Category Archives: Republic of Letters

ANDREW ROBERTS’ BioGraphy: CHURCHILL WALKING WITH DESTINY

By Richard K. Munro

I thought Martin Gilbert was the last word on Churchill (of course, he prepared the pathway for Roberts I am sure to a degree) but with Andrew Robert’s WALKING WITH DESTINY I gained an insight on Churchill and his world that seems totally fresh and almost brand new to me. I literally laughed and chuckled as I read some of the amusing bon mots of Churchill and curious stories. That is a remarkable achievement.

Churchill said: ‘After seeing many nations, after travelling through Europe, and after having been a prisoner of the Boers, I have come to see that, after all, the chief characteristic of the English-speaking people as compared with other white people is that they wash, and wash at regular periods. England and America are divided by a great ocean of salt water, but united by an eternal bathtub of soap and water.’

Boring and tedious and old hat ANDREW ROBERT’S book is not.

Thrilling and illuminating are the only words for it; the prose is like a torrent of clear fresh water clearing away mysteries and old misconceptions.

We learn much about Churchill’s personal relations and among the most heart-rending are the difficult relations he had with his son, Randolph with whom there was almost a love-hate- relationship. Stories of alleged sexual dalliances outside of marriage by Mrs. Churchill or Churchill himself are not ignored but clearly documented. Some things Roberts leaves up to the reader, wisely.

Roberts has reviewed 41 sets of new papers, the King’s diaries from WWII, Mary Soames’ 1940 diary, the verbatim war cabinet minutes (written in a short hand code that neverhad been deciphered until Roberts got a hold of them). Every quote, every reference is meticulously documented. In addition there are wonderful insights and quotes from the Maisky diaries -Ivan Maisky was the Soviet ambassador to the Court of St James. Maisky’s recently translated diaries featured meetings with Churchill, Anthony Eden and HG Wells. Then there are interesting quotes by Churchill about JFK in the Kay Halle letters at the JFK library. Churchill called JFK “that splendid leader” and asked if there was a photo of himself in the White House.

In Walking with Destiny I learned Churchill’s biography of his father Lord Randolph Churchill ‘was at least partially intended as an explanation of the political somersaults being executed by the author at the time of writing it’. Roberts truthfully tells us… “it is almost worthless as historical biography today, because of the total lack of objectivity and Churchill’s willingness, indeed seeming eagerness, to ignore any evidence that undermined his hagiographical case…..”With this book, which became an overnight bestseller, Churchill dragooning his father into finally doing something useful for him. His casual cruelty as a father was of course not so much as hinted at…” This is a great precis of a book I only knew as a title. Even our Churchill could not overcome his desire to make his father seem greater than he was. Quite human, actually.

In WALKING WITH DESTINY we learn what books Churchill read, what places in America he visited and the people he visited with. Roberts sprinkles his book with references to places associated with Churchill’s WWI service such as Plug Street Experience visitors centre at Rue de Messines 156, Ploegsteert, Comines-Warneton 7782, Belgium. It is indeed eerie to contemplate that Adolf Hitler was stationed only miles from Churchill. Churchill , we learn from personal letters, lamented the loss of his fellow officers and men from his Scottish regiment. They were not numbers to him but men: volunteers from Ayr, Kilmarnock, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leicester and Oldham including. Private W. Russell who was 19 years old when he was killed on 7th February 1916. Churchill had in 1899 stood for election in the northern industrial mill-town of Oldham – and lost. Places in Britain were not just names to Churchill but homes of the British people he had visited and come to know.

We learn what his favorite movies were and the famous actors and authors he knew personally (Churchill had a crush on Ethel Barrymore a legendary actress and beauty of her time). I had no idea that Churchill spent a delightful and refreshing sojourn at the Casa del Desierto in Barstow, California later was added to the National Register of Historic Places ). Churchill said, “We have stopped for two hours at this oasis. We have left the train for a bath in the hotel” It is not far from Bakersfield and on the road to Phoenix.

