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
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. Churchill. London: 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 Portrait. London: 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
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.
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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.