A Tale of the Revolution in Laurania
(Cohen A3) (Woods A3)
Churchill’s only novel has traditionally been dismissed as a fluke, a “Ruritanian Romance” of the Emile Zola genre, spun off in an idle and idealistic moment, a book that would have been forgotten had the author not been otherwise renowned. In different ways, most reviewers have dismissed it as an insignificant mimicking of better novels by Haggard, Hope, Disraeli, Bulwer Lytton, and even Conrad. Writing in Finest Hour #74, Patrick Powers argues to the contrary, saying that Savrola is really Churchill’s “premier literary effort, [giving] dramatic voice to Churchill’s mature philosophical reflections about his fundamental political and ethical principles at the very moment when he settled on them for the rest of his life.” Though Savrola was Churchill’s third published book, Powers notes, it was composed prior even to Malakand. (It was serialized in Macmillan’s Magazine before appearing in book form in England.) “At minimum,” Powers continues, it “ought to be recognized as Churchill’s first substantial literary composition.” The great English historian A. L. Rowse, reviewing the 1956 edition, makes much the same point, adding that despite Churchill’s oft-expressed modesty about it, Savrola “holds one’s attention for its own sake.”
The novel is set in a fictional Mediterranean republic whose president, ambitious and unscrupulous, is rapidly developing into a despot, opposed by Savrola, the popular leader of the reform party. The President has rigorously and brutally repressed a threatened riot by promptly shooting down the people in the street and Savrola, who had hoped to mend matters by constitutional means, sees that the President is bent on a military takeover and that the time has come to yield to the importunities of his more fiery supporters and resort to force. In the revolutionary maelstrom, Savrola’s leadership is temporarily eclipsed by a man named Karl who believes “in the equality of incomes”— a thinly veiled reference to Marxism, which Churchill would vigorously oppose all through his later life. In the end, however, Savrola is vindicated, returning from exile to lead his city-state back into peace and prosperity.
There is no doubt that Savrola is Churchill, and with much the same moral dilemmas. An appreciator of beauty, well able to enjoy luxury, he could not live “in dreamy quiet and philosophic calm in some beautiful garden, far from the noise of men” while the life of his nation was at stake. “‘Vehement, high and daring,’ was his cast of mind. The life he lived was the only one he could ever live; he most go on to the end.” Forty years later, the author of Savrola would exhort his countrymen, “We shall go on to the end…We shall never surrender.”
Whether they deem it a key indication of Churchill’s innermost philosophy and political morality or just a yarn, Savrola continues to exert a grip on devotees of the canon. Thanks to a recent reprint and good supplies of some earlier editions, the book is within the reach of almost everyone who wishes to read it.
-Richard M. Langworth
From the Reviews
“It is not a Disraelian novel, but rather one of the school that Mr. George Meredith founded and Mr. Anthony Hope has taken over and carried on so successfully, only that it is less romantic, more realistic than stories of that school are apt to be, comes to closer grip with the actual problems of modern life, and has a high seriousness of its own.
“A man of lofty ideals, a humanitarian, a scornfully incorruptible politician, Savrola is also an eloquent orator who can play upon the sentiments and passions of an audience as skillfully as a musician can upon his instrument; he is an autocratic, not a passionate lover; he is cool and diplomatic enough always to hold his enthusiasms in leash, but he can be heroic and reckless when there is nothing more to be gained by caution. We share the general impression that Savrola is the shadow of his creator, that Mr. Churchill has endowed him with the doubts, the dreams, the aspirations and something of the philosophy that are in reality his own. He has lived his life as if he believed in the commonsense gospel that Savrola propounds…’Remember that we pay for every pleasure and every triumph we have in this world…and for all the good things in life men pay in advance.’”
-“The Reader” in The Bookman, London, July 1908
Savrola is first of several Churchill works in which the American edition preceded the English, in this case possibly for commercial reasons. The novel was being serialized in Macmillan’s Magazine in England as late as December 1899, so Longmans’ London office may have held up publication in deference to the periodical; this consideration did not apply in the United States. In fact, the English Edition was made up from the American plates. The “November 1899” first publication date stated in the second impression has given rise to speculation that Savrola preceded The River War and deserves to be designated “A2.” This is unlikely, because The River War was published November 6th and, according to Ronald Cohen, the United States Library of Congress did not receive its first copyright copy of Savrola until the 18th.
