SECRET SESSION SPEECHES
(Cohen A227) (Woods A114)
Herbert Morrison was responsible for this book. On December 19th, 1945, Morrison, Leader of the House of Commons in the Labour Government that had replaced Churchill’s, moved to lift the ban on revealing the proceedings of five wartime Secret Session debates. Six months later Churchill published his seventh and final volume of war speeches, containing all five of his contributions to those sessions. It earned him over $50,000.
“It is impossible to guarantee that the speeches as now printed are a completely accurate, word-for-word report of what Mr. Churchill said in Secret Session,” notes the book’s editor, Charles Eade. “It is likely that he occasionally changed words and phrases to suit the mood and temper of the House but such alterations must have been Page 1 of 12 Secret Session Speeches only of a minor character….[The speeches] form a necessary contribution to the history of the War and explain many events which were puzzling at the time.”
Four speeches are on the life-and-death “Battle of the Atlantic;” the fall of Singapore, probably the greatest single disaster and disappointment of Churchill’s wartime Premiership; and the inside story of the Darlan episode in North Africa. Most fascinating is the first speech, “The Fall of France,” delivered June 20th 1940, for which there was no complete record. Instead, the book offers the nine pages of typewritten notes and headings, edited and annotated by Churchill, which he actually held in his hand as he spoke. They form a singular example of what Churchill called “Speech Form,” in which the cadence is established by picking out each group of words or sentences and indenting to show where the pauses should be, creating that marvelous sense of timing which was the key to Churchill’s oratory style.
Churchill’s deletions are as fascinating as what he said. After stating, “[In] my view always Govt. strengthened by S[ecret]. S[essions].,” he wasn’t utterly sure, so he crossed out the following line: “Quite ready to have others.” His powerful optimism is abundant, even at this depressing time, with France wiped out. “I hope it is not so,” he starts to say of some grim possibility, but then quickly crosses those words out—why suggest unpleasant developments? As always, there are lighter notes: “Goering. How do you class him? He was an airman turned politician. I like him better as an airman. Not very much anyway.”
Typing the four later speeches for the printer was the first assignment of Elizabeth Gilliatt, the secretary who would serve Churchill nearly a decade. Conventionally typeset, the four lack the impact and immediacy of the typescript speech, but still constitute important reading: “Parliament in the Air Raids” (Sep 17, 40), “The Battle of the Atlantic” (June 25, 41), “The Fall of Singapore” (Apr 23, 42) and “Admiral Darlan and the North Africa Landings” (Dec 10, 42).
It is not coincidental that the need for Secret Sessions ended in 1943, when the war started to turn in favour of the Allies.
-Richard M. Langworth
From the Reviews
“More representative of the Churchill who will be remembered are the five major addresses he delivered to the House of Commons at secret sessions. Mr. Churchill had no text from what he told the House of Commons on that solemn day in June 1940, when France had fallen; the speech is reproduced only from his notes. It was his conviction that if Britain could weather the storm of the next three months, by which time, it is obvious now, Mr. Churchill hoped that Providence in the form of intervention from the New World would help redress the balance of the Old. In September when, with the bombs raining down on London, there was another secret session of the House, the Prime Minister revealed that a vast enemy armada of 1,700 self-propelled barges and 200 oceangoing ships capable of transporting an invading wave of 500,000 men was gathered across the narrow channel awaiting the order to attack. Expressing his confidence in a victory as ‘sure as the sun will rise,’ Mr. Churchill added, ‘Anyhow, whatever happens, we will all go down fighting to the end.’
‘Anyhow, whatever happens, we will all go down fighting to the end.’ “Even then, long before he delivered his radio speech asking for American aid and declaring ‘give us the tools and we will finish the job,’ the Prime Minister was hoping for more direct assistance from the United States. Nothing, he declared, would so arouse American opinion as the news of fighting in the British Isles.”
-Raymond Daniell, New York Times Book Review, August 25, 1946
The arrangements by which Churchill dropped Putnam’s for Simon and Schuster as publisher of this volume are intricate (readers should consult the Cohen Bibliography for more details). While relaxing in Miami before his ‘Iron Curtain’ speech in Fulton, Missouri in March 1946, Churchill sent Simon and Schuster the typescript, as part of his agreement with Marshall Field, owner of the Chicago Sun, who planned to serialize the Secret Session speeches upon publication. But after Fulton, the Sun attacked Churchill with what he viewed as ‘stock Communist output,’ and Churchill withdrew from their serialization deal. This turned out well enough: while Simon and Schuster paid him £1,000 ($4,035), Henry Luce, publisher of Life, bought the serialization rights for £12,500 ($50,000), though only the last two speeches were published. (See Sir Martin Gilbert, Never Despair, Vol. VIII of the official biography, pages 194, 204-05, 255, 258).
Contrary to Woods, the American Edition preceded the English by over a month and is therefore the true First Edition. Its small press run has rendered it scarce today, and it will soon be quite rare, especially in jacketed form. The gilt lettering was not of good quality and is usually found quite dull. A really fine copy with some sparkle left to the gilt and a clean, unchipped dust jacket is quite a prize.
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Cohen A227.1 / ICS A114b
Publisher: Simon and Schuster, Inc., New York, 1946
Grey cloth blocked gilt. ‘WINSTON CHURCHILL’S | Secret Session Speeches’ appears on top board, ‘Winston Churchill’s SECRET SESSION SPEECHES [four spacer dots] and publisher’s name appear on spine, reading down. 8vo, 126 pages numbered (i) -(viii) and (1)-113 (+5). Published 22 August 1946 at $2.
Impressions and Quantities
One impression of 5910 copies.
