"I seize this fleeting hour of leisure to write and tell you how much I liked our long talk on Sunday," Winston Churchill wrote to Clementine Hozier in April 1908, shortly after their third meeting, "and what a comfort and pleasure it was to me to meet a girl with so much intellectual quality and such strong reserves of noble sentiment." They were married by September; he was 29, she 19. They would remain married--though, due to political circumstances, they were not always together--until his death in 1965. During that time, their daughter Mary Soames remarks, some 1,700 items of personal correspondence passed between the two. Winston and Clementine is far from a complete collection, but it does offer a comprehensive overview of their epistolary relationship and the deep love and mutual respect upon which their marriage was based. It may be somewhat disconcerting to see the man who stirred a nation to war with "blood, toil, tears, and sweat" and other memorable phrases sending "kisses to my sweet and beloved Clemmie cat," yet it also makes the imposing statesman seem more human.
Sometimes Clementine would send written messages to Winston even when they were together; it was an opportunity to gather her thoughts, or avoid taking up her husband's time with arguments when he was busy managing the war. In June 1940, for example, she told him that "there is a danger of your being generally disliked by your colleagues and subordinates because of your rough sarcastic and overbearing manner.... I cannot bear that those who serve the Country and yourself should not love you as well as admire and respect you." A few of the letters are accompanied by little cartoon animals that they would draw for each other: she always drew the posterior view of a sitting cat, while he would sketch pug dogs, and later pigs. Even toward the end, when they both had to deal with increased infirmity and tragedies among their children, they still found time to send "little love messages" to each other. Looking back at their marriage, with Soames's edifying commentary sprinkled throughout (as well as a quite well-done biographical dictionary), is an experience both revealing and touching.
From Library Journal
Soames, daughter of Winston and Clementine Churchill and author of other books on the family, has edited a collection of her parents' letters, some of them published here for the first time. From their marriage in 1908 until his death in 1965, the couple wrote letters, telegrams, and notes to each other on a regular basis. Interwoven with news of war and politics are the concerns about their children and family, endearments, chastisements, quarrels, and reconciliations that make up all marriages. Soames indicates which collection the letters are from, provides explanatory text and footnotes, and includes a biographical appendix with information on frequently mentioned people. She has also included some of the doodles and caricatures her parents often put in their letters. While not an essential purchase, this will be a welcome addition to public and academic libraries with strong Churchill collections.?Julie Still, Rutgers Univ., Camden, NJ
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