Before Pearl Harbor Churchill had visited 24 of the 48 states in addition to the District of Columbia. At one point Churchill was introduced to an audience by Mark Twain. He met Theodore Roosevelt. Churchill visited Civil War battlefields with Eisenhower and the famous historian Douglas Southall Freeman. I had no idea that Churchill had crisscrossed the USA several times and visited almost every site of historical or cultural interest such as the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Carnegie Hall, The Brooklyn Academy of Music and so on. Roberts writes “Churchill understood from an early age that his father, a leading light of the Conservative party in the first half of the 1880s, was a famous national celebrity, and he asked him for autographs to sell to his classmates.” Who knew?

Roberts writes: “Churchill made a far more extraordinary series of predictions on a Sunday evening in July 1891 in a basement room of Dr Welldon’s house after chapel evensong, when he was discussing his plans with his friend Murland (later Sir Murland) Evans, who worked in the War Office during the First World War and was a man of irreproachable and fastidious recollection. ‘I can see vast changes coming over a now peaceful world;’ Churchill told Evans, ‘great upheavals, terrible struggles; wars such as one cannot imagine; and I tell you London will be in danger – London will be attacked and I shall be very prominent in the defence of London. I see further ahead than you do. I see into the future. This country will be subjected somehow, to a tremendous invasion, by what means I do not know, but I tell you I shall be in command of the defences of London and I shall save London and England from disaster … dreams of the future are blurred but the main objective is clear. I repeat – London will be in danger and in the high position I shall occupy, it will fall to me to save the capital and save the Empire’ This was completely new to me and I have read dozens of books about Churchill.

Before he left for Cuba, in 1895 the director of British Military Intelligence, Colonel Edward Chapman, asked Churchill to discover anything they could on the penetration and striking power of the Spanish army’s new type of bullet. The Spanish had German Mausers and their weapons were superior to that of the American’s in 1898. Roberts writes: “This was Churchill’s inauguration into the world of Secret Intelligence, which was to become hugely important to him later on. Also interesting, this I did not know. I thought he did it on a lark by himself or as a journalist. Over and over again Roberts has new facts, new insights.

Throughout the book there are marvellous quotations from Churchill’s works which unless you have read Churchill’s massive oeuvre in entire, you will find many less known quotations. Churchill wrote ‘Chance, Fortune, Luck, Destiny, Fate, Providence seem to me only different ways of expressing the same thing, to wit, that a man’s own contribution to his life story is dominated by an external superior power.’ Roberts writes of Churchill, {His} capacity for memorizing huge amounts of prose and verse stayed with him for life, and would continue to astonish contemporaries well into his old age. Many were the occasions that he would quote reams of poetry or songs or speeches half a century after having learned them. He was omnivorous in what his mind’s ear chose, which included long Shakespeare soliloquies but also much of the repertoires of music hall performers such as Marie Lloyd, George Robey, ‘Little Tich’, and George Chirgwin (‘the White-Eyed Kaffir’)

We learn from Roberts how Churchill’s life and experience prepared him for leadership in WWII. Roberts writes with great detail: “By the outbreak of the Second World War, Churchill had delivered 1,695 speeches and travelled 82,633 miles to give them, an extraordinary display of energy, far more than normal politicians even of the front rank, and an indication of his decades-long drive and energy. By the time he came to deliver his great wartime addresses in the first half of the 1940s, therefore, Churchill was as experienced and assured a public speaker as it was possible for a Briton to be.”

I felt I almost came to know Churchill during while reading WALKING WITH DESTINY. I could almost feel the soul of the great man as I read and pondered this work and chuckled with his witticisms. Roberts certainly did his best to treat this good and noble but imperfect human being with honesty and yet giving credit where it is due.

