.]

That American university teaching and research in international relations in the 1930's dealt with essentially irrelevant materials is dramatically illustrated by Mr. Churchill's book [The Second World War,Vol. I, The Gathering Storm] It was, for example, as late as the Munich crisis that this reviewer finally came to understand that “security” was the...

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Preston Slosson (review date July 1949)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Second World War, Vol. II, Their Finest Hour, in American Historical Review, Vol. 54, No. 4, July 1949, pp. 858-60.

[In the following review, Slosson notes new information about the early events of World War II that Churchill brings to Their Finest Hour.]

It was, as Churchill said, their finest hour; those last eight months of 1940. It was also Churchill's finest hour, the only time perhaps when he was literally indispensable, for in this short period were crowded the fall of France, the retreat from Dunkirk, the isolation of Britain, the preparations against expected invasion, the air raids, the exchange of British naval bases for...

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Walter P. Hall (review date December 1949)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Second World War: The Gathering Storm, in Journal of Modern History, Vol. 21, No. 4, December 1949, pp. 357-59.

[In the following review, Hall finds much to admire in The Gathering Storm but believes there is still room for improvement in Churchill's writing and storytelling abilities.]

It is rumored that Churchill writes his speeches, dictates his books. If that is so, it may account for the superiority of the former over the latter. It is perhaps too much to expect in The Gathering Storm the pithy epigrams, spitfire defiances, and heart-warming eloquence of the war speeches. True, Churchill is as ever an able writer and at...

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John R. Hubbard (review date September 1950-51)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Second World War, in Journal of American History, Vol. 37, No. 2, September 1950-51, pp. 348-50.

[In the following review, Hubbard praises Churchill as an important twentieth-century historian for the first three volumes of The Second World War.]

With the unconditional surrender of Germany in May, 1945, Winston Churchill was admitted into that charmed circle of British prime ministers—Chatham, the younger Pitt, and Lloyd George—who had led England through wars of survival in the grand manner and snatched victory from defeat which threatened to become disaster, and who had, like Chatham, been driven from office at the moment of...

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Halbert E. Gulley (review date April 1951)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Hinge of Fate and Europe Unite: Speeches 1947 and 1948, in Quarterly Journal of Speech, Vol. 37, No. 2, April 1951, pp. 233.

[In the following review, Gulley praises Churchill's eloquence as a speaker and a statesman.]

The Hinge of Fate, volume four in Churchill's account of the second world war, covers the period from early 1942 to June, 1943, after victory in Africa. Like its predecessors, and, for that matter, in common with Churchill's tremendous work on the first world war, The World Crisis, this volume is valuable for its realistic analysis of what happened and why, its inclusion of official memoranda and...

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John R. Hubbard (review date June 1951)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Hinge of Fate, in Journal of American History, Vol. 38, No. 1, June 1951, pp. 142-44.

[In the following review, Hubbard praises Churchill's handling of the epic events of World War II in The Hinge of Fate.]

In this the fourth volume of The Second World War, Churchill's story attains truly epic proportions because it encompasses that period—“the hinge of fate”—wherein Allied fortunes emerge from the darkness of unrelieved disaster into the certain dawn of ultimate victory. This is also the period wherein the United States attains its full stature in the Grand Alliance, and the American historian will find his appetite sated...

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William B. Hamilton (essay date July 1951)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Churchill: Actor as Historian,” in South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol. 50, No. 7, July 1951, pp. 399-411.

[In the following essay, Hamilton examines Churchill's public persona versus his role as a historian.]

At rare intervals the historian is propelled by wanton Fortune into high public office, as with Guizot and Wilson, and if he survives the experience, he may, as in the case of Guizot, write some account of the contemporary scene worthy of the name of history. The really eminent man of action turned historian is even more rarely found. Memoirs, yes—tons of them. But that public man at the summit whose mind and pen are disciplined to writing that...

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Samuel J. Hurwitz (essay date 1951)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Winston S. Churchill,” in Some Modern Historians of Britain, edited by Herman Ausubel, J. Bartlet Brebner, and Erling M. Hunt. The Dryden Press, 1951, pp. 306-24.