Jackets are printed rust-red and dark green on white stock with titles on spine and front face and promotional blurbs on flaps and back face. On the front face the jacket designer signs his name: ‘Woods’ (no relation!). No variations noted.
First English (Illustrated) Edition
Cohen A227.2 / ICS A114b
Publisher: Cassell and Company Ltd., London, 1946
Light blue cloth blocked gilt on spine: || CASSELL || SECRET SESSION SPEECHES || CHURCHILL || (reading up); three vertical gilt rules at left side of top board. 8vo, 96 pages numbered (i) -(v) and 6-96, plus sixteen photographs on sixteen coated paper leaves inserted between pages 48-49. Published 26 September 1946 at 6s. ($1.50).
Impressions and Quantities
One impression of 48,500 copies.
The edition exists bound in dark blue leatherette. Publisher’s presentation copies bound uniformly with previous such copies of war speech volumes may exist but are not reported.
Presentation cards: Churchill presented many copies of this work, unsigned but accompanied by a 2 1/4 x 3 3/4’ white card printed in black, ‘WITH THE COMPLIMENTS OF Winston S. Churchill’ (name in script), surrounded by a light blue decorative border. Most of these were accompanied by a second card of the same size, reading ‘THE REFERENCE to ‘American Authorities’ in the Introduction refers to the United States Government and General Eisenhower.’ and surrounded by a thin light blue rule. Churchill apparently thought it proper to be more specific on this point than editor Charles Eade, who wrote in the Introduction, ‘Acknowledgment is expressed of the courtesy of the American authorities concerned for permission to publish the documents quoted.’
Jackets, which are not uniform with other Cassell war speech volumes, are printed black and light blue on white paper. On the front flap, each jacket has the original intended price of 7/6 blacked out in two places, and replaced by the 6/ price. No jackets with the 7/6 price have been found.
Cassell became more generous with photographs with this title, which should be acquired for them alone. Arranged to chronicle the war, most of the photos are rarely seen elsewhere: the PM bidding farewell to French President Reynaud as the Germans closed in; Churchill with troops and defense workers, inspecting Blitz damage, touring warships and working over maps and papers.
Although wartime economy standards were still in effect, Secret Session Speeches is more uniformly produced and seems to contain slightly better paper. Nevertheless, the truly fine, unspotted copy in bright cloth is a rarity. The white jackets soil easily, and bring the price well down when dirty or torn. Unjacketed copies are fairly common and inexpensive. The dark blue binding variant adds 25% to the price. A jacketed copy with both presentation cards laid in is certainly worth a premium.
Cohen A227.3 / ICS A114c
Publisher: McClelland and Stewart Ltd., Toronto, 1946
Red cloth blocked black and gilt. Title and author’s name separated by thick rule blocked gilt on black inside thin gilt on top board. SECRET SESSION SPEECHES [spacer] CHURCHILL [smaller type] blocked gilt on black with thin gilt border on spine (reading down); publisher’s name toward base and decorative wavy lines at spine ends. 8vo, 112 pages numbered(1)-108 (+4), plus four pages of photographs on coated paper in four leaves inserted between pages 32-33, 48-49, 80-81 and 96-97. Published Autumn 1946 in one impression.
Dust jackets printed red and black on white paper in the style of previous Little, Brown and McClelland and Stewart war speeches. The front face includes title, byline and a silhouetted photo of Churchill working on a train (final photo in the English Edition).
A most interesting production, this work was wholly reset (except for the typescript speech) in Canada and therefore constitutes a separate edition. Unlike its American counterpart, the binding and jacket are uniform with five previous North American war speech volumes. Undoubtedly the American Edition would have looked like this had Little Brown continued as publisher. Highly collectible as a true edition, but quite rare nowadays, it is the hardest Canadian war speech volume to find. Fine jacketed copies commands over $100/£60 and can go higher. Unjacketed copies run about 50% lower.
Cohen A227.4 / ICS A114d
Publisher: Cassell and Company Ltd., Melbourne, 1946
Bound in tan or pale blue cloth blocked dark blue on spine with publisher’s name, title and author’s name, reading up. 8vo, 96 pages numbered (1)-96 plus frontispiece and fourteen internal photographs on coated stock inserted between pages 16-17, 32- 33, 36-37, 48-49, 64-65, 84-85 and 92-93. Offprinted from the English edition by William Brooks & Co. Ltd. All but two photographs from the English Edition are included. Published at A 12s. 6d. The title page verso contains the line ‘ First Australian Edition 1946’.
Only one impression was published.
While the Canadian Edition shows us the uniform North American jacket style, the Australian Issue displays the uniform British style which Cassell abandoned with this title in Britain. On thin white paper, it is printed black and yellow-orange fading into dark blue on the face only; the spine is blank except for the titles printed black.
There appear to be more tan bindings than pale blue.
Unlike previous Australian war speech volumes, this was not reset but offprinted from the English edition—a speedier production process, which saw this title appear before the Australian Victory.
Danish: CHURCHILLS HEMMELIGE TALER
Published by Berlingske: Copenhagen, 1946 (card wrappers, supplied with pages untrimmed).
French: MES DESCOURS SECRETS
Published by DuPont: Paris, 1947.
German: GEHEIMSREDEN/BAND 7
Published by Europa Verlag: Zurich, 1947; bound in coarse and smooth tan cloth with dust jackets.
Spanish: LOS SECRETOS DE LA GUERRA
Published by Los Libros de Nuestro Tiempo: Barcelona, 1946.
Swedish: TAL INFOR LYCKTA DORRAR
Published by Skoglund: Stockholm, 1946 (soft and clothbound).
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