Churchill was a great statesman but as Roberts point out time and again but also a wise political thinker and a great author –one of the greatest of all time in any language. Churchill is needed today when so many are deceived by the Siren call of the Bold State, Marxist influenced Multiculturalism and Socialism in general. No one in the 20th century compares to Sir Winston Churchill whose greatness is like granite –it endures. And as JFK famously said:
“For no statement or proclamation can enrich his name now–the name Sir Winston Churchill is already legend.”

Robert’s book is very engaging and would make any reader reappraise what he knows and has read.

In short, WALKING WITH DESTINY is the very best education I know to learn about Churchill, his British society, his contemporaries, his family and his world.

EVERY EDUCATED PERSON SHOULD READ and STUDY Churchill: WALKING WITH DESTINY. This is a great read, a must read. WALKING WITH DESTINY is a great book by one of Britain’s most distinguished historians and authors. (
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Behold the Demon: Nietzsche as Destroyer ~ The Imaginative Conservative

In his mockingly titled autobiography and final published work, Ecce Homo (1886), Friedrich Nietzsche presented himself as the prophet of modernity. His father a Lutheran pastor, Nietzsche rejected all that he had inherited in terms of faith at age twelve and dedicated himself to destroying the morality and ethics of Judaism and Christianity. As any Catholic knows, especially during the Lenten season, “Ecce homo” comes from Pontius Pilate’s presentation of a brutalized, bloody, and tortured Jesus to the bloodthirsty crowds of Jerusalem. “Behold the man,” Pilate stated.

No one should underestimate Nietzsche’s own vision of himself with the title. Intellectually brutalized, bloodied, and tortured, the nineteenth-century philosopher presented himself—in his final and last words to a world he wanted to overthrow. Behold the man. To be more accurate, behold the demon. To be sure, the man could write, the man could think, and the man could tell a great story. But, he was also descending into madness, and it is difficult—even for those who love Nietzsche—to know if one should take him seriously or not in the autobiography. His hubris is so over the top at times, that even his greatest supporters cringe when trying to give this book context.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/03/behold-demon-friedrich-nietzsche-destroyer-bradley-birzer.html

A century ago, as the older studies of American letters remind us, a famous school of literary historians, insouciantly rorriantic, was flourishing in this country. Prescott’s masterpiece, The Conquest of Mexico, was but a dozen years old, and the third volume of his Philip II was fresh from the press (ALLAN NEVINS 1959)

https://www.historians.org/about-aha-and-membership/aha-history-and-archives/presidential-addresses/allan-nevins

Of the peoples of the isles and their languages

I always knew English was not the only nor the oldest language in the Isles as we called it. English was a relative newcomer. A few centuries ago French and Latin were much more important. The dialects spoken in Scotland still show a strong French influence.

Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) is pronounced “Gallic”; my grandfather who was born in the Scottish Highlands in 1886 often referred to his native language as Highland Scots (as opposed to Lallans or Lowland Scots). He said it was a dialect of Irish Gaelic (pronounced Gael-ic) and many people called Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) “ERSE “(Irish) when he was young but he never did. 

He never considered “Erse” to be denigrating. Most Highlanders consider themselves to be Gaels and to have racial ties to Irish Gaels as well as the Cymric (Welsh/British people). 

My grandfather often said “the Scots and the Irish are the same people except half of them don’t know it and the other half don’t want to know!.” He was referring to the attitude of so many who wanted to outEnglish to the English and hide their Irish/Celtic roots. That was a very common attitude in the late Victorian or Edwardian period inBritain.

My people by the way always considered themselves Islanders or Highlanders and referred to Ireland and Scotland as “the Isles”. Their homeland was their native place (Cioch Mhor) or the Gaidhealteachd (Highlands) and sometimes they spoke of “Alba” (the land of the mountains white) as Scotland. They also called it Scotia and Caledonia but those were poetic usages I think.

