“Light on the Literary Life”
It is a dose of personal choice, and a quirk of history, that ushered a highly successful American novelist of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries into near obscurity. Winston Churchill authored several best-sellers by 1904, but later chose to pursue other interests. Churchill entered politics, took up painting, and eventually left the public eye. His name provided the quirk of history. His withdraw coincided with a different Winston Churchill’s rise to prominence. Our memory of the British politician turned author is so large that our memory of the American author turned politician is now faint.
The following story features Winston Churchill, the American author. It is one story featured in the book, Capital Stories About Famous Americans.
Churchill lived in New Hampshire and a local charity had persuaded the author to provide work for an unemployed man. Desiring to help, Churchill hired the man to work on his property. Before long, the formerly unemployed man displayed behavior that obviously contributed to his former condition. Churchill determined that the man was not going to work out and decided to let him go. Upon his firing, the man took a “jaunty air” that Churchill found perplexing. “’You seem pleased’” Churchill said. Responding to the author’s sarcasm, the man replied “’Oh, I ain’t [sic] worrying, guess I shan’t starve.’” Intrigued by both the man’s statement and demeanor, Churchill said “’Indeed? I’m not so sure about that. Perhaps you won’t mind mentioning what you expect to do.”’ “’No objections,’” responded the man in his typical air. “’If the wust [sic] comes to the wust [sic] I shall take up book-writing. I’ve discovered that it don’t require such an all-fired smart man as I used to think it did.’”
Novelist: Winston Churchill (en.wikisource.org)
Banks, Louis Albert. Capital Stories About Famous Americans (New York: 1905) The Christian Herald. pp. 120-21