(One of a series of weekday posts about the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
One day in 1899 twenty-four year old Winston Churchill, by then already a war veteran, published author, and a keen student of politics, visited Conservative Party headquarters in London. A distant relative and minor party functionary, Fitz Roy Stewart, had, at Churchill’s request, arranged for him to meet party leaders.
Now if you’re telling yourself, “I’ll bet the meeting had something to do with Churchill wanting party support for a seat in Parliament,” you’re right.
Party Manager Middleton, nicknamed “The Skipper,” assured Churchill the party would find a suitable opportunity for him.
We know all this because in 1930 Churchill, then age fifty-five, told us about it in My Early Life, his account of his first twenty-seven years.
And we know something else about his visit to Conservative Party headquarters because, with tongue-in-check and a wink to readers, Churchill told us what happened as he was leaving party headquarters:
On the way out I had another talk with Fitz Roy Stewart. My eye lighted upon a large book on his table on the cover of which was a label bearing the inscription “SPEAKERS WANTED.”It's wonderful to know people, especially famous people, who can poke fun at themselves and invite others to share in the fun.
I gazed upon this with wonder. Fancy that! Speakers were wanted and there was a bulky book of applications.
Now I had always wanted to make a speech; but I had never on any occasion great or small been invited or indeed allowed to do so. …
So I said to Fitz Roy Stewart, “Tell me about this. Do you mean to say there are a lot of meetings which want speakers?”
“Yes,” he replied; “the Skipper told me I was not to let you go without getting something out of you. Can’t I book you for one?”
I was deeply agitated. On the one hand I felt immense eagerness; on the other the keenest apprehension. However, in life’s steeplechase one must always jump the fences when they come.
Regaining such composure as I could and assuming an indifference contrary to my feelings, I replied that perhaps if all conditions were suitable and there was a real desire to hear me, I might be willing to accede to his request.
He opened the book.
Winston S. Churchill, My Early Years. Eland, published London, 2002 (pgs. 199-201)