London: George Newnes, Limited, 1908. First Illustrated edition. Paperback. This is the fragile but striking first illustrated edition of Savrola, Churchill's third book and only novel. The first edition was issued in 1900. This very early paperback followed in 1908 as part of publisher George Newnes' “Sixpenny Novels Illustrated” series. The front cover features a dramatic illustration and there are two full-page illustrated interior plates on coated paper (one as the frontispiece and the second facing p.30). As a pulp paperback from the early twentieth century, few can be expected to have survived; it is obviously scarce and most often seen with significant wear, damage, and losses.
This copy is better than most we encounter, in good plus condition. The illustrated wraps binding remains tight and square, despite wear to hinges and extremities, moderate overall soiling, and some loss. The illustrated front cover shows only minor creasing and wear to corners. The spine print remains fully intact and the spine shows no vertical creasing or lean, indicating that this copy has not been read. The rear cover shows small loss to the corners and mid-fore edge, short closed tears at the fore and bottom edges, and a 1.25 x 1.25 inch (.64 x .64 cm) triangular loss adjacent to the upper rear hinge. The contents are complete with no previous ownership marks. The pages are toned, as is inevitable given the pulp paper and age, with light intermittent spotting.
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 A3.5, Woods/ICS A3(c), Langworth p.43. Item #006472