What is nicknamed has ‘Churchills Dream’ is a piece of writing by Winston Churchill. Wrote in November 1947, he details in this piece of writing a encounter he had with the ghost of his father.
Of course many read this piece and assume if is a dream that Churchill had during a cat nap but Churchill’s writing suggests it may have been a visitation!
One foggy afternoon… I was painting in my studio at the cottage down the hill at Chartwell. Someone had sent me a portrait of my father which had been painted for one of the Belfast Conservative Clubs about the time of his visit to Ulster in the Home Rule crisis of 1886. The canvas had been badly torn and though I am very shy of painting human faces I thought I would try to make a copy of it… I was just trying to give the twirl to his moustache when I suddenly felt an odd sensation. I turned around with my palette in my hand, and there, sitting in my red leather upright armchair, was my father. He looked just as I had seen him in his prime, and as I had read about him in his brief years of triumph. He was small and slim, with the big moustache I was just painting, and all his bright, captivating, jaunty air. His eyes twinkled and shone. He was evidently in the best of tempers. He was engaged in filling his amber cigarette-holder with a little pad of cotton wool before putting in the cigarette. This was in order to stop the nicotine, which used to be thought deleterious [!]. He was so exactly like my memories of him in his most charming moods that I could hardly believe my eyes. I felt no alarm, but I thought I would stand where I was and go no nearer.
Churchill’s Father named Randolph Churchill, had died in 1895. When alive Randolph was the quintessential nineteenth-century Tory. He died before his time – to the relief of half the country and much of the Conservative party – he was a victim of syphilis.
Chuchill goes into details about what himself and his father spoke about
‘Tell me’, [Randolph] asked, ‘what year is it?’
‘Nineteen forty-seven’. [Winston]
‘Of the Christian era, I presume.’
‘Yes, that all goes on. At least, they still count that way.’
‘I don’t remember anything after ninety-four. I was very confused that year… So more than fifty years have passed. A lot must have happened.’
A lot had happened since his fathers passing and Winston was in a extremely good position to explain things, after all, he had been active in British politics for almost fifty years and a war-time prime-minister.
Churchill detailed more of the conversation
[Randolph] ‘But tell me more about these other wars.’
[Winston]‘They were the wars of the nations, caused by demagogues and tyrants.’
‘Did we win?’
‘Yes, we won all our wars. All our enemies were beaten down. We even made them surrender unconditionally.’
‘No one should be made to do that. Great people forget sufferings, but not humiliations.’
‘Well, that was the way it happened, Papa.’…
But he remained sunk in gloom, and huddled back in the chair. Presently: ‘About these wars, the ones after the Boer War, I mean. What happened to the great States of Europe? Is Russia still the danger?’
‘We are all very worried about her.’
‘We always were in my day, and in Dizzy’s [Disraeli] before me. Is there still a Tsar?’
‘Yes, but he is not a Romanoff. It’s another family. He is much more powerful and much more despotic.’ [The reference, of course, is to Stalin]
‘What of Germany? What of France?’ ‘They are both shattered. Their only hope is to rise together.’
‘I remember,’ he said, ‘taking you through the Place de la Concorde when you were only nine years old, and you asked me about the Strasbourg monument. You wanted to know why this one as covered in flowers and crape. I told you about the lost provinces of France. What flag flies in Strasbourg now?’
‘The Tricolour flies there.’
‘Ah, so they won. They had their revanche. That must have been a great triumph for them.’
‘It cost them their life blood’, I said.
‘But wars like these must have cost a million lives. They must have been as bloody as the American Civil War.’
‘Papa,’ I said, ‘in each of them about thirty million men were killed in battle. In the last one seven million were murdered in cold blood, mainly by the Germans. They made human slaughter-pens like the Chicago stockyards. Europe is a ruin. Many of her cities have been blown to pieces by bombs. Ten capitals in Eastern Europe are in Russian hands. They are Communists now, you know – Karl Marx and all that. It may well be that an even worse war is drawing near. A war of the East against the West. A war of liberal civilisation against the Mongol hordes. Far gone are the days of Queen Victoria and a settled world order. But, having gone through so much, we do not despair.’
Winston and his father did no get on in life and not having lived to see Winston’s first successes, his father would have not known. The story ends with his father’s suggestion that his son should have gone into politics rather than journalism and his father vanishes before Winston can put him right.