Auld Pop had nicknames for everyone. Taffies were Welshmen. Sassenach of course were Englishmen but also South ‘O’ The Dyke laddies or lassies. Irishmen were “micks”. The Indian troops were “Dins”. The Italians were, of course, “Tallies”. The Germans were “Jairmens” or the “Huns” . Turks were Turks (that was considered insult enough). Americans were Yanks of course. Highlanders were often called Teuchters (Tough Ones or Hicks). There may have been derogatory words for other groups He called the Jews “Hebrews”. He used the expression “Negro gentleman” (circa 1959 or 1961″ or “pairson of Colour” . If he knew derogatory words he never said them to me. I seem to recall the Germans had the most nicknames. But I do remember he said, Na Japs or Na Seanpanaich. So I suppose some of his expressions would be considered derogatory today, certainly old-fashioned. I never heard him use the word “racism” in my entire life. To Auld Pop races were nationalities. He used to say “we are all of us Jock Tamsen’s Bairns” (we are all God’s children) and all of the races or man were but one. He lived in close quarters with Indian and African soldiers and got alone quite well with all of them. I never once heard him tell me that I should be proud of being of the so-called “White Race.” He said I was the first of my race and line (meaning my clan lineage) to be American born and so the first of the American race. Certainly we are more American than ever as we have the blood of three or four continents (including Native American peoples of Latin America). The melting pot bubbles on.

When the Highlander spoke of “his race and line” he was saying he was , for example a Munro, Fraser, MacKenzie and MacFarlane on his father’s side and a McQueen, Sweeney, Dorian and O’Rourke on the mother’s side. He always called women by their maiden names as was the Gaelic custom. Mrs. Tracey was always “Kitty Scally” and many people called my grandmother and her sisters “Sweeney” even though the all had different married names Mrs. Quigley, Mrs. Dorian and so on. In our language Dark Mary Sweeney the wife at Big Munro the Soldier (for example). There is no verb for possession in Gaelic all things are “at you” temporarily” you cannot possess a spouse or a house or money PERMANENTLY. It is all “at you” ephemerally. Nicknames were very big and I cannot even begin to remember all of them such as “Buntie” (Little Button) , “Jos”, “Nelsie”, Auld Port (Captain Porteous), “American Johnny” , Canadian Bill, Taibailt Tommy (Strong Tommy), Torquil the Taibhse or Phinneas the faileas (phantom), or Morag or Sine Bhan (blonde Jean) or Mairi-mor (Big Mary) or Dark Effy (Eighrig dubh)Ruairidh mor or beag (big or little). Peter “Dall” (Dall/blind), , Wee Chairle (Charlie) Frankie (Frenchman), Hector the Hero, Willie Buidhe (Yellow Willie-cowardly Willie also called a Corry-Fisted Sullivan (Big One Eyed Lefty) or Willie Ruadh (Red Willie). This was a real person “William” Willie Gallacher the first Scottish Communist MP of the Red Clyde. He had been a close friend of my grandfather’s prior to 1914 (before the war and before he became a full blown Communist and anti-war activist. People like my grandparents thought he was a traitor and a coward. And he was the main reason my family left Scotland in the 1920’s. Auld Pop followed the advice of his (Scottish) American and Scottish Canadian friends and so came to work here.

My people  rarely if ever, quite innocently, referred to themselves as “British” because to them British people were their WELSH cousins and they themselves were not Welsh.

They never, it hardly needs to be said, spoke of themselves as English or Europeans. They were Highlanders, Islanders or Gaels. People who lived on the Continent or An Roinn Eorpa were the other though of course it seemed to me my grandfather was aware of his kinship to the Gauls of old. He often called his kilt the “Garb of Auld Gaul.”

The English (or Sassunachs) and the Europeans were the other. MyAuld Pop referred to English women, for example, as “South o’ the Dyke Lassies” and routinely called English “Saxon.” As a joke he usedto say anyone who married French women or Italians or Spanish were marrying lassies ‘very much to South o’ the Dyke’ but aye closer to Rome. As a boy most of the priests in my grandfather’s region were educated at the Scots College in Rome or the Scots College of Valladolid (Spain); some were Irish Franciscans. He had a very strong sense of belonging to Christendom and believing in the unity of Christendom inway many Calvinists did not. Of course, many people in my family intermarried with Irish people in Glasgow and later of course into Latin American families. I know there were a lot of Tallies (Scottish born Italians) in my grandfather’s parish in Govan. Glasgow has long been a very cosmopolitan town not unlike Brooklyn or London.


