Jeeping with ‘Pete’ – a remarkable and truly singular portrait of Europe in August 1945

The broad sweep of history is something Winston Churchill comprehended and communicated with extraordinary facility. The proverbial “big picture”. Naturally, we value the commanding views of the few great figures who conspicuously shape events.  But the voices of the many who are quietly living history are often lost.  When we are able to hear them, such voices can impart a more intimate and richly textured human scale.

Which brings me to the subject of this post.

With genuine excitement, we have just catalogued a unique, handmade book in which the writer, photographer, and compiler, Dalton Newfield (1918-1982) chronicled – in words and photos – the impromptu, unsanctioned, and rather remarkable European tour by jeep in the days immediately following the surrender of Japan in August 1945.

It so happens that Dalton Newfield was later the world’s first Churchill-specialist bookseller.  He also became the senior editor of the International Churchill Society’s journal, Finest Hour.  But while this earns him our enduring respect and appreciation, it has little to do with why we are writing about Dalton today.

Dalton’s unpublished, previously unknown, and strikingly interesting little book, Jeeping with ‘Pete’ is 67 pages of often dense typed narrative illustrated with 87 original photos and 13 European postcards of the era.  It is bound in thick brown leather, which Dalton meticulously incised with the title on the front cover and bound with a metal strip.

During the Second World War, Dalton Newfield served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps.  After the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, Dalton decided to see Europe for himself in the war’s immediate aftermath.  Newfield took with him a lighter he engraved for every country he visited and the title’s eponymous “Pete” – his friend Peter Luppen.  His book records what he saw and how he saw it during an epic and improbable road trip.

Dalton’s prose is neither polished nor deliberatively philosophical, evidently typed as he went along and peppered with spelling, typing, and grammatical errors.  But there is pith and thoughtful observation evident in both his words and his photographs. Dalton’s photography is better than amateur and can be truly moving.

His images capture a diverse range of subjects.  Nuns in Paris.  Turbaned Moroccan soldiers posing with lederhosen-clad children in Austria.  Men excavating the rubble of a bombed town.  Allied edicts posted along the German border.  Abandoned vehicles on the Autobahn.  Boats laying quietly out of the water in a fishing port.  A disheveled little girl, small and barefoot in the bright sun with a shadowed stone wall and a darkened, bomb-damaged church in the background.

This was neither an official nor a sanctioned adventure. As Dalton observed: “Our orders are a bit questionable, as mine only carry me to Paris definitely and Petes don’t carry him to any particular place.”  Dalton explains “…we talked over our choice between going like hell and seeing a little bit of a lot of different places, and taking it easy and seeing a lot of a few… we chose the former…”  Dalton and Pete made a remarkable dash of a trek, crossing through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy.

Starting off in Cherbourg, France on 19 August 1945, the duo began their journey south to Paris. Along the way Dalton gives an affecting depiction of the ways in which life in small towns in France simultaneously showed the scars of the War’s technological assault and retained their nearly pre-industrial ways of life.  Photographs depict a liberation parade with revelers riding donkeys and floats pulled by horses.  A pair of fisherman bait their lines and coil them into baskets.  A town crier beats a drum to summon townsfolk, before delivering news. 

“…at the very end of the main street we found the town crier.  He was very shabbily dressed in remnants of what may have been great glory in the past.  Perhaps in peacetime he will recoup.  He had on a faded blue shirt and old, dirty, black trousers.  On his head a jaunty, if dusty, pillbox hat.  Across his chest a leather strap… at the end of which hung a snare drum…  I approached him and asked him for a picture.  He instantaneously assumed a proud position and posed nicely, for which I gave him one of my last two cigarettes.  Then he made a ruffle on the drums for about ten seconds, waited a half minute while the townspeople rolled out of the doors, and then announced something in rapid French…”

Dalton described post-liberation Parisian diversions; Dalton and Pete navigated a black market currency exchange in a “disreputable café”, attended a burlesque show in Pigalle (capturing two images of the topless and feathered dancers), saw an Agatha Christie play (“Ten Little Niggers”), and witnessed a fire dancer at an Officer’s Club.

Continuing east, Dalton paints a vivid picture of the devastation left behind by the war. “Following the coast line we began to see names that we had seen many times in the papers after D Day.  Trouville, Villerville, Deauville.”  He becomes a discerning connoisseur of carnage: “There are differences in wreckage.  The wreckage of bombing seems almost gentler than that by shelling… You can see that Caen was shelled.

While exploring a bombed church in Alsace-Lorraine, Dalton and Pete encountered a German-speaking priest, “a burly character with a days growth of beard too many…

“… he told us all about the battle there… He took us into his backyard and showed us the foxholes the Americans had used.  I felt quite humble as he picked up some cartridge cases, cases that had been fired against Germans.  A gas mask lay by the field a Sherman tank lay blasted…  Digging into the past he told us this was also the scene for a battle of the Franco-Prussian war… Then he showed us where a B17 had come down… But most of all, he told us of the late battle there and it was quite vivid… he showed us his garden, warning us away from one spot where two mines still lay… I gave him some cigars… and he was most grateful.  He was growing a row of “tabac” in the garden, he was so low.  Coming out into the reality of the time again, we found our jeep surrounded by kids and so passed out, one at a time, our last roll of Life Savers.  At the end of the line I found old grandma, who wanted her’s too.  The children cried “Merci” but grandmother said “Donkeshane”… we climbed into the jeep and slowly drove away… caught between two countries whose fate has been one war after another.”

They continued through Belgium and Luxembourg. Dalton’s comments show him curious and observant, but also clearly marked by the bitter sentiments of a soldier who has lost time, hearth, and comrades to an unforgiven foe.  Passing into Germany Dalton notes “we didn’t pause here, and to celebrate the new country for my lighter, I merely spat out the window.” In Germany, Dalton observed the devastation one would expect to find in August 1945: “The route from Homburg to Ludwigshaved is so littered with the wreckage of armored armies that it is nigh indescribable.  Almost bumper to bumper, and in many places several deep, the carcases of trucks, cars, and tanks line the way.”  Later, observing “burned-out tanks, Bren gun carriers, trucks, etc., all along way” Dalton says – perhaps inadvertently laconic and symbolic – “Occasionally they had been gathered into piles for salvage, but for the most part they lay as they died.  The farmers carefully plowed around them.

In Austria, while changing a particularly stubborn flat with help from the locals, Dalton observed: “I had a good chance to talk to these people.  We talked, of course, mostly about the war, and I found that what others are finding is true: it is always someone else to blame, never the person you are talking to.  The Fraulein had lost a brother at Stalingrad and her fiancée in France and was quite sorry. Her father she had not heard from since March.  I found myself sympathizing with her until I caught myself and started questioning her about Hitler.

A more philosophically unforgiving Dalton also observes of the Austrians: “They had only the choice of accepting or being killed or put in a concentration camp, so that they made the best of a bad thing… I left but in leaving thought: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet that it must be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?”

Where there are glints of sympathy for the volk, there is none for those who led them to war.  Crossing into Italy via the Brenner Pass, Dalton noted: “Someone casually mentioned that this was the room where Hitler met Musso, and so, sure enough, after questions we found that where we ate C rations with impunity, H and M talked and ate.  Hope their food stuck in their craws – ours didn’t.”

Despite the hardened perspectives that understandably informed and colored what Dalton saw, it is clear from his images and prose that the journey was affecting.  In the final pages of his narrative, Dalton enigmatically writes: “…so good that we are thinking – just thinking – that maybe – well, we shall see.

