One of the great joys of my life was writing my biography of Winston Churchill. What a pleasure it was to write that book! I had so many complicated things (both praise and blame) to say about Churchill, and the problems of biography, and human nature, and I felt that I managed to express them all — to my own satisfaction, anyway.
When I feel a little blue, I often console myself by thinking of some of my favorite passages of Churchill’s writing. So many examples stand out in my mind. One, for instance, is the extraordinary eulogy to Neville Chamberlain.
Another is a passage from Their Finest Hour, the second volume in Churchill’s six-volume history of World War II. Of a visit to a very poor London neighborhood that had been devastated by the Blitz, he wrote:
Already little pathetic Union Jacks had been stuck up amid the ruins. When my car was recognised the people came running from all quarters, and a crowd of more than a thousand was soon gathered. All these folk were in a high state of enthusiasm. They crowded round us, cheering and manifesting every sign of lively affection, wanting to touch and stroke my clothes. One would have thought I had brought them some fine substantial benefit which would improve their lot in life. I was completely undermined, and wept. Ismay, who was with me, records that he heard an old woman say: “You see, he really cares. He’s crying.” They were tears not of sorrow but of wonder and admiration.
The other morning, as I was walking down the street, this passage floated into my mind for some reason. I got tears in my eyes, thinking about it, just as I do every time. That feeling of elevation is one of the most exquisite varieties of happiness.
Is there a passage from a book, or a scene from a movie, or a work of art, that brings you particular happiness — just to think about it?
It has been scorching hot here in New York City, so I looked at these beautiful photographs of Japanese “snow monsters” — trees covered in snow and rime ice — with particular pleasure.
Blatant self-promotion: if you’re looking for a good Father’s Day gift, may I suggest my biography, Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill?