You are not so kind as you used to be
A gentle letter of advice to Winston Churchill
Hey, I’m doing a giveaway. Keep scrolling beyond the letter for details…
It’s difficult to imagine the stress experienced by Winston Churchill in June of 1940, just a couple of months after first becoming Prime Minister. World War II was gathering pace, and it was during this month that Churchill gave three momentous and inspiring speeches to the House of Commons which inspired the nation at such a tense time. Behind the scenes, however, the weight on his own shoulders was noticed and felt by all those around him—so much so, in fact, that on the 27th of the month, his wife, Clementine, wrote him a letter and essentially advised him to calm down and be kind to his staff.
10 Downing Street,
June 27, 1940
I hope you will forgive me if I tell you something that I feel you ought to know.
One of the men in your entourage (a devoted friend) has been to me & told me that there is a danger of your being generally disliked by your colleagues and subordinates because of your rough sarcastic & overbearing manner — It seems your Private Secretaries have agreed to behave like school boys & ‘take what’s coming to them’ & then escape out of your presence shrugging their shoulders — Higher up, if an idea is suggested (say at a conference) you are supposed to be so contemptuous that presently no ideas, good or bad, will be forthcoming. I was astonished & upset because in all these years I have been accustomed to all those who have worked with & under you, loving you — I said this & I was told ‘No doubt it’s the strain’ —
My Darling Winston — I must confess that I have noticed a deterioration in your manner; & you are not so kind as you used to be.
It is for you to give the Orders & if they are bungled — except for the King, the Archbishop of Canterbury & the Speaker, you can sack anyone & everyone — Therefore with this terrific power you must combine urbanity, kindness and if possible Olympic calm. You used to quote:— ‘On ne règne sur les âmes que par le calme1’ — I cannot bear that those who serve the Country and yourself should not love as well as admire and respect you —
Besides you won’t get the best results by irascibility & rudeness. They will breed either dislike or a slave mentality — (Rebellion in War time being out of the question!)
Please forgive your loving devoted & watchful
I wrote this at Chequers last Sunday, tore it up, but here it is now.
Sadly the gorgeous paperback of the original volume of Letters of Note, in which the above letter can be found, is now out of print, and we have a single copy remaining at Letters of Note HQ. So I’ve decided to sign it and give it away. To be in with a chance of getting it, you’ll need to buy something from the Letters of Note shop in the next seven days. Next Friday one customer will be picked at random, and that person will get the book—plus, whatever that person bought, no matter how large the order, will be refunded in full. I hope that makes sense. Good luck!
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Letter reproduced in Letters of Note with permission of Curtis Brown, London on behalf of the Master, Fellows and Scholars of Churchill College, Cambridge © Master, Fellows and Scholars of Churchill College, Cambridge
“One can reign over hearts only by keeping one’s composure.”