The book opens with Dalton’s carefully printed and signed title page and dedication:













Below the date is Dalton’s autograph.

At the end of Dalton’s narrative, below the word “FIN”, Dalton typed a postscript:

From ATC Hq., Place Vendrome, from where I start on the bus which leads to the plane which leads to England.

Just below that postscript, a second postscript, in different type evidently added later: 

“and my Eleanor ….who

retravelled this book in 1978

as my darling wife…

Dalton Newfield took from wartime Europe not only an abiding respect for Churchill, but also an English bride.  The final page of the book is a holograph postscript in the hand Dalton’s wife, Eleanor:

Peter Luppen died in 1974

of polio, leaving widow & two

young son.  Pete was history

Professor, Stanford University.

Lt Col Dalton Dalton Newfield died

March 23 1982 – leaving wife

Eleanor (Clauson) Newfield.

Their son (Rand) Randolph

Charles Dalton-Newfield

July 25 1950 – died Jan 4th1959

of cancer.

Dalton known around the world

as an expert on Winston S. Churchill.

We also include two additional photographs, of Dalton Newfield and Peter Luppen, which were found laid into the book, as well as eleven pages of what appears to be a later, unfinished, type-written attempt by Newfield to fictionalize the narrative.

It has been a pleasure and a privilege for us to review, relive, and relate the singular perspective and experiences compiled in this singular little book.  We look forward to relinquishing “Jeeping with Pete” to the stewardship of a new collector, ensuring the preservation and continued appreciation of the vivid and intimate vignettes therein.

Oops!  Borrowed words

Churchill may be the most quoted statesman ever.  That of course also makes him a frequently misquoted figure.  Mis-attribution even extends to quotes about him.

I’ve had a subscription to The Economist for the better part of 30 years.  While no single news source is oracular or decisively authoritative, I find The Economist to be the most consistently thoughtful and relentlessly insightful periodical of which I’m aware.

But in their 31 March edition, the venerable Economist bungled a quote about Churchill.  Moreover, they bungled it in an article that discussed plagiarism. In an extensive piece about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., (“Like a Mighty Stream”, March 31st2018, pp.81-83), The Economist wrote about Dr. King’s documented history of borrowing the words of others, even while rightly praising the power and efficacy of his oratory.  The comparison made in the article was to another of the 20thcentury’s great oratorical voices:

“If Winston Churchill “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle”, as JFK put it, King appropriated the language of Zion to dispatch armies of peaceful protesters in pursuit of their freedom.”

A lovely comparison.  Just one problem: JFK did not put it thus.  Edward R. Murrow did.

So an article that discussed misappropriation of language by a significant public figure was perpetuating misappropriation of language by a significant public figure.  Since it was about Churchill, of course we chimed in.

I wrote to The Economist thus:

Dear Editor,

 With delicious irony I noted an error of attribution in your piece “Like a mighty stream” in the Books and arts section of your March 31st2018 edition.  You referenced some of the plagiarism of which Dr. King has been accused. Then, in the same piece, you reference how “as JFK put it”, Winston Churchill “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle”.  Actually, that was how Edward R. Murrow put it, and how JFK plagiarized it when he conferred honorary U.S. citizenship on Churchill years later.  Though you may not have meant it thus, you provided an eloquent reminder that words can be well-borrowed, and that we should mind the ubiquitous glass houses when throwing stones.  Or so I think someone once said.

Marc Kuritz

San Diego

To their credit, as The Economist always does, they acknowledged in print.  Here’s what the folks at The Economist printed in their April 14th2018 edition (Letters, p.14)

You mentioned some of the plagiarism that King has been accused of.  But you referenced the quote that Winston Churchill “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle” to John F. Kennedy.  Actually, that was how Edward Murrow put it, and how JFK plagiarized it years later when he conferred honorary American citizenship on Churchill. You thus provided an eloquent reminder that words can e well-borrowed, and that we should mind the ubiquitous glasshouses when throwing stones.  Or so I think someone once said. 

Marc Kuritz

San Diego

Which brings us back to the quotable guy the quote was about.

Quoting Churchill can be fraught.  The internet is full of mangled and dubious Churchill quotations.  When quoting Churchill, we strongly recommend Richard Langworth’s most excellent book Churchill By Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations.  627 pages of well-organized, well-documented, well-indexed Churchill quotes that can be relied upon for veracity.

We might send a complimentary copy to The Economist



Churchill in Correspondence and Photographs

Why does a bookseller produce a catalogue full of letters and photographs?

Especially a bookseller who specializes in works by and about Winston Churchill?

It’s is not as if we lack material. Churchill left us a staggering volume of published work. More than perhaps any leader before or since, Churchill chronicled the arc of his vast experience, versatile mind, and the extraordinary time he so fully inhabited.

And he didn’t just write prolifically. He wrote with extraordinary grace, power, and skill. Churchill was a politician who managed to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

But even so…

Published work has limitations – limitations inherent to the very acts of drafting and editing, of expert input, careful consideration, and diligent preparation. Readying words for publication can dull and distance them even as they are polished. Render remote a compelling context. Deprive the immediacy of a moment or perspective. Leave the ink a little too dry on a paper that’s just a bit too clean.

Correspondence and photographs are different. More ephemeral. More candid. More distinctly in and of the moment. Able to impart a vital sense of things that no acclaimed book or carefully crafted speech – however Churchillian in its mastery – can quite capture.

So even though Churchill left us a wealth of published words and images, there is more yet to see, to learn, and – critically – to feel from letters and photographs.

Hence our new catalogue. 40 items spanning nearly the entirety of Churchill’s twentieth century experience, from 1903 to 1965.

Personal correspondence in our catalogue includes letters from, to, and about Churchill. Churchill’s own letters are to press moguls like Hearst and Northcliffe, to his publishers and literary team, and even to his paint supplier. Letters about Churchill are equally compelling.

Letters by General Sir Bindon Blood about Churchill’s first book. A letter from Churchill’s literary assistant threatening his publisher with “a second gathering storm about to break!” over typos in the first volume of The Second World War. And a particularly poignant letter observing Churchill at the Savoy Hotel in 1961.

Images are equally compelling. Among them… Press photos of Churchill learning to fly before the First World War.

An exciting discovery of unpublished photographic negatives of Churchill and Roosevelt from their 1943 conference in Quebec.

An archive of press photos from Churchill’s state funeral including annotated and edited images.

It has been a privilege to handle this material. We hope you enjoy perusing the catalogue as much as we enjoyed creating it.


Jeremy Wilson & T. E. Lawrence

In 2017, we lost Jeremy Wilson, the world’s leading authority on T. E. Lawrence. It was a blow to scholarship, to collectors, and to T. E. Lawrence himself, who may never have had anyone else so comprehendingly versed in, and dedicated to, his life and writing.

In his final years, I had the privilege of corresponding with Jeremy. It was a decidedly one-sided exchange in my favor. Of course we helped some Castle Hill Press inventory find the shelves of discerning readers and collectors. But the main benefit of our correspondence accrued to me, as Jeremy was unstintingly generous in sharing his inestimable knowledge and experience, which was always delivered with wit and decency.

