Mr Churchill's Profession: Statesman, Orator, Writer

Peter Clarke

Mr Churchill's Profession: Statesman, Orator, Writer

In 1953, Winston Churchill received the Nobel Prize for Literature. In fact, Churchill was a professional writer before he was a politician, and published a stream of books and articles over the course of two intertwined careers. Now historian Peter Clarke traces the writing of the magisterial work that occupied Churchill for a quarter century, his four-volume History of the English-Speaking Peoples. As an author, Churchill faced woes familiar to many others; chronically short of funds, late on deadlines, scrambling to sell new projects or cajoling his publishers for more advance money. He signed a contract for the English-Speaking project in 1932, a time when his political career seemed over. The magnum opus was to be delivered in 1939, but in that year, history overtook history-writing. When the Nazis swept across Europe, Churchill was summoned from political exile to become Prime Minister. The English-Speaking Peoples would have to wait. The book would indeed be written and become a bestseller, after Churchill left public life. But even before he took office, the massive project was shaping his worldview, his speeches and his leadership. 4.0 out of 5 based on 6 reviews
Mr Churchill's Profession: Statesman, Orator, Writer

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Biography, Literary Studies & Criticism
Format Hardback
Pages 368
RRP
Date of Publication July 2012
ISBN 978-1408818879
Publisher Bloomsbury
 

In 1953, Winston Churchill received the Nobel Prize for Literature. In fact, Churchill was a professional writer before he was a politician, and published a stream of books and articles over the course of two intertwined careers. Now historian Peter Clarke traces the writing of the magisterial work that occupied Churchill for a quarter century, his four-volume History of the English-Speaking Peoples. As an author, Churchill faced woes familiar to many others; chronically short of funds, late on deadlines, scrambling to sell new projects or cajoling his publishers for more advance money. He signed a contract for the English-Speaking project in 1932, a time when his political career seemed over. The magnum opus was to be delivered in 1939, but in that year, history overtook history-writing. When the Nazis swept across Europe, Churchill was summoned from political exile to become Prime Minister. The English-Speaking Peoples would have to wait. The book would indeed be written and become a bestseller, after Churchill left public life. But even before he took office, the massive project was shaping his worldview, his speeches and his leadership.

Reviews

Times Literary Supplement

Geoffrey Wheatcroft

This subject has inspired from Clarke a book which is hard to praise too highly, as entertaining as it is scholarly … Modern literary biographies tend to tell us at least as much as we want to know about the subject’s sex life, but rarely anything like enough about the other ever-interesting subject, the money-life. Mr Churchill’s Profession is a brilliant exception. Clarke has thoroughly scrutinized Churchill’s personal finances by way of his correspondence, his bank account, his tax returns and even his predictably impressive wine merchant’s bills (running annually at “about three times the earnings of a male manual worker at the time”).

20/07/2012

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The Guardian

David Reynolds

[A] fascinating, erudite and witty book … Clarke shows that the draft of A History that was put on one side in 1940, though assembled by assistants, was essentially Churchill's work, which expressed his Whiggish conception of English history as an unfolding story of liberty and representative government, now spread across the seas to North America and the Antipodes.

21/07/2012

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The Literary Review

Paul Addison

Clarke's book is a scholarly gem: polished and sparkling and a lasting contribution to our understanding of Churchill. As literary biography, which the title seems to promise, it is more limited. This is partly because Churchill's many other works are only sketched in comparatively brief outline, and partly because the History itself was untypical of his output. Churchill had a passion for military history. With the exception of Lord Randolph Churchill, his most important books featured battles and campaigns recounted in great detail, profusely illustrated with maps, and based on original documents. This is not Clarke's territory. A historian of ideas and personalities, with a strong affinity for the Liberal tradition in British politics, he gives us Churchill the Whig historian and literary buccaneer. But this is a criticism of his title rather than his book. Perhaps the most significant conclusion to be drawn from it is that in politics, as in finance, Churchill was a gambler.

01/07/2012

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The Sunday Telegraph

James Owen

Clarke searches hard for evidence that [the writing of A History] shaped the Prime Minister’s wartime rhetoric, although what rises to the top is Churchill’s sense of his and Britain’s manifest destiny. Clarke is on surer ground in revealing that The English-Speaking Peoples was a collaborative effort, substantially recast by other hands as Churchill’s powers waned. Despite its huge sales, one suspects that it is little read now, but it is a tribute to his protean personality, and to Clarke’s diligent scholarship and elegant narration, that every aspect of his life remains eternally fascinating.

18/07/2012

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The Financial Times

Andrew Roberts

Clarke isn’t much of a fan of the Anglo-American special relationship but Mr Churchill’s Profession is, nonetheless, a good book about the literary work that provides its most powerful emotional underpinning.

26/05/2012

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The Independent

Richard Vinen

This book has many virtues. It ranges widely, draws on great erudition and is often written with panache. However, it also a rather ramshackle work: neither a clear synthesis nor an original piece of research. I got the sense of a book knocked off rather quickly with an eye on the appeal that the Churchill name has in the American market, and that Clarke was relying too much on his reputation. His book is, in short, rather like many of Winston Churchill's.

07/07/2012

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