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by Winston Churchill

. 1987 clean bright copy
Download My Early Life epub
ISBN: 0684188031
ISBN13: 978-0684188034
Category: Biographies
Subcategory: Professionals & Academics
Author: Winston Churchill
Language: English
Publisher: Scribner Paper Fiction; Scribner Pbk ed. edition (July 20, 1987)
Pages: 384 pages
ePUB size: 1415 kb
FB2 size: 1866 kb
Rating: 4.5
Votes: 695
Other Formats: lit mobi lrf txt

First published in 1930, Winston Churchill's memoir, "My Early Life, 1874 - 1904", is mainly an account of his getting into trouble, getting back out, and writing about it. He developed skill at all three endeavors, especially the writing which, along with a speaking tour, became his primary source of support as a young man. He was a war correspondent for the Morning Post in London for many years, and published a dozen volumes beginning with "The River War" about a conflict along the Nile, and ending with a Nobel Prize in Literature.

He recognized as a schoolboy that he was hopelessly unable to learn Latin and Greek, and so he was consigned to the study of English, considered a lesser scholastic endeavor. Two effects resulted: one, he was not able to enter Cambridge or Oxford without the classical languages, and two, he became very good with his native tongue.

Denied the universities, he sought and won a commission in the Army, serving in a cavalry division. His first real military foray was in Egypt, then on to India, and finally he served in the South African Boer war of 1899. These adventures make up the bulk of the memoir.

His capable renditions of these events, published as a column in the Post, were quite popular. When he finally returned to civilian life he had a ready audience for his talks and speeches. He really is good at spinning a yarn; his memoir quickly becomes a page-turner, and it was very popular at the time it was published. I found it most enjoyable too.

In all these battles a great deal of ordinance was fired in Winston's direction, but none of it hit him. This fact alone renders his stories with a sort of Hollywood Western gloss, and certainly heighten the reader's attention.

Probably the most riveting tale was of his capture by the Dutchman, Louis Botha, who could easily have shot him and let it go at that, but didn't and became a lifelong friend. Botha turned Churchill over to a Boer prison, from which Winston soon escaped. The escape tale involves a coal mine labyrinth, a lot of worrying and waiting, and some freight trains, one carrying coal sacks, and another great bales of wool.

From today's viewpoint Winston was clearly a shameless imperialist and racist, pretty normal for the British of the time. There doesn't seem to be any malice in it, just ignorance. He was always an enthusiastic servant of Empire; though he did examine the best course of British action from the viewpoint of the colonized, he never escaped his imperialist assumptions.

While on his lecture tour he chanced to have a conversation with Mark Twain which turned to the recent war with the Boers. Churchill notes that Twain deftly, by socratic method I suppose, forced Winston into an uncomfortable corner, where he was saying "My country right or wrong." Twain replied, "When the poor country is fighting for its life I agree. But this was not your case." I think Clemens had the sharper wit.

Churchill was showered with honors in his senior years. After his name come no less than seven titles: "KG OM CH TD DL FRS RA", just the beginning of a much longer list of recognitions.

What drove him to greatness? Well, he was born into a noble family, a very accomplished and well positioned British father, Lord Randolph Churchill, MP, Exchequer, etc., and a smart, wealthy, and attractive American mother. Yet neither of them gave Winston much in the way of affectionate support as a child. So he felt orphaned in this splendid family, a situation that is often a spur to excel. Yet later, as a young man, he had a great deal of support from his mother who was always pulling strings for him, and from his late father's friends who were a very powerful group.

Winston used all this support to get himself placed in army positions where he did his best. He spent his off hours in India, about five hours every sweltering midday, reading himself much of an education that he had missed by not going to university. When you add to all this his war correspondence for a growing readership, you have a man who could win election to Parliament, and did. The rest is history.
I found this to be a delightful book. Churchill's writing style is very droll and engaging. He has a wonderful story to tell, and tells it very effectively. He had a long and very eventful life, which really was just getting started when this book ends when the author was in his early thirties. I wonder if he had any idea what lay before him.
This is a very readable and compelling story about a little known era in Churchill's life. The introduction reminds us that the author won a Nobel Prize for Literature. That seems little wonder, and reading this book by Churchill has inspired me to look for others. Highly recommended.
This is a humorous and honest account that reveals why Churchill rose to the heights that he did. It is obvious he was imperfect (as we all are) and certainly carried the prejudices and conceits of his time and class. His childhood by no means was predictive of the greatness to come. In all the humorous accounts, it is painfully obvious he was a lousy student who apparently did not even finish school! His father correctly anticipated that he couldn't make it to the university. While Churchill had an affinity for the army since childhood, it took him all of three attempts to make it in. And even during the final attempt, he barely squeaked through at the bottom, because the more successful candidates preferred infantry to the expensive cavalry, which Churchill agreed to join. Churchill comes to his own in India where he not only set about to make up for lost time by reading voraciously, but grabbed every opportunity that came his way. Where there was none, he created the opportunity using all means (and they were not insignificant!) at his disposal. By sheer enthusiasm and tenacity, he became the person who was repeatedly in the right place at the right time.
Churchill certainly does not portray himself as some super natural or extraordinarily gifted individual. It is a very readable account of persistence, courage (despite at times frankly admitted fears) and carrying on despite adversity. Along the way, we learn of his romantic notions and misguided enthusiasm for war being transformed through bitter experience. For all his opportunism, Churchill also had the courage to openly condemn the less than stellar conduct of his superiors, much to his own detriment (it most probably cost him a VC).
It is the authenticity of his account written with good humor, that makes this autobiography so readable. While Churchill had the advantages of his social position, there were many others far better placed who couldn't achieve half as much. It confirms that most humans are capable of achieving greatness, if they would apply themselves and a little bit of luck smiles upon them. My only criticism is that the book ends abruptly, as if Churchill had a deadline to meet. Or, he simply got tired of the whole thing!
Winston Churchill's outstanding characteristic, for me, was his tireless participation in life, from the lowly task of wall masonry to the saving of his country from the Nazi scourge. That work ethic is evident in "My Early Life." Because he was a superior man, I never mind his superior attitude, which also comes across in this book. Churchill lived his life to the fullest in a manner that not only pleased him but benefitted others. He is someone to be emulated.
While Churchill might have been slightly blind to his parents and their affections, his portrayal of the times and the inside knowledge of the systems at work are enlightening. He describes the historical aspects and his life during this time in clear, illustrative and humorous ways. Yes, he made some colossal mistakes in his lifetime - retrospect provides a clearer picture - but this leader was amazing and I wish there were a few like him around today.