Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Churchill Series - Apr. 15, 2009

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

September 29, 1929 found Churchill visiting William Randolph Hearst at his California mansion, San Simeon. Later, in a letter to Clementine, Churchill had much to say about Hearst and the visit with him both at San Simeon and in Los Angles.

In one of the most interesting parts of the letter, Churchill, always a faithful husband, describes Hearst's "arrangement" of a legal wife and a mistress, Marion Davies:

Hearst was most interesting to meet, & I got to like him - a grave simple child - with no doubt a nasty temper - playing with the most costly toys.

A vast income always overspent: Ceaseless building & collecting not vy discriminatingly works of art: two magnificent establishments, two charming wives; complete indifference to public opinion, a strong liberal & democratic outlook, a 15 million daily circulation, oriental hospitalities, extreme personal courtesy (to us at any rate) & the appearance of a Quaker elder - or perhaps better Mormon elder.

I told you about Mrs. H. (the official) & how agreeable she made herself. She is going to give me a dinner in N.Y. & look after the boys [Churchill's son, Randolph, and his nephew, Johnny, were traveling with him as was Johnny's father, Churchill's brother Jack - JinC] on their way through.

At Los Angeles (hard g) we passed into the domain of Marion Davies; & were all charmed by her.

She is not strikingly beautiful nor impressive in any way. But her personality is most attractive; a childlike, bon enfant. She works all day at her films & retires to her palace on the ocean to bathe & entertain in the evenings.

She asked us to use her house as if it was our own. But we tasted its comforts & luxuries only sparingly, spending two nights there after enormous dinner parties in our honour.
There is much more in the letter, the text of which is available here along with a facsimile of its first two pages.

Have you ever seen Churchill’s handwriting? If not, here’s your chance.

Tomorrow Churchill starts off across America for New York. One of his stops is the Grand Canyon.