While Churchill is known well as a politician, soldier, historian and even painter, his fiction writings are not widely read. I dug up a book my mother had given me a long time ago when I was clearing out my childhood bedroom in her house. It was called ‘The Dream’ by Winston Churchill. Churchill wrote it at a low point in his career following his election defeat after the war, and it is a simple story. It begins with Winston restoring an old painting of his father, Lord Randolph. Randolph had had a short but meteoric political career, reaching Chancellor of the Exchequer, but died when Winston was twenty, and he had always held a Victorian disdain for his sensitive son.
In the story Randolph appears from nowhere, as Winston is working on restoring a painting of him. Randolph demands to know what has happened in the world since his death, and so Winston begins, relating all the changes in the world since the Boer War up to the unfolding Cold War that was troubling him so much as he wrote this story. Young Randolph is surprised by his 73-year-old son’s powerful understanding of world affairs, and we think he may almost guess at his son’s achievements. Almost.
But he does not, and presently Winston wakes up and his father has disappeared. Winston is left alone, old and wise.
This story is illuminating, not least because Winston only permitted the story to be published after his death. When he was once asked whom he would seat beside him at dinner if he could choose anyone, Winston passed over his many historical and fictional heroes and replied that he would choose his father, “of course”. At 73, having led his country through one of its most turbulent times and been a fixture of international politics for decades, he still wanted his father to see what he had done.
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