Winston S. Churchill, Vol. I., Youth 1974-1900
Winds of Change
Mr. Randolph. Churchill tells us in his preface that his life of his father is to be filial, objective, and colossal. Filial it clearly is; that it seeks to be objective the present volume gives no reason to doubt; that it is planned as colossal is already all too plain. The present volume, covering Churchill’s life up to the accession of Edward VII (“I am glad he has got his innings at last and am most interested to watch how he plays it”) has more than thirty pages of introductory matter, 528 pages of text, sixteen pages of genealogical tables and a 65-page index “compiled by G. Norman Knight M.A. Chairman of the Society of Indexers” and containing such nuggets as
Payne (Randolph) and Sons (wine merchants), WSC’s bill from (1899), 139
“Peas” (WSC’s little dog), is left behind in rush to get to India (1897) 334
Pianoforte, WSC wants to learn to play (1886), 75
Picquet, WSC plays at (1896), 280
Polo, WSC’s keenness on: at Sandhurst, 200, 203, 293-4; in 4th Hussars, see Inter-Regimental, Hurlingham and Meerut; even with arm strapped to body, 283, 295, 415, 432; his last game (1927); 295 Polo ponies, 293, cost of (1895), 247; Lady Randolph advises WSC to sell his racing pony and buy (1896), 297-8; WSC argues on limiting their height (1899), 417
Polo tournaments: Secunderabad (1896), 285, 294; Inter-Regimental cup (India), see Inter-regimental and Meerut.
(One is tempted to add: “Biography, WSC’s son plays at, Passim.”)
Those who feel that this method is excessively summary and lacking in detail need not panic: There is to be at least one Companion Volume to this volume (and to the succeeding volumes) containing “the body of relevant original unpublished documents and letters” as well as “fuller details of the subordinate characters” (Payne? Peas?). How many volumes there are to be in all Mr. Randolph Churchill in his preface does not tell us; according to the dust jacket there are to be in all five long volumes of text and at least five Companion Volumes of documents. Judging by the scale of the present volume and allowance made for the somewhat more momentous character of events to be narrated in later volumes, even this may prove to be an under-estimate. This is a harmless, a pious, but surely an absured enterprise. Mr. Randolph Churchill has shown no capacity for intelligent selectivity in his handling of data or documents, and no narrative power of his own; his dogged prose simply serves to link one copious excerpt with another; his few personal interventions are embarrassing (“naturally being silly billies they know nothing of the traditions of the British Army…”); and he is solemnly preoccupied with such problems as the discrepancy between Churchill’s recollection (in My Early Life) and the contemporary account (in Pioneer Mail) of what happened in the…
This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
Get unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 an issue!
Continue reading this article, and thousands more from our archive, for the low introductory rate of just $1 an issue. Choose a Print, Digital, or All Access subscription.