Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Churchill Series - Feb. 6, 2008

(One of a series of weekday posts about the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

It's an amusing exchange. I bet most of you know it:

In the first decade of the twentieth century, George Bernard Shaw, still smarting from Churchill's critical review of his previous play, sends Churchill a note just prior to the opening of his latest play: "Have reserved two tickets for first night. Come and bring a friend, if you have one."

Churchill writes back: "Impossible to come to first night. Will come to second night, if you have one."
Amusing, yes, but I'm not sure the exchange ever really happened. A number of reliable sources don't mention it, while most unreliable ones do.

But I have confidence in what I'm about to tell you now.

The famed political cartoonist David Low once remarked:
"Churchill is one of the few men I have met who... give me the impression of genius. Shaw is another. It is amusing to know that each thinks the other is much overrated!"
By October, 1950 Shaw and Churchill would no doubt have agreed that the public was low-rating them both. Shaw's works were then ridiculed by many critics while Churchill was struggling to win enough public support to assure him a return to the Prime Minister's office.

In those circumstances, Churchill learned that Shaw had been hospitalized. He sent him flowers and a warm note. Shaw sent back a copy of his newest book, Sixteen Half Sketches, along with a note in which he said:
"You need only read (a bit of it) as you and I are officially classed as ignoramuses."
For the Low quote, see The Churchill Centre's Contemporaries. (Here and scroll down)

For the exchange of notes ending with "ignoramuses," see Randolph S. Churchill, Winston S. Churchill: Young Statesman. (p. 1)