London: Longmans Green & Co., 1900. Colonial issue of the first edition, first printing. Hardcover. This well-worn survivor is a rare prize – the first edition, first printing, Colonial issue of Winston Churchill’s only novel, far rarer than its U.S. or British first edition counterparts. Only 1,670 Colonial editions were issued in this illustrated hardcover binding - and this small number includes the second and third printings. The survival rate was poor given the tropical climates in much of the colonies. Those few examples that do survive are often quite worn and re-backed or re-bound.
This is an original, unrestored copy, sound and complete though in poor condition, clearly having endured customary depredations of age and use. First printing is confirmed by the absence of the words "NEW IMPRESSION" on the title page. The binding is square and tight, though quite considerably worn, the cloth frayed along the hinges and extremities, the strikingly illustrated front cover scuffed, the blank rear cover scuffed and soiled, and with shallow loss of the cloth at the spine ends. The original swan and ship endpapers are intact, as are the original publisher’s advertisements for The River War and The Story of the Malakand Field Force following the text. The contents show only light, intermittent spotting. The colonial provenance is unequivocal; the sole previous ownership mark, inked on the dedication page, reads “Morabool Reading Society | No. 121, Aug. 1900”. The Shire of Moorabool is a local government area in Victoria, Australia. Light moisture staining is evident on the upper half of the dedication page and the succeeding blank right margins through page 49. The damage is modest and only cosmetic; there is no warping or other damage to the pages apart from the moisture staining.
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 would later make 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]." However, his mixed feelings about his only novel did not keep Churchill from writing a foreword to a new edition in 1956: "The preface to the first edition in 1900 submitted the book 'with considerable trepidation to the judgment or the clemency of the public.' The intervening fifty-five years have somewhat dulled though certainly not changed my sentiments on this point."
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 A3.3.a, Woods/ICS A3(bb), Langworth p.42. Item #006470