London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1943. Macmillan issue from first edition plates, third printing. Hardcover. This is a Second World War reprint of British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill’s autobiography of his early life, published in 1943, during Churchill’s wartime premiership.
Churchill's extremely popular autobiography, covering the years from his birth in 1874 to his first few years in Parliament, was first published in 1930 by Thornton Butterworth Limited. This was at the beginning of a decade the author spent out of power and out of favor, frequently at odds with both his Government and prevailing public sentiment. But in 1940, terribly vindicated by the outbreak of the Second World War and the failure of the leaders he had so long criticized, Churchill became wartime Prime Minister. And also in 1940, Thornton Butterworth went under and a different publisher, Macmillan, acquired the rights to several of Churchill’s books. Hence wartime reprints by Macmillan using the original first edition plates.
This Macmillan issue was a simple but handsome production, in dark blue cloth with gilt spine print. There were ultimately four Macmillan printings of My Early Life between 1941 and 1944. This copy is the third printing of 1943.
Condition is good plus in a good plus dust jacket. The blue cloth binding is square, tight, clean, and unfaded, with bright spine gilt. Nonetheless, we note minor bumps to the upper corners and some mild, unobtrusive mottling to the boards. The contents remain bright with a crisp, unread feel. Spotting is the chief defect, primarily confined to the first and final leaves with only occasional intrusions into blank inner margins in the main body of the text. We find no previous ownership marks. The dust jacket is unclipped, retaining the original lower front flap price, and complete with no loss. Moreover, shelf presentation is quite respectable, the jacket spine showing only mild, even toning. We grade the jacket as only “good plus” due to spotting, primarily affecting the front face and flap folds. The jacket is protected beneath 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 A91.6.c, Woods/ICS A37(d.3), Langworth p.139. Item #007574