In the early 1970s, Wilson edited an anthology of T. E. Lawrence’s favorite poems (Minorities). This catalyzed Wilson’s appointment by A. W. Lawrence as the authorized biographer of his elder brother, T. E. Lawrence. Wilson devoted the remainder of his professional life and scholarship to Lawrence. In 1990, Wilson published Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorized Biography of T. E. Lawrence to wide acclaim. That same year, Wilson and his wife, Nicole, set up Castle Hill Press to edit and publish scholarly editions of Lawrence’s works and correspondence. For the next quarter of a century, Castle Hill Press served as the premier editors and fine press publishers of material by and about T. E. Lawrence, combining meticulous scholarship and discriminating aesthetic sensibilities to produce a dazzling array of limited editions of Lawrence literature, biographies, and correspondence. Each edition has become instantly collectible upon publication. Many of these editions, or constituent parts thereof, had never before been published.

It is difficult to single out any one accomplishment in the accumulated trove of Jeremy and Nicole Wilson’s Castle Hill press publications. Nonetheless, in my view perhaps their single most remarkable achievement was the 1997 publication of the fullest surviving 1922 ‘Oxford’ text of Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

When Lawrence died in 1935 following a motorcycle crash, his masterwork was rushed into print in the only version readily available – the 1926 “Subscribers” abridgement.  That 250,000-word text released to the world as “Complete and Unabridged” was neither. But it sold very well, so the publishers long resisted publishing the full, 334,500-word 1922 “Oxford Text”, which “could only be a direct commercial threat to the highly profitable investment they had already made.” Incredibly, this 1922 text had to wait three quarters of a century to see publication; the 1922 “Oxford Text” – a third longer – was not published until 1997 when Castle Hill Press finally brought it to the reading public.

Beyond the more subjective questions of literature, in terms of both autobiography and history, “the 1922 text is, without question, superior to that of 1926. In the process of ‘literary’ abridgement, Lawrence cut out numerous personal reflections, some of which were important.” For example, the 1926 text excised Lawrence’s “confession that the flogging at Deraa left him with a masochistic longing… and his recollection of this event a few weeks later when he was present at Allenby’s official entry into Jerusalem. The historical record, likewise often fell victim to abridgement… because of the cuts, [the narrative] does not always account for Lawrence’s time or seem to square with independent records. Worse still, the frustrations and abandoned plans of 1917-18 were largely suppressed in the 1926 text…”

Since it was first published in 1997, the remarkable Castle Hill Press edition of the 1922 Oxford text of Seven Pillars has seen a two-volume limited edition (with accompanying illustrations volume), a one-volume limited edition, a hardcover trade edition, and finally, paperback editions. However, the hallmark is and will remain the first twenty sets produced by Castle Hill Press. For these twenty sets, Castle Hill Press spared no effort or expense, either in meticulous erudition or superb craftsmanship.

The first twenty sets comprise six volumes and a clamshell folio, all housed in two cloth Solander cases.

Two volumes containing the 1922 text are bound by The Fine Bindery in a specially commissioned design of full tan and blue goatskin with dark pink marbled calf onlay, all edges gilt, hand-sewn head and tail bands, leather joints, and suede doublures.

Two volumes containing parallel presentation of the 1922 and 1926 texts are bound in quarter brown goatskin over brown cloth with hand-marbled endpapers and gilt top edges. A single volume containing the eight chapters of the Introductory Book of Seven Pillars in parallel 1924/1936 text is likewise bound in quarter brown goatskin.

A companion volume of illustrations is bound in full black blind-ruled goatskin with all edges gilt and illustrated endpapers. An internal box contains an unbound proof set of the Seven Pillars portraits.

Each of the twenty sets was hand-numbered in both the main text and parallel text volumes and signed by Jeremy Wilson. The set is a simply magnificent shelf presence, a monument to both the author and publisher that made it *almost* worth the 75-year wait.

Despite the superlative bindings, Jeremy Wilson himself stated “the most important thing was the text.” Preparation of the text was meticulous, taking advantage of Wilson’s knowledge as the foremost scholarly authority on T. E. Lawrence:

“My aim in preparing the 1922 Text for publication was to issue it in its ‘best’ form. The initial typesetting was based on Lawrence’s corrected Oxford Times proof. This was then checked against the Bodleian Library manuscript to correct the printer’s many transcription errors and ‘house style’ punctuation changes. I also restored printer’s omissions not corrected by Lawrence, two of which are of considerable interest. At the end of this process, the text published by Castle Hill Press was considerably more accurate than the text of the 1922 Oxford Times proofs.

However, I found that in addition to straight corrections, Lawrence had made some hundreds of amendments on his copy of the printed text. These were clearly intended as textual improvements, and I decided to retain them. That produced a version which incorporates his final revisions to the 1922 draft, and is superior both to the manuscript and to the surviving Oxford Times proofs. Finally, the book was lightly copy-edited to remove the grammatical and punctuation errors inevitable in a manuscript, and also to eliminate Lawrence’s random variations in capitalisation and Arabic transliteration.”

When preparing the limited editions of the Oxford Text, Castle Hill Press also undertook the painstaking, mammoth task of creating a parallel text editon – two large volumes containing complete texts of the 1922 and 1926 versions, typeset side-by-side in double columns. This double-column format aligns the beginning of each sentence that exists in both texts so that readers can see at a glance exactly what was omitted and what was revised, illuminating the significant differences in style and content between the two texts. The parallel text is not only a wonderful work of scholarship, but it also shows why publication of the 1922 text was so important to publish. Just 37 numbered sets of parallel text were produced, the first twenty of which were specially bound and included with the first twenty special sets.

Issued twenty years ago, the first twenty sets produced by Castle Hill Press count, in the opinion of this writer, bookseller, and book collector, among the most noteworthy pieces of twentieth century fine press production.

For the first time, we are able to offer one of these twenty sets, #18, which we acquired from the library of the original subscriber in pristine, as-new condition and which may be viewed HERE. Our full inventory of Castle Hill Press listings may be viewed HERE and our entire T. E. Lawrence inventory HERE.

Poem for the Holidays

This time of year always makes my southern California home feel furthest from my Northeast roots. It is always Robert Frost who brings me to my source.

This season, I have the good fortune to have an evolving draft of a poem written in Frost’s own hand to tell you about – and what’s more, it is a poem appropriate to the spirit of the season. But first, a bit more about Frost for the benefit of those of you unfamiliar.

Great literature is full of contradictions. So it is that the quintessential poetic voice of New England was actually born in San Francisco and first published in England. Iconic American poet Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963) would ultimately win the Pulitzer Prize four times and spend the final decades of his life as “the most highly esteemed American poet of the twentieth century” – but he did not publish his first volume of poetry until he was nearly forty years old. It was titled A Boy’s Will – another irony for a father by then approaching middle age.

When Frost was eleven, his newly widowed mother moved east to Salem, New Hampshire, to resume a teaching career. There Frost swiftly found his poetic voice, infused by New England scenes and sensibilities. Promising as a student and writer, Frost nonetheless dropped out of both Dartmouth and Harvard, supporting himself and a young family by teaching and farming.

It was a 1912 move to England with his wife and children – “the place to be poor and to write poems” – that finally catalyzed his recognition as a noteworthy American poet. The manuscript of A Boy’s Will was completed in England and accepted for publication by David Nutt on 1 April 1913. Yeats pronounced the poetry “the best written in America for some time” and Frost received “two extraordinary tributes in the Nation and the Chicago Dial and a superb review in the Academy.” (ANB) A convocation of critical recognition, introduction to other writers, and creative energy supported the English publication of Frost’s second book, North of Boston, in 1914, after which “Frost’s reputation as a leading poet had been firmly established in England, and Henry Holt of New York had agreed to publish his books in America.”

