Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Churchill Series - Apr. 7, 2009

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

Readers Note: This continues a 5-part series begun yesterday.


On August 3, 1929 Churchill, still a member of Parliament but out of Cabinet office following the Conservative’s defeat in the recent general election, sailed from Southampton bound for a two month trip to Canada and America. He was accompanied by his eighteen year old son, Randolph, his brother, Jack, and Jack’s son, Johnny.

Clementine couldn't accompany them because she'd had a tonsillectomy just before the trip and her physician strongly advised she remain in England to recover.

Churchill made the best of the situation by writing a series of letters to Clementine so she could "share" the trip with him.

He wrote the first letter a few hours after his ship left Southampton:

All departures from home – even on pleasure are sad. The vessel drifts away from the shore & an ever-widening gulf opens between one and the citadel of one’s life and soul. …

You are quite right not to make plans till you feel yourself again. But then surely there are lots of delightful alternatives. … Do not exclude the USA.

We are plodding across a calm Channel & this goes to you from Cherbourg.

I expect to do a lot of work – Certainly 2 articles before landing & to read copiously into Marlborough. …

Send me a wireless to mid-ocean to tell me how you are getting on.

With tender love
Your devoted
On August 8, with the ocean crossing nearing its end, Churchill wrote:
We have had a wonderfully good passage with only one day of unpleasant motion. …

The boys were called by the Captain at 6:30 a.m. to see a large iceberg – 150 ft. high – which passed at no great distance. They did not, however, wake me, which was a pity. …

There is a fine swimming pool on board where the youth of both sexes play water polo. I stick to the hot water. …
What thoughts passed through your mind as you read those parts of the letters?

I thought of the two sentences beginning “All departures from home …” and admired as always Churchill’s descriptive power.

“Send me a wireless to mid-ocean…” Today they’d be calling each other on their cells.
And we very proberbly wouldn't have the letters.

Also, Churchill and everyone else on board must have thought of the Titanic when they saw the iceberg 150 ft. above the waterline. It was less than 20 years since the Titanic went down; he knew many of those who perished.

In tomorrow’s post, Churchill and his party – he called it the “troupe” - arrive in Quebec. He’ll tour the city and take a drive in the countryside. He tells Clementine all about it. Then the troupe heads for Montreal and points West.
Speaking for Themselves: The Personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill. Edited by their daughter, Mary Soames. (pgs. 334-336)


Anonymous said...

It is a shame that the existence of cell phones and emails have almost made obsolete the hand written letter. My husband and I corresponded several times a week duing the summers when our college vacations saw us at our respective parents' homes (he in Pennsylvania, I in Missouri) as well as during our junior year abroad (he in German and I in England). Our correspondence touched on many things - the books we were reading, the work we were engaged in, the weather, music we listened to, etc. My husband often would illustrate his letters (he is very artistic). Our phone conversations were limited because long distance phone calls were expensive. I feel that those letters (which we still have) did much to cement our feelings for each other. We have taken delight in the fact that our oldest son, who will be married next year, and his fiancee often corresponded by letter (as well as by email and phone) and that our middle son and his girlfriend (though they skype, facebook, and text message) also write each other as well. I like to think that the habit of letter writing will remain a part of our family's DNA.