Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1950. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This inscribed U.S. first edition of The Grand Alliance, the third volume of Winston S. Churchill’s Second World War memoirs, represents a compelling convergence of lives. First, the recipient - Lady Davina Woodhouse, the daughter of Churchill’s first great love, Pamela Plowden. Second, Davina’s husband, Monty Woodhouse, who inhabits some of the history recounted in this book, and who would likewise prove integral to geopolitical events during Churchill’s second and final premiership. Third is the man Davina did not marry, Anthony Eden, Churchill’s long-time lieutenant and long-delayed, ill-fated successor as Prime Minister.
The inscription, five lines inked in blue on the front free endpaper recto, reads “To | Davina | from | Winston | 1950”.
Condition of this inscribed copy approaches very good minus in a very good plus dust jacket. The red cloth binding remains bright and clean with minor shelf wear confined to extremities. The contents are respectably bright and clean. We find no previous ownership marks other than the author’s presentation inscription. The front hinge is slightly tender, but nonetheless solidly intact with no threat to binding integrity. The pastedowns are mildly browned from the glue. Light spotting is confined to the page edges. The original topstain is faded and the head and tail bands dimpled. Head and tail bands, dated title page, copyright page, topstain, and binding are all consonant with first printing of the first edition, as is the unclipped, “$6.00” price on the dust jacket flap. The jacket is bright, clean, and complete. Light wear is primarily confined to the spine head and adjacent upper front face, front hinge, and front flap fold. The red spine panel is only lightly sunned. The jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
Lady Davidema “Davina” Katharine Cynthia Mary Millicent Bulwer-Lytton, (1909-1995) was the daughter of Pamela Frances Audrey Bulwer-Lytton (née Plowden), Countess of Lytton (1874-1971). Winston Churchill met Pamela Plowden in India in late 1896. Pamela was Winston’s “first great love”. For several years, during his early career as an itinerant, adventure-seeking cavalry officer and war correspondent, “Churchill was obviously in love with this beautiful girl” and they maintained a robust and romantic correspondence. As late as 1900 Churchill’s mother had told him “Pamela is devoted to you and if yr love has grown as hers – I have no doubt it is only a question of time for you 2 marry.” In a letter of 1 January 1901 Churchill told his mother “she is the only woman I could ever live happily with.” (R. Churchill, Vol. I) But in the end there was no union. In 1902 Pamela married Victor Bulwer-Lytton, 2nd Earl of Lytton. Churchill married later, in 1908. Winston and Pamela “remained on affectionate terms” and Winston “continued to write to her for the rest of his life including two sympathetic letters after the deaths of her sons: Anthony, the eldest, in a 1933 air crash and John, at El Alamein in 1942” while Winston was wartime prime minister. In 1950 Winston wrote to Pamela recalling that he had proposed to her 50 years before. (Shaw, The Churchill Society London, 24/11/2003)
In 1932, “Davina”, Pamela and Victor’s second daughter, married John Henry George Chrichton, 5th Earl Erne (1907-1940). After an early military career, Erne resigned his commission, becoming an active member of the House of Lords. When the Second World War broke out, Erne was commissioned a Major and was killed in France on 23 May 1940, less than two weeks after Winston Churchill became wartime prime minister. Widowed Davina was left with their two-year-old son, Henry.
Winston Churchill’s wartime foreign secretary and Leader of the House of Commons, Robert Anthony Eden (1897-1977) had been a close friend of Erne. Eden, too, was acquainted with courage and sacrifice. Eden had served with distinction during the First World War, been awarded the Military Cross, promoted the youngest brigade major in the British Army, and lost his brother in the Battle of Jutland. Eden would later name his youngest son after his lost brother and would lose his oldest son – a pilot in the Pacific theater – in the closing days of the Second World War. In a different display of courage, Eden famously resigned as Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s foreign secretary in February 1938 in opposition to appeasement policies.
Eden’s marriage was “increasingly fragile” and his wife, Beatrice, “spent much of the latter part of the war in Paris.” (ODNB) After the death of Davina’s husband, Eden and Davina found solace in one another and “her presence was to be a constant factor over the next five years.” (Thorpe, The Life and Times of Anthony Eden, First Earl of Avon) “Davina’s vivacious intelligence and beauty left its mark on all who met her. Eden’s diary entries about her often had a gentle humor that testified to the ease and happiness of their growing relationship.”(Thorpe).
