( One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
In the late 1980s Richard M. Langworth, historian and Executive Director of the U. S. branch of the International Churchill Societies, introduced Alistair Cooke at an ICS gathering.
Langworth's carefully researched, warm and admiring introduction highlighted Cooke’s more than fifty year career as a journalist, author, and erudite host of both Omnibus and Masterpiece Theater.
Langworth said that of all Cooke’s books, the one he most enjoyed is Six Men which profiles Charlie Chaplin, H. L. Mencken, Humphrey Bogart, Adlai Stevenson, Bertrand Russell and Edward VIII, each of whom Cooke knew well. Langworth then offered his listeners what he called his “last Cooke-ism:”
It is about King Edward that I offer my last Cooke- ism: the closing sentence of a portrait I think is unmatched, despite many excellent biographies, Edward VIII's own apologia and that of his wife. It is also the line invariably quoted to me: by anyone who has read Six Men.You can access Langworth’s introduction here. Cooke’s speech, “Churchill At The Time: A Retrospective,” is here.
"The most damning epitaph you can compose about Edward VIII," Mr. Cooke wrote, "as a Prince, as a King, as a man, is one that all comfortable people should cower from deserving: He was at his best only when the going was good." (Rather the opposite of a definition of Winston Churchill, which is perhaps why Churchillophiles remember it.)