London: Review of Reviews / William T. Stead, 1905. First edition. Hardcover. This extremely scarce 1905 publication contains a 17-page piece by Winston Churchill on Free Trade preceded by a 3-page biographic sketch and a striking, full-page, half-tone portrait of Churchill. In addition to the publication of Churchill’s image and exposition on a defining issue of the day, the editor’s sketch is one of the earliest substantive biographic portraits of the then 31-year-old Churchill.
This volume was perishably bound in thin, quarter tan cloth over gray paper covered cardboard covers with a pasted paper spine label. It measures 10 x 6.375 inches (25.4 x 16.2 cm) and numbers 476 pages. “Why I Am A Free Trader” by Churchill spans pages 4-20, with the Editor William T. Stead’s biographic portrait “Winston Churchill, Past, Present, and Future” spanning pages 1-3, preceded by Churchill’s photographic portrait by E. H. Mills titled “Mr. WINSTON S. CHURCHILL, M.P.”
Particularly given the fragile nature of the binding, this copy is in very good condition. The binding remains square and tight. Despite light overall soiling and light wear to extremities, the quarter cloth is fully intact, with no splits or tears, the paper spine label still complete with the print clearly legible, despite a vertical scuff, the gray card covers corner-worn, but nonetheless well-preserved. The contents are bright. We find no previous ownership marks. Most of the spotting appears confined to the endpapers, with the adjacent title page and terminal page of text lightly affected. The page edges show mild age-toning, the top edges a little dust soiling.
Churchill's piece was – quite intentionally - the first of 26, each a "brief character sketch of a coming man, with his latest portrait, and a statement of his views upon a leading question of the day". Each of the 26 parts had been published earlier in the year as individual pamphlets before being collectively published in late 1905 in this single volume "issued in view of the coming General Election". In the 1906 election Churchill stood as a Liberal, having left the Conservative Party of his father. Free trade was a major issue upon which Churchill campaigned and a precipitating issue in his parting with the Conservatives.
In this volume publication, the Editor ranked Churchill as "the first of our coming men" stating that "If he chooses to take it, a seat in the next Cabinet is at his disposal." Stead spoke of Churchill’s political precocity, his Anglo-American heritage, and his experience as a journalist and in combat before chronicling the first years of his political career, commenting in some detail, and even describing Churchill’s speaking style – “a somewhat curious catch in his voice, which does not in the least prevent his being heard with ease by the largest audiences.” Stead also compared Churchill to a number of political predecessors and contemporaries, including Pitt, Chatham, and Churchill’s father, as well as Lord Hugh Cecil, and David Lloyd George. Stead said of Churchill "he has got ten years' start on all his competitors" and that "Winston's past has been variegated. His present is exciting."
This publication is not only quite scarce, but is also a remarkable portrait of the future great man while his greatness was still merely nascent. When Stead published this biographical sketch and numbered Churchill “Coming Man, No. 1”, Churchill had less than half a decade in Parliament and had yet to serve in Cabinet. He had yet to experience either the trying failures or supreme triumphs that cemented his place in history. Ultimately his political career would last two thirds of a century, see him occupy Cabinet office during each of the first six decades of the twentieth century, carry him twice to the premiership and, further still, into the annals of history as a preeminent statesman. But when this piece was published, Churchill was still a remarkable 35 years distant from his first premiership.
Reference: Cohen B3, Woods B2. Item #007669