(Cohen A17) (Woods A8)

Winston Churchill’s first biography is an almost entirely political work, concentrating heavily on his father’s career after entering Parliament in 1880 as the Member for Woodstock. The author documents Lord Randolph’s quarrel—on behalf of his brother, over a lady—with the Prince of Wales (“a great personage”) and Lord Randolph’s resulting, temporary ostracism from London society; his subsequent meteoric rise from a rambunctious and independent Tory to the Leader of the House of Commons and Chancellor of the Exchequer; his precipitous fall from power on the morrow of achieving it; and his declining, though occasionally influential, final years in the House of Commons.
Lord Randolph has been the subject of five biographies, of which his son’s was the second. (T.H.S. Escott wrote admiringly of him in 1895, Winston and Lord Rosebery published in 1906, Sir Robert Rhodes James in 1959, and R. F. Foster in 1981.) Churchill’s work is the most elegant stylistically, but critics maintain that filial propriety prevented Winston from an objective viewpoint. This is debatable.
Sir Robert Rhodes James, speaking at a Churchill Center symposium in 1994, said, “it is beautifully written but not a biography—Lord Randolph never puts a foot wrong.” This statement is what Winston Churchill would likely have called a “terminological inexactitude.” While the author is undeniably his father’s champion, charging the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, with cynical hypocrisy in accepting Lord Randolph’s 1886 resignation as Chancellor, he also lists the tactical miscalculations Lord Randolph made which were the principal causes of that career-shattering episode—and other episodes. “Mr. Winston Churchill has not unduly obtruded his [views],” said one contemporary reviewer. “While the book is undeniably positive, there are many such episodes in the life which receive critical appraisal.”
Casual researchers have been all too ready to accept the myth, first voiced in the 1920s by political enemies of Winston, that Lord Randolph died of syphilis, which he allegedly contracted sometime after Winston’s birth. This has recently been authoritatively rebuffed by the research of Dr. John Mather, a member of the Churchill Center’s Board of Governors. Later biographers mainly avoided taking a definitive position on the cause of death, and Winston only states that his father’s illness was “a very rare and ghastly disease.” While ghastly, syphilis is not especially rare and was more common still in Lord Randolph’s time. This is not the place to get into Mather’s analysis, except to say that whatever Lord Randolph died of, it was highly unlikely to have been syphilis.
Winston’s biography was both admired and denounced in its time, John Plumpton wrote in Finest Hour #51, “because it showed Lord Randolph participating in the game of politics for the sheer pleasure of it. Admiration was extended for the clear and frank portrayal of its subject’s extravagant behavior, but the biography’s claim that Lord Randolph made the Conservative Party more democratic and popular was challenged. To many readers Lord Randolph was a cynical politician who believed that the gyrations of political parties had value for their own sake.”
“Had he been in America, he would have proved himself a ‘boss’ among ward-politicians,” wrote the traditionally hostile Blackwood’s Magazine in February, 1906. Winston himself would roundly dispute such notions. “There is an England,” he wrote, “of brave and earnest men…of ‘poor men’ who increasingly doubt the sincerity of party philanthropy. It was to that England that Lord Randolph Churchill appealed; it was that England he so nearly won; it is by that England he will be justly judged.”
-Richard M. Langworth

From the Reviews
“Whatever judgment men may pass on the career of Lord Randolph Churchill, no one can dispute the great literary talent shown by his son in the brilliant biography he has given to the public. However important historically the events which he describes, he has known how to make the personality of his father always the predominating interest of the book. It is biography, not history, at which the author has aimed.
“The story is told, if not without partiality, yet with very commendable frankness and with little attempt to keep back from the public extravagances of behaviour and language which in his own day, if they delighted a large section of the democracy, certainly estranged from him no small portion of the steadier elements in the community. Mr. Churchill has succeeded in painting a striking and we believe on the whole a true portrait of a very remarkable man.”
The Edinburgh Review, No. 417, July 1906

These volumes make quite a handsome pair that rivals the beauty of the two-volume River War. Like The River War, it was not originally sold in a slipcase, but deserves the modern slipcases which have often been fitted by booksellers. It is rarely found in pristine condition: page stock was acidic and susceptible to foxing, especially when stored in the damp, English climate. Boards and spines tend to bump and chafe. The heavy pages pull at the binding and often cause gutter breaks; examine copies thoroughly for these.

Prices for the First Edition range from fairly low to seriously high; condition is everything. Although a handful of dust jackets are known, they are extreme rarities for which the owner could name any price.



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First Edition
Cohen A17.1 / Woods A8(a)

Publisher: Macmillan and Co. Ltd., London, 1906 Two volumes
Deep red cloth stamped gilt on spine, blind and gilt on front board. 8vo; the volumes usually bulk 1 7/8″ and 1 3/4″ with 584 pages numbered (2), (I) (xviii), (1)-564 and 544 pages numbered (2), (i)-(x), (1)-531, (1) respectively. Frontispieces (acetate protected) and other illustrations in each volume. Published 2 January 1906 at 36 shillings ($9).

