A Short Review of “Churchill By Himself”

A Short Review of “Churchill By Himself”

by R. Emmett Tyrrell in The Amer­i­can Spec­ta­tor, 2009

R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is founder and edi­tor in chief of The Amer­i­can Spec­ta­tor. His most recent book is The Clin­ton Crack-Up: The Boy President’s Life After The White House.

You may also be inter­est­ed in a detailed review by Man­fred Wei­d­horn.


In the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry, Win­ston Churchill was so wide­ly not­ed for his wit and turn of phrase that if a clever line were in the air it was often attrib­uted to him whether he said it or not. Doubt­less the great man rarely com­plained, though occa­sion­al­ly he did as read­ers will note in this defin­i­tive com­pi­la­tion of his solem­ni­ties, wit­ti­cisms, and oth­er famous lines. For instance, though he nev­er char­ac­ter­ized the British naval tra­di­tion as embrac­ing “Rum, bug­gery and the lash,” he told his sec­re­tary that he wished he had. And he nev­er joked that if mar­ried to Nan­cy Astor and giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty to drink her poi­soned cof­fee he would will­ing­ly drink it.

In Churchill By Him­self: The Defin­i­tive Col­lec­tion of Quo­ta­tions edi­tor Richard Lang­worth has with utmost schol­ar­li­ness, gath­ered 628 pages of Churchill’s most mem­o­rable lines from his 15 mil­lion pub­lished words. Langworth’s schol­ar­ship is fas­ci­nat­ing. In the case of some of Churchill’s most famous lines Lang­worth traces their ori­gins in ear­li­er ora­to­ry (Cicero) or poet­ry (John Donne). He files the lines under inter­est­ing head­ings, for instance: “Max­ims,” “Nuclear Age and Cold War,” and “Ripostes.”

Yet his most mem­o­rable sec­tion, at least for me, is titled “Red Her­rings: False Attri­bu­tions.” There on page 572 the inde­fati­ga­ble edi­tor casts doubt on The Amer­i­can Spec­ta­tor’s author­i­ty for claim­ing with­out attri­bu­tion that Churchill once said “Smok­ing cig­ars is like falling in love; first you are attract­ed to the shape; you stay for its fla­vor; and you must always remem­ber, nev­er, nev­er let the flame go out.” Okay, at ease my fel­low Spec­ta­to­ri­ans! I fer­ret­ed out the source and have sent it on to Lang­worth. Our hon­or is pre­served. On Octo­ber 15, 1963 at a Con­ser­v­a­tive Par­ty Con­fer­ence at Black­pool Ran­dolph, while smok­ing a cig­ar, relat­ed his father’s line to my source, who must remain anony­mous, for he explained: “Admit­ted­ly, he [Ran­dolph] was drunk at the time.” [RML: I have still not accept­ed it; the source, a spu­ri­ous quote book which offers no direct attri­bu­tion, is strict­ly hearsay!]

3 thoughts on “A Short Review of “Churchill By Himself”

  1. Thanks for anoth­er won­der­ful post. Where else could any­body get that kind of infor­ma­tion in such an ide­al method of writing?

    I have a pre­sen­ta­tion sub­se­quent week, and I’m on the look for such

  2. Great post. I was check­ing con­stant­ly this blog
    and I am impressed! Very use­ful infor­ma­tion par­tic­u­lar­ly the last part :) 

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