Into this scene – literally into Eden’s seventeenth-century house at Binderton – entered Christopher Montague “Monty” Woodhouse (1917-2001). Monty had been a brilliant classics scholar at Oxford and became a Byronic figure, described in 1944 as ‘the most famous man in Greece’. Monty was studying at the British School in Athens when Britain declared war on Germany. He hurried home to join the Royal Artillery, but the war would return him to Greece. He was with the British military mission to Greece after Italy invaded in October 1940. As a commando with the newly-formed Special Operations Executive (SOE), Monty “spent a few dispiriting months in Crete in the winter of 1941-42, assisting in the evacuation of Commonwealth troops… gathering intelligence… and assessing the prospects for resistance. (The Guardian) But Monty’s most dramatic return to Greece was by parachute in October 1942. Having risen to the rank of colonel, he was inserted into Greece with a team of saboteurs and coordinated communist and anti-communist guerillas – a rare moment of cooperation – to destroy rail facilities crucial to the enemy.
On 16 July 1944, Monty briefed Winston S. Churchill at Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence. “Churchill had been under pressure from the Greek Government in Cairo to withdraw the British missions attached to the Communist EAM partisans in Greece.” In consideration, Churchill “had a long talk with Colonel Woodhouse, who had just returned from Greece, where he was with one of the EAM groups.” Churchill recalled that Woodhouse “argued that the British missions were ‘a valuable restraint’ on the Communist forces” but also “that it might be ‘difficult and dangerous to get them out’”. Thus advised, Churchill agreed to let them stay but asked for them to be reduced. (Gilbert, Vol. VII, p.853)
A few weeks later, at the end of July, Woodhouse was invited to discuss Balkan strategy at Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden’s country home. After the meeting, Eden expressed his “entire faith” in Monty to the head of the SOE, writing of Monty’s “excellent work” and encouraging his promotion (Eden to Selbourne, 5 August 1944). However, for Monty, this was not the momentous outcome of the weekend with Eden.
Woodhouse recalled “Eden sent a car for me on Saturday morning, 29 July. The driver explained that he had to pick up another guest, the Countess of Erne. It filled me with foreboding: I foresaw a social weekend making polite conversation to a political dowager instead of talking seriously with Eden. We drove to the address I had been given, off Belgrave Square. I rang the bell, & the door was opened by a girl, whose image is still with me. I assumed this was the Countess’s lady’s maid, for she was surrounded by luggage. I helped to put it in the car, and looked around for the Countess. But no one else came. Amazing: this was the countess! We got into the car and drove off. Her name was Davina.” (Woodhouse, Something Ventured, p.86).
Davina and Monty wed on 28 August 1945. They had two sons (1946 and 1949) and a daughter (1954) and remained married 50 years, until Davina’s death in 1995. For his service in Greece Monty received British (DSO and OBE), American (Legion of Merit) and Greek decorations. In 1950, when this book was inscribed to his wife, Monty Woodhouse was back in Britain, returned from his military and diplomatic service, destined to leave for Tehran in 1951 where he would play a significant role in advocating and precipitating the Iranian coup of 1953 during Churchill’s second and final premiership. Monty became a Conservative Member of Parliament for Oxford from 1959 to 1966 and from 1970 to 1974 – “an appropriate constituency for a scholar who was a double first and a Gaisford Prizeman.” (Thorpe) He became 3rd Baron Terrington in 1998. After Monty Woodhouse died, a joint memorial service was held for him and Davina on 13 October 2001 at New College Chapel, Oxford.
In 1946, the year after Davina wed Monty, Beatrice left Anthony Eden to live in America. In 1950 – the year Churchill inscribed this volume to Davina – Eden’s marriage to Beatrice was dissolved. Divorce was still “a disqualifying social solecism for advancement in many professions and Churchill discreetly protected Eden from the difficulties of his new situation.” (ODNB) Eden’s second marriage (1952) was to Churchill’s niece. Eden would ultimately wait in the wings – both while the Conservatives were in opposition (1945-1951) and during Churchill’s second and final premiership (1951-1955) for nearly a decade after the end of the Second World War. Eden’s long-awaited premiership (1955-1957) proved fraught and arguably diminished, rather than crowning, his stature and reputation. As it did for Monty, the middle east figured in Eden’s fortunes. By January 1957, he had resigned the premiership he had so long sought, undone by both ill health and the Suez crisis.
