Recorders of Churchill’s Canon: Colin R. Coote DSO

Recorders of Churchill’s Canon: Colin R. Coote DSO

A read­er asks: “Who pub­lished the first com­pi­la­tion of Win­ston Churchill’s wit and wis­dom, and when?” It was Col­in Coote, in 1947—a dear man devot­ed to the hero­ic mem­o­ry. My quo­ta­tions book Churchill by Him­self  is ded­i­cat­ed in part to him.

Colin Reith Coote

Coote
CRC (Nation­al Por­trait Gallery)

Sir Col­in (1893-1979) was a British jour­nal­ist and Lib­er­al politi­cian. For four­teen years he was edi­tor of the Dai­ly Tele­graph. There he came to know and admire Churchill. Short­ly after World War II, he thought to com­pile a book of Churchillisms, anno­tat­ed to val­i­date each entry. He wrote for per­mis­sion, and received a kind and rev­e­la­to­ry reply, which pro­vid­ed Churchill’s view of his lit­er­ary assigns:

28 Hyde Park Gate, 21 July 1946

My dear Col­in,

Thank you for your let­ter of July 15. I should be much hon­oured by the col­lec­tion which you wish to make and would not, on any account, receive any roy­al­ty for it.

How­ev­er I must tell you that I have part­ed with all my lit­er­ary copy­rights and there­fore per­mis­sion would have to be sought, either from Messrs. Har­raps in respect of Marl­bor­ough, or from Odhams Press in respect of my oth­er works. The Speech­es which have been pub­lished by Cas­sells have no strict copy­right attached to them because they have already been print­ed in the Press. I should think it would not be dif­fi­cult to obtain per­mis­sion from Odhams and I can­not think that Har­raps would make any dif­fi­cul­ty.
You are very wel­come to quote from the rest, so far as I am con­cerned, and I can­not see who could inter­fere.
Yours sin­cere­ly,
           Win­ston S. Churchill

“Maxims and Reflections”

The result was two books (three titles) list­ed in Curt Zoller’s Bib­li­og­ra­phy of Works About Sir Win­ston Churchill, for which this writer pro­vid­ed the anno­ta­tions:

A120. Coote, Col­in R. & Batch­e­lor, Den­zil, edi­tors. Max­ims And Reflec­tions: of the Rt. Hon. Win­ston S. ChurchillLon­don: Eyre & Spot­tis­woode, 1947, 1948, 176 pp.; Toron­to: Collins, 1947; Boston; Houghton Mif­flin, 1949.; New York: Barnes & Noble, 1992. (The first book of Churchill quo­ta­tions, and still a mod­el of the genre. Coote, a friend of Churchill’s with a long tenure at London’s Dai­ly Tele­graph, sought out the most inter­est­ing expres­sions. He ver­i­fied his cita­tions, arrang­ing them by cat­e­gories and adding accom­pa­ny­ing notes. This is an author­i­ta­tive source.)

My first edi­tion is inscribed by Sir Col­in, “From one author (God save the work!) to anoth­er.” Not sure who—alas it was not Churchill. Laid inside is a copy of Churchill’s let­ter quot­ed above. A few years lat­er the author pub­lished a sequel:

A152. Coote, Col­in R., edi­tor. Sir Win­ston Churchill: A Self Por­traitLon­don: Eyre & Spot­tis­woode, 1954, 304 pp. A Churchill Read­er: The Wit and Wis­dom of Sir Win­ston Churchill. Boston: Houghton Mif­flin Co., 1954, 414 pp. (The final and best evo­lu­tion of Coote’s clas­sic Max­ims and Reflec­tions, 1947, orga­nized under head­ings: Him­self, Likes, Dis­likes, Rus­sia, War, Britain, Monar­chy, For­eign­ers, Amer­i­ca, Pol­i­tics, Eng­lish and Human Con­duct. The Amer­i­can edi­tion is print­ed in larg­er type and on much bet­ter paper.)

The Other Club

Coote
Now rare, CRC’s stel­lar his­to­ry of The Oth­er Club, which meets at the Savoy to this day.