Accolades met his return to America at the end of 1914 and by 1917 a move to Amherst “launched him on the twofold career he would lead for the rest of his life: teaching whatever “subjects” he pleased at a congenial college… and “barding around,” his term for “saying” poems in a conversational performance.” (ANB) By 1924 he had won the first of his eventual four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry (1931, 1937, and 1943). Fame and a host of academic and civic honors accreted during Frost’s final decades. Two years before his death he became the first poet to read in the program of a U.S. Presidential inauguration (Kennedy, January 1961).

All of which is by way of introducing a poem.

It was not uncommon for Frost to inscribe his books with excerpts from his poems. But we recently acquired a particularly special copy – an American first edition of the author’s first published book inscribed by Frost on the front free endpaper in 10 lines with the full text of the evolving draft of an untitled poem that would be published in 1928’s West-Running Brook as “A Minor Bird”.

The full inscription reads: “I have wished a bird would fly away | And not sing by my house all day, | Have clapped my hands at him from the door | When it seemed as if I could bear no more. | The fault may partly have been in me. | The bird was not to blame for his key. | And of course there must be something wrong | In wanting to silence any song. | Robert Frost | For Elizabeth & Ten Eyck Perry”.

Significantly, this untitled manuscript version of “A Minor Bird” is an evolving draft, following the poem’s first publication in Inlander magazine (of the University of Michigan) in 1926, but preceding the first volume publication in 1928. When published in Inlander, the poem read “may” instead of “must” at line 5, “I own” instead of “of course” in line 7, and in the final, 8th line “ever wanting to silence song” instead of “wanting to silence any song.” This manuscript copy reflects the changes to lines 7 & 8, but does not yet incorporate the change to line 5. The difference between “must” and “may” is substantive, at both the physical and literary center of the poem.

Consonant with the evolving draft, this copy was likely inscribed in November 1927, placing it squarely between the original, 1926 publication in Inlander and publication in West-Running Brook (19 November 1928). We were able to confirm that Henry Ten Eyck Perry (1890-1973), a native of Albany, New York, was a writer and professor of English. Ten Eyck Perry graduated from Yale in 1912, received his doctorate from Harvard in 1918, published a number of books, and taught English at the University of Buffalo. There he apparently interacted with at least one other major American poet; T.S. Eliot wrote in a letter of 26 December 1932 that he was to visit “Buffallo or is it Buffalo Bufallo Bufaloo to stay with Professor Henry Ten Eyck Perry.” The marriage of Elizabeth Ten Eyck Perry (nee Elizabeth McAfee, 1888-1976) led to her involvement with the University of Buffalo, where she was the founding president of the Women’s Club in 1946. In the University of Buffalo’s archives we find reference to two visits from Robert Frost, once to deliver a lecture in 1921 and for a three day stay in 1927. This inscription was likely made in November of 1927, when Frost visited the University of Buffalo as “poet in residence”. The school’s newspaper notes that during his three day visit he had office hours and “his time [was] at the service of students, faculty, and to a certain extent of townspeople.”

It was a particular pleasure to research this particular poem at this particular time of year. The “Minor Bird” is eponymous (and synonymous) with the myna (or mynah) bird, which can mimic human speech. “Song” is a repeated metaphor used by Frost for creative, free expression. Hence, we can infer the author criticizing the impulse to stifle creative expression – a churlish impulse as endemically human as is the urge to creative expression itself. Particularly lovely is that the author chooses to recognize and criticize the impulse in himself. And that this evolving draft shows him making that self-admonition more definitive with the changes that had already been made, as well as the final change – “may” to “must” in line 5 – that had yet to be made when Frost penned this inscription in 1927.

To me, the poem is a conch shell of spiraling, widening, opening awareness.

The poet, in the midst of creative expression, acknowledging the dynamic tension between creation and judgement, his reflexive chastisement of competing voices yielding to acknowledgement and acceptance. The recognition of himself in “any song” which allows him to hear – and thus to give voice himself.

For the season, I found it even more bracing than “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and a gentle reminder that I, too, have “miles to go before I sleep” – in patience, in understanding, and, if I am fortunate, in hearing the chorus that enfolds and enriches my own voice.


The Hunt

The thing to understand about collectors is that we often love the hunt as much as the having.

In the pantheon of ancient Greek gods, Athena would seem the likely favorite for those who love books. She was goddess of wisdom. And don’t get me wrong; I like Athena. But, I’m a book collector, so it is hard for me not to give a nod to Artemis. Because Artemis was goddess of the hunt.

The gentle disquiet of relentless pursuit. The holding of knowledge and resources in a state of readiness. The certainty of the right target and moment. These little rituals of anticipation and finding connect us to the items we put on our shelves. That connection makes us better stewards of the objects we covet. Perhaps, on occasion, we even become a little part of the story our books will carry with them when they pass to other hands.

As a bookseller, we get to share the hunt with you. We write today to share some favorite quarry.

NIC. This is one of our favorite labels for a Churchill-related publication. The “C” means Cohen. Ronald I. Cohen. Ron literally wrote the book on Churchill’s published works. Nearly 25 years of exhaustive research went into his indispensable three-volume, 2,183 page Bibliography of the Writings of Sir Winston Churchill.  Ron’s Bibliography seeks to detail every single edition, issue, state, printing, and variant of every printed work authored by, or with a contribution from, Winston S. Churchill. So when we find something Not-In-Cohen we get excited. Excited like we’ve stumped the teacher, rescued something from the consuming entropy of history, and gotten a present all at once.

Sometimes the object is a pamphlet or leaflet – an inherently ephemeral, fragile publication. The Winged Words pamphlet we recently offered, a previously unknown wartime publication of Churchill’s speeches, is a great example.

Sometimes it is a biggie, a major addition to the Churchill canon.

Seven years ago, my friend, fellow collector, and Churchill Book Collector partner, Paul, emailed me an image of a book for sale. It was the front cover of Liberalism and the Social Problem – Churchill’s third published book of speeches (after Mr. Brodrick’s Army and For Free Trade) published in 1909. But this copy was a paperback – what we bibliophiles call a “wraps issue”.

And it had the same striking half-tone photograph of the author found on the dust jacket of the hardcover first edition (only two substantially complete dust jackets are known to survive).

I confess to an ALL CAPS reply to Paul: “BUY IT. NOW. FOR WHATEVER IT COSTS.” It turned out to be what I’d hoped – something totally unknown and potentially unique. The publisher, Hodder & Stoughton, produced a wraps issue of My African Journey in 1908 (now extravagantly rare), but no wraps issue was known – or even presumed – for Liberalism and the Social Problem. Yet here it was, a publisher’s wraps issue of the second and final printing. Fittingly, it came to us from Glasgow. Scotland has a strong association with Churchill’s Liberal Party membership; during most of his time as a Liberal M.P., Churchill represented Dundee (1908 to 1922). It remains the only known surviving copy.

Sometimes the opportunity isn’t so obvious.

Dust jackets for any Churchill first edition prior to The World Crisis (1923-1931) are exceptionally rare. We’re talking perhaps less than a dozen jackets – total – known to survive for all of the first editions of Churchill’s early works spanning The Story of The Malakand Field Force through The People’s Rights. For some works, like Malakand, no dust jackets at all are known. That was the case for the U.S. first edition of Lord Randolph Churchill until 2009. At the time, we had our eye on a particularly fine U.S. first edition set. We look at a lot of books, but I kept going back to the images of this particular set because the bindings were brighter than any I had ever seen. Eventually, I noticed something odd in one of the images – paper very slightly protruding from the top of the text block. I had a wildly optimistic hunch; could it be that the dust jackets had long protected the bindings, which would account for their brightness? And if so, might it possibly be that when the dust jackets had torn or worn, a previous owner laid them inside the books instead of throwing them away? So I asked.

