2, Sussex Square. W.2., London: 1920. This signed and annotated 29 December 1920 typed letter from Winston S. Churchill to Curtis Brown authorized serialization by The Times of Churchill's history of the First World War. An accompanying 21 December 1920 letter from The Times specifies the agreement’s terms and conditions. The two letters are notable in several respects: for demonstrating Churchill’s drive to justify his First World War role; for showing his engagement in his literary endeavors despite the press of political affairs; for attesting to the lucrative impact of his literary work, and; for marking the successful beginning of a representational relationship which continues to this day.
Churchill first engaged Albert Curtis Brown (1886-1945) for The World Crisis, driving a hard bargain; Brown would earn his 10 per cent commission only if royalties exceeded £15,000. (No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money, pp.126-127) It proved a good deal for Brown; the agency he founded still bears his name and still represents Churchill family intellectual property assets, also working closely with the Sir Winston Churchill Archive Trust. While “there were few writers of importance who were not Curtis Brown clients at some point in their careers” (ODNB), few Brown clients could claim the stature – both popular and literary – to which Churchill eventually rose.
Churchill’s letter to Brown comprises 81 words in 16 lines typed and handwritten on the recto of a single sheet. The typed address - “2, Sussex Square. W.2.” – was owned by Churchill from late 1919 until early 1925. He resided there until his move to 11 Downing Street as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Dated “December 29th 1920”, the letter authorizes Brown to “accept on my behalf the offer contained in the letter to yourselves from the Manager of “The Times” dated the 21st… for the first serial publication rights… of my Memoirs.” Two final lines (17 words) inked in blue in Churchill’s hand specify “the guarantor required by “The Times”. Churchill signed the letter in the same blue ink.
The letter Churchill references is typed on the rectos of three pages of The Times stationery, is signed by the Manager of The Times, and enumerates nine separate “terms and conditions” under which The Times agrees “to purchase the first serial publication rights throughout the British Empire except Canada of the Right Honourable Winston Churchill’s Memoirs for a total sum of Five Thousand Pounds…” The nine points (and a post script) specify details ranging from how many words will be published in serial form, to publication logistics, to payment. Churchill’s affirmative authorization to Brown was immediately consequential: Point “7.” specifies payments, including “Two Thousand Pounds (£2,000) on the signing of this letter approving the terms herein by Mr. Churchill or his representatives”.
Interestingly, The Times letter specifies “the two volumes” of the work. Churchill’s history of the First World War, The World Crisis, eventually ran to six volumes published between 1923 and 1931. WWI nearly cost Churchill both his political career and his corporeal life. First Lord of the Admiralty from 1911 until 1915, after the Dardanelles disaster, Churchill was scapegoated and forced to resign. He spent political exile as a lieutenant colonel of a battalion in the trenches. Before war's end, Churchill was exonerated and rejoined the Government, but the stigma lingered, providing more than just literary and financial compulsion to write his history.
Both letters are in very good minus condition, housed in archival mylar sleeves within a crimson cloth folder. Churchill’s signed letter to Brown shows folds, minor edgewear, and small closed tears along the right edge. The Times three-page terms and conditions letter shows paperclip rust stains at the head and foot of the first page and minor loss at the head of the third page. These letters were previously part of the Malcolm S. Forbes, Jr. collection. Item #004942