Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Churchill Series - Mar. 18, 2008

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

In historian John Keegan’s biography, Winston Churchill, Keegan quotes a passage from Churchill’s autobiography of his first 27 years, My Early Life.

Churchill tells us what happened when he got to the Latin portion of the Harrow entrance exam :

I wrote my name at the top of the page. I wrote down the number of the question, “1.” After much reflection I put a bracket around it, thus, “(1).”

But thereafter I could not think of anything connected with it that was either relevant or true.

Incidentally there arrived from nowhere in particular a blot and several smudges. I gazed for two whole hours at this sad spectacle; and then merciful ushers collected up my piece of foolscap and carried it up to the Headmaster’s table. (pgs. 25-26 in Keegan)
Churchill never learned much Latin at Harrow, into to which he was admitted most likely because he was Lord Randolph Churchill’s son.

But he said long afterwards that he'd learn there the structure and uses of the English sentence “which is a good thing indeed.” And as later used by Churchill, it became a powerful weapon in the cause of world freedom.


Anonymous said...

Although while an MP,there were complaints from members who hadn't attended "public",i.e. private schools about other members using Latin phrases that more 'common' folks didn't understand.Shortly thereafter WSC made a Latin quote ,then paused and added ,"I will translate for the benefit of those who attended"-hisses from the gallery,and a Puckish face,,"Eton".

mac said...
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JWM said...

Dear Corwin,

That's a great story and so like Churchill.

I appreciate hearing from you.

Dear Mac,

Well said.

Thank you both.