New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1937. First edition, only printing. Hardcover. This is the fifth and penultimate volume of Churchill's Marlborough: His Life and Times, the U.S. first edition in the uniform issue blue and gold dust jacket. The British first edition was issued in four volumes. The U.S. publisher chose to split the first two volumes into two books each, resulting in a six-volume set that is otherwise identical in content to the British. Only when the sixth and final volume was published in 1938 were all six U.S. first editions offered in uniform blue and gold dust jackets.
This is a near fine copy in a good plus dust jacket. Alone among the six U.S. first edition volumes, Volume V was bound in a slightly different cloth that proved highly susceptible to spine toning, even when jacketed. This copy is a marvelous exception, not only square, clean, and tight with sharp corners, but also strikingly clean and bright, with perfect, unfaded green hue and vivid spine gilt. We note only the slightest shelf wear to extremities. The contents are clean with only mild age-toning. Spotting is entirely confined to the top edge of the text block, the untrimmed fore edge and the bottom edge both clean. The sole previous ownership mark is a tiny Boston bookshop sticker affixed to the lower left front free endpaper recto. The dust jacket is unclipped, retaining the original upper front flap “$2.75” price. The blue and gold hues remain bright, though the jacket shows overall scuffing, light soiling, and shallow losses to extremities. The dust jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
Marlborough was initially conceived a full 40 years before publication of the final volume. Churchill originally considered the idea of the biography in 1898, returning to it in earnest in 1928. Marlborough ultimately took 10 years of research and writing and is the most substantial published work of Churchill's "wilderness years" in the 1930s, which he spent politically isolated, often at odds with both his own party and prevailing public sentiment. This decade saw Churchill pass into his sixties with his own future as uncertain as that of his nation. It is perhaps not incidental that Churchill’s great work of the 1930s was about a great ancestor. Churchill may have wondered more than once if the life history he was writing might ultimately eclipse his own. Richard Langworth says "To understand the Churchill of the Second World War, the majestic blending of his commanding English with historical precedent, one has to read Marlborough.”
Few would accuse Churchill of objectivity. Nonetheless, as a work of history it drew high praise. Upon reading the proofs, James Lewis Garvin, editor of The Observer, wrote “I think it to be… the greatest of all your works… Your full brush has never had more mastery over space and colour…” Two months after Volume I was published, on 12 December 1933, T.E. Lawrence wrote to Churchill: “I finished it only yesterday. I wish I had not… The skeleton of the book is so good. Its parts balance and the main stream flows… Marlborough has the big scene-painting, the informed pictures of men, the sober comment on political method, the humour, irony and understanding of your normal writing: but beyond that it shows more discipline and strength: and great dignity. It is history, solemn and decorative.” When Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953, it was partly for “mastery of historical and biographical description” on the strength of Marlborough, which was specifically cited and quoted by the Swedish Academy.
This final volume of Marlborough was published almost exactly one year before the outbreak of the Second World War and Churchill’s return to the Cabinet to reprise his First World War role as First Lord of the Admiralty. Twenty months after the final volume was published Churchill became wartime prime minister.
Reference: Cohen A97.4(V).b, Woods/ICS A40(ba), Langworth p.169. Item #006239