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(CHURCHILL, Winston S.)

Autograph album, including signatures of a young Winston Churchill, Roger Casement, high ranking British diplomats and their staff.

Availability: In stock

Published: 1899-1928

Stock Code: 128940

OR On display in 43 Dover Street


Remarkable album of autographs ranging across nearly three decades and including, among a constellation of men of state, army officers and diplomats, the signatures of Sir Winston Churchill, Roger Casement and Paul Kruger evidently compiled by an individual with access to high diplomatic circles. Churchill's signature ("Winston S. Churchill") faces a fine original portrait photograph (151 x 106 mm), showing a fresh-faced Churchill, captured around 1900, at the time he was the newly elected MP for Oldham, apparently in his rooms at the House of Commons. Churchill was, of course, serving in South Africa as correspondent for the Morning Post, or as ODNB breezily puts it "in the spring of 1899 Churchill completed his tour of duty in India, returned home, and resigned his commission. By the time of the outbreak of the South African War, Churchill had negotiated a contract with the Morning Post which made him the highest-paid war correspondent of the day, with a salary of 250 per month and all expenses paid Churchill was often in the thick of the fighting and again proved himself to be a first-class war correspondent. He turned his dispatches, this time with little adaptation, into two books: London to Ladysmith via Pretoria (1900), which included the story of his escape, and Ian Hamilton's March (1900). The South African War also left an enduring imprint on Churchill's thinking. It convinced him that war was too dangerous to be left to the generals" (ibid.).

His signature appears alongside that of fourteen others, including Edouard Girouard (1867-1932), railway engineer and colonial governor, "His railway skills were so highly regarded that with the outbreak of the South African War in 1899 he became director of South African Railways, charged with making maximum use of the railways in waging war against the Boers" (ODNB); Gilbert Russell (1875-1942), who served with the Grenadier Guards in the Sudan and Second Boer War; H. A. Gwynne (1865-1950), Times correspondent, later editor of the Morning Post; Margaret of Teck (1873-1929), sixth child of Duke of Westminster, married to Prince Adolphus of Teck who served with the 1st Life Guards; "Henry H. Settle", Sir Henry Hamilton Settle KCB, later lieutenant-general, who played a significant part in the war; E. S. Heard, major, Northumberland Fusiliers, mentioned in despatches; F. H. Wedgwood, captain, King's Own Stafford Rifles; Cicely Cavendish-Bentinck, married to Lord Charles Cavendish-Bentinck, who was posted to South Africa with the 9th Lancers; Violet Romilly; Lady Violet Cecil, described as "Milner's gossipy friend" by Fred R. Van Hartesveldt in The Boer War: Historiography and Annotated Bibliography (2000, p. 22).
But most interestingly that of "Roger Casement", directly above that of Churchill. This is an intriguing juxtaposition. Casement was involved in a little-known sideshow during the Second Boer War, but one approved at the highest level: at the outbreak of war in 1899, Casement was serving as consul in Portuguese West Africa (Angola) and "at this point in his career he was stridently pro-British, fulminating against the Boers and Kruger, and was awarded the queen's South Africa medal" (ODNB). From South Africa he was "ordered back to Lorenco Marques now Maputo, Mozambique, then Portuguese East Africa, where he had formerly served as consul to report once more on the movement of arms to the Boers. He arrived on 8 January 1900, and for a bribe of 500 he was allowed to inspect the import registers, which revealed nothing improper. Within a month, somewhat frustrated, he proposed that the best way to stop the movement of contraband was to mount a commando raid and blow up the main railway bridge on the line connecting the Transvaal and Delagoa Bay, between Lorenco Marques and Pretoria. Casement travelled to Cape Town to present his proposal to his superiors. At the end of March, Lords Kitchener, Roberts and Milner approved the plan, and two months later an operation of 540 men set off for Kosi Bay with Casement leading one of the assault parties. But before they had even reached their destination, the mission was aborted by Lord Milner because the bridge could be repaired quickly and the expense of the operation did not justify the potential gain" (Angus Mitchell, Casement, 2003, p. 26).

