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Santiago Robinson
Santiago Robinson

Memoirs Of The Second World War: An Abridgement...

The "Moral of the Work" was first published in 1948 in Volume I of Churchill's six-volume history, The Second World War. The words appear prominently and alone on the page immediately following the author's Acknowledgements.In a cynical post-war world slipping inexorably into a new Cold War, perhaps some considered it banal or at least overly simplistic to ascribe any moral to the greatest conflict the world had yet seen. Churchill did not. Likely better than most, he well understood the often senseless and bloody chaos and vagaries inherent to the human condition. Precisely "because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations" did he recognize the vital role of purposeful resolve, reasoned defiance, and generous decency in public affairs, and of "rectitude and sincerity" in personal conduct (from Churchill's gracious wartime eulogy of his great pre-WWII political nemesis, Neville Chamberlain).The "Moral" testifies to both Churchill's own statecraft and to the failures of statecraft that precipitated the Second World War and would unfortunately persist in its wake.The words also trace a vital arch underpinning Churchill's political thought and character and spanning his public life. The guiding sentiments encapsulated by the "Moral" allowed Churchill, for all his reputed pugnacity, to achieve farsighted perspective and bridge material, empathetic, and intellectual differences throughout his long life.As early as 1906, Churchill expressed his thought in similar terms, "As we have triumphed, so we may be merciful; as we are strong, so we can afford to be generous" (21 March 1906 speech in the House of Commons).According to Churchill's Private Secretary and close associate, Eddie Marsh, Churchill first composed what became his "Moral of the Work" soon after the First World War as "a lapidary epigram on the spirit proper to a great nation on war and peace" (Marsh, A Number of People, p.152). As a tremendously fitting commentary on the failures of the victors to secure the post-WWI peace, Churchill was asked to pen an inscription for a French First World War memorial, but "The inscription was not accepted" (My Early Life, p.346).Churchill "had seen the danger of another war with Germany even before the first had entered its final phase. In articles published in both America and Britain during 1917, he insisted even then on far-reaching efforts to meet those German demands that were justifiable" (Woods, Artillery of Words, p.86).On 23 November 1919, only a year after Armistice Day and certainly long before the bitter sentiment of the victors had faded, Churchill wrote in the Illustrated Sunday Herald, "The reconstruction of the economic life of Germany is essential to our own peace and prosperity. We do not want a land of broken, scheming, disbanded armies, putting their hands to the sword because they cannot find the spade or the hammer." Churchill's warnings would be substantially ignored by the victors. Fourteen years later a defeated and desperate Germany would elect Adolph Hitler.Churchill's moral and pragmatic consistency as a statesman did not waver. In September 1946, in the wake of the war in which he was perhaps Germany's most implacable foe, Churchill would tell assembled European leaders: "The first step in the re-creation of the European family must be a partnership between France and Germany ... There can be no revival of Europe without... a spiritually great Germany." (Speech of 19 September 1946 at Zurich Universtiy advocating pan European integration to the embryonic Council of Europe)Seldom, if ever, has history endowed a statesman with both singular ability to make history, and singular ability to write it. Churchill wrote history both figuratively and literally. And on no page of history did Churchill make a more indelible mark than that of the Second World War.As with so much of what Churchill wrote, The Second World War is not "history" in the strictly academic, objectivist sense, but rather Churchill's perspective on history. In his March 1948 introduction to the first volume, Churchill himself made the disclaimer, "I do not describe it as history... it is a contribution to history..." Nonetheless the compelling fact remains, as stated by Churchill himself, "I am perhaps the only man who has passed through both the two supreme cataclysms of recorded history in high Cabinet office... I was for more than five years in this second struggle with Germany the Head of His Majesty's government. I write, therefore, from a different standpoint and with more authority than was possible in my earlier books."Certainly The Second World War may be regarded as an intensely personal and inherently biased history. Nonetheless, Churchill's work remains seminal, iconic, and a vital part of the historical record. Richard Langworth calls the six-volume epic "indispensable reading for anyone who seeks a true understanding of the war that made us what we are today."Churchill vexed his publishers with seemingly endless corrections and clarifications. It is often said that the U.S. publisher, Houghton Mifflin, ran out of patience with Churchill first. However, Churchill's Bibliographer Ronald Cohen attributes the precedence of the U.S. publication to less romantic reasons "legal and financial, and not at all editorial." Irrespective of the reason, the first U.S. volume, The Gathering Storm, was published 21 June 1948, making the U.S. edition the true first edition. The sixth and final U.S. first edition volume, Triumph and Tragedy, was published during Churchill's second and final Premiership in November 1953.The U.S. first editions are issued in a uniform red cloth stamped black and gilt. The colorful dust jackets are all printed in the same style, with a colored dust jacket and contrasting color spine title panel. Although the style is consistent, the jacket and title panel colors vary considerably with each volume. All six U.S. first edition dust jackets proved susceptible to fading, but particularly volumes I, II, and V.Two problems plague collectors seeking the U.S. first edition. First is the usual collector's conundrum - that they are scarce in collectible condition. In our experience collector-worthy U.S. first edition sets are considerably more scarce than their British counterparts.The second problem is the fact that the U.S. first edition is very similar in appearance to the concurrent Book-of-the-Month Club (BOMC) edition. The consequence is that many BOMC editions are passed - sometimes by accident, sometimes not - as first editions. First printings of the first edition should generally be distinguished by $6.00 prices on the dust jacket flaps, publication dates at the foot of the title pages, yellow-stained top edges, head and foot bands, and lack of a BOMC indentation on the rear cover. There is a multitude of small variations in particulars given the large print run. There are also rear flap differences between first and later state first printing dust jackets for Volumes I & II.A Canadian issue followed, offprinted from the U.S. edition, with Volume I published the same day as its U.S. counterpart. The Canadian first editions closely follow the appearance of the U.S. first edition. The volumes are bound in a darker red cloth, with the Canadian publisher - Thomas Allen - at the foot of the spines. The Canadian issue dust jackets are the same, apart from white panels on most at the foot of the jacket spines printed "THOMAS ALLEN LIMITED" within. As with the U.S. edition, there was apparently also a Canadian Book Club issue.The British first edition of Volume I was published in October 1948. The sixth and final British first edition also lagged its U.S. counterpart, being published in April 1954.The British first edition was issued in black cloth bindings stamped gilt on the spines with uniform dust jackets featuring varying color print and uniform red spine sub-titles on a grey background containing alternating rows of rampant lions and Churchill's initials. Jacketed British first edition sets in marginal condition are not uncommon. However, the coarse cloth bindings of this edition proved susceptible to soiling and mildew, the contents (printed on post-war economy standards paper) proved highly prone to spotting, the red-stained top edges are most often severely faded, and the dust jackets proved exceptionally vulnerable to severe spine toning. Consequently, superior jacketed sets have become scarce.

Memoirs of the Second World War: An Abridgement...



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