[In the following essay, Hurwitz presents an overview of Churchill's career as a writer and a historian.]

To reverse one of his malicious phrases (“Mr. Attlee is a modest man and he has much to be modest about”), Winston Spencer Churchill is a very immodest man and he has indeed much to be immodest about. Soldier, journalist, novelist, lecturer, ruler of the King's Navy, of the Army, and of the country, bricklayer, painter, politician and statesman, and historian, too, Churchill has enjoyed,...

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John R. Hubbard (review date December 1952-53)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Closing the Ring, in The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 39, No. 3, December 1952-53, pp. 582-83.

[In the following review, Hubbard finds Closing the Ring to be an absorbing account of England's involvement in World War II.]

The fifth volume [Closing the Ring] of Mr. Churchill's memorable series [The Second World War] deals with that period between the wresting of the initiative from the Axis by the United Nations on all fronts and the launching of the final crushing offensive against Germany. The U-boats are mastered; the transparency of Japan's ability to hold Asia is apparent; Russia's massive attacks are...

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Samuel Eliot Morrison (essay date 31 October 1953)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Sir Winston Churchill: Nobel Prize Winner,” in The Saturday Review, Vol. 36, No. 44, October 31, 1953, pp. 22-23.

[In the following essay, Morrison discusses reasons why Churchill deserves his Nobel Prize for literature.]

The entire historical profession is honored in the honor to Sir Winston; for it is the first time in half a century that an historian has won the Nobel Prize for Literature; in 1902 it was bestowed on Theodor Mommsen. Restricted as this prize is to “literature of an idealist tendency,” few historians would even qualify, since few are able to apply “idealist” tendencies to the past. Even if we define “idealist” as synonymous...

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Preston Slosson (review date April 1954)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Triumph and Tragedy, in American Historical Review, Vol. 59, No. 3, April 1954, pp. 595-96.

[In the following review, Slosson notes that the appendices of Churchill's Second World War series contain the most interesting and valuable information, particularly Churchill's confidential war-time papers.]

Clemenceau, outstanding statesman of France in the First World War, wrote reminiscently of the “grandeurs and miseries of victory”; Winston Churchill, the British pilot of the Second, writes now of Triumph and Tragedy. After both wars (perhaps after all great wars) victory involved also disappointment and disillusionment during...

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John R. Hubbard (review date December 1954)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Triumph and Tragedy, in Journal of American History, Vol. 41, No. 3, December 1954, pp. 543-44.

[In the following review, Hubbard asserts that Churchill's Second World War series serves as a testament to the politician's political virtuosity and tenacity.]

This [Triumph and Tragedy] is the concluding volume of [The Second World War] made remarkable by the fact that the author not only can speak with authority on the precise events which now shape the contemporary world but whose reflections also are marshaled by the regimen of a historical perspective. Admittedly, the author's unswerving frame of reference is that vast...

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Reed Whittemore (essay date Winter 1954-55)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Churchill and the Limitations of Myth,” in Yale Review, Vol. 44, No. 2, Winter 1954-55, pp. 248-63.

[In the following essay, Whittemore argues that Churchill in his Second World War series interpreted the war in mythological terms, which served to inflate his role in key events.]

Winston Churchill won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953. He won it “for his historical and biographical presentations and for the scintillating oratory in which he has stood forth as a defender of human values.” The New York Times praised his choice editorially, adding that “words well chosen, uttered at the right time, bravely spoken, are the most...

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Times Literary Supplement (essay date 27 April 1956)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Makers of History,” in Times Literary Supplement, No. 2826, April 27, 1956, pp. 245-46.

[In the following essay, the author notes Churchill's emphasis in The Birth of Britain on the advantages of war-like propensities in the historical development of Great Britain.]

Sir Winston Churchill spoke of common citizenship for the inhabitants of Great Britain and the United States when he was made an honorary Doctor of Law at Harvard University on September 6, 1943. Even at that time he had long been meditating his History of the English-Speaking Peoples, which is at length being published at intervals in four volumes:


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Times Literary Supplement (review date 30 November 1956)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Sir Winston's Elephant,” in Time Literary Supplement, No. 2857, November 30, 1956, pp. 705-6.