A well-made volume using good quality page stock, this edition rarely suffers from the advanced foxing of its English counterpart (partly due to America’s generally drier climate). The most common flaw is wear and chipping to the cloth at the head and foot of the spine. Because of its precedence, the first impression is an expensive book, especially in fine condition. Despite the tendency of some booksellers to treat the second impression as a rare discovery, “not in Woods,” it remains a second impression, worth about a third or fourth the price of a first, conditions being equal.
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Cohen A3.1 / Woods A3(a)
Publisher: Longmans, Green And Co., New York 1899
Navy blue cloth blocked gilt on cover and spine, cover title and byline framed by rules, title, byline and publisher name on spine, blank endpapers. Crown 8vo, 356 pages, numbered (i)-(x), 1-345 (1), plus a 24-page catalogue of American titles of the publisher. Published at $1.25.
Quantities and Impressions
Two impressions were produced. Woods states that 4,000 copies were first published on 3 February 1900 but this date is certainly incorrect, since a second impression, not mentioned by Woods, dated “January 1900” on its title page verso, dates the first impression as “November 1899.” While it is possible that copies did not reach retail shops until 1900 (the first impression is dated 1900 on its title page, perhaps anticipating this), there seems no doubt that the entire run of both impressions was produced before February 1900.
None are known to exist, though it is very likely that they were supplied originally.
A striking variant (thus far encountered only on second impressions) exists in red cloth blocked white instead of the usual navy cloth blocked gilt. This variant has no rules and no rear catalogue.
First English Edition, Home Issue
Cohen A3.2 / ICS A3ba
Publisher: Longmans, Green and Co., London 1900
Medium to dark green cloth blocked gilt on cover and spine, title and author signature on cover, title, byline and publisher name on spine. Black endpapers. Crown 8vo, 348 pages, including two pages of advertisements (for Malakand and The River War). Dated 1900 on title page but copyright date (on verso) is 1899. Boxed adverts for A1 and A2 on the half title verso of both impressions. Published at 6 shillings ($1.50).
Quantities and Impressions
Only two impressions are distinguishable: the first and the second. The latter is labeled NEW IMPRESSION on the title page. The first impression consisted of 1,500 copies, printed 30 January 1900. Ronald Cohen (Finest Hour 74) states that subsequent printings occurred on 10 February (1,000 copies), 20 February (1,000) and 17 March (2,000). Together with a net 550 sheets transferred to the Home Issue from the Colonial, production totaled 6,050, of which 4,550 copies were labeled NEW IMPRESSION on the title page.
A dust jacket for this edition is reported but not described in the famous Mortlake catalogue, and has not been traced.
A variant cloth exists, distinctly blue rather than the usual green. Some copies have a blank verso title, and one copy was seen with a cancel title (its verso blank) transposed with the half title (possibly to fill in a shortage from Colonial Library sheets).
While the “New Impression” was made up of three different printings, they are indistinguishable from each other. Of the total edition of 6,050, Cohen states, ninety-eight were “presentation copies.” This does not mean they were Churchill’s, for they could also have gone to the publishers and reviewers. In fact, Savrola is one of the least inscribed titles in the entire canon. Checking the auction and sales records for the past thirty years, bookseller Glenn Horowitz was able to find only two instances of a signed copy changing hands. Churchill’s negative opinion of the novel is perhaps the reason he inscribed so few.
The First English Edition does not carry the cachet of the First Edition, for the obvious reason that it appeared second–by as much as three months. Aesthetically, too, it is not as pleasing. Since it was printed on rather pulpy stock, the English climate has rendered unspotted copies a rarity today. Conditions being equal, which they rarely are, the first English is worth about two-thirds the value of the First (American) while the “New Impression” is about on par with the second impression of the American edition.
