by Zoe Pollock
Adam Gopnik's survey of Churchill is a spot-on read, with all the right flourishes of detail. Here he is on Churchill's speeches:
Churchill was a cavalier statesman who could never survive roundhead strictures on ornament and theatrical excess in speaking. That’s why he could supply what everyone needed in 1940: a style that would mark emphatic ends (there is no good news), conventional ideas (we are an ancient nation), and old-fashioned emphasis (we will fight). Perhaps the style never suited the time. It suited the moment. The archaic poetic allusions in the June 4th speechthe reference to King Arthur’s knights, the echoes of Shakespeare and John of Gaunt’s oration on Englandare there to say, “What’s to fear? We’ve been here before.” The images are stale, the metaphors are violent, the atmosphere is dramaticand the moment justifies them all.