The Wit and Wisdom of Winston Churchill : A Treasury of More than 1000 Quotations
An extremely entertaining compendium of bon mots, anecdotes, and trivia about Winston Churchill from a leading Churchill lecturer and performer -- useful for speakers, students, of history, and World War II buffs, as well as general readers.
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January 25, 1995
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Excerpt from The Wit and Wisdom of Winston Churchill by James C. Humes
Observations and Opinions
Next to the Bible and Shakespeare, Churchill is the most frequent source of quotations. Like Shakespeare, he was a supreme master of the English language and was prolific in his writings.
Shakespeare died at age fifty-two and the concentrated verse of his thirty-seven plays left an immeasurable legacy. Churchill, however, in his sixty-five years in Parliament, left eight vast tomes just of his speeches -- and those do not include his many-volumed histories of two world wars and the English-speaking world. In addition, there are the two biographies, of his ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough, and his father, Lord Randolph Churchill, his early autobiographical adventures, his novel, and books encapsulating many of his columns as a journalist.
Of course, in that massive output not every sentence is a crafted gem, but no public papers of any man in history have ever afforded so many wise epigrams, incisive observations, and pungent wit as those of Churchill.
Like Benjamin Franklin -- another historic personality with multitudinous talents -- Churchill was blessed with a robust sense of humor. He had an acute sense of the foibles of man -- the ambitious, the craven, and the pompous. He could also laugh at himself.
No inhibitions bridled this colossal personality. He freely expressed his tastes and opinions on everything from alcohol to Zionism.
As a young officer at the beginning of his career in public service, he read and reread in his barracks his Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. Seven decades later, his words alone could spawn a special edition of that great quotation classic.
I never worry about action, but only about inaction.
If you travel the earth, you will find it is largely divided into two classes of people -- people who say "I wonder why such and such is not done" and people who say "Now who is going to prevent me from doing that thing?"
Foolish perhaps but I play for high stakes and given an audience there is no act too daring or too noble.
If you cannot best your strongest opponent in the main theater nor he best you; or if it is very unlikely that you do so and if the cost of failure will be very great, then surely it is time to consider whether the downfall of your strongest foe cannot be accomplished through the ruin of his weakest ally, or one of his weaker allies, and in this connection, a host of political, economic and geographical arguments play their part in the argument.
Who can tell how weak the enemy may be behind his flaming front and brazen mask? At what moment will his willpower break?
The short road to ruin is to emulate ... the methods of your adversary.
If we are to supply the needs of the modern world it can only. be done by publicity...and advertising.
Youth is for freedom and reform, maturity for judicious compromise, and old age for stability and repose.
One cannot doubt that flying... must in the future exercise a potent influence, not only in the habits of men, but upon the military destinies of states.
The RAF is the cavalry of modern war.