Col­in Coote made anoth­er fine con­tri­bu­tion to the Churchill canon: his his­to­ry of The Oth­er Club, now rare and pricey on the used book mar­ket. At present, Bookfinder.com offers some bar­gains, but when I checked a year ago the cheap­est copy cost over $400. A tem­po­rary sub­sti­tute is our review of this work by the Hills­dale Col­lege Churchill Project.

My copy of The Oth­er Club is inscribed by Gen­er­al Sir Ian Jacob, Mil­i­tary Assis­tant to the Churchill War Cab­i­net. Aside from love­ly and lit­er­ate writ­ing, it con­tains a bonus. Laid in is an exchange let­ters between Sir Col­in and my old friend Dal­ton New­field. In 1970, Dal encour­aged me to expand the phi­lat­el­ic “Churchill Study Unit.” That led to many things, the great­est of was my cur­rent asso­ci­a­tion with Hills­dale Col­lege.

* * *

Dal New­field was the world’s first Churchill spe­cial­ist book­seller. In Jan­u­ary 1977, he wrote Sir Col­in seek­ing copies of The Oth­er Club:

My admi­ra­tion and affec­tion for Sir Win­ston has nev­er found bounds. While I was priv­i­leged to see him but once, at South­wick House just before D-Day, I can still hear his mag­nif­i­cent speech­es. I have a library of some thou­sand or so books by and about him, his fam­i­ly and con­tem­po­raries, most of which I have read, and many sev­er­al times. Of course I have your Max­ims and Reflec­tions, Self-Por­trait and Churchill Read­er. Even though there is over­lap­ping, I feel that each is a val­ued part of my col­lec­tion. How for­tu­nate you were to have known him so well.

The Oth­er Club was alas out of print. “I would not reprint it,” Dal assured the author, since “refer­ring to the longevi­ty tables, twen­ty-four copies would about do me until the end of my life.” Sad­ly so. Dal died too young in 1982, three years after Sir Col­in him­self. Some of us still miss their spark­ing pres­ence.

Sir Colin on Churchlliana

Dal also want­ed sug­ges­tions for what to call a Churchill orga­ni­za­tion we were in the process of devel­op­ing. He want­ed to know also how Sir Colin’s book had come to be. CRC cheer­ful­ly offered to help. He wrote back in his own hand:

Lord Hartwell, Chair­man of the Dai­ly Tele­graph, told he very much doubt­ed whether any­body could think of any­thing orig­i­nal about Churchill. [Imag­ine! This was in 1977!—RML] The Amer­i­cans’ best course was to call a spade a spade and name this club sim­ply The Churchill Club. This rather reminds me of Hump­ty Dumpty’s reply about his wall: “No, that’s not its name, but it’s what its name is called.” I sup­pose sim­pli­fi­ca­tion is always sanc­ta. I find my own spark of orig­i­nal­i­ty fad­ed to a faint blur. Per­haps “The Cit­i­zen Churchill Club” has some mer­it. Jen­nie [Lady Ran­dolph] would have liked it, but I don’t!

……

My his­to­ry of The Oth­er Club was entrust­ed to me after Winston’s death because I was the sec­ond-most senior mem­ber and prac­ti­cal­ly the whole mem­ber­ship want­ed the Club to con­tin­ue in some shape or form [which it does —RML]. Lord Long­ford, an Irish Earl, was a mem­ber, and also Chair­man of Sidg­wick & Jack­son. He read­i­ly agreed to pub­lish it. I tried to pro­duce some­thing nei­ther ful­some nor ful­mi­nat­ing.

I have had a poor win­ter so far, but can’t expect any­thing much bet­ter at 83. Come to think of it, some of our so-called lead­ers seem up to the stan­dard of mod­ern dif­fi­cul­ties. You are a very charm­ing flat­ter­er. The few peo­ple in this coun­try who have retained their bal­ance are grate­ful for a pat on the back.

Ulti­mate­ly Dal and I did decide to name the orga­ni­za­tion some­thing else, and suit­ably brief. But that was long ago, and far away.

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