The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill

CHURCHILLBY William Manchester. Little, Brown, $25.00. Mr. Manchester is a fine biographer with a fine subject, which he presents with care and skill, to the great pleasure of his audience. Churchill’s life was truly extraordinary, in part because, as he himself put it. “I like things to happen, and if they don’t happen I like to make them happen.” As Mr. Manchester describes Churchill’s roles from 1874 to 1932—neglected child, refractory student, army officer, unorthodox war correspondent, successful author, rising politician, first lord of the Admiralty, father of the tank, turncoat, parliamentary gadfly, allegedly the worst chancellor of the exchequer in history and eventual party castaway—he fills in, generously and vividly, the background of men and events surrounding his hero. It does not diminish Churchill’s stature that one gradually comes to see why so many of his colleagues in government found him unendurable. Witty versatile, highly intelligent, intellectually original, and uncontrollably energetic, he struck ordinary men as a fellow altogether too inclined to boanl somebody else’s boat and start rocking it. (Churchill thought he was merely plugging the leaks and repairing the engine.) The book runs to more than 800 pages, and there is not a dull line in it. The copious quotations go off like fireworks.