War and Words

Though he is known primarily for engineering one of the greatest victories in one of the greatest wars of all time, Winston Churchill undoubtedly had a wonderful way with words.Winston Churchill Dies_wl (1) Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1953 in two categories — peace and literature. He finally won the Nobel Prize for literature for ‘his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values’.

Before he became prime minister, Churchill wrote a widely acclaimed four-volume history of World War I. After World War II, he wrote again, this time a six-volume memoir. His historical writings, along with his brilliant and powerfully delivered speeches, managed to combine the most magnificent use of English — usually short words, Anglo-Saxon words, Shakespearean.

Churchill wrote every word of his many famous speeches — he said he spent an hour working on every minute of a speech he made. At the Morgan Library are several drafts of a single speech from February 1941, when England stood alone against the Nazi onslaught and Churchill appealed to President Roosevelt for aid. The final draft of this speech of his was described by saying, “[it] looks like a draft of a poem.”

In 1938, Churchill said dictators were afraid of the power of words, “A state of society where men may not speak their minds cannot long endure.” And speak his did indeed. Churchill was an architect of war, an outstanding orator and an incredibly talented wordsmith and it was through the power of the pen that he achieved immense power and fame.

Sanjana Ahuja

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