London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1915. Sevenpenny Library edition. Hardcover. This is the first state of the 1915 Hodder & Stoughton “Sevenpenny Library Edition” of Churchill's third book and only novel, extremely scarce thus in the strikingly illustrated dust jacket.
This is an aesthetically pleasing little book measuring 6.625 inches tall by 4.5 inches wide (17 x 11.5 cm), bound in a decorated bright red embossed cloth, and with a frontispiece illustration. Worn and soiled copies are not uncommon, but since the edition was small, fragile, and printed on cheap paper, collector-worthy copies have become scarce. Scarcer still is the illustrated dust jacket, the front panel of which features a four-color reproduction of the frontispiece on a red background; in recent decades, we have seen only a tiny handful of copies ever offered on the world market and infer that precious few survive. In 1998, Richard Langworth (A Connoisseur’s Guide to the Books of Sir Winston Churchill) wrote: "Presence of the evocative jacket turns this rather ordinary book into a collector treasure." We quite agree.
This scarce jacketed example is very good plus in its original dust jacket. The red cloth binding is bright, lightly sunned and soiled only at the spine ends and the upper edge of the front cover, corresponding to dust jacket losses. The contents are inevitably age-toned, but otherwise clean, with trivial spotting confined to the endpapers and page edges. Differential toning to the endpapers corresponds with the dust jacket flaps, corroborating that this copy has spent life jacketed. Second state is confirmed by the “1915” publication date printed on the title page. (See Cohen, Vol. I, A3.6.b, p. 80)
The dust jacket is worn. There are irregular strip losses to the upper rear face, the spine, the upper front face, and the lower spine and front face, none exceeding a depth of .8 inch (2 cm), as well as wear and loss along the front flap folds, hinges, and corners. A vertical crease bisects the shoulder of the standing figure on the front face and “1/2” has been inked – ostensibly by a previous bookseller – to the price on the front face and spine. Nonetheless, the distinctive front face illustration remains bright and intact and most of the spine print is intact, only part of “Stoughton” at spine heel lost. The jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
The year during the First World War when this edition was published was a momentous time for Churchill, which saw him busy writing history, not fiction. In 1915 he was the wartime First Lord of the Admiralty, but after the disaster in the Dardanelles he was scapegoated by his peers and his Prime Minister and forced out of the Cabinet. Churchill would go from the Cabinet to the Front, serving as a lieutenant colonel leading a battalion in the trenches, before being exonerated by war's end and returning to the Government.
When Savrola was first published in February 1900, a very young Churchill was exuberant. Even though Savrola was his third published book, it was actually the first book he undertook and the second he completed. His “Tale of the Revolution in Laurania” is a melodramatic tale of political intrigue in a fictional Mediterranean state. He later made deprecating comments about his novel and it is perhaps instructive that he never wrote another. In his 1930 autobiography he wrote, "I have consistently urged my friends to abstain from reading it [Savrola]."
It has been argued that, as a literary effort, Savrola gave “dramatic voice to Churchill’s mature philosophical reflections about his fundamental political and ethical principles at the very moment when he settled on them for the rest of his life.” (Powers, Finest Hour #74) Irrespective of Churchill's feelings about his book or the literary merit thereof, the novel certainly provides an interesting insight into the early political perspective and sentiment of the then very young Churchill.
Reference: Cohen A3.6.b, Woods A3(d), Langworth p.44. Item #006469