London: The Bomb Shop (Henderson's), . First edition. This quite scarce 1919 pamphlet publishes three satires of Winston Churchill by Osbert Sitwell published in the immediate aftermath of the First World War. “This anti-Churchill polemic publishes verses by Sitwell in the pro-Labour newspapers The Nation and Daily Herald.” The piece “A Certain Statesman” (originally published in the Daily Herald on 22 July 1919) attacks Churchill’s debatable actions in Russia, Gallipoli, Antwerp, and Sydney Street. The pieces “More About Morale” (originally published in the Daily Herald on 28 July 1919) and “The Governess of Europe” (originally published in The Nation on 5 July 1919) add criticism over the Allied military operation in Russia.
The pamphlet measures 22.5 x 17.5 cm, string-bound in orange card wraps with a satirical caricature of Churchill printed prominently on the front cover, the publisher and price of “Six Pence” printed on the lower rear cover. The 20-page contents are printed on untrimmed paper, the final leaf bearing advertisements. Condition is very good indeed given the inherent fragility of the publication. The orange wraps remain firmly intact with no loss or tears. We note only slight soiling and wear to extremities, a small stain near the lower front corner, and faint vertical creasing (2.5 cm right of the spine) where it was once partly folded. Interestingly, the other copies we have offered had the same faint crease, leading us to wonder if it is an artefact associated with the printing and binding process. Irrespective of the origin of the crease, the pamphlet is clearly unread, the signatures still uncut. We find no previous ownership marks. Light spotting appears confined to the first and final leaves.
Criticism of Churchill at the time was neither rare nor restrained. During the First World War, Churchill remarkably served both in the Cabinet and on the front, nearly losing his political life in the former and his corporeal life in the latter. Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty from 1911 until 1915, but was scapegoated for the Dardanelles tragedy and the slaughter at Gallipoli and forced to resign. He would spend part of his political exile as a lieutenant colonel leading a battalion in the trenches. By the war's end, he was exonerated and rejoined the Government, initially as Minister of Munitions in July 1917. By January 1919, Churchill was in control of the War Department as Secretary of State for War and Air. Nonetheless, the stigma of the Dardanelles would linger. The political exile and near-ruin of his career presaged his experience in the “wilderness years” of the 1930s preceding his Second World War premiership.
Irrespective of the validity of his characterizations, the author of this pamphlet, who would eventually become Sir Osbert Sitwell, 5th Baronet (1892-1969), had earned the right to opinions about the First World War and its aftermath. Sitwell was a veteran of the First World War trenches, where he wrote his first poetry. In 1918 he left the Army at the rank of Captain, unsuccessfully contested the general election as a Liberal Party candidate, and began a career devoted to poetry, art criticism and controversial journalism. He would become a famous English man of letters, both on his own merits and as a triumvirate of “Sitwells” along with his sister Edith and brother Sacheverell. The publisher, Henderson’s, better known as The Bomb Shop, was a bookseller at 66 Charing Cross Road, London better known for publishing and selling both radical left and anarchist writing and modernist literature. The shop was founded in 1909 and run by Francis Riddell Henderson. The Bomb Shop was bought by Eva Collet Reckitt and became the first of the Collet’s chain of left wing bookshops. Bibliographic reference: Zoller A8. Item #004685