Quantities and Impressions
Woods records a single impression of 8000 copies. However, some sheets may have been used in the Times Book Club issue.

Dust Jackets and Variants
Jackets printed dark blue on light blue stock bear the title, author’s name and publisher’s name and logo on spines and the title and author’s name on the front face. No binding variants are known although the outside dimensions of these books vary from volume to volume.

Identification Note
The English Edition is often confused with the American. It can be quickly identified by the spine legend, MACMILLAN & CO. The volumes are bound in smooth cloth and the page edges are trimmed unevenly on all three sides. The lower title page states “London” [in Old English] centered over MACMILLAN AND CO. LIMITED and, in small type NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY along with the date 1906. The American issue is quite different in these respects. Finally, page 531 of Volume II, both the Home and Times Book Club issue (below) contain the names of the English printer, which is absent on American issues.



First American Edition
Cohen A17.2 / ICS A8aa

Publisher: The Macmillan Company, New York, 1906 Two volumes
Cherry red vertically ribbed cloth stamped gilt on spine, blind and gilt on front board. Top edges gilt. Two volumes, 8vo,with 586 and 546 pages respectively. (The four extra pages, identical in each volume, comprise one leaf of adverts for Morley’s Life of Gladstone and a Tennyson memoir, and one blank leaf. Frontispiece and other illustrations. Published 10 February 1906. Mentioned by Woods, page 36.

Quantities and Impressions
We have no information on the quantity printed, but the use of a different, unlaid paper stock, and the presence of the Norwood Press name on the title page verso suggests this was a separate issue.

Dust Jackets and Variants
Jackets have not been encountered but presumably follow the style of the Home Issue. No variants have been reported.

The American Edition is often confused with the English. American Editions can be quickly identified by the spine legend, THE MACMILLAN COMPANY (not “Macmillan & Co.”). They are also bound in vertically scored rather smooth cloth, the top page edges are gilt and the side and bottom pages are trimmed unevenly. On the lower title page the American issue states “New York” [Old English] centered over THE MACMILLAN COMPANY and, in small type LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO. LTD. and the date 1906. The name of the printer, the Norwood Press in Massachusetts, appears at the bottom of the title page verso. The English Edition is quite different in these respects.
If you plan to own only one First Edition of each Churchill work, we recommend this one. It is better bound than the English, with finer cloth and gilt top page edges; it is rarely subject to the heavy foxing of its UK counterpart; and it costs less, conditions being equal, because it appeared a few weeks after the English. It is nonetheless equally subject to gutter breaks created from careless usage and the pulling apart of aged bindings.

Condition being the same, the American Edition costs perhaps 10-20% less than comparable English Editions. It is much scarcer, however, and should be expected to equal the price of the Home issue over the next decade.



The Times Book Club Issue
Cohen A17.3, ICS A8ab

Publisher: Macmillan and Co. Ltd., London, 1906 Two volumes
Reddish brown ribbed cloth stamped gilt and blind on spine (which includes the unique Times Book Club logo), blind on front board. Two volumes, 8vo, shorter and narrower than the Home Issue: a typical copy measures 8 3/4 x 5 1/2″, usually bulks 1 7/8″ and 1 3/4″ with 584 and 544 pages respectively. Frontispieces (acetate protected) and other illustrations in each volume. Published May 1906 at 7 shillings ($1.75).

Quantities and Impressions
These volumes apparently used sheets purchased by The Times Book Club from Macmillan and sold as a huge loss-leader. Sir Martin Gilbert’s Winston S. Churchill, Companion Volume II, Part 1, pages 493-94 records a letter from Churchill to Frederick Macmillan in which WSC calls this a “shabby trick…I do hope you will find it will not cause any serious injury to the sale of the [first edition of the] book…I do not see how you can stop people selling things they have bought below the cost price, but I can quite understand the annoyance and derangement which it causes.” Gilbert notes that this move was part of a “book war” between The Times and the publishing trade, although how they were able to obtain sheets so soon after publication is a mystery. This is not a reprint but uses the same sheets, slightly trimmed, including even such tipped-in items as Queen Victoria’s letter to Lord Randolph (opposite page 154, Vol. II). It is not your typical book club edition.

Dust Jackets and Variants
It is not known whether the Times Book Club Issue came in dust jackets; no variants are reported.

This issue can be quickly identified through the circular logo at the foot of the spines: a belt-like device reading “The Times 1785.” The spine titles are also smaller than the trade edition’s. The page edges are trimmed to smaller dimensions than the original pages, and the books themselves are about 1/8 inch shorter and 1/4 inch narrower than the originals.
Since it was published at the same time as the First Edition, it is a genuine first edition, made up with identical sheets. Nicely if not elaborately bound (it lacks the gilt coat of arms), it is an adequate if not dramatic looking set of books. The Times Book Club binding is very susceptible to fading and copies with unfaded or lightly faded spines are rare.

