CHURCHILL IN HIBERNATION, WEEK 4
Inescapably, our thoughts turn to Winston Churchill’s “Wilderness Years,” the ten-year period of eclipse and rebirth that began with his exit from government as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1929 and ended with his return to government as First Lord of the Admiralty in 1939. Churchill’s “Wilderness Years” tested every fiber of resilience and magnanimity, every sinew of purpose and determination that he possessed, most of his energy, and nearly all of his courage. His descent was, in many ways, no steeper than others Churchill had already endured in his towering and teetering political career. It would be the life-and-death ramifications of his restoration that would lend this period its transcendence.
Churchill, in December 1931, sailed to America for a 40-lecture tour in the hope of recouping some of his massive stock market losses from The Crash. Two days after docking, in the company of his wife Clementine and daughter Diana, Churchill went alone by taxi to Bernard Baruch’s Fifth Avenue apartment for an after-dinner get-together. Annoyed that he and his driver could not find the address, he stepped out into the two-way Fifth Avenue traffic, looked left, and was struck by a passing car on his right. Had he not been wearing a thick, fur-lined overcoat, Churchill might well have been killed. Instead, he suffered a fractured nose and ribs, a three-inch cut on his forehead, and severe shock. He was rushed to Lenox Hill Hospital, where he developed pleurisy.
Churchill’s convalescence lasted two months, during which time, the “Black Dog” overtook him. His estrangement from the Conservative Party, his colossal losses in the Crash and his painful injuries left him “very sad,” as Clementine wrote to their son, Randolph. Churchill did not believe he would ever entirely recover from these three terrible blows. Yet he did return to New York by the end of January 1932 to resume his lecture tour, traveling widely across the United States, speaking virtually every day in a different city.
He also wrote a series of articles for The Daily Mail about his trip.
““I do not understand why I was not broken like an egg-shell or squashed like a gooseberry,” he mused in one article. “. . . I certainly suffered every pang, mental and physical, that a street accident or, I suppose, a shell wound can produce. None is unendurable… Nature is merciful and does not try her children, man or beast, beyond their compass. It is only where the cruelty of man intervenes that hellish torments appear.”
We compound our continued wishes for your good health and safety with the hope that you find no pang, mental or physical, unendurable.
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