"It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare."

Monday, December 29, 2008

When Twain Met Churchill

An astute reader of the New York Times pointed out in yesterday's Sunday Book Review that Carlo D'Este's new book about Winston Churchill, which was recently reviewed in the Times, contains a misrepresentation of Churchill's encounter with Mark Twain.

According to the new book, Warlord: A Life of Winston Churchill at War, Twain introduced Churchill to a New York audience in 1900 with the words, "a hero of five wars, author of six books and future prime minister of England." In actuality, it was the manager of Churchill's North American lecture tour who came up with that only partly accurate description, not Twain.

Twain, more in keeping with his personality and general attitude toward colonial warfare, actually described Churchill as "[knowing] all about war and nothing about peace."

This inaccurate attribution has been often repeated, so thanks go out to Times reader Peter Crane for pointing that out.

Twain and Churchill, incidentally, shared the same birthday: November 30.

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