The Scots language was always called Beurla Albannach (Anglo-Scottish or Scots). “Gnath-bheurla na H-Eireann” was (Anglo-Irish). His language he always called ‘the Gallic” or “Highland Scots.”

The habit of calling Irish Gaelic “Irish” seems to be a modern one from the dates of the Free State. It is a simple fact that “Irish” and “Ireland” are not Irish words! Gaeilge is the Irish Gaelic word for Irish Gaelic. 

Today I think it clear that Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic are two languages as separate as say Portuguese and Spanish but they are also very closely related. I have heard many Irish scholars say that Scottish Gaelic is (or was) a dialect of Irish Gaelic. I can read Irish Gaelic and there is some mutual intelligibility. But Irish grammar is more sophisticated and follows different spelling rules.

As a final note my grandfather always called many city girls “paltry women”. “They wadna survive a Highland winter until Easter.” Auld Pop  was of the opinion that healthy, strong and beautiful women were well-rounded and solidly built. Like my grandmother, Mrs. Munro who was about 5’6: 175. She was very strong. She made her own butter and cheese and spun and wove wool (clo mor/tweed). She went to church (Mass) seven days a week and always carried her rosary which she called paidirean (wee pater beads)

To him the ideal woman was a woman with womanly, matronly look and who excelled at housewivery. I suppose our ideals of beauty have been shaped by the childless or nearly so Hollywood ideal. If we honored motherhood more we would not put the figures of childless teenagers as the ideal.


HUMANITAS( PAIDEIA)

HUMANITAS ἐγκύκλιος παιδεία PAIDEIA

“ONLY THE EDUCATED ARE FREE” 
(Epictetus)

ἐγκύκλιος παιδεία

DEFINITIONS OF HUMANITAS (Greek Concept: paideia)

I. human naturehumanity;
the quality and inclination of humankind.

IImental cultivation befitting
a human being, liberal education;
refinedmanners, eloquence of language

Studia humanitatis, first defined by CICERO , consist of the “studies of humanity” — or those studies which are most appropriate and befitting a free man or human being.

These studies, however, were not limited to Rome, for Cicero openly acknowledged the philosophical inheritance of the studia humanitatisdescending from the ancient Greek concept of enkuklios paideia, whichis the “encircling or well-rounded education” 

Today we know these studies are not limited to man alone or only to the rich but to man and woman alike and rich and poor.

According to Cicero, in his speech Pro Archia, where the Roman oratorargued in defense of the claim and right to Roman citizenship of hismentor and friend, the Greek poet-scholar Archias, these “studies of humanity” have a kind of common bond or kinship, and therebyconstitute a true liberal education the kind all free citzens should beexposed to.

In other words, it is a humane or liberal education which sets the mind and soul free. (L. liberos, Gr. eleutherios).

LEARNING IS FOOD FOR THE MIND (Cicero)

***

But then, O my friends, he said, if the soul is really immortal, what care should be taken of her, not only in respect of the portion of time whichis called life, but of eternity

And the danger of neglecting her from this point of view does indeedappear to be awful. If death had only been the end of all, the wicked would have had a good bargain in dying, for they would have been happily quit not only of their body, but of their own evil together with their souls. 

But now, as the soul plainly appears to be immortal, there is no releaseor salvation from evil except the attainment of the highest virtue and wisdom. 

For the soul when on her progress to the world below takes nothing with her but nurture and education; which are indeed said greatly tobenefit or greatly to injure the departed, at the very beginning of its pilgrimage in the other world.”

Socrates in Plato’s Phaedo, 107 in Jowett’s translation. “

The soul of man is immortal and imperishable.”

Plato, The Republic,, Book X, 608-D