[In the following review, the critic finds The New World to be a “formidable” undertaking, but notes flaws in Churchill's methods of presentation.]

Although the second volume of Sir Winston Churchill's A History of the English-Speaking Peoples is called The New World, the theme has little to do with America. The first 142 pages, ending with seventy years of peace deal with the reigns of Henry VIII, Elizabeth and James I, during which Roanoke, Bermuda, Virginia, Plymouth. Maine and New Hampshire have been colonized, but it is not till then...

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S. E. Morison (review date June 1958)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples: The Age of Revolution, in New England Quarterly, Vol. 31, No. 2, June 1958, pp. 253-54.

[In the following review, Morison offers high praise for Churchill's “style, judgment, and fairness” in A History of the English-Speaking Peoples: The Age of Revolution.]

Sir Winston has done it again in [A History of the English Speaking Peoples: The Age of Revolution]! In less than 400 pages (excluding the maps) he has covered English, English Colonial, and United States history from 1688 to 1815. He is a challenge to all historians; for he has written no mere précis of facts, but a living and...

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Gordon K. Lewis (essay date August 1958)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Mr. Churchill as Historian,” in Historian, Vol. 20, No. 4, August 1958, pp. 387-414.

[In the following essay, Lewis examines Churchill's canon of historical writings, finding that his tendency to eschew psychological investigations in favor of epic, mythologically flavored descriptions tells readers much about Churchill's own historical and cultural milieu.]

It was poetic justice that persuaded the trustees of the Nobel Prize to award it to Mr. Churchill on the ground of his contribution to literature rather than to world peace. If it is a grave distortion to say that the Great Commoner is a war-monger it is at least true to say that he has always seen in...

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J. H. Plumb (essay date 1969)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Historian,” in Churchill Revised: A Critical Assessment, The Dial Press, Inc., 1969, pp. 133-69.

[In the following essay, Plumb presents an overview of Churchill's merits as a historian.]

The baroque chimney stacks of Blenheim flaunt their grandeur against the sky, the final dramatic gesture of a palace that was always a monument and rarely a home. Achievements riotously carved in stone, obelisks of victory, sweeping columns, vista piled on vista create a sense of drama, of battle, of victory. There is no house like it in the Western world; and certainly not one in England that is dedicated so emphatically to one man—John Churchill, Duke of...

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Manfred Weidhorn (essay date April 1972)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Churchill the Phrase Forger,” in Quarterly Journal of Speech, Vol. 58, No. 2, April 1972, pp. 161-74.

[In the following essay, Weidhorn examines the political rhetoric in Churchill's major speeches.]

Churchill never believed in wasting a phrase.

A. J. P. Taylor


It is not always easy to say where originality and plagiarism diverge in political rhetoric. There is a bank of political common sense and necessary exhortations from which politicians of any persuasion periodically make withdrawals. They are not so much consciously influenced by each other as drawing...

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Times Literary Supplement (review date 15 September 1972)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Churchill from the Front,” in Times Literary Supplement, No. 3680, September 15, 1972, p. 1065.

[In the following review, the critic discusses Young Winston's Wars, Churchill's despatches as a war correspondent early in his career.]

Produced in time to warrant the description of “Book of the Film” Frederick Woods's compilation merits more serious and lasting consideration. He has had the idea of reprinting from the newspapers in which they appeared the despatches Winston Churchill wrote about the Malakand Frontier Force campaign, the conquest of the Sudan and the South African War. The five reports he wrote on the Cuban uprising in 1895-96 have...

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Jon Foreman (review date 21 September 1974)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Churchillian Volumes,” in The Nation, Vol. 219, September 21, 1974, pp. 250-52.

[In the following review, Foreman reassesses Churchill's career in the context of two volumes of his collected works and speeches.]

