London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1944. Hardcover. This is an uncommonly bright and clean example of the fourth and final wartime reprint of Churchill's extremely popular autobiography, covering the years from his birth in 1874 to his first few years in Parliament. This book was originally published by Thornton Butterworth in 1930. Macmillan acquired the rights to several Churchill books after Thornton Butterworth went under in 1940. During Churchill’s wartime premiership these desirable reprints (issued from first edition plates) were published by Macmillan, bound in dark blue cloth and wrapped in attractive tan dust jackets. There were ultimately four Macmillan printings of My Early Life between 1941 and 1944. The fourth printing was the final edition of his autobiography produced before the end of his wartime premiership.
Here is this fourth and final Macmillan printing of 1944, an exceptional, near fine copy in a very good dust jacket. The navy cloth binding is clean, square, and tight with bright spine gilt, sharp corners, and only minor shelf wear to extremities. The contents remain bright with no previous ownership marks. Differential toning of the endpapers corresponding to dust jacket flaps confirms that this copy has spent life jacketed. A trivial hint of spotting appears confined to the page edges. The dust jacket is unclipped, retaining the original front flap price. Fractional losses and modest wear are confined to extremities, with some soiling to the spine and flap folds and what appears to be a finger mark to the lower front panel above the author’s name. The dust jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
It is no accident that Churchill’s engaging ruminations on his eventful youth were republished while he was leading his nation during its time of supreme trial. The origins and trajectory of the man were – and remain - compelling. And there has never been a better telling than Churchill’s own words.
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." (p.60)
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 characterizes the book.
Reference: Cohen A91.6.d, Woods/ICS A37(d.4), Langworth p.139. Item #007617