The good news: large portions of the original dust jackets were indeed safely tucked inside the books. The bad news: I had alerted the seller to their potential value. And this was an auction. And instead of just answering my question, the seller posted both my question and images of the jackets – a complete front flap, front face, and spine of one and a complete rear face and rear flap of another. My quiet inquiry sparked a bidding war which saw the price jump tenfold. Ouch. But another NIC was in the bag and previously unknown 1906 dust jackets were on the shelf.

Sometimes the discovery is not an unknown edition or jacket, but just an unknown fact that an apparently humble book can yield. Bibliographers have long stated that My African Journey was published in December 1908. But a few years ago we found an otherwise unexceptional copy with the original publisher’s review slip laid in – a review slip that stated a publication date of 30 November. This means that it was published not only the preceding month, but on Churchill’s birthday. Maybe I’m crazy, but I sold my own spectacularly fine copy of My African Journey and kept the review copy instead.

I confess to an impertinent child’s delight in inflicting NIC discoveries on Ron Cohen. But the thrill of the hunt goes beyond bibliography

We buy and sell all over the globe – literally dozens of countries on five continents. Despite the fact that home and inventory reside in San Diego, precious few of our finds or customers are proximate to us.


A few years ago, a San Diego customer approached us to sell a relatively modest collection of Churchill’s war speeches. He mentioned in passing that his father has some very early signed Churchill editions.

If I had a nickel for every rumor of a “very special” signed first edition…

Because of that cynicism, I almost flubbed it. I put off pursuing the matter, expecting it to be just one more proverbial goose chase. It was months before I heeded a reminder note to follow up with the customer and get in touch with his father. Honestly, I was not particularly diligent about the opportunity. It took still more months before we finally managed to connect. But we eventually did, and in the beachside home of this tremendously genteel fellow I was shown two remarkable items.

One was a spectacularly fine first printing, first state of Churchill’s first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force. The second was the U.S. first edition of Ian Hamilton’s March (which you can read more about HERE).

Both were signed by Churchill during his first lecture North American Lecture tour in December 1900/January 1901. And provenance was known for both, going all the way back to when the books were signed. I could search years for such books and not find them. These were sitting on a bookshelf not 10 miles from my library.

What’s the point of these trophy stories? Respect the hunt!

Master the arcane. Know the bibliographic detail of your subject better than anyone – or, more specifically, anyone else who might plausibly be hunting the same ground you are. Editions, printings, states, dust jackets, errata – all of it. And that’s just the books. Know the author, too. Where was the author at the time when this copy was allegedly signed and where and how did they typically sign? Know it all so that you know what you see when you see it and can act swiftly.

Time. Spend it. And what better way to spend it than on a quest? Devote an unreasonable amount of time to both your mastery and your hunt.

Obsess. Obsession just means you’re focused. Search. Diligently. Cleverly. Broadly. Intemperately. Relentlessly.

Of course, if this sounds untenable, you have another option; find a suitably knowledgeable and compulsive bookseller to hunt with and for you.

We humbly volunteer.

“The Truth” about Winston Churchill

In July 2015, we wrote about Churchill’s article “The Truth About Hitler” in the December 1935 issue of The Strand Magazine. (Read that post HERE.)

It seems overdue that we write about Churchill’s sequel and companion to that piece – his article “The Truth About Myself” in the January 1936 issue of The Strand Magazine. Just recently, we were preparing to list the first copy of this elusive article we have ever offered. So, with a glass of something brown in hand, I did something radical – I decided to sit down and read it. In the humble view of this Churchill aficionado it is one of the most compellingly revealing and introspective pieces of Churchill’s writing that I have seen in print.

It is also an aesthetically striking and substantial piece, filling eleven pages, profusely illustrated with 17 photographs and a caricature. The article is prominently advertised on the front cover, with the title and author printed in bright yellow on a red banner below an orating and gesticulating image of Churchill.

The counterpoint genesis of the article is not hard to fathom: “…it was as much as I know of the truth about him [Hitler]. And now the Editor wants me to write the truth about myself.” What is most remarkable about this article is how very non-Churchillian it struck me as being. Tonally heavy without the usual full measure of Churchillian wit and sparkle. Given the time, it is not surprising that Churchill used the article and the contrast to draw distinctions between pluralistic and dictatorial regimes. Nonetheless, the majority of the article does what is advertised and talks about Churchill himself: “…in thus revealing my feelings to you upon these great causes, I am perhaps straying too far from myself.”

The article reverberates with the ostracism and pressure directed at Churchill in the midst of his 1930s “wilderness years” in which he was out of power and out of favor, persistently warning about the growing Nazi threat and his countrymen’s complacency. Albeit with a touch of humor (“…it is only the solicitations of our Editor which have induced me to devote a whole article to my own personality… not only am I a modest, but also an extremely benevolent man.”), Churchill directly defends his record against the allegations of his detractors.

Against charges of inconsistency, Churchill states: “There are moments when I feel that I might make a case for being the only consistent politician.” Churchill then does just that, setting his own political evolutions in the context of the shifting political expediencies of others. He also defends his reputation as a contrarian: “…I have a tendency… to swim against the stream. I feel myself often irritated by the overstatement of any particular view… When I see… worshipful forces running in full cry together, my inclinations are to go the other way. I am sorry that it should be so…. However, that is how I feel instinctively.”

The striking, revealing bit is “I am sorry that it should be so.” Churchill even mitigates his strengths, confessing about his reputation as an orator: “The truth is that I am not a good speaker, and I only learned to speak, somehow or other, with exceptional difficulty and enormous practice.” The article is remarkable for oscillations between humble uncertainty and pugnacious self-confidence: “… I feel that most of my mistakes have been due to allowing my judgement to be overruled or deflected by other people’s stupid judgment.” It is in this context that Churchill defends the lingering stigma of the Dardanelles (“The disappointment of my life…”).

The article feels indelibly rooted in the middle of a decade that saw Churchill pass into his sixties with his own future as uncertain as that of his nation: “Young men ought to be ambitious… But such an experience as I have recorded is surely a cure for any form of personal ambition.” This is Churchill on the defensive – on topics ranging from hats (“I am usually caricatured with a tiny hat on my head… I do not delight in hats.”) to war-mongering (“Neither let me say do I delight in war…”)

The article reads almost as a tortuous journey back to self-affirmation: “I am proud to feel the glow of counter-attack. I am glad to spend what is left of my mortal span in trying to rouse the good and brave people of England and of Britain and of her Empire…” The Churchill of the final paragraphs finally evokes the indomitable strength that would see his country through war ahead: “Although I see so harshly the dark side of things, yet by a queer contradiction I awake each morning with new hope and energy revived… I mean to do my part in this while life and strength remain.”

Some time ago, I tried (alas, unsuccessfully) to buy an early draft of Robert Frost’s poem Nothing Gold Can Stay. Here’s the final published version:

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

I loved the early draft precisely because it was not anywhere as good as the final version. In fact, as I researched the poem, I realized there were multiple early known drafts. Successively, these drafts evolved and coalesced into the splendid piece of writing above. But first, they were just drafts, promising, but not quite. Things requiring further effort and alchemy, the mallet and chisel and moment to coax greatness from mere possibility.

