As ex-Prime Minister Working on his History of the Second World War

Signed by Winston Churchill

Item: 18152
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CHURCHILL, WINSTON. (1874-1965). British statesman and Nobel Prize-winning author; Prime Minister from 1940-45 and 1951-55. TLS. (“Winston S. Churchill”). 1¼pp. 4to. London, November 5, 1949. Written on his Hyde Park Gate stationery to Churchill’s book editor and noted bibliophile DESMOND FLOWER (1907-1997).

“Thank you so much for your letter of October 19 and for the efforts you are making to get Volumes I and II reprinted in good time. I have given your copy of Volume I to Mr. Wood for him to read when he has the time between his other current work here. He says he will be able to read it by the date you give. Volume II, I gather, is not so urgent, but I will see that my various collaborators and Mr. Wood make the necessary corrections as soon as possible. Perhaps you will let me know a little later when you want Volume II ready for your printers. We are all at the moment being industrious with the final proofing here of Volume III. You will, all being well, get copies, through the Daily Telegraph, about the middle of November. I hope you will like it. Could you let me know some time how the sales of Volume II have gone, compared with Volume I…”

Winston Churchill


Churchill distinguished himself as a soldier, author and statesman, rising to the height of fame as Britain’s prime minister during World War II. From 1945, when the Labor party regained power, until 1951, when a Conservative victory again made him prime minister, Churchill continued to write and champion the cause of British security and world peace. It was during these years that he began his six-volume history, The Second World War, the subject of our letter, of which volume I is entitled The Gathering Storm and Volume II Their Finest Hour. Both were first published by U.S. publisher Houghton Mifflin, followed by Cassell in 1948 and 1949 respectively. Our letter refers to reprints of Volumes I and II as well as the final proofreading before the 1950 publication of Volume III, The Grand Alliance.

Mentioned by name is Churchill’s proofreader Charles C. Wood. “Wood was not popular with [Churchill’s] secretaries and was famous for picky editing and disagreeing with Churchill on the use of commas… Because Wood was a superb proof-reader, Churchill had him apply that talent to A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, The Second World War and Marlborough. From then on, Churchill used the phrase ‘wooding’ ‘for the process of proof-reading’ and Wood’s ‘green pen’ became famous among the teams working with Churchill,” (Working with Winston: The Unsung Women Behind Britain’s Greatest Statesman, Stelzer).

Despite contemplating a career in the antiquarian book world, Flower followed in his father’s footsteps, joining the venerable publishing firm of Cassell’s in 1930. “Almost the last thing that Flower did before joining the Army in 1940 was to prepare the first volume of Churchill’s wartime speeches,” (“Obituary: Desmond Flower,” The Independent, March 31, 1997). After the war, Flower returned to rebuild the war-torn Cassell’s. “In this, Churchill’s six-volume history The Second World War (1948-54) was a gigantic asset,” (ibid.). Our letter discusses the first three volumes of this work, which earned Churchill a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953. Written from his unique point of view, the book relied on the notes Churchill kept throughout the war. His access to official documents, agreed to by Prime Minister Clement Attlee, was controversial at the time and the book’s typescript was vetted prior to publication by Cabinet Secretary Norman Brook to ensure it did not reveal any official secrets, such as the government’s decryption efforts undertaken at Bletchley Park.

Cassell’s also published Churchill’s History of the English-Speaking Peoples, begun in 1937 and published between 1956 and 1958.

Written on one sheet of Hyde Park Gate stationery and one blank sheet. Folded with a file hole in the upper left corner as well as some staple holes. With the paragraph referring to Wood marked with a pencil in the left margin. In fine condition.

As ex-Prime Minister Working on his History of the Second World War

Signed by Winston Churchill

$2500 • item #18152

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