Kingsport, Tennessee: Kingsport Press, 1943. First and limited edition, only printing. Pamphlet. This extremely scarce wartime speech pamphlet publication of Churchill’s 11 November 1942 speech to the House of Commons was a limited edition of only 400 copies. According to Churchill’s bibliographer, Ronald Cohen, as early as 1953 noted Churchill collectors were already looking for copies and unable to find them.
This is a lovely publication, pale blue textured card wraps with folded flaps bound in white string, the speech printed on 32 pages with generous margins. The binding measures a substantial and nicely proportioned 8.25 x 5.25 inches (21 x 13.3 cm). Condition of this copy is very good . The wraps binding is complete with no appreciable wear, the only observed defect being a quite faint, unobtrusive roughly 3 x 4 inch (7.6 x 10.2 cm) ovoid stain on the blank rear cover. If not for this faint stain, we would grade this copy as better than near fine. The contents are immaculate apart from an inked name directly below the limitation statement. The pamphlet is protected within a clear, removable, archival sleeve.
On 11 November, the day Churchill delivered this speech to Parliament, German troops entered Unoccupied France. “The days of the Vichy Government were almost over” (Gilbert, Vol. VIII, p.256). At the same time, the Allies were experiencing victories in North Africa – this arguably directly attributable to Churchill’s August visit to North Africa and promotion of Generals Alexander and Montgomery.
Churchill’s speech was a quite lengthy, ranging, and nuanced assessment of the war effort. Threaded throughout one can certainly sense a posture of defense and provisional vindication. “Four months had passed since the Vote of Censure in the House of Commons, and the charge that it was Churchill’s method of war direction which was responsible for an unending series of defeats and setbacks.” Now with some successes to credit his leadership, Churchill told the House of Commons: “There must be planning, design and forethought, and after that a long period of silence, which looks – I can quite understand it – to the ordinary spectator as if it were simply apathy or inertia, but which is in fact steady indispensable preparation for the blow.” In an almost amusingly self-aware statement, Churchill told the House “I am certainly not one of those who need to be prodded. In fact, if anything, I am a prod. My difficulties rather lie in finding the patience and self-restraint to wait through many anxious weeks for the results to be achieved.” With this statement came an admonition to his detractors – “the ordinary spectator” – “…a Government cannot at every moment give an explanation of what it is doing and what is going on… We recreated and revivified our war-battered Army, we placed a new Army at its side, and rearmed it on a gigantic scale. By these means we repaired the disaster which fell upon us; and converted the defence of Egypt into a successful attack.”
The United States had formally entered the war eleven months prior and Britain’s indispensable ally was never far from Churchill’s calculations and considerations. Hence it was likely no literary accident that Churchill closed his speech with lines by Walt Whitman. “… Now understand me well – it is provided in the essence of things that from any fruition of success, no matter what, shall come forth something to make a greater struggle necessary.” As he did continuously throughout the war, Churchill tempered current victory with sober appraisal of future challenges – partly as a matter of necessary candor with his people, partly perhaps as inoculation against the inevitable criticisms that faced a wartime leader. In case Whitman’s words required clarification, Churchill bluntly cautioned “we shall be confronted with many perplexing choices and many unavoidable hazards, and I cannot doubt that we shall meet with our full share of mistakes, vexations, and disappointments.”
Reference: Cohen A177, Woods A89/I. Item #006653