Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Always as Good as His Word; Quote, Unquote: Winston Churchill in His Study at Chartwell in 1951

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Always as Good as His Word; Quote, Unquote: Winston Churchill in His Study at Chartwell in 1951

Article excerpt

Byline: ANDREW ROBERTS

Churchill by Himself: The Life, Times and Opinions of Winston Churchill in His Own Words edited by Richard M Langworth (Ebury, ?20)

YOU'LL know those little Wit and Wisdom of Winston Churchill paperbacks, compendiums of sage remarks, funny rejoinders and gags that Churchill is thought to have made over his long life. They are often found next to the cash register in bookshops before Christmas, alongside similar compilations of Oscar Wilde's witticisms and The World's Worst Insults. Well, this is nothing like them.

Richard M Langworth is second only to Sir Martin Gilbert himself, Churchill's biographer, in his encyclopaedic knowledge of Churchill's published words and their historical context. Editor for a quarter of a century of Finest Hour, the magazine of the Churchill Centre, Langworth is the man to whom historians go in order to track down a possible Churchill quote. Not merely a Churchill expert, he is more of an oracle.

This 620-page collection of the best of Churchill's published writings and sayings therefore constitutes by far the most authoritative likely to be produced for very many years, and must find a place on the shelves of everyone interested in the man voted History's Greatest Briton in 1999.

The book is further proof of the fact that Churchill was constitutionally incapable of writing or speaking a boring sentence. Often if you think you spot a clich? by him, it is only because Churchill himself, having edited by Richard M Langworth (Ebury, ?20) ANDREW ROBERTS uttered it, made it so. I defy any reader to open this book at any page it is broken down into 34 subject chapters and to pick a quotation at random and not then feel compelled to read on. The quotes are all meticulously sourced, often with detailed comments about attributions.

Langworth has also devoted a chapter to common misattributions, ie things that Churchill did not say, indeed personally denied ever saying, but which are still attributed to him by urban myth and its provisional wing, the internet. It is quite untrue, for example, that he ever stated that naval tradition consisted of "Rum, buggery and the lash", although he told his private secretary he wished he had. …

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