A Roving Commission. Winston S. Churchill.
A Roving Commission
A Roving Commission
A Roving Commission
A Roving Commission
A Roving Commission

A Roving Commission

New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1940. Second U.S. issue, second printing. Hardcover. This is Winston Churchill's extremely popular autobiography, covering the years from his birth in 1874 to his first few years in Parliament. This wartime U.S. edition was published the same year Churchill became wartime Prime Minister and includes a noteworthy new introduction.

This second American issue was printed from first edition plates (and is thus technically "second issue" rather than "second edition"). Uncommon in the original dust jacket, it is also of bibliographic note. A new and supportive introduction dated 14 October 1939 was provided by the American broadcast and print journalist Dorothy Thompson, focusing on Churchill himself rather than the book. When the first printing was published in November 1939, Churchill had just been terribly vindicated by the outbreak of the Second World War and re-joined the British Cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty. By the time this second printing was published Churchill was serving as wartime prime minister. Also of note, there is revised Author's Preface, more than doubled in length from the first edition.

This second printing of the second American issue was printed on 9 August 1940 and is identical to the first printing with the exception of "1940" instead of "1939" on the title page, and “BB” instead of “AA” on the title page verso. This is a clean, very good plus copy in a very good dust jacket. The navy cloth binding is square and tight with sharp corners and bright silver spine print. Light shelf wear is confined to extremities. The contents remain clean and bright with no spotting. Some browning to the endpapers has been caused by the pastedown glue. The sole previous ownership mark is an illustrated bookplate affixed to the first free endpaper recto. The dust jacket is complete apart from a neatly price-clipped upper front flap and fractional chipping at the spine ends. The distinctive orange jacket spine is moderately but uniformly toned. The dust jacket is protected within a clear, removable, archival cover.

One can hardly ask for more adventurous content than the non-fiction (well, mostly) between the covers of My Early Life. These momentous and formative years for Churchill included his time as an itinerant war correspondent and cavalry officer in theaters ranging from Cuba, to northwest India, to sub-Saharan and southern Africa. Churchill also recounts his capture and escape during the Boer War, which made him a celebrity and helped launch his political career. Herein Churchill says:

"Twenty to twenty-five! These are the years!
Don't be content with things as they are.
'The earth is yours and the fulness thereof'.
Enter upon your inheritance, accept your responsibilities....
Don't take No for an answer. Never submit to failure...
You will make all kinds of mistakes; but as long as you are generous and true,
and also fierce, you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her.
She was made to be wooed and won by youth." (MEL, p.74)

By the end of his own twenty-fifth year, Churchill had been one of the world’s highest paid war correspondents, published his first five books, made his first lecture tour of North America, braved and breasted both battlefields and the hustings, and been elected to Parliament, where he would take his first seat only weeks after the end of Queen Victoria’s reign.

My Early Life remains one of the most popular and widely read of all Churchill's books. An original 1930 review likened it to a "beaker of Champagne." That effervescent charm endures; a more recent writer called it "a racy, humorous, self-deprecating classic of autobiography." To be sure, Churchill takes some liberties with facts and perhaps unduly lightens or over-simplifies certain events. Nonetheless, the factual experiences of Churchill’s early life compete with any fiction, and any liberties taken are forgivable, in keeping with the wit, pace, and engaging style that characterize the book.

Reference: Cohen A91.5.b, Woods/ICS A37(c.2), Langworth p.138. Item #006970

Price: $225.00

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