First English Edition, Colonial Issue
Cohen A3.3 / ICS A3bb
Publisher: Longmans, Green, and Co., London & Bombay 1900
Grey cloth blocked pictorially in the “Longman’s Colonial Library” design in navy blue on cover; spine stamped gilt. 8vo, 350 pages. Also published softbound in grey wrappers in Longmans uniform design. Blue printed endpapers; boxed adverts for the Malakand and River War on the half title verso. Published simultaneously with the Home Issue. Title page states at bottom in bold face: “This Edition is intended for circulation only in India and the British Colonies”. Also has two pages of adverts similar to Home Issue. Mentioned by Woods, page 26.
Quantities and Impressions
The first impression of 1,500 was printed 30 January 1900 simultaneously with the Home Issue. Subsequent impressions, labeled NEW IMPRESSION on title pages, were run on 10 February (2,000 copies) and 20 February (1,000) copies, from which 550 copies were transferred to the Home Issue, leaving a total of 3,950. Of these, 1,670 were clothbound (including twenty-one presentation copies) and 2,280 were published in wrappers (115 presentation copies).
Dust Jackets and Variants
Jackets for the hardback presumably were produced but none are reported. No variations reported.
Like the Colonial Malakand, which it matches, this is a physically beautiful book, but even harder to find. Wrapper copies, although they outnumbered the clothbound, have almost completely disappeared. By the time of Savrola‘s publication, Churchill had firmly removed the middle initial “L.” from his byline. Covers of cloth copies, like 1901 issues of the Colonial cloth Malakand, therefore carry the byline “W. Spencer Churchill,” while the spines spell out “Winston.”
A rare gem, but alas hardly ever seen. A very desirable issue, at least equal in value to First Editions.
First Canadian Issue
Cohen A3.4 / ICS A3bc
Publisher: Copp Clark, Toronto 1900
Olive grey pictorial cloth stamped gilt on spine, navy blue on top board. Crown 8vo, 358 pages, with cancel title for Longmans’ export agent in Canada. The title page cancel reads, TORONTO | THE COPP CLARK, CO., LIMITED above the Longmans, Green line. Copp, Clark’s name also appears on spine. Not in Woods. Quantity unknown but probably made up from sheets of the Colonial Issue. Extremely rare and desirable, worth as much or more than a comparable Colonial.
First Illustrated Edition
Cohen A3.5 / Woods A3(c)
Publisher: George Newnes, Ltd., London 1908
A softbound volume, demy 8vo,128 pages including advertisements, published in May 1908 at 6d (13c), also offered at 3d post-free from the publisher. The light, thin wrappers carry blue printed artwork of Savrola and Lucille with the title printed red; the spine carries the title and byline (Rt. Hon. Winston S. Churchill, M.P.) printed navy. Variations: copies have been encountered with the first two pages blank and printed with adverts.
Contents are printed on pulpy stock which is almost always yellowed, though not usually brittle. This is “first illustrated edition,” carrying frontispiece artwork and an illustration opposite page 30, sought after mainly for this distinction. A companion piece is the Hodder & Stoughton softbound edition of My African Journey, but the Savrola is more often seen. A fine copy, if it exists, could command a lot, but most of them are worn and sell for less.
Cohen A3.6 / Woods A3(d)
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton, London 1915
Red scored cloth-like boards blocked blind with publisher device and vertical columns on top board, spine lettering black “Savrola by the Rt. Hon. Winston S. Churchill, M.P.”) Part of the publisher’s “Sevenpenny Net Novels” series. 16mo, 260 pages, pages (i) through (iv) printed on coated paper; frontispiece portrait.
Quantities and Impressions
25,000 copies were published June 1915 at 7d (15c).
The jacket is red with a four-color reproduction of the frontispiece photo, showing Savrola standing over the dead Molara. The spine panel carries a large “7d net” in addition to title, byline and publisher; the back face advertises other Sevenpenny novels; flaps are blank.
Copies exist in distinctly darker red, really burgundy bindings. A handful of copies display the date “1915” on the title page, which likely constitutes a separate state, though whether it preceded or followed the undated title page is unknown. One copy has been found with the “1915” inverted. The contents display no other differences.
