Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Churchill Series - July 17, 2008

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

Readers Note: In recent days there have been some generous comments made. My sincere thanks to the commenters.


With the help of Wikipedia, let’s recall today F. E. Smith, the man Churchill biographers consider to have been his closest friend. I’ve planned the post so we'll end it doing what Churchill and Smith often did when they were together: laughing.

From Wikipedia:

Frederick Edwin Smith, 1st Earl of Birkenhead, GCSI, PC (12 July 1872–30 September 1930) was a British Conservative statesman and lawyer of the early 20th century. He was a skilled orator, noted for his staunch opposition to Irish nationalism, his wit, pugnacious views, and hard living and drinking.

He is perhaps best remembered today as Winston Churchill's greatest personal and political friend until Birkenhead's untimely death at age 58.
After Birkenhead’s death, Churchill said he’d never once been with him without leaving better informed or wiser on at least one important matter. That’s quite a tribute coming as it did from one of the best informed and wisest men of the time.

Now to the laughter.

Again from Wikipedia:
About Bolshevism Smith observed:

"Nature has no cure for this sort of madness, though I have known a legacy from a rich relative works wonders."

On Winston Churchill:

"He has devoted the best years of his life to preparing his impromptu speeches." (When Churchill heard the remark he laughed, and afterwards would quote it to others. - JinC)

And in court as a barrister:

Judge: "I have read your case, Mr Smith, and I am no wiser now than I was when I started."

Smith: "Possibly not, My Lord, but much better informed."

Judge: "Are you trying to show contempt for this court, Mr Smith?"

Smith: "No, My Lord. I am attempting to conceal it."

Judge: "Have you ever heard of a saying by Bacon — the great Bacon — that youth and discretion are ill-wedded companions?"

Smith: "Yes, I have. And have you ever heard of a saying of Bacon — the great Bacon — that a much-talking judge is like an ill-tuned cymbal?"

Judge: "You are extremely offensive, young man!"

Smith: "As a matter of fact we both are; but I am trying to be, and you can't help it."

Judge: "Mr Smith, you must not direct the jury. What do you suppose I am on the bench for?"

Smith: "It is not for me, your honour, to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence."

Smith to witness: "So, you were as drunk as a judge?"

Judge (interjecting): "You mean as drunk as a lord?"

Smith: "Yes, My Lord."
Smith's Wikipedia biography is here.