Churchill: The Power of Words
Sir Winston Churchill’s rhetorical triumphs were eloquently moving—bending the arc of history as nobody did before him—but they were also no less meticulously crafted than any stanza fellow Pulitzer Prize recipient Robert Frost penned. Frequently employing internal repetition and rhymes, Churchill, like Frost, was a poetic giant—and, happily for the survival of democracy, he applied this faculty in pursuit of the public welfare, rather than in a habitat of guarded isolation.
A riveting exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum celebrates the former prime minister’s “Power of Words.” Instead of profiling the man—the focus of countless biographies—it probes the making of his prose, featuring 65 documents, artifacts and recordings on loan from the Churchill Archives Center at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, and from Churchill’s house in Kent, England. Such memorabilia include a D-Day telegram from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Churchill, a letter from presidential adviser Bernard Baruch offering sanctuary to Churchill’s grandchildren, and a note on Buckingham Palace letterhead by King George VI beginning “My dear Winston,” displaying a degree of familiarity all but unheard of from royalty addressing a commoner.
There have been numerous other exhibitions commemorating the life of Churchill, but none focused specifically on the architecture and origins of his oratory, and none on its hallmarks: an unshakable delivery, an immense power of persuasion, and a Shakespearean wit and vocabulary. Moreover, this is the first public exhibition of the document collection from the Churchill Archives Center, according to its director, Allen Packwood. Among its treasures are dozens of original drafts of speeches, including a 1897 unpublished manuscript Churchill wrote on the art of rhetoric.