A Harmony of Interests: Explorations in the Mind of Sir Winston Churchill
This study of Churchill's sensibility is an attempt to portray - through a scrutiny of his written and spoken words - the ineffable mental processes at the border of thought and feeling. It is also a collection of observations made by acquaintances of the man, critics, and historians.
The present work seeks to present Churchill's "harmony of interests," his thoughts and feelings on a half dozen major topics - literature, conservatism, war, Marlborough, America, and the Great Man.
Unlike the typical politician, Churchill had contacts with many men of letters. Though he cooperated with Galsworthy on prison reform, for four decades he had a running battle with Wells and Shaw on such issues as Communism in Russia and Greece, the Empire, and the British social system.
Such conflict raises the question of Churchill's ideology, which became increasingly conservative with time. Manfred Weidhorn explores this emerging conservatism through consideration of different Churchillian interests - such as domestic issues and the concept of imperial mission.
The most complex aspect of Churchill's conservatism is his ambivalence to war. A closer reading of his utterances and of the observations of those about him suggests a definite and idiosyncratic love of war. Clear too, says Weidhorn, is that violence was a means - not an end - for Churchill. A man of peace, Churchill's extremity in posing issues sometimes made peace elusive. But in the crunch of 1940, his eccentricity, or obsession, became Western Civilization's salvation.
During his years in the wilderness, Churchill wrote a huge biography of his ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough. Besides presenting the Duke - a brilliant general much maligned for avarice and warmongering - in a favorable way, his work sheds an interesting light on the imminent World War II. In tracing Marlborough's career, he draws upon his own career in an exercise that is part prophecy, part self-fulfilling prophecy, part eerie coincidence, and part nonsense.
As a semi-American, Churchill had a peculiar view of the U.S. It colored his writing of history, his vision of British foreign policy, his journalistic reports on his visits to America, and his diplomacy when in high office. These views, which constitute an important background to Churchill's position in World War II, are here traced through some six decades of travel, politics, and writing.
Tracing Marlborough's career commits one willy-nilly to the view that great men rather than historical forces shape the course of events. But a survey of Churchill's writings suggests that he held to neither theory with consistency or theoretical scaffolding. He used or discarded each one at the behest of the logic of his argument or the drift of his lulling rhetoric.
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