"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.
Winston and Clementine Churchill wrote to each other constantly throughout the fifty-seven years of their life together, from the passionate and charming exchanges of their courtship until the year before Winston''s death in 1965. Their letters provide rare and revealing insights into both the great political and social events of a turbulent century and the intimate world of an extraordinary partnership. Mary Soames, the only surviving child of this remarkable couple, has brought her parents to life as no biographer could. In moving detail we hear of Churchill''s dramatic career and his final, deeply felt reflections on the fading of his enormous powers. And we hear Clementine, responding with her love and advice, and her belief in his destiny. Bringing these letters together for the first time, WINSTON AND CLEMENTIME is a surprising portrait of one of history''s most significant figures.
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