London: Cassell and Company, Ltd., 1944. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This Second World War presentation copy of the first edition, first printing of the fourth volume of Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill’s war speeches is inscribed and dated by Churchill in 1945 and was owned by his Private Secretary and unauthorized chronicler of 10 Downing Street, Sir John “Jock” Colville.
The inscription, inked by Churchill during the final year of his wartime premiership in three lines on the front free endpaper recto, reads: “from | Winston S. Churchill | 1945”. Colville’s bookplate, featuring his coat of arms, printed name, and motto “OBLIER NE PUIS”, is affixed to the front pastedown, opposite Churchill’s inscription.
Condition of this inscribed, wartime presentation copy is very good in a very good dust jacket. The blue cloth binding is square, clean, and tight with sharp corners, bright spine gilt, and only trivial shelf wear to joints and extremities. The contents are uncommonly bright and clean with a crisp feel. The sole ownership mark is Jock Colville’s bookplate. Spotting is minimal for the edition, confined to a few spots to the endpaper gutters, prelims, and page edges.
The first printing dust jacket is bright and unclipped, retaining the original front flap price. The jacket is also bright, retaining its vivid spine and front face hues, and substantially complete, with only fractional loss to the spine ends and flap fold corners. Modest soiling shows to the white rear face and flap folds and light wear is primarily confined to the joints, spine ends, and flap folds. The dust jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
The book is housed in a full blue Morocco goatskin Solander case featuring raised, gilt-framed spine bands, two dark blue spine labels, and gilt rule-framed covers, the interior lined with marbled paper. The Solander is in flawless, new condition.
The Second World War was only a month old when, on 3 October 1939, a brilliant 24-year-old civil servant in the Foreign Office was appointed Assistant Private Secretary to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. Seven months later, when wartime leadership famously passed to Winston Churchill, Sir John Rupert Colville (1915-1987) began working for Churchill. Colville would remain “almost constantly at Winston’s side” for the majority of Churchill’s two premierships (May 1940-July 1945 and October 1951-April 1955).
Colville’s 10 Downing Street service to Churchill was interrupted only by Colville’s active service as an RAF pilot between October 1941 and December 1943. Apart from Colville’s official contributions to history, we are obliged to him for his defiance; although it was forbidden under wartime regulations, Colville kept meticulous diaries that he locked nightly into his 10 Downing Street desk. Significant excerpts from this diary were eventually published in 1985, self-deprecatingly titled The Fringes of Power: Downing Street Diaries 1939-1955. Colville’s diaries continue, even now, to illuminate Churchill’s wartime leadership. Most recently, New York Times bestselling author Eric Larson relied heavily on Colville’s diaries in writing The Splendid and the Vile (2020), his novelized take on the first year of Churchill’s wartime Premiership.
Colville’s compulsive will to write, his position at the epicenter of action, Churchill’s deep confidence in him, and his keen and discerning intellect render Colville’s diaries a significant contribution to the known history of Churchill and his time. In the interwar years, Colville served as Private Secretary to Queen Elizabeth II (while she was still Princess Elizabeth) and married one of her ladies-in-waiting. Colville raised funds for the establishment of Churchill College, Cambridge (where his diaries now reside), and was eventually a trustee of both Winston’s and Lady Churchill’s estates.
Colville was knighted in 1974, having previously been awarded the Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1955, and the Companion of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) in 1949.
Few books are as emblematic of Winston Churchill’s literary and leadership gifts as his war speeches volumes. During the Second World War, his soaring and defiant oratory sustained his countrymen and inspired the free world. Of Churchill, Edward R. Murrow said: "He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle." When Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953, it was partly “…for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.”
Between 1941 and 1946, Churchill's war speeches were published in seven individual volumes. The British first editions are visually striking, but were printed on cheap “War Economy Standard” paper, bound in coarse cloth, and wrapped in bright, fragile dust jackets. They proved highly susceptible to spotting, soiling, and fading, so the passage of time has been hard on most surviving first editions.
This fourth volume of Churchill's war speeches contains Churchill's speeches from 1943. Here the oratory takes a more positive tone as Churchill and the Allies begin to anticipate victory. A little before mid-year, on 19 May 1943 Churchill gave his second address to the U.S. Congress. Seventeen long months of war had passed since his first, just after Pearl Harbor. Churchill cautioned, invoking, for his American audience, the grim memory of the prolonged outcome of the U.S. Civil War, "No one after Gettysburg doubted which way the dread balance of war would incline. Yet far more blood was shed after the Union victory at Gettysburg than in all the fighting which went before.” That theme of maintaining the momentum of urgency repeated throughout the year. On 9 November 1943 Churchill told the audience at the Lord Mayor’s Day Luncheon "We must not lose for a moment the sense and consciousness of urgency and crisis which must continue to drive us, even though we are in the fifth year of war… victory will certainly be won... But that does not mean that our war task is done.” Late November saw Churchill celebrate his 69th birthday at the Teheran conference with Roosevelt and Stalin.
Reference: Cohen A194.1.a, Woods/ICS A101(a.1), Langworth p.223. Item #007373