CHURCHILL OUT OF HIBERNATION, WEEK 36
Often in triumph there is also tragedy. Our own moment attests to this. Winston Churchill titled the final volume of his war memoirs: TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY. We delve into it next, as we sound the heights and depths of Churchill’s book-length works.
Has any book, historical or otherwise, opened with anything so stirring as the Normandy Invasion only to close with anything so devastating as the loss of one’s entire political career overnight? This is the gamut of Triumph and Tragedy. It begins with Churchill’s greatest military accomplishment of World War II and ends with his defeat as Prime Minister before World War II has even been won.
No fiction writer would have dared such a scenario. Yet, Churchill’s career was also an object lesson in resiliency. The release of each war memoir volume, in retrospect, also charted the course of Churchillian buoyancy. Volume I (The Gathering Storm) arrived in 1948, with Churchill out of office and out of power. Volume II (Their Finest Hour) was published in 1949, just as Churchill had suffered a small stroke while holidaying at Max Beaverbrook’s Riviera villa, La Capponcina. Volumes III (The Grand Alliance) and IV (The Hinge Of Fate) both came out in 1950, after the Conservative Party’s narrow loss in the General Election brought cries for Churchill’s retirement. “Ninety-nine people out of a hundred would have cleared out . . . but he carried on,” Randolph Churchill later reflected proudly in a conversation with Harold Macmillan. “A lot of people wanted him to clear out,” Macmillan replied. The arrival of Volume V (Closing The Ring) in 1951 heralded Churchill’s return as Prime Minister, triumphing in the fourteenth General Election of his fifty year parliamentary career, at the age of seventy-six. Finally, Volume VI (Triumph and Tragedy) closed the book on Churchill’s war memoirs just as he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. His response was characteristically fiscal. “My darling one,” he wrote to Clementine. “It’s all settled about the Nobel Prize. £12,100 free of tax. Not bad!”
Winston Churchill concluded Triumph and Tragedy with an anecdote about himself that has since become part of his legend. On the day after the General Election of 1945 the results were clear: Churchill had lost and was out as PM. “At luncheon,” he wrote, “my wife said to me, ‘It may well be a blessing in disguise.’ I replied, ‘At the moment it seems quite effectively disguised.'”
We wish you quick and easy vaccinations, as our blessings grow more and more un-disguised.