Some think it is disrespectful or demeaning to look for the imperfections underpinning greatness. (I once had a colleague accuse me of “effrontery” and “snarking” for pointing out that Thomas Jefferson impregnated one of his slaves.) Others think it irrelevant – that only the brightest facet of greatness is worth beholding.   My own most fascinated regard is for the chancy, messy, iterative insistence of nascent greatness rather than the attainment of it.

I’m reading a lot into this article. Maybe it is the bottom of my glass talking, but it seems a window on the Churchill who might not have been, who was struggling to retain his essential faith in himself, feeling the purpose he needed gutter and dim and yet never go utterly “black dog” dark. A bereft but chin thrusting Churchill, bleeding ink and will, but abiding until his moment. I rather like him.

Friendship, Sex and the R.A.F. – a 1933 Letter from T.E. Lawrence

Why? It seems reasonable to ask. When an author leaves behind volumes of published work, what compels our attention to their mere correspondence? We write today to share an intriguing letter by T.E. Lawrence that helps answer the question.

Central to the life story of T. E. Lawrence (1888-1935) is his military odyssey in Arabia during the First World War. There he found fame as instigator, organizer, hero, and tragic figure of the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire. Lawrence began the First World War as an eccentric junior intelligence officer and ended as “Lawrence of Arabia.” This time defined Lawrence with indelible experience and celebrity which he would spend the rest of his famously short life struggling to reconcile and reject, to recount and repress.

However, Lawrence’s literary and intellectual reach far exceeded the world and words of Seven Pillars of Wisdom.  Lawrence’s friend and admirer Winston Churchill said:  “Lawrence had a full measure of the versatility of genius…  He was a savant as well as a soldier.  He was an archaeologist as well as a man of action.  He was an accomplished scholar as well as an Arab partisan.  He was a mechanic as well as a philosopher.  His background of somber experience and reflection only seemed to set forth more brightly the charm and gaiety of his companionship, and the generous majesty of his nature.”  (Great Contemporaries, p. 166)

Personal correspondence is ephemeral, unpolished, and personal in a manner fundamentally different than published literary works. Perhaps that is precisely why the brilliant, complex, and deeply conflicted facets of Lawrence’s character often glint most tantalizingly in his personal correspondence.

To the point is an original, autograph signed letter dated 2 March 1933 from T. E. Lawrence to his friend and fellow writer Henry Williamson. A mere 125 words long, the letter is nonetheless rich in both references and inferences. Penned at Mount Batten R.A.F. station, the letter is a window into Lawrence’s friendship with Williams, as well as his friendship with writer Robert Graves, and references Lawrence’s angst about ending his R.A.F. career. The letter also eerily presages correspondence regarding meeting with Williamson that would inadvertently precipitate Lawrence’s death a little more than two years later.

The letter is headed: Mount Batten | II.iii.33.

“Mount Batten” was a Royal Air Force station and flying boat base at Mount Batten, a peninsula in Plymouth Sound, Devon, England. A “small and isolated” station and “one of the most enjoyable of Lawrence’s postings.” (Wilson, Lawrence, p.850)

Lawrence himself described it as “about 100 airmen, pressed tightly on a rock half-awash in the Sound; a peninsula really, like a fossil lizard swimming from Mount batten golf-links across the harbor towards Plymouth town. The sea is thirty yards from out hut one way, and seventy yards the other.” (Letter of 20 March 1929)

Lawrence writes:

Dear H. W. | Your letters made me laugh, and then | think hard. You are really two entirely different people,| and if only they could come together what a book we | should have!

“H. W.” is the English writer Henry William Williamson (1895-1977). The “You really are two entirely different people, and if only they could come together…” comment is fascinating. Williamson was “a skillful and supremely observant writer, but nevertheless a man who was introspective, egocentric, insecure, and intensely lonely” – words which could easily be used to characterize Lawrence himself. This is not an incidental parallel. It is interesting that Lawrence’s official biographer, Jeremy Wilson, also observed that from Williamon’s letters “it seems to me that Williamson allowed reality and fantasy to intermingle in his everyday thinking. When that happened, the first casualty… was often the truth. Nevertheless, there were other times when he could write with disarming honesty and self-criticism.” (Wilson, T.E. Lawrence Correspondence with Henry Williamson, p.xii)

When Lawrence read Henry Williamson’s Tarka the Otter in 1928, he recognized that its author had extraordinary descriptive power: ‘I put Williamson very high as a writer,’ he later wrote. From this beginning grew a significant correspondence that lasted until Lawrence’s death in 1935. “While the two were different in so many ways, the similarity that Williamson sensed was real. He was writing to someone he could understand.” Williamson damaged the relationship in 1933 by including Lawrence, unasked, as a character called ‘G.B. Everest’ in The Gold Falcon – even quoting from his letters. Though Lawrence made light of it, his uneasy relationship with publicity and the need to avoid it in order to remain in the R.A.F. ranks put constraints on the friendship. Williamson’s disclosure of acute emotional distress associated with extra-marital entanglements did not help matters. But “Despite these reservations, there really was an unusual quality in their relationship.”

I didn’t answer because you said you were | coming, and now I am sorry you may not. I am | away from Thursday to Monday of next week – this week | it will be before the letter reaches you – but constantly in | the station for the rest.

It is eerie and fascinating to note that Lawrence’s correspondence with Williamson inadvertently precipitated Lawrence’s death. On 11 May 1935 Lawrence received a letter from Williamson proposing to call at Clouds Hill. “the only way Lawrence could be sure of getting a reply to Devon before Williamson set out was to send a telegram.” In mid-morning of 13 May, Lawrence rode his Brough to the post office at Bovington Camp and sent a wire to Williamson. On the way back to his cottage he suffered the accident that put him in a coma and, six days later, took his life. (Wilson, Lawrence, p.934)

My R.A.F. life is very near its end: not to let | it gutter away I am leaving voluntarily next month. | For what? Heaven knows.

In a state of nervous exhaustion following the First World War, his work on the post-war settlement, and writing and re-writing Seven Pillars of Wisdom, in 1922, Lawrence enlisted in the ranks of the R.A.F. under the name of John Hume Ross. Lawrence’s time with the R.A.F. proved remarkably revealing – of his talents, both literary and technical, and of the dynamic tension in his life between his need for quiet anonymity and his fame and engagement with the famous.

It is telling that The Mint, Lawrence’s unstintingly candid portrait about life in the Royal Air Force Ranks, paralleled Seven Pillars – with a tortuous writing, editing, and publishing history culminating in posthumous publication.

Lawrence’s celebrity – and perhaps, as well, his own conflicted feelings about his fame – was a constant threat to his R.A.F life. Though Lawrence references “next month”, he actually submitted his formal request for discharge on 6 March 1933, just four days after he wrote this letter to Williamson: “I, No.338171 A/C Shaw, E., respectfully request that I may be granted an interview with the Commanding Officer, to ask him to forward my application to be released from further service in the Royal Air Force as from the sixth of April, 1933.” The request was granted (though on 19 April Lawrence withdrew his discharge application when offered a posting to the RAF Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment at Felixstowe, where he was again able to work on RAF boats.)

Graves has been very good. Then family jars and | two women overset him. He will recover, I think.

