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:
According to the usually reliable Kay Halle, in her quotations book Irrepressible Churchill (Cleveland: World, 1966, page 116), Shaw wrote to Churchill in 1924: “Am reserving two tickets for you for my premiere. Come and bring a friend—if you have one.”
Churchill, Halle says, replied: “Impossible to be present for the first performance. Will attend the second—if there is one.” Finest Hour editor Dalton Newfield explained in the 1970s that the play in question was Shaw’s “St. Joan.”
But Allen Packwood, director of the Churchill Archives Centre, has just come across an correspondence in a remote corner of the Churchill Papers (CHUR 2/165/66,68) in which both Shaw and Churchill deny the exchange: