Saturday, January 5, 2019

DAY 17: Winston and the Myth of England

Winston Churchill, 1896
The Guardian shared this fascinating opinion piece today by Ian Jack, on Winston Churchill's relationship with the filmmaker Alex Korda during World War II and their joint creation of patriotic propaganda. I can do no better today than to share it, because the image of Winston weeping as he viewed the death of Nelson in Korda's That Hamilton Woman rings so completely true. He had a swashbuckling fervor for a certain kind of English patriotism. He absorbed that national myth as a Victorian schoolboy, immersed in the novels of H. Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, and Anthony Hope.

Rider Haggard is largely unknown today, but one at least of his titles may be familiar--King Solomon's Mines, published in 1885, was one of twelve-year-old Winston's favorites. So, too, with Hope, who penned The Prisoner of Zenda. Like Rudyard Kipling, their contemporary, they fed a kingdom of small boys and men with their stories of Empire Triumphant, and the notion of Englishmen as a special breed of manhood set apart. It is no stretch to hear the echoes of their fiction in Winston's stirring wartime speeches, urging his countryman to stand fast against the Nazi tide.

In so many ways, we become what we read. Particularly when we read avidly as children.

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