“Graves” is Robert von Ranke Graves (1895-1985), the English poet and novelist, with whom Lawrence had a difficult relationship at this time, owing in no small part because of Graves’s romantic relationship with the writer Laura Riding (1901-1991). The reference to Graves indicates Lawrence’s complicated and uncomfortable relationship with sexuality. Lawrence’s official biographer, Jeremy Wilson, confirms Lawrence’s feelings about Laura Riding: “Lawrence disliked Laura Riding intensely.” Wilson also confirms that the root of Lawrence’s dislike was sexual: Lawrence “felt that both of them had allowed their lives to be dominated by carnality”. (Wilson, Lawrence, p.870) Lawrence had written of the couple in a 1929 letter: “I cannot have patience with people who tickle up their sex until it seems to fill all their lives and bodies.”

The other of the “two women” referenced is likely Nancy Nicholson, Graves’s wife; the three had untenably cohabitated until the menage was upended and Nicholson was left to raise her and Graves’s children alone.

Equally of note, in 1934 Lawrence was similarly put off by Williamson’s emotional disclosure about romantic entanglements.

A cut hand: so I can’t write properly.


It is difficult to just take the postscript literally and not to regard the metaphor for a man who was as brilliant, gifted, and accomplished as he was damaged, confined by his own demons and ultimately cut short in both life and letters.

We offer this letter for sale HERE.

Churchill’s friendship with painter Paul Maze

“Paint like you write or speak. You can do it – every stroke of the brush must be a statement felt & seen…”

  • Paul Maze, letter to Winston Churchill, 12 November 1936

As a wordsmith, Churchill was famous for weaving seemingly disparate threads of history and experience, sentiment and perspective to create a cogent and compelling vision. So perhaps it should not be surprising that Churchill was an accomplished and devoted amateur painter; for Churchill, compellingly sharing his perspective was literal as well as figurative, and recreation as well as vocation.

Churchill first took up painting during the First World War. May 1915 saw Churchill scapegoated for failure in the Dardanelles and slaughter at Gallipoli and forced from his Cabinet position at the Admiralty. By November 1915 Churchill was serving at the Front, leading a battalion in the trenches. But during the summer of 1915, as he battled depression, he rented Hoe Farm in Surrey, which he frequented with his wife and three children. One day in June, Churchill noticed his brother’s wife, Gwendeline, sketching in watercolors. Churchill borrowed her brush and swiftly found solace in painting, which would be a passion and source of release and renewal for the remaining half century of his long life.

This passion would bind Churchill to French-born painter Paul Maze, Churchill’s close friend, “companion of the brush” and artistic mentor, known as the “last of the Impressionists”. This blog post is prompted by our recent acquisition of a first edition set of Churchill’s Marlborough, inscribed by Churchill to Maze (discussed at the end of this post).

Paul Lucien Maze (1887-1979) was regarded as one of the great artists of his generation and “learned the rudiments of painting from family friends that included Renoir, Monet, Dufy and Pissarro.” His work is held in the collections of many major galleries including The Tate Gallery, the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum.

Though born in La Havre, Maze was sent to school in Southampton, “where he began a lifelong love affair with all things English.” During the First World War Maze served as an interpreter and engaged in dangerous reconnaissance “as a non-commissioned liaison officer with the British Expeditionary force, using his sketching skills with great bravery to document landscape details in advance of action.” (Coombs, Sir Winston Churchill’s Life Through His Paintings, p.146) He was wounded several times and highly decorated (awarded the DCM, MM and Bar, Legion d’Honneur, and Croix de Guerre). Maze met Churchill on the Western Front in 1916. Churchill had only recently discovered painting, the passion which Maze would encourage and guide as both friend and mentor for the rest of Churchill’s life. Along with Charles Montag, Maze became one of Churchill’s two most important “companions of the brush.”

Maze was naturalized as a British subject in 1920 after marrying the widow of a wartime friend and “took to painting the London scene with great enthusiasm, relishing, like so many French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, the fogs and dingy back streets as much as the pageantry and grandeur of the City’s setting.”

Churchill’s official Biographer, Martin Gilbert, called Maze “One of Churchill’s closest French friends.” (Gilbert, VI, p.856) This friendship transcended painting, as is evident from shared moments, perspective, and correspondence between them during Churchill’s 1930s “wilderness years”.

Winston Churchill’s monumental biography of his great ancestor, John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, took 10 years of research and writing and is Churchill’s most substantial published work of the 1930s. This decade saw Churchill pass into his sixties with his own future as uncertain as that of his nation. Churchill may have wondered more than once if the life history he was writing about a great ancestor might ultimately eclipse his own.

Maze, too, was writing about the past. In 1934, the year after Churchill inscribed a copy of his first volume of Marlborough to Maze, Churchill contributed a Foreword to Maze’s First World War memoirs, A Frenchman in Khaki. Churchill wrote: “we have the battle-scenes of Armageddon recorded by one who not only loved the fighting troops and shared their perils, but perceived the beauties of light and shade, of form and colour, of which even the horrors of war cannot rob the progress of the sun.”

Richard Langworth has written “To understand the Churchill of the Second World War, the majestic blending of his commanding English with historical precedent, one has to read Marlborough.”

Maze knew and regarded this Churchill – the statesman and wordsmith – just as well as Churchill the painter.

In 1936, while Churchill was still fully engaged in writing Marlborough, he was also publishing articles on the growing Nazi threat. (“Marlborough alone is a crusher – then there are always articles to boil the pot!” 1/7/1937 letter to Clementine) Maze, who shared his friend’s concerns, wrote to Churchill on 13 March 1936 “How right you have been, as events alas now prove. The public is slowly beginning to see it… Do write to the papers all you can… Keep well – England needs you now more than ever…”

In 12 November 1936, Maze attended the House of Commons to watch Churchill speak and wrote to him afterwards: “I was thrilled by every word you said in the House yesterday – as I went down, the usher downstairs said to me ‘you chose a good day to come, he is always fine – none left like him – he always does one good’. I nearly embraced him – I feel so much what he said! I have sent you some brushes… Paint like you write or speak. You can do it – every stroke of the brush must be a statement felt & seen…”

On the eve of war in 1939, Churchill wrote a Foreword to the catalogue of his friend’s first New York exhibition: “With the fewest of strokes, he can create an impression at once true and beautiful. Here is no toiling seeker after preconceived effects, but a vivid and powerful interpreter to us of the forces and harmony of Nature.”

 Later that year, on 20 August 1939, Churchill was painting alongside Maze (at Chateau de Saint-Georges-Motel) when he “suddenly turned” to his friend and said: “This is the last picture we shall paint in peace for a very long time.”

Maze recorded:

“What amazed me was his concentration over his painting. No one but he could have understood more what the possibility of war meant, and how ill prepared we were. As he worked, he would now and then make statements as to the relative strengths of the German Army or the French Army. ‘They are strong, I tell you, they are strong,’ he would say. Then his jaw would clench his large cigar, and I felt the determination of his will. ‘Ah’ he would say, ‘with it all, we shall have him.’”

Maze recorded that Churchill was depressed as he left: “I had written a letter to him ‘only to read when he was over the Channel’: ‘Don’t worry Winston you know that you will be Prime Minister and lead us to victory…’” (Gilbert, V, p.1103)

On 1 September Nazi Germany invaded Poland and on 3 September Churchill returned to the Admiralty and to war. In May 1940 Churchill became wartime Prime Minister. The next month, Maze “managed to escape through Bordeaux… bringing with him a convoy of orphans.” Maze would serve in the Home Guard in Hampshire before serving as an RAF staff officer. (Gilbert, VI, p.857)

As Churchill’s wilderness years and his friendship with Paul Maze remind us, painting was doubtless a vital stillness in the great and turbulent sweep of Churchill’s otherwise tremendously public life. When he finally published a book on the subject in 1948, Churchill wrote of his and Maze’s shared passion: “Painting is a friend who makes no undue demands, excites to no exhausting pursuits, keeps faithful pace even with feeble steps, and holds her canvas as a screen between us and the envious eyes of Time or the surly advance of Decrepitude.” (Painting as a Pastime).