In 1906 these sets sold for a fifth the price of the First Edition; today they sell for about a third or half the price, condition being equal. The book trade retail price has been low for years, but this is usually for faded sets; a pristine example would be worth at least three times as much. This is a bargain priced version of the original two-volume text.



First Cheap Edition
Cohen A17.4 / Woods A8(b)

Publisher: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., London, 1907
Deep red cloth stamped gilt on spine, blind (four horizontal rules) on front board. 8vo., usually bulks 1 3/4″ with 908 pages. Frontispiece (acetate protected) and four other illustrations. Published May 1907 at 7 shillings and sixpence ($1.83). Remainders sold c.1925 at 10 shillings ($2.50) with revised dust jackets.

Quantities and Impressions
Woods records a single impression of 3000 copies; this presumably included enough sheets to warrant a reissue in 1925, because copies of that date, on identical page stock, contain no new printing information. We do not know whether the 1925s were in original or remainder bindings.

Dust Jackets
The jacket is printed black on light brown stock with title, author’s name and Macmillan initial logo on spine and front face. Jackets of the 1925 issue contain the legend “10/- | NET” on the lower spine and the back face advertises, among other titles, Sir Sidney Lee’s biography of Edward VII, the second volume of which was to be published in the autumn of 1925. We have not encountered an original 1907 jacket.

Copies exist with and without gilt top page edges. It might be thought that, if two printings did occur, gilt edges mark the original 1907 issue and the plain edges the remainder issue; but if there was only one printing, perhaps it’s the other way round—the original uneven page tops might have been shaved and gilded. Unfortunately, the only way genuinely to confirm the date is by the dust jackets, and these are so rare as to make firm conclusions impossible. Vagaries of binding in those years could easily mean that some original page edges were gilt while others were not.
A small number of copies bear a small round “presentation copy” embossment similar to that mentioned under London to Ladysmith, but it is not established that these stamps are the publisher’s.

The one-volume edition can be quickly identified by the lack of a Volume number on the spine. A handsomely bound book despite its plebeian origins, this volume presents the unabridged original text and costs much less than First Editions. It tends to hold up better, and many copies still have the nicely rounded spines they were born with. The pages are not as prone to foxing as the First Editions, but because the paper stock is much thinner, the book has to be read carefully.

Not scarce, this edition has maintained a fairly level value over the years.

Note: American Cheap Edition (existence questionable)
Copies of the Cheap Edition have been reported bearing the spine inscription THE MACMILLAN COMPANY, which was the style and identification of Macmillan’s American office on the First American Edition. We have not personally encountered such copies and would be interested to hear of their existence. Presumably they would contain the “New York” title page inscription in Old English as on the First American.



Extended One-Volume Edition
Cohen A17.5 / Woods A8(c)

Publisher: Odhams Press Limited, London, 1952
Bright red cloth stamped gilt on spine, boards blank, 16mo, usually bulks 1 1/2,” 840 pages. Frontispiece and eight pages of illustrations. Published 5 February 1952 at 21 shillings ($2.94).

Quantities and Impressions
A single impression of unknown quantity was issued.

Dust Jackets and Variants
The jacket is navy blue printed yellow and white, unillustrated; the face has the title (yellow), author’s name (white) and a small blurb (yellow). No variants of the book are reported.

Odhams Press acquired the postwar rights to numerous Churchill titles. Their edition of Lord Randolph Churchill was particularly welcome, since the book had been out of print for two decades. Churchill was able to add previously unpublished material, namely Sir Henry Wolff’s account of Lord Randolph’s resignation in 1886. This, says our author in his “Introduction to the New Edition,” throws “an intimate light upon his quarrel with Lord Salisbury. Everyone can see now what a mistake he made in breaking with Lord Salisbury at a time when, being Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons at only thirty-six, he had every reason to believe that time would be on his side.”
For its new material, the Odhams Edition should be acquired. A handsome book when published, it proved even more susceptible to gutter breaks than the 1906 originals, and unbroken examples are rare. Aside from the two collected editions (see Posthumous Collected Editions) and a recent special binding of leftover sheets from the “Collected Works,” this represents the last appearance of Lord Randolph Churchill to date. It is time for a reprint.

Very easy to acquire, but scarce in absolutely fine condition.



Issue from the “Collected Works”

The Churchill Center’s concern with making rare Churchill works readily available resulted in the binding of leftover sheets from the Library of Imperial History’s 1974-75 “Collected Works.” The rebound Lord Randolph Churchill contained the 1952 expanded text (reset) and appeared in burgundy or red cloth blocked gilt with the Churchill coat of arms on the cover.




Published in one volume by Norstedt: Stockholm 1941, offered in buff cloth or in cardboard wrappers.



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