London: Thornton Butterworth Ltd., 1938. First revised and expanded edition. Hardcover. This is the first printing of the first revised and expanded edition of Churchill’s much-praised collection of insightful essays about leading personalities of the day. This edition, published in 1938 soon after the first edition of 1937, added four new essays (Fisher, Parnell, Baden-Powell, and - of great interest – Franklin D. Roosevelt). As is the case with the 1937 first edition, first printing, the dust jacket for the 1938 revised edition is both elusive and desirable – in our experience, even more elusive than that of the 1937 first edition – and the binding quite prone to sunning and dulling in its absence.
This British first revised edition, first printing, is very good plus in a flawed dust jacket. The blue cloth binding is square, clean, and tight with sharp corners and only trivial shelf wear to extremities. Of particular note, both the boards and spine retain unusually bright color and vivid gilt. Even most jacketed copies do not remain quite this bright, with spine dulling the norm. The contents are bright within and show no previous ownership marks, but we do note spotting to the page edges. Transfer browning to the endpapers from the pastedown glue corresponds to the dust jacket flaps, confirming that this copy has spent life jacketed.
This edition's attractive dust jacket bears a front face image of Churchill on a large blue panel. This jacket shows a large loss to the upper spine to a maximum depth of 1.25 inches (3.2 cm) and extending to the upper front and rear faces. We note a smaller loss to the lower spine and short closed tears and wrinkling to the edges. The dust jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
The character sketches herein offer remarkable portraits of both their subjects and the author. Churchill's piece about Hitler can be a shock to the modern ear, as it underscores his ability to write a balanced appraisal of his subject while expressing his earnest desire to avoid the war that he would fight with such ferocious resolve only a few years later. Neville Chamberlain, perhaps Churchill’s most vexing political opponent at the time, wrote to Churchill on 4 October 1937 to say: “How you can go on throwing off these sparkling sketches with such apparent ease & such sustained brilliance… is a constant source of wonder to me. But the result is to give great pleasure and entertainment…” It was written with what has been called "penetrating evaluation, humor, and understanding." Churchill's balanced and nuanced perspectives contrast favorably with those of more polemic writers – both then and now.
In the course of sketching the character of his contemporaries Churchill necessarily reveals much of his own character and perspective. Churchill's portrait of T.E. Lawrence, published here just a few years before the Second World War, might well have been written about the author rather than by him: "The impression of the personality of Lawrence remains living and vivid upon the minds of his friends, and the sense of his loss is in no way dimmed among his countrymen. All feel the poorer that he has gone from us. In these days dangers and difficulties gather upon Britain and her Empire, and we are also conscious of a lack of outstanding figures with which to overcome them. Here was a man in whom there existed not only an immense capacity for service, but that touch of genius which everyone recognizes and no one can define." (Great Contemporaries, p.164) While some of the subjects of Churchill's sketches have receded into history, many remain well-known and all remain compellingly drawn.
Reference: Cohen A105.3.a, Woods/ICS A43(b.1), Langworth p.182. Item #007600