Post-war, Maze’s friendship with Churchill continued, as did the twining of their respective paths. Churchill served as Queen Elizabeth II’s first Prime Minister, Maze as the Official Painter of her Coronation. Maze was a frequent Chartwell guest, he and Churchill painting together into Churchill’s final years, both in England and in Maze’s native France.

The friendship was posthumously sealed by family alliance when, in 1979, Paul Maze’s grand-daughter, Jeanne Maze, married Winston Churchill’s first cousin once removed, Robert W.C. Spencer-Churchill.

Two months after Volume I was published, on 12 December 1933, T.E. Lawrence wrote to Churchill: “I finished it only yesterday.  I wish I had not… Marlborough has the big scene-painting, the informed pictures of men, the sober comment on political method, the humour, irony and understanding of your normal writing: but beyond that it shows more discipline and strength: and great dignity.  It is history, solemn and decorative.” Given the role of painting in settling and steadying Churchill during the turbulent 1930s, it is fascinatingly apt and trenchant that a fellow wordsmith like Lawrence would use the “scene-painting” metaphor.

We are pleased to have just listed a full, four-volume set of British first edition, first printings of Churchill’s Marlborough: His Life and Times inscribed in the first volume in the month of publication to Paul Maze. The four-line, inked inscription on the Volume I half-title reads: “Paul Maze | from | Winston S. Churchill | Oct. 1933”. The set is magnificently bound in full orange morocco (evocative of the Publisher’s original signed and limited issue of the first edition), featuring gilt-bordered, raised spine bands, brown morocco title and author labels, gilt front cover frame rules, beveled edge boards, head and foot bands, hand-marbled endpapers, and freshly gilt top edges, and tissue guard bound in preceding the inscription. The set is housed in a stout brown cloth slipcase with brown satin ribbon pull. A full description of the set may be found HERE.

Kipling’s “Plain Tales”

Among the trove of Kipling’s works we have recently catalogued and offered to our customers, you will not find this copy of Plain Tales from the Hills.

It is the prerogative of the bookseller to collect, and this copy has been appropriated to the collection of this bookseller.

Nearly everyone knows something of Kipling, even if they don’t know it as Kipling’s. Many have a favorite Kipling story or verse. I understand choosing one of Kipling’s Jungle Books or Kim, the poems “If” or “Recessional”, or even the Just So Stories. But for me, Kipling’s vital spark, the deliciously imperfect, often oblique light and shadow glint behind Kipling’s trademark round spectacles, resides in his Plain Tales from the Hills.

Plain Tales from the Hills was Kipling’s first prose collection, originally published in Calcutta when he had just turned twenty-two. The superficial summary is that the stories paint a picture of various different aspects of life in British India. To me, Plain Tales is Kipling finding his voice as an English Euripides, a voice at once both quintessentially of his culture and yet essentially, observationally, compellingly apart. This is the Kipling some would ignorantly veil as an icon of tradition, subtly weaving subversive patterns in the traditional fabric.

From 1882 to 1887 Kipling worked as a journalist in India for the Civil and Military Gazette. There, between 11 November 1886 and 10 June 1887, thirty-nine short stories appeared unattributed under the serial title “Plain Tales from the Hills“. Twenty-nine of those stories, along with eleven new ones, were published in January 1888 by Kipling’s Indian publisher, forming his second book-length work, following Departmental Ditties and Other Verses in 1886.

This particular first edition copy wears its colonial Indian roots with pride. It is the second issue, with the front cover illustration by Kipling’s father, John Lockwood Kipling, of a gated city on the plains below hills. The covers are mottled, with some insect bore holes, several of which penetrate the text within. But the binding and endpapers are original. On those endpapers (the front free endpaper) are Kipling’s initials and the date “July/89” and facing, affixed to the front pastedown, is the decorative bookplate of Nelson Doubleday.

1889 is the year Kipling left India for America, leaving behind “the sights and the sounds and the smells | That ran with our youth in the eye of the sun.” (“Song of the Wise Children” 1902)

Nelson Doubleday was the son of Frank Nelson Doubleday, Kipling’s friend and founder of the Doubleday publishing empire. F.N. Doubleday began work in the publishing industry working for Charles Scribner’s Sons. His 18-year career with Scribner’s included the task of assembling a complete set of Kipling’s works for publication in a collected edition in 1897. His work with Kipling on this endeavor sparked a friendship and partnership that lasted for decades. Kipling affectionately gave Doubleday the honorific nickname “Effendi”, a play on the initials of his name – F.N.D. It was Frank’s son, Nelson who, at age seven, wrote Kipling a precocious letter exhorting him to write more “Just So” stories and suggesting topics for same, thus catalyzing what would become one of Kipling’s most famous and enduring works. Nelson was president of the firm from 1922 to 1946, as was Nelson Jr., from 1978 to 1983.

This copy came to us from the Doubleday family library in a worn but lovely two-piece full leather case bearing the swastika on the front cover. Like perhaps India itself, the swastika serves to remind us that the world – and the words and symbols we use to engage and describe it – are far older than the transgressions and horrors of recent history. The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika, which means “good fortune”, and this ancient hooked cross symbol was used at least 5,000 years before being polluted by association with Hitler’s Reich.  It remains a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Odinism. The swastika is a symbol common to many editions of Kipling’s works and came to Kipling’s attention through his father’s encyclopaedic knowledge of Indian art.

Born in India, Kipling cut his literary teeth there as a newspaper editor and writer, and India’s vividness and vitality clearly proved indelible, both for Kipling and his readers.  Kipling was in his twenties when his stories of Anglo-Indian life made him a literary celebrity, and he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907 “in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author”. He was the first English language author awarded and remains the youngest person to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Beyond the transmogrifications of Disney films, Kipling is chiefly remembered for his celebration of British imperialism, tales and poems of British soldiers in India, and his tales for children.  Despite this reputation, Kipling’s extraordinary body of work “eludes all labels in its range and variety… Kipling’s work is not only of the highest artistic excellence, it is deeply humane and fully expresses the sense of one of his favourite texts: ‘Praised be Allah for the diversity of his creatures.’”

Though rooted in an Empire sensibility that became archaic even before his death, Kipling’s best tales remain iconic, even elemental examples of the storyteller’s craft. “There has yet been no writer of short stories in English to challenge his achievement, which ranges through space from India to the home counties, and through time from Stone Age man to the contemporary world of football matches and motor cars. These stories, moreover, exhibit every kind of treatment, from the farcical to the tragic, and their structures vary from the simplest anecdote to the most complex and allusive philosophical fiction, dense enough to support endless exegesis and commentary.” (ODNB)

That is a lovely erudition.

To me, the plainer tale is that Kipling’s characters – often only half-drawn and furtively glimpsed – are “Other” to themselves more than to place or to one another. Like Frost’s wood, Kipling’s India is “lovely, dark and deep”– a tangled banyan of humanity whose roots continue to propagate and accrete. In the interstices of British Raj and native soil. In the dense, humid, redolent air between reader and writer.

I encourage you to read Plain Tales from the Hills. You just can’t borrow my copy.