STEMMING THE TIDE
(Cohen A264) (Woods A137)
The Official Biography informs us that editor Randolph Churchill proposed numerous titles for this work, including Fight for Survival, Against the Stream, Shouldering the Burden and Uphill All The Way, as well as the one chosen. His father, as usual, favoured the more upbeat titles: “I rather think ‘Stemming the Tide’ is the best, but ‘Shouldering the Burden’ is a good second. (Gilbert, “Never Despair”, page 784).
The speeches, covering 1951-1952, are of particular importance to students of Churchill’s second premiership. Notable in the period were the death of George VI, the triumph of Eisenhower in the United States, and Churchill’s own return to power, only to find himself too tired, or too unwilling, to alter many of the Attlee policies he had so excoriated over the past half decade. He was old, and tired; to him one great prize remained: peace itself. To his lasting regret, the “settlement” with Russia he would try so hard to engineer continued to elude the world.
Churchill was still full of regrets over India: “…three or four times as many lives were destroyed by violent and avoidable butchery in India as were lost by the whole British Empire in the Second World War,” he said in October 1951. “I am astonished that this should be treated as a mere incident in the progress of Oriental liberation and self-government. I am sure that it would have been possible to maintain law and order in India as we did in the face of the armed revolt of the Congress Party at the time of the attempted Japanese invasion without any serious difficulty or bloodshed; and that a Constituent Assembly far more representative of all the real forces of Indian life than the Congress Party could have shaped an Indian constitution and transferred the power to the new rulers of India in an orderly manner….The vast human tragedy which occurred in the process of handling over is a fact for which I thank God I had no responsibility.”
Randolph in his Introduction states that his father in these years was still “in the fullest flower…opening another great chapter in a political career,” having outlived all his contemporaries: from Rosebery, Balfour and Asquith to Lloyd George, the Chamberlains, Baldwin, MacDonald, Bevin and Cripps, and all the World War II leaders. This was overly sentimental: Churchill experienced a mild stroke in July 1952 and would suffer a serious one a year later; few colleagues thought the Prime Minister of 1951 was the man he had been in the war. In Churchill’s own words, “time ends all things.”
Yet the course of his life and career were astonishing. Among these pages is a speech at a banquet to honor the new Lord Mayor of London; Churchill here admits that he has attended such Guildhall ceremonies for over forty years! But: “…this is the first occasion when I have addressed this assembly here as Prime Minister. The explanation is convincing. When I should have come here as Prime Minister the Guildhall was blown up and before it was repaired I was blown out! I thought at the time they were both disasters.”
Upon the death of the King he recalls his own youth, “passed in the august, unchallenged and tranquil glories of the Victorian Era,” and feels “a thrill in invoking once more, the prayer and the Anthem, GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.” And he reaches 400 years back in his mind’s eye to recall the first Elizabeth, hoping for a new Elizabethan Age.
-Richard M. Langworth
From the Reviews
It is only when Sir Winston speaks for himself that the full flavor of the great Englishman is evoked. These fifty speeches in 1951 and 1952 reflect the Prime Minister as no leisurely, respectful monographs can ever do. Here he is, the real, the irrepressible Winston: bouncing, determined, magnanimous, shrewd and emotional.
Not long ago a Tory bewailed the description of Sir Winston as a ‘politician.’ The tendency in his own party to regard him as a relic in the National Trust is strong. Stemming the Tide, however, shows him as a politician, a great politician in the tradition of Pitt, Lincoln and Gladstone. It also reveals a more human, more likable person than the venerated national hero pictured by some of his contemporaries.
‘I will give way in a moment,’ he said in the course of a debate in 1951. ‘I was giving the right honorable gentleman [Aneurin Bevan] and honourable mention for having, it appears by accident, perhaps not from the best of motives, happened to be right.’
Those who advocate keeping Sir Winston in cotton wool might ponder this retort to the most feared of Labor speakers.
-Drew Middleton, New York Times Book Review, 28 February 1954
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Cohen A264.1 / ICS A137a
Publisher: Cassell and Co. Ltd.: London, 1953
Maroon cloth blocked gilt with title, author’s name and CASSELL on spine. 8vo, 390 pages numbered (i)-(x) and 1-379 (+1). Page (ii) lists thirty-four other works by the author. Dust jackets are printed black, maroon and light green on white paper and advertise the three previous postwar speech volumes on the front flap and Volumes I-V of The Second World War on the back flap. Published 25 June 1953 at 30s. ($4.20) in a single impression of 5500.
Cassell did not bind all 5500 sheets in 1953. In 1961 a remainder binding in a distinctly tighter, smoother maroon cloth was issued which used up the leftover sheets. The dust jacket is quite distinct, printed black on pale green and without the oak leaf repeat border design Cassell used on all the other postwar speech volumes (the front face is entirely black except for lettering). This remainder jacket omits The Sinews of Peace, while adding The Unwritten Alliance to the front flap, and advertises all six volumes of The Second World War on the back flap.
There just aren’t enough of these to go round. The remainder binding costs less, for a fine copy in jacket the sky is the limit.
Cohen A264.2 / ICS A137b
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Co.: Boston, 1954
Green cloth blocked on spine with green decorations and in black: “Stemming | the Tide | [green design] | CHURCHILL” and “HOUGHTON | MIFFLIN CO.” (all reading across). Pagination identical to the First Edition, but the title page is contains the U.S. publisher’s name and 1954 date, its verso the Library of Congress card number and note of first U.S. publication. Dust jacket printed red-orange, navy blue and dull gold on white paper, with a stylized crown on face and spine. Published 1954 at $5.00 in a single impression of 1850 copies, using sheets supplied by the English printer.
This was the last speech volume the Americans chose to publish. Although it had the lowest press run, we seem to encounter it more than the American Europe Unite. But it is hardly common, and even unjacketed examples are not cheap.
Published by Skoglund: Stockholm 1953 in cloth and wrappers.
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