Until the arrival of the Leo Cooper Edition in 1990 this was the most available and least expensive hardbound Savrola. It is a nice enough little book, though the pages are subject to yellowing and brittleness, and the red covers and spine will fade easily if subjected to much light.
Readily available for a book this old, A3(d) is desirable to round out a collection or as a reading copy. Presence of the evocative jacket turns this rather ordinary book into a collector treasure; unfortunately, We have encountered only a handful of jacketed copies in ten years, usually offered for prices approaching First Editions.
Second American (Fourth) Edition
Cohen A3.7 / ICS A3ea
Publisher: Random House, New York 1956
Navy blue 3/4’s buckram with red cloth strips 1 1/2″ wide at foredges of top and bottom boards, the top board carrying the title gilt, the spine carrying title, byline and publisher’s logo gilt, publisher’s name and decorative devices in light blue. 8vo, 244 pages, the last three blank. Frontispiece portrait of the author in 1900. Published at $3.50. Woods A3(e).
Quantities and Impressions
A single impression was published 16 April 1956; quantity is not known to the writer.
Dust Jackets and Variants
The jacket, bearing a new subtitle (“SAVROLA | A NOVEL”) carries the Philippe Halsman photo of Churchill at eighty, overlooking the Chartwell swimming pool. The face is lettered red, black, yellow and white with a white-on-red spine; the rear face carries a photo of WSC c.1901; the flaps carry a description of the book. No variations are reported.
Churchill wrote an amusing new Foreword to this book, dated 20 January 1956 (not 1965 per Woods), quoting his original Foreword about submitting the book “with considerable trepidation,” and adding that the fifty-five years since the first edition “have somewhat dulled though certainly not changed my sentiments on this point.” Since this was the last Savrola text to be established, Woods leaves off numbering the various editions at this point.
A sound reading copy which is available in good supply at reasonable prices. Really essential for the amusing new Foreword and the various photographs of the author throughout.
Publisher: Amereon House, Mattituck, New York c.1988
Black cloth blocked gilt on spine. 8vo, 232 pages. Also known in tan cloth blocked gilt on spine and cover. Not issued with a dust jacket. A photographic reproduction of the Random House edition, with the same pagination (slightly enlarged) from page three onward. A note “to the reader” on page [iv] states, “It is our pleasure to keep available uncommon titles and to this end, at the time of publication, we have used the best available sources. To catalogers and collectors, this title is printed in an edition limited to 300 copies–Enjoy!” Whether these copies were produced with the knowledge of the copyright holder is a good question. The book is not distinctive and holds no premium value over the Random House edition, which indeed is more attractive.
Second Paperback Edition
Cohen A3.8 / ICS A3f
Publisher: Beacon Books, Odhams Press Ltd., London 1957
A paperback, 224 pages including two pages of rear adverts, with a four-color action-style cover showing Savrola confronting Molara and Lucille, all in modern dress. Published 1 April 1957 at 2s 6d (35c). The half-title page contains an excerpt from A.L. Rowse’s review of the Random House edition. Mentioned by Woods, page 27.
Cohen A3.9 / ICS A3g
Publisher: Cedric Chivers, Portway and Bath 1973
Plain wine cloth blocked with title, author and “New Portway” on spine. 8vo, 260 pages plus 18-page rear catalogue. Published “at the request of the London & Home Counties Branch of the Library Association” at £2.20 ($6) or £1.65 to Library Association members. This is one of the hardest editions to find. Though often represented as a “large type” edition, its type is quite small, about 9-point. The dust jacket has a color drawing of revolutionaries charging a house, promotion blurb on inside flap, plain pink rear face with Library Association logo, plain rear flap. Extremely rare.
New (Seventh) Edition
Cohen A3.11 / ICS A3h
Publisher: Leo Cooper, London 1990
Black cloth blocked gilt on spine. 8vo, 214 pages, including a two page rear note on the International Churchill Society, and a new Foreword by Tom Hartmann. Bright red-orange dust jacket with a cartoon of Savrola on the top face. Text photographically reproduced from the 1974-75 Collected Works edition. Published at £14.95. The Cooper edition was not accompanied by an American issue.
