Hyde Park Gate, London: 1948. This 4 August July 1948 holograph letter is from “indefatigable Churchill literary assistant” Denis Kelly to Desmond Flower of Cassell regarding uncorrected errors in the soon-to be published British first edition of the first volume of The Second World War, The Gathering Storm (published 4 October 1948). The holograph letter is inked entirely in Kelly’s hand on the recto of a sheet of Hyde Park Gate stationery. Dated by Kelly “11/8/48” (11 August 1948), it reads: “Dear Flower, I’ve found a number of rather hefty misprints in The Gathering Storm, & will send you a list…” Kelly acknowledges “…that it is too late to do anything about it now…” but suggests a review protocol for Cassell to follow “…before you print a second edition…” Tellingly, Kelly concludes “I haven’t broken the news to W.S.C. yet, but I hope there isn't a second gathering storm about to break!” Pencil annotation at the upper left reads: “Mr. B [indecipherable} saw Mr. Kelly”. The letter was acquired from an archive regarding Churchill’s publishing history with Cassell.
Condition is near fine, clean with minor corner creases and centered vertical and horizontal folds consonant with original mailing. When Newman Flower of Cassell secured publication rights to Churchill’s war memoirs, it was “perhaps the greatest coup of twentieth century publishing.” It fell to Newman’s son, Desmond John Newman Flower (1907-1997), to oversee the actual publication and manage an author of Churchill’s towering stature and exacting standards.
“Almost the last thing that Flower did before joining the Army in 1940 was to prepare the first volume of Churchill’s wartime speeches.” Desmond landed in Normandy and won the MC in Operation Bluecoat in August 1944, returning to Cassell in 1946 to begin a new battle - to rebuild the firm, which had lost both its offices and warehouse to bombing and now faced the crippling constraint of paper rationing. Churchill’s post-war literary output, particularly the six volumes of The Second World War, not only ensured his own financial security, but also proved the essential asset to Cassell’s postwar recovery.
Churchill was an author that Cassell could neither control nor do without. Churchill had written to Flower personally on 14 July not only to personal supply Errata and Corrigenda, but also to specify where they would be placed in the published edition. Further errors were identified just before the final binding, resulting in an additional tipped-in slip. Among the embarrassing errors (if one regards French military prowess) was describing the French Army as the ‘poop’ rather than the ‘prop’ of France. Churchill wrote to Flower on 10 August “I was shocked at some of the mistakes”. By November of 1949, Cassell had bowed to its author and published a second edition of Volume I incorporating corrections.
Denis Kelly (1916-1990) served during the Second World War in the Indian Mountain Artillery in India and Burma (1941-45). After the war Kelly joined Churchill’s literary team, first as an archivist, then as a literary assistant on Churchill’s war memoirs. On 14 May 1947, Churchill met Kelly at Chartwell. Showing him a cellar “stacked from floor to ceiling” Churchill tasked Kelly thus: “Your task, my boy, is to make Cosmos out of Chaos.” Kelly approached the task with not only diligence, but some reverence: “I realised that I was handling the personal papers of a man who had experienced and shaped the history of the world in the last fifty years…” (Gilbert, Vol. VIII, p.331.) Kelly became a vital part of Churchill’s literary team for the rest of Churchill’s productive life as an author, not only assisting with The Second World War and A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, but also preparing the abridged, one-volume Memoirs of the Second World War (published 1959). Kelly’s papers, including correspondence with Sir Martin Gilbert, now reside in the Churchill Archives Centre at Churchill College, Cambridge. Item #003765