The opening pages gather the names of some of the principal figures involved in the Second Boer War (1899-1902), these include the cut signature (on lined paper) of Paul Kruger, signed "Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger" - with a pencilled note stating "President Kruger 25 Sept. 1899" this is the date on which an independent peace initiative was undertaken by Lord Hartington, an approach that involved "asking the Rothschilds to send a telegram to their financial contacts in Pretoria. They were to assure Kruger that the British government was anxious for peace" (Patrick Jackson, The Last of the Whigs: A Political Biography of Lord Hartington, later Eighth Duke of Devonshire (1833-1908), 1994, p. 300); Jan Smuts; Prince Christian Victor of Schleswig-Holstein (1867-1900), who served in the war with the King's Royal Rifle Corps, dying of enteric fever at Pretoria; "A. Milner", Alfred Milner, first Viscount Milner, (1854-1925), governor of the Cape Colony and High Commissioner for Southern Africa, and members of his staff. Others signatories include Walter Hely Hutchinson (1849-1913), colonial administrator, governor and c-in-c Natal and Zululand (1893-1901); "M. F. M. Meiklejohn", Matthew Fontaine Maury Meiklejohn VC (1870-1913), captain Gordon Highlanders (VC won at Battle of Elandslaagte, 21 October 1899); Field Marshal Lord Roberts (dated Pretoria 27 October 1900) and his staff, including "Neville Chamberlain" (1856-1944), Colonel Sir Neville Chamberlain, at this time colonel 11th Foot, serving as first ADC and private secretary, highly commended by Roberts in despatches; Kitchener and his staff, including Hubert Hamilton (1861-1914), colonel 2nd Foot, Kitchener's military secretary; "J. K. Watson", James Kiero Watson DSO, captain King's Royal Rifle Corps, ADC (his DSO noted by Churchill in The River War); "W. R. Birdwood", William Riddell Birdwood, later field marshal Baron Birdwood (1865-1951), commanded the ANZAC Corps during the Dardanelles offensive in 1915 and was "one of the very few British commanders to leave Gallipoli with an increased reputation" (DSO); "Cromer" (dated August 9th 1899), Evelyn Baring, first Earl of Cromer, British Consul-general in Egypt, his son Rowland Baring (similarly dated), second Earl of Cromer, and members of his staff.

There is also a small ink sketch of "Paulus Kruger addressing the First Volks Raad" (dated 24.3.01) by Basil Temple Blackwood, illustrator of Belloc's The Bad Child's Book of Beasts (1896) and Cautionary Tales (1907); Blackwood accompanied Milner to South Africa when he took up the post of High Commissioner in 1897, forming part of that group of talented young assistants that was popularly known as "Milner's Kindergarten". This is a nicely executed and well observed thumbnail sketch of the great South African statesman, showing him in ceremonial sash and with top hat what Chesterton called "that admirable hat" -upturned on the floor and stuffed with papers. There is another sketch, a humorous self-portrait by T. T. C. Purland, Inspector of Prisons in South Africa, a colourful figure, former captain in Prince Alfred's Guard, served in the Basutoland Campaign (1880-81) and lost a leg; Lionel Curtis describes him in With Milner in South Africa (1951) on one occasion "brandishing his wooden leg which he takes off to gesticulate with at the other end of the table"; the sketch, which shows Purland with walking stick and leg sticking out at an angle, appears alongside the signature of Curtis, who served as Milner's secretary and headed the "Kindergarten".

Also present are the autographs in written Chinese of Zaifeng and Liang Cheng superscribed over their names in English "Prince Chen of China" and "Chentung Liang Cheng" (both dated London, 30 June 1902). Liang Cheng (1864-1917) was appointed Chinese ambassador to the United States on 19 July 1902 and had attended Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897 as part of the Chinese legation, when he was knighted. In 1901-2 he acted as advisor to Zaifeng (1883-1951), formally known by his title of Prince Chun (or Chen), when the latter was appointed special ambassador on behalf of the Qing government and was travelling in Europe. There is also a nice signed musical quotation by the globe-trotting Italian violinist Arturo Tibaldi ("Beethoven. Romanze in sol: Andante, ricordo di Arturo Tibaldi Jan. 15. 1905").

A fascinating album that highlights the interlocking careers of many prominent figures from the milieu of late Victorian statecraft, the high water mark of British imperialism.

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Small quarto (223 x 184 mm), 70 leaves (approximately 400 autographs on first 50, the remainder blank). Album of moderate reddish-brown straight-grained polished leather, padded on bevelled boards (ticket of the fashionable stationer Henry Rodrigues of Piccadilly), single fillet panel in blind to the covers, all edges gilt, gilt foliate roll tool to edges and turn-ins, green and gilt endpapers with repeated clover design. Housed in a burgundy quarter morocco solander box by the Chelsea Bindery.


Lightly rubbed, spine and front board a touch sunned, some light abrasions and shallow indentations, a few scratch marks to back cover, inner hinge cracked at second opening otherwise very good.


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