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, 1930. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is the U.S. first edition, first printing of Churchill's extremely popular autobiography, covering the years from his birth in 1874 to his first few years in Parliament. This is a notably clean, near fine copy, quite elusive thus.

The book sold very well at the time and, enduringly popular, has seen a great many editions since, many of them collectible in their own right. Of course, a premium attaches to first editions, both British and U.S. The U.S. first edition was aesthetically striking, bound in a bright red-orange cloth with vertical and horizontal intersecting blind rules of varying thickness on the front cover and spine, these framing the gilt spine and front cover print. The contents feature untrimmed fore edges. Unfortunately, the red-orange cloth binding proved highly susceptible to fading and soiling. This copy is an exception.

The cloth binding is square, clean, bright, and tight, with almost no color shift between the covers and spine, sharp corners, bright gilt, and almost no wear. Searching for flaws, we note only a little soiling within the crease of the upper rear hinge and a few tiny blemishes to the otherwise beautifully bright covers. The contents are equally impressive, strikingly bright, even the page edges. First printing is confirmed by the Scribner’s “A” on the copyright page. We find no spotting. There is an inked name and “Los Angeles” address on the front pastedown, as well as an inked gift inscription dated “December 25, 1930” on the upper half-title recto. The date of publication was just two months earlier, 24 October 1930.

Published in England as My Early Life, this is one of the few Churchill first editions for which the U.S. edition bears a different title than the British. Interestingly, A Roving Commission was the title proposed by Churchill himself and favored by his American publisher.

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 A91.2.a, Woods/ICS A37(b.1), Langworth p. 134. Item #007065

Price: $300.00

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