Friday, 20 February 2015

Two of a kind

Winston Churchill. Not that one.

This is nice. In 1899, Winston Churchill was 25, an aspiring politician, and the author of a couple of books. He was not, however, the most famous Winston Churchill around. That was the now largely forgotten, but at the time best-selling, American novelist... Winston Churchill. Aware of this, the British Winston Churchill wrote to his namesake as follows:

Mr. Winston Churchill presents his compliments to Mr. Winston Churchill, and begs to draw his attention to a matter which concerns them both. [...] He has no doubt that Mr. Winston Churchill will recognise from this letter — if indeed by no other means — that there is grave danger of his works being mistaken for those of Mr. Winston Churchill. He feels sure that Mr. Winston Churchill desires this as little as he does himself. In future to avoid mistakes as far as possible, Mr. Winston Churchill has decided to sign all published articles, stories, or other works, ‘Winston Spencer Churchill,’ and not ‘Winston Churchill’ as formerly. He trusts that this arrangement will commend itself to Mr. Winston Churchill, and he ventures to suggest, with a view to preventing further confusion which may arise out of this extraordinary coincidence, that both Mr. Winston Churchill and Mr. Winston Churchill should insert a short note in their respective publications explaining to the public which are the works of Mr. Winston Churchill and which those of Mr. Winston Churchill. 

To which the American Winston Churchill replied:

Mr. Winston Churchill is extremely grateful to Mr. Winston Churchill for bringing forward a subject which has given Mr. Winston Churchill much anxiety. Mr. Winston Churchill appreciates the courtesy of Mr. Winston Churchill in adopting the name of ‘Winston Spencer Churchill’ in his books, articles, etc. Mr. Winston Churchill makes haste to add that, had he possessed any other names, he would certainly have adopted one of them.

Good work, Winstons.


Anonymous said...

I now really wish we could see the correspondence between John Finnemore, the author (1863–1915) and John Finnemore, the more famous one who writes radio sitcoms. But we can't.

TheRealEmily said...

Or letters between John Finnemore and James Fennimore Cooper. You were great on the Now Show!

Anonymous said...

Note that in that last sentence, the younger Winston Churchill suggests both authors put explanatory notes in their books clarifying the two Churchills. He was really asking for free advertising. Elder Churchill didn't acknowledge the request.

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Anonymous said...

This is ingenious! :)

What about David Mitchell and David Mitchell?

Jü said...

This is great! Now I have further learned on Wikipedia that they even were both published by Macmillan at that time. Amazing. (Plus I imagine it must have been really weird for the American Churchill during the 40s and 50s, with his namesake as British PM constantly all over the newspapers and newsreels).

Doc Dave said...

I read once, somewhere, that these two authors actually met, possibly in New York. I imagine nothing more than polite pleasantries were exchanged, but perhaps something better was afforded their neighbors; Winston (Not Spencer) Churchill showed in his first novel, The Celebrity, that he had talent for writing some very funny dialogue. He later lapsed into historical fiction, then Novels of Ideas, but at the start he was a lot of fun.

Anonymous said...

How did you find this out and get ahold of this most famous correspondence? I am eager to know. This made my day John, thanks so much. Sincreely your Canadian friend who can't wait to get ahold of the cabin pressure CDS

Unknown said...

Nowadays, the response to Winston Spencer Churchill would have been:

"Ohhhh, yes"

Anonymous said...

I didn't read this, or anything else on your blog (I'm busy at the moment, and I've got to cook and people are staying and other people are ill and so on).

I googled this site simply to say that having you-tubed a NOW-show sketch of yours earlier today, the computer has for some reason continued to play clips from you throughout the day.

It is the first time in forty odd years of listening I haven't wanted to throw the radio out of the window. Not once.

The machine is now playing stuff I heard this morning - and it's still well-worth listening to.

I'll tune in tomorrow for more of the same. Or just the same.

Well played.

urcool91 said...

How do you even find this stuff?

Anonymous said...

I suspect the 'nowadays' answer would actually have been :-) which I understand to be a 'smiley', commonly used by those familiar with 'textspeak'. Quicker, easier, and much less likely to be remembered in 100 years' time.

Kata said...

'Twas on QI (a comment that greets almost all interesting pub conversation facts these days)

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Gordon Bennett!

TaB said...

If I hadn't read similar letters from historical biographies, I would have dismissed this post as a hoax.
Did the Winstons at any point in time pause to read their own correspondence with a straight face? Perhaps american Winston could have set the trend of signing his books with his first initial instead, i.e, W.Churchill and avoided the whole debacle.

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