My Early Life
London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1930. First edition, first printing, first state, first binding state. Hardcover. This is the first edition, first printing, first state, first binding state of Winston Churchill's autobiography. Two states of the first edition, first printing are identified, with a list of either 11 or 12 Churchill titles in the boxed list of "Works by the same Author" on the half title verso. With 11 titles on the half title verso, this copy is definitively first state. There were also a number of first edition binding states, bound in either a coarse or a smooth plum colored cloth, with the title stamped on the front cover in either three or five lines. Precedence goes to the coarse cloth and three lines on the front cover which, together with 11 titles on the half title verso, denote first edition, first printing, first state, first binding state. In short, this copy is among the first printed and bound by the publisher.
The first edition’s binding proved especially vulnerable to fading, soiling, and wear, and the contents quite susceptible to spotting. Condition of this copy is very good overall, sound and complete, despite some flaws endemic to the edition. The coarse cloth binding is square and tight, the boards bright with mild bumps to the lower corners, the spine toned and spotted, but nonetheless with bright, clearly legible gilt print. The contents are clean. Age-toning is modest and spotting is quite light for the edition, substantially confined to the endpapers and page edges. Affixed to the front pastedown is the printed bookplate of "Stuart McGregor Philpott". This seems to have been the original owner, evidenced by Philpott's name and year inked in what is ostensibly his hand at the upper left front pastedown: "Stuart Philpott 30".
My Early Life covers the years from Churchill’s birth in 1874 to his first few years in Parliament. One can hardly ask for more adventurous content. 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 pardonable, in keeping with the wit, pace, and engaging style that characterize the book.
Reference: Cohen A91.1.a, Woods/ICS A37(aa), Langworth p.131. Item #007456