Churchill's luster has dimmed since his death nine years ago. Studies have altered the image of a steel-ribbed war-time savior, cigar protruding from a bulldog face below the uplifted V fingers. Biographers emphasize his dictatorial attitude, his impulsiveness and instability, his arrogant pursuit of glory and his florid style. The hero of 1940 is extinct in the Watergate era.

Churchill was born 100 years ago, and another century...

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John P. Rossi (essay date Spring 1986)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Winston Churchill's Iron Curtain Speech: Forty Years After,” in Modern Age, Vol. 30, No. 2, Spring 1986, pp. 113-19.

[In the following essay, Rossi examines Churchill's delivery of his speech “The Sinews of Peace” as a key event in the beginnings of the Cold War.]

Oceans of ink have been spilled in an attempt to clarify the origins of the Cold War. Scholarly reputations have been made and destroyed in this intellectual war. Some scholars have sought the origins of the Cold War in the closing months of the Second World War as suspicion mounted between the Western Allies and Stalin's Russia. Others have looked to the months following the end of the war...

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Louis D. Rubin, Jr. (essay date Winter 1994)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Did Churchill Ruin ‘The Great Work of Time?’ Thoughts on the New British Revisionism,” in Virginia Quarterly Review, Vol. 70, No. 1, Winter 1994, pp. 59-78.

[In the following essay, Rubin addresses and refutes the claims of historical revisionists who assert that Churchill's entry into the conflict that became World War II brought about the downfall of the British empire.]

[Who] Could by industrious valor climb
To ruin the great work of Time,
                    And cast the kingdom old
                    Into another mold. …

—Marvell, Horatian Ode Upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland

Writers of history have...

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Michael J. Hostetler (essay date November 1997)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Enigmatic Ends of Rhetoric: Churchill's Fulton Address as Great Art and Failed Persuasion,” in Quarterly Journal of Speech, Vol. 83, No. 4, November 1997, pp. 416-28.

[In the following essay, Hostetler explicates Churchill's “Sinews of Peace” speech.]

March 5, 1996, marked the fiftieth anniversary of one of the definitive speeches of the twentieth century, Winston Churchill's address at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. Fraser J. Harbutt claims that as a “creative work of art,” the speech provided “true and instant illumination” by giving “first authoritative public utterance to many of the leading political and ideological themes...

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John Ramsden (essay date 1998)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “‘That Will Depend on Who Writes the History’: Winston Churchill as His Own Historian,” in More Adventures with Britannia: Personalities, Politics and Culture in Britain, edited by William Roger Louis, University of Texas Press, 1998, pp. 241-54.

[In the following essay, Ramsden examines the ways in which Churchill shaped his own “mythic image” in his writings and speeches.]

When President Harry Truman introduced Churchill at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, in March 1946, he described him merely as “one of the great men of the age.” This was graceful without actually saying much, especially since Truman went on to bracket Churchill with...

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Peter Bradshaw (review date September 1999)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Humid Fidelity,” in London Review of Books, Vol. 21, September 1999, pp. 25-6.

[In the following review, Bradshaw examines Speaking for Themselves: The Personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill against the backdrop of historical events in the couple's life together.]

My favourite moment in Martin Gilbert's Life of Churchill is when the Prime Minister is touring the ruins of Hitler's Chancellery in 1945:

In the square in front of the building a crowd of Germans had gathered. Except for one old man who ‘shook his head disapprovingly’, Churchill later recalled, ‘they all began to cheer. My...

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Ted Kreiter (review date November 1999)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “My Darling Clementine,” in Saturday Evening Post, Vol. 271, No. 6, November 1999, p. 44.

[In the following review, Kreiter presents excerpts from the American edition of Winston and Clementine: The Personal Letters of the Churchills.]

She called him “my sweet Pug.” He called her “my little Clemmie Kat.” Together they shared one of the most remarkable marriages of the 20th century. Even more extraordinary was their correspondence—letters, love notes, and telegrams continuing from before their marriage in 1908 until shortly before his death in 1965. That correspondence is now an open book, thanks to Mary Soames, their daughter, who has compiled her...

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