London: Longmans, Green, and Company, 1900. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is the British first edition of Churchill's third published book and only novel. Of note, this is one of the few Churchill books for which the U.S. edition is the true first edition. The British first edition was issued from American plates, with only 1,500 copies of the first printing published on 12 February 1900. It is bound quite differently from its U.S. counterpart, in green cloth with Churchill's facsimile signature in gilt on the front cover. The British first edition proved less durable than its U.S. counterpart, and is most often seen significantly spotted, the thin green cloth boards toned and worn, the binding nearly always cocked.
This copy approaches very good condition. The tight and clean green cloth binding retains excellent, undulled color with no color shift between the covers and spine and bright gilt on both the front cover and spine. Wear is light, chiefly confined to the extremities and hinges with a small bump to the upper rear cover. The chief defects of this binding are superficial mottling to the covers and spine and a slight forward lean. The contents are tight with a crisp feel. The original black endpapers are intact. The tiny sticker of “BENTANO’S” booksellers in “PARIS” is affixed to the upper front pastedown. A touching contemporary inked gift inscription on the recto of the blank leaf preceding the half title reads “To mother. | Many happy returns | from her affectionate son” and is dated “March 26th 1900.” – one month after publication. Spotting, endemic to the British first edition, is intermittent and fairly light and the contents retain a crisp feel. There are two states of the first printing, this second state distinguished by a title page cancellans with a blank verso, “bound in a quantity of 650 [of the 1500 first printing total] prior to the 12 February 1900 publication date.” (see Cohen Vol. I, A3.2.b, p.73)
A very young Churchill was exuberant about publication at the time. 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 A3.2.b, Woods/ICS A3(ba.1), Langworth p.41. Item #006473