Note: Contrary to Woods, Dutch and Norwegian editions of Savrola do not exist, and there are only two, not three French translations.
Published by Steen Hasselbalch, Copenhagen 1948, 8vo, 207 pages at 10kr unbound in card covers. Also issued in half dark brown leather and brown marbled paper boards, with illustrated dust jacket. Variants: some hardbound copies have additional type on verso of half title, viz.: “UDLAAN OG UDLEJE af denne Udgave er ikke tilladt, Steen Hasselbalch Forlag.”
Finnish: KANSA NOUSEE
Published by Karisto, Helsinki 1916. This First Finnish Edition is, more significantly the first translation of any Churchill work into a foreign language. 8vo, 224 pages.
Another edition was published by Karisto in 1956,forty years after its First Edition; completely reset in paper covered boards of two varieties: red with grey/green stripes and light grey with dark grey stripes. Also issued unbound.
Published by Les Editions du Rocher, Monaco 1948 The first French Edition was a paperback of 250 pages, wrappers printed black and yellow on white with an illustration of the author. The production included 60 special copies printed on Lafuma pure linen paper of which fifty were numbered 1-50 and ten (“hors commerce” = not for sale) were numbered in Roman We through X. An overprint or two impressions of the standard edition exist, since copies have been found with and without a cover note that 8,000 are in print. All copies state “8-1948” on spine.
French: SAVROLA (Limited Edition)
Published by À la Voile Latine, Monaco 1950. The finest presentation of Savrola and perhaps the most elegant Churchill work, this unique book was published 15 February 1950 in a limited edition of 1,000 copies. 4to, 282 pages. Intended to be bound by the purchaser, its pages were issued in a slipcase. The most striking feature is the beautiful woodcut artwork by André Collot, engraved by Bracons-Duplessis, much of it in four-color. (See Finest Hour #74 for examples of the artwork including the color cover.) The first fifty copies were printed on rag vellum and included a set of black and white illustrations by Collot. Copy #1 also included the sketches and studies of the artist as well as twelve original designs, while #2-13 included two original designs. Copies #51- 950 were printed on Lafuma pure linen paper. The remaining fifty copies, numbered “HC1 to HC50” (“hors de commerce”) each including a set of black and white illustrations, were reserved for the author, illustrator, publishers and collaborators. Slipcases: two types are known: grey with spine printed black and ivory leatherette printed red.
This magnificent edition is overlooked by many collectors because it is not in English. They are missing a great deal. No serious Churchill library is complete without it. Availability is not bad, but prices vary. Virtually all copies We have seen are in their loose, slipcased form.
Published by Verlag Hallwag [Verlag Publishers], Berne 1948. Black cloth blocked gilt on top board and gilt and red on spine in dust jacket; 8vo, 300 pages.
Spanish: LAS COMPENSACIONES DE LA VIDA
Published by Luis de Caralt, Barcelona 1950: the first Spanish Edition. 8vo.
Published by Ediciones G.P., Barcelona 1956. A paperback of 160 pages, published at 12 pesetas. The cover, printed four-color on white, portrays a contemporary Churchill and medieval buildings.
Published by Skoglunds, Stockholm 1944, the first Swedish Edition. 8vo, 348 pages, published in cloth and wrappers at 17 kr and 11 kr respectively. Wrapper bears an illustration of Churchill c.1900 and a scene of the “rebellion in Laurania,” printed black, white yellow and red. Bound versions are known in full blue cloth and half blue cloth with paper covered boards. Jackets for bound versions probably exist.
The Second Swedish Edition was published by B. Wahlströms Bokförlag, Stockholm 1958: completely reset, 8vo, 256 pages, top page edges marbled. No. 13 in a series of fifteen from Wahlströms’s Ramanbibliotek (fiction library). Bound in half medium blue leather on patterned blue paper covered boards with dust jacket, kr 6.65.
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