Churchill in 1950
This U.S. first edition of The Grand Alliance was published on 24 April 1950. Churchill had been Leader of the Opposition for nearly five years. Having done so much to win the war, Churchill faced frustration of his postwar plans when his wartime government fell to Labour in the General Election of July 1945. On 26 July 1945 Churchill relinquished his premiership and was succeeded by Labour’s Clement Attlee. On 23 February 1950, just two months before publication, Churchill’s Conservative Party had gained 90 seats, but Labor eked out a small majority of just 5 seats. The end was near for Labour, who would lose the next General Election in 26 October of 1951, returning the Conservatives to majority and Churchill to 10 Downing Street for his second and final premiership. As he fought Labour’s agenda in Parliament and their majority on the hustings, Churchill was busy writing and publishing. The fourth volume of his Second World War memoirs, The Hinge of Fate, was published on 25 November 1950 and the fifth, Closing the Ring, on 23 November 1951, less than a month after Churchill returned to power. The sixth and final volume, Triumph and Tragedy, would be completed amid his work as premier and published on Churchill’s birthday, on 30 November 1953.
Seldom, if ever, has history endowed a statesman with both singular ability to make history, and singular ability to write it. As with so much of what Churchill wrote, The Second World War is not "history" in the strictly academic, objectivist sense, but rather Churchill's perspective on history. In his March 1948 introduction to the first volume, Churchill himself made the disclaimer, "I do not describe it as history... it is a contribution to history..."
Nonetheless the compelling fact remains, as stated by Churchill himself, "I am perhaps the only man who has passed through both the two supreme cataclysms of recorded history in high Cabinet office... I was for more than five years in this second struggle with Germany the Head of His Majesty's government. I write, therefore, from a different standpoint and with more authority than was possible in my earlier books."
Certainly The Second World War may be regarded as an intensely personal and inherently biased history. But equally certain, Churchill's work remains essential, iconic, and a vital part of the historical record and has been called "indispensable reading for anyone who seeks a true understanding of the war that made us what we are today."
Securing the rights to publish Churchill’s war memoirs has been called “perhaps the greatest coup of Twentieth Century publishing.” It is difficult to overstate the effort and anticipation surrounding publication. For both British and American publishers, it was a mammoth undertaking. And the author himself was not least among the challenges.
The war transformed Churchill into an icon and elevated his already impressive literary career “to quite dizzying heights.” Moreover, he returned to 10 Downing Street for his second and final premiership in October 1951, before the final volumes of his history were completed and published. Churchill was an author whom publishers could not easily control but did not want to do without. Correspondence shows Churchill to have been every inch the demanding author. Churchill was fully engaged in the minutiae of his literary work and regularly corresponded directly with his publishers regarding everything from typos in the indexes to type face and the size of margins. And of course, Churchill’s exacting editorial requirements and his public duties were constantly pushing publication deadlines.
It turned out that the U.S. edition was published before its British counterpart, rendering the U.S. the true first edition. It is has been said that the U.S. publisher, Houghton Mifflin, ran out of patience with Churchill first. However, Churchill's Bibliographer Ronald Cohen attributes the precedence of the U.S. publication to less romantic reasons "legal and financial, and not at all editorial." Irrespective of the reason, the first U.S. volume, The Gathering Storm, was published on 21 June 1948. Its British counterpart was not published until 4 October. The same followed for subsequent volumes. While this inscribed U.S. first edition of the third volume, The Grand Alliance, was published on 24 April 1950, its British counterpart was not published until 20 July. It is particularly fitting that this inscribed copy of the third volume is a U.S. first edition, as it is in this volume that Pearl Harbor is attacked and the United States formally enters the war.
The U.S. first editions were issued in a uniform red cloth stamped black and gilt. The colorful dust jackets are all printed in the same style, with a colored dust jacket and contrasting color spine title panel. A concurrent Book-of-the-Month Club (BOMC) edition is often mistaken for the first edition. First printings of the first edition are generally distinguished by $6.00 prices on the dust jacket flaps, publication dates at the foot of the title pages, yellow-stained top edges, head and foot bands, and lack of a BOMC indentation on the rear cover. There is a multitude of small variations in particulars given the large print run. In our experience, and for understandable reasons of geography and nationality, British first editions signed or inscribed by the author are far more common than are signed or inscribed U.S. first editions.
Reference: Cohen A240.1(III).a, Woods/ICS A123(aa), Langworth p.258. Item #006512