Mr. Churchill

Isaiah Berlin defends Churchill against the charge that his writings are windy and self-aggrandizing

Mr. Roosevelt believed in flexibility, improvisation, the fruitfulness of using persons and resources in an infinite variety of new and unexpected ways; his bureaucracy was somewhat chaotic, perhaps deliberately so. His own office was not tidily organized, he practiced a highly personal form of government. He maddened the advocates of institutional authority, but it is doubtful whether he could have achieved his ends in any other way.

These dissimilarities of outlook went deep, but both were large enough in scope and both were genuine visions, not narrowed and distorted by personal idiosyncrasies and those disparities of moral standard which so fatally divided Wilson, Lloyd George, and Clemenceau. The President and the Prime Minister often disagreed; their ideals and their methods were widely different; in some of the memoirs and gossip of Mr. Roosevelt's entourage much has been made of this; but the point was that the discussion was conducted on a level of which both heads of government were conscious. They may have opposed but they never wished to wound each other; they may have issued contrary instructions but they never bickered; when they compromised, as they so often did, they did so without a sense of bitterness or defeat, but in response to the demands of history or one another's traditions and personality.

Each appeared to the other in a romantic light high above the battles of allies or subordinates: their meetings and correspondence were occasions to which both consciously rose: they were royal cousins and felt pride in this relationship, tempered by a sharp and sometimes amused, but never ironical, perception of the other's peculiar qualities. The relationship born during the great historical upheaval, somewhat aggrandized by its solemnity, never flagged or degenerated, but retained a combination of formal dignity and exuberant high spirits which can scarcely ever before have bound the heads of states. Each was personally fascinated not so much by the other, as by the idea of the other, and infected him by his own peculiar brand of high spirits.

The relationship was made genuine by something more than even the solid community of interest or personal and official respect or admiration—namely, by the peculiar degree to which they liked each other's delight in the oddities and humors of life and their own active part in it. This was a unique personal bond, which Harry Hopkins understood and encouraged to the fullest degree. Mr. Roosevelt's sense of fun was perhaps the lighter, Mr. Churchill's a trifle grimmer. But it was something which they shared with each other and with few, if any, statesmen outside the Anglo-American orbit; their staffs sometimes ignored or misunderstood it, and it gave a most singular quality to their association.

Mr. Roosevelt's public utterances differ by a whole world from the dramatic masterpieces of Mr. Churchill, but they are not incompatible with them in spirit or in substance. Mr. Roosevelt has not left us his own account of his world as he saw it; and perhaps he lived too much from day to day to be temperamentally attracted to the performance of such a task. But both were thoroughly aware of their commanding position in the history of the modern world, and Mr. Churchill's account of his stewardship is written in full consciousness of this responsibility.

It is a great occasion, and he treats it with corresponding solemnity. Like a great actor— perhaps the last of his kind—upon the stage of history, he speaks his memorable lines with a large unhurried and stately utterance in a blaze of light as is appropriate to a man who knows that his work and his person will remain the object of scrutiny and judgment to many generations. His narrative is a great public performance and has the attribute of formal magnificence. The words, the splendid phrases, the sustained quality of feeling, are a unique medium which convey his vision of himself and of his world, and will inevitably, like all that he has said and done, reinforce the famous public image, which is no longer distinguishable from the inner essence and the true nature of the author: of a man larger than life, composed of bigger and simpler elements than ordinary men, a gigantic historical figure during his own lifetime, superhumanly bold, strong, and imaginative, one of the two greatest men of action his nation has produced, an orator of prodigious powers, the savior of his country, a legendary hero who belongs to myth as much as to reality, the largest human being of our time.

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