Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1948. First edition, third printing. Hardcover. This presentation copy of the first volume of Winston Churchill’s history of the Second World War is a first edition, third printing, warmly inscribed to his sister-in-law, Nellie Hozier Romilly. Churchill wrote in black ink in six lines on the front free endpaper: “To | Nellie | with Love | from | Winston | 1948”.
His history of the war would have been quite personal for Nellie. Nellie’s youngest son, Winston’s nephew Esmond (1918-1941), was killed in action 30 November 1941 – Winston’s birthday. A Royal Canadian Air Force Pilot Officer, Esmond was shot down over the North Sea after a bombing raid over Germany. Nellie’s older son, Giles (1916-1967), was a civilian journalist for the Daily Express when he was captured in Norway in May 1940 - the same month that his uncle became wartime Prime Minister. Giles became the first of Hitler’s “Prominente” – prisoners deemed important for their association with Allied figures. Giles was held with other Prominente in Colditz Castle. Giles dramatically escaped in April 1945 after transfer to Tittmoning Castle.
This copy of The Gathering Storm has all first edition points, including yellow-orange topstain, head and foot bands, title page publication date, and absence of Book-of-the-Month Club indicia. It is distinguished from the first printing only by title page verso notation: “Third Impression, June, 1948”. The third printing dust jacket is identical to that of the first printing. Churchill would have gifted a U.S. edition to Nellie given that the British first edition was not published until October of 1948.
Condition approaches very good minus. The red cloth binding remains tight and sound, though with modest spine fading, some dimpled concavity to the spine, light wear to the spine ends and corners, and a tiny white mark on the upper front hinge. It seems as if this copy was actually read by the recipient. The contents are clean and respectably bright, with no evident spotting and only mild toning and soiling to the page edges. The very good minus supplied third printing dust jacket retains its $6.00 price and strikingly bright spine color with wear to the hinges and extremities, shallow loss at the foot of the spine, and small chips to the flap folds and the upper left hinge. The book is housed within a full red morocco clamshell case featuring hubbed spine with gilt ruled bands and gilt print, gilt rule bordered covers, and marbled paper-lined interior.
Margaret “Nellie” Nelly Ogilvy Romilly (née Hozier, 1888-1955) was the only surviving sister of Clementine Ogilvy Spencer-Churchill, Baroness Spencer-Churchill (née Hozier, 1885-1977), their older sister Kitty having died in 1900. Nellie’s life became inextricably linked to that of future Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill (1874-1965) forty years before this book was inscribed. On 11 August 1908, Churchill proposed to Clementine, whom he married on 12 September 1908 with Nellie as a bridesmaid. As a young woman, Nellie seemed to lead the carefree life that her social position afforded and enjoyed travel, dancing, and, particularly, gambling. She spoke “French like a Parisienne and made great friends of the common people.” (Souhami, Edith Cavell, 206)
In an odd parallel to her yet-unborn son’s Second World War experience, Nellie was captured and imprisoned by the Germans during the First World War. In 1914, Nellie abruptly joined a convoy of nurses in Belgium as interpreter, but her party was swiftly taken prisoner when the Germans occupied Belgium. Her party was repatriated a few months later after the nurses went on strike and refused to extend care to the Germans. The U.S. Ambassador to Belgium recalled of their release, “Miss Manners and Miss Hozier, with all the nurses, arived [sic] at tea time, all glowing with the joy of the very dangerous experience...” (Whitlock, Belgium a Personal Narrative, 382-383). A year later, on 4 December 1915, Nellie married Colonel Bertram Henry Samuel Romilly. Item #004657