The Literary Churchill: Author, Reader, Actor by Jonathan Rose - review by Piers Brendon

Piers Brendon

Was His Pen Mightier Than His Sword?

The Literary Churchill: Author, Reader, Actor

By

Yale University Press 516pp £25 order from our bookshop
 

This is one of the most remarkable books ever written about Winston Churchill. It is clever, fluent and based on wide reading, in and out of the archives. It is original: no academic has studied the literary and theatrical Churchill in greater forensic detail than Jonathan Rose, who portrays him as ‘an artist who used politics as his creative medium, as other writers used paper’. The book is well balanced, neither iconoclastic nor hagiographical, and critical where necessary. It is sometimes funny and often provocative. It is full of shrewd insights into Churchill’s character and astute observations about his career, which it traces from start to finish. Yet Rose’s thesis is hopelessly misguided. It is brilliant but unsound. It is magnificent but it is not scholarship.

Rose starts from the unimpeachable premise that Churchill was in thrall to the words, spoken and written, with which he dramatised his life. There

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