A New Edition of “Thoughts and Adventures”

A New Edition of “Thoughts and Adventures”

a039isiThoughts and Adventures

by Win­ston S. Churchill, edit­ed with a new intro­duc­tion by James W. Muller. ISI Books edi­tion, 380 pages, illus., softbound.

If Churchill’s 1932 vol­ume of essays on pol­i­tics, car­toons, elec­tions, hob­bies and adven­tures dur­ing the Great War is real­ly an undis­cov­ered clas­sic” (as the pub­lish­ers state on the back cov­er of this new edi­tion) it will be news to gen­er­a­tions of read­ers. Thoughts and Adven­tures (first pub­lished as Amid These Storms in USA) is wide­ly dis­trib­uted. It was trans­lat­ed into Dan­ish, French, Ger­man, Kore­an, Span­ish and Swedish.

But what makes the new vol­ume so valu­able, aside from its easy­go­ing paper­back price—is an out­stand­ing new intro­duc­tion by Churchill schol­ar James W. Muller.  In a 28-page essay, Muller plumbs the depths of Churchill’s intel­lect, the rai­son d’etre of a book which is far more than a hap­haz­ard col­lec­tion of “pot­boil­ers” (as WSC him­self some­times referred to his articles).

Seeing both past and future

The read­er com­pre­hends how deeply Churchill thought about tran­scen­den­tal mat­ters. Here are his “big four” futur­ist essays: “Shall We All Com­mit Sui­cide?,” “Fifty Years Hence,” “Con­sis­ten­cy in Pol­i­tics” and “Mass Effects in Mod­ern Life.” Here too are “My Spy Sto­ry” and “The Bat­tle of Sid­ney Street.” These con­sid­er, in every­day expe­ri­ences, issues of civ­il lib­er­ty and civil­ian con­trol of the mil­i­tary or police.

Thoughts and Adven­tures wit­ness­es Churchill’s col­le­gial pol­i­tics in his appre­ci­a­tion of oppo­nents. We see this in “Elec­tion Mem­o­ries” and “Car­toons and Car­toon­ists.” And we meet those who influ­enced him in “Per­son­al Con­tacts.” We see war as Churchill saw it: “With the Grenadiers,” “‘Plugstreet,’” “The U-Boat War,” “The Dover Bar­rage.” We watch his­to­ry made over his burly shoul­der in “The Irish Treaty.” Two heroes from the oppo­site ends of his­to­ry appear in “Clemenceau” and “Moses.” We even learn how to relax, with “Hob­bies” and “Paint­ing as a Pastime.”

Nor is Pro­fes­sor Muller con­tent with a fore­word. He pro­vides a host of new foot­notes, large­ly pro­vid­ed by the schol­ar Paul Courte­nay. These aid the mod­ern read­er by describ­ing events, peo­ple and places no longer famil­iar. He also appends a thick set of notes, on the ori­gin of each essay, its tit­u­lar and tex­tu­al vari­a­tions. In many cas­es we learn how it came to be written.

Fastidious detail

Only in this edi­tion do we learn that the fore­word to Thoughts and Adven­trues was not writ­ten by WSC. It was penned by his long­time friend and sec­re­tary Eddie Marsh. Marsh emu­lat­ed the boss’s style so per­fect­ly that Churchill wrote on his copy, “Rather good pastiche.”

Muller’s notes record every alter­ation in each essay. Churchill, an inde­fati­ga­ble revis­er, tweaked and mold­ed his work to suit new appear­ances and audi­ences. In “My Spy Sto­ry,” for exam­ple, Muller pro­duces five lengthy para­graphs from the orig­i­nal Cos­mopoli­tan appear­ance. Omit­ted from the book, they describe a “much trust­ed” Ger­man spy in Britain, whose reports were stud­ied in Berlin and Wil­helmshaven. And, just to be sure you know, Muller adds that Wil­helmshaven was the “head­quar­ters of Germany’s High Seas Fleet.”

Tru­ly this is as emi­nent an edi­tion of Thoughts and Adven­tures as we could hope to have—a trib­ute to the edi­tor and Mr. Courte­nay, as to the author. It serves inform future gen­er­a­tions of Churchill’s polit­i­cal instinct, judg­ment, fore­sight and magnanimity.

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