London: Macmillan and Company, 1906. First edition, only printing. Hardcover. This first edition presentation set of Lord Randolph Churchill, Winston Churchill’s biography of his father, features a remarkable eight-line inscription to the man who guided Churchill’s successful first campaign as a Liberal. In black ink in eight lines on the front free endpaper, Churchill wrote: “F. Burn | from | Winston S. Churchill | As a memento of the great | Free Trade victory won in | Manchester 13 Jan 1906, & | in recognition of his share | in that good work.”
The set’s virtue resides more in testifying to the associations and machinations of Churchill’s early Parliamentary career than in condition. The volumes are good overall, unrestored and sound despite aesthetic flaws. Each volume is housed in a blue cloth chemise nested within a custom quarter leather slipcase. The bindings show toning and soiling. The contents show intermittent spotting throughout, endemic to the edition. The Volume I front hinge is mildly shaken, with the mull fully intact beneath a partial, cosmetic split to the endpapers. Burn signed the Volume II front free endpaper and further inked “Fred Burn | from the author” on the blank recto preceding the half title. The quarter leather slipcase spine is modestly worn and sunned.
Fred Burn’s (1860-1930) obituary remembered him as “one of the most successful… among the professional [Liberal] party workers in the North of England.” Indeed, “Mr. Burn’s… political activity included the organization of the Liberal campaign against Mr. Winston Churchill when he was a Conservative candidate at Oldham.” Churchill lost the July 1899 Oldham by-election – his first attempt at Parliament. Half a decade later, Churchill turned for help to the same shrewd Liberal party fixer who had thwarted him. In 1903 Burn was named Secretary of the Manchester Liberal Federation (MLF). In 1904 the Liberal candidate for North-West Manchester died and the MLF noted that “it is hoped that in the immediate future another name may be put before the North-West Division.” It would be Churchill.
On 31 May, 1904, Churchill left his father’s Conservative Party, crossing the aisle to become a Liberal, beginning a dynamic chapter in his political career that saw him champion progressive causes and branded a traitor to his class. On 2 January 1906 he published his two-volume biography of his father. Immediately thereafter, he campaigned for eight days in North-West Manchester, hoping to win his first election as a Liberal. Churchill’s party defection was on the minds of the voters. His father’s history was much on his own mind. “…I have changed my Party… I am proud of it. When I think of all… Lord Randolph Churchill gave to… the Conservative Party and the ungrateful way he was treated… I am delighted that circumstances have enabled me to break with them…” Burn helped balance electoral scales in Churchill’s favor, guiding both local party organization and Churchill himself.
The Churchill Archives Centre holds dozens of letters from Burn to Churchill, spanning before Churchill’s defection from the Conservatives to the 1921 death of Churchill’s mother. During Churchill’s initial transition to the Liberal Party, Burn was a constant source of information and guidance, some of which was minutely prescriptive. Many of Burn’s letters are responses to direct inquiries from Churchill. In a three-page 15 July 1904 letter, Burn explained the Constitution and organization of the Manchester Liberal Federation and how it functioned in relation to Liberal party politics, including Party organization, political propaganda, and finance. Burn advised Churchill in all three categories in granular detail. Burn was a lynchpin to Churchill’s success and Churchill’s success was critical to the Liberals. On 13 January 1906 Churchill won the traditionally Conservative seat by a majority of 1,241 in an electorate of 10,000. “His efforts… helped… other Liberal candidates to overturn Conservative seats” in what became a Liberal landslide. Item #004791