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Old 10 June 2007, 10:27 PM
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Default Churchill, slums, saying anything clever

Ever since I was a young boy,* there's a quotation from Churchill (who was half-American, so that gives some idea what a bastard he must have been) when he was visiting some slums in a Northern English city.

These boys are the first I find when I google the quote. It seems to me to be the one I remember from under the kitchen table, overgearing [stet] my parents as they Planned The Revolution, although there is one thing that strikes me as duff.

Quote:
Edward Marsh, Winston Churchill's private secretary, once accompanied the future prime minister on an election campaign in his Manchester riding. Marching into the slums, Churchill gazed around, horrifed, at row upon row of squalid houses.

"Fancy living in one of these streets," he mused, "never seeing anything beautiful, never eating anything savory... never saying anything clever!"
Riding is not an English electoral term. It is in Canada, and being a Yorkshireman ("Mais si peu," as Mr Chuckles rather maliciously insisted last August in Regent's Park) I know that a Riding is a Third Part Of The County Of Yorkshire. But it's not an electoral division.

So, you see my problem. This is, in the quoted version, a great Canadian story re-applied to a great British politico. But I remember it from my childhood, which I'm pretty sure was free of Canadians. (I do not boast, I merely report.) And today I was reading my copy of the TLS, yes, if you must, the London Times Literary Supplement, and the same story turns up there, but the place is Liverpool.

Yes, there is a difference between Liverpool and Manchester.

So where did the quote really originate? Was it really Churchill's (the cnut)? Did somebody attribute it to him and he was really a nice aristo when it came to the working class? (Ask anyone in Tonypandy.) Or is there a horripifilic concatenation of quotations to show what a bastard Churchill really was?

*I've played the golden ball,
From Soho down to Brighton,
I must have played them all.
Why do you ask?
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  #2  
Old 10 June 2007, 10:33 PM
Hyper Squirrel Hyper Squirrel is offline
 
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Originally Posted by Billy Beccles View Post
...there's a quotation from Churchill (who was half-American, so that gives some idea what a bastard he must have been)...
Excuse me? I don't know the answer to your question, but even if what you said was a joke I don't find it very funny.
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  #3  
Old 10 June 2007, 11:33 PM
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From Edward Marsh's "A Number of People (Part I)", Harper's Magazine, May 1939, pp. 571-577.



(Marsh's A Number of People: A Book of Reminiscences was published that year by Harper & Bros. [New York & London].)

Bonnie "nothing clever to say" Taylor
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  #4  
Old 11 June 2007, 12:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Hyper Squirrel View Post
Excuse me? I don't know the answer to your question, but even if what you said was a joke I don't find it very funny.
Wull, y'know, we yanks, always firing off horse-pistols and seducing the kitchen-maids. What of an American does not reek of the ordure of cattle and horses, reeks of burnt gunpowder. Americans serve a very useful purpose in Britain, giving Cornishmen someone to feel superior to.

Silas (hoping that our friends in Cornwall perceive that this is solely meant as a jab at strict social hierarchies, not at them!)
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  #5  
Old 11 June 2007, 02:21 AM
Steve Eisenberg Steve Eisenberg is offline
 
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Wow. Bonnie, how did you find that?

As for whether this proves Churchill really said it, I say it doesn't. Did Edward Marsh, a friend of Winston, go around with a notebook? I doubt it. And we'll never know the context.
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Old 11 June 2007, 02:33 AM
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So does this mean I can't credit it to Winston Churchill if I want to make it my snopes/IM/facebook quote?
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  #7  
Old 11 June 2007, 03:14 AM
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The episode described by Marsh appears in Fadiman's and Bernard's Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes (2000), which cites Marsh's memoir, A Number of People. It wasn't hard to dig up an exerpt of A Number of People published in Harper's.

Marsh was Churchill's secretary during this period, so I don't find it unlikely that he, as secretary, made a point to remember whatever quips or observations may have come out of Churchill's mouth. (His book is full of such remembrances involving a host of other notables of the period.) I guess I just don't see any good reason to be especially skeptical of Marsh's 1939 telling.

Moreover, I haven't found any evidence that this is one of those anecdotes that's told about any number of people. Nor have I found a similar version that predates an attribution to Churchill. "Churchillisms" have been given particular scrutiny by quotation sleuths; I've never seen that this particular attribution has been suspected as an invention.

Naturally, if anyone finds credible evidence to the contrary I'm all eyes.

-- Bonnie
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  #8  
Old 11 June 2007, 03:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Artemis View Post
So does this mean I can't credit it to Winston Churchill if I want to make it my snopes/IM/facebook quote?
You can still say "attributed to Winston Churchill." Then, if it's not true, you've made no error.
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  #9  
Old 11 June 2007, 05:44 AM
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Done!

Thanks, Jay Temple.
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  #10  
Old 12 June 2007, 06:11 PM
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Billy Beccles Billy Beccles is offline
 
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Thank you, Bonnie, the highly-coveted Brick Wall Of Chartwell is yours for the taking. Tell 'em I said you could have it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hyper Squirrel View Post
Excuse me? I don't know the answer to your question, but even if what you said was a joke I don't find it very funny.
If I offend, it is with my good will. I don't think I could give up being flippant now. I've cut out dope, I've cut out alcohol, I've cut out tobacco. I'll be cutting out paper dolls next.

Anyway, you didn't laugh, and what have you lost? Forty seconds of reading time. A couple of years back, I went to see Shaun Of The Dead: that's two and a half hours and seven quid of my life just gone, vamoosed, never seen again. I'd say you got off lightly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silas Sparkhammer View Post
Wull, y'know, we yanks, always firing off horse-pistols and seducing the kitchen-maids. What of an American does not reek of the ordure of cattle and horses, reeks of burnt gunpowder. Americans serve a very useful purpose in Britain, giving Cornishmen someone to feel superior to.

Silas (hoping that our friends in Cornwall perceive that this is solely meant as a jab at strict social hierarchies, not at them!)
You forgot "The mess is full of Americans, shooting the bull, chewing gum and calling each other buddy." (The Way To The Stars, 1945, Michael Redgrave, Bonar Colleano and a brilliant film.)

And, dear dear Silas, the race hasn't been born that makes Cornishmen feel inferior.
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  #11  
Old 12 June 2007, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Billy Beccles View Post
Anyway, you didn't laugh, and what have you lost? Forty seconds of reading time. A couple of years back, I went to see Shaun Of The Dead: that's two and a half hours and seven quid of my life just gone, vamoosed, never seen again. I'd say you got off lightly.
Don't have much to say about your Churchill comment...but you didn't laugh ONCE at Shaun of the Dead? I'm not a zombie fan either normally...but c'mon. "Don't say that...you know...the zed word" didn't elicit a chuckle? Or that shot where they're all trying to zombie out...including the mother who isn't even aware of what they're doing?
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  #12  
Old 13 June 2007, 06:16 PM
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And today I was reading my copy of the TLS, yes, if you must, the London Times Literary Supplement, and the same story turns up there, but the place is Liverpool.
It's been a while since the last Churchill biography I read, but I don't seem to recall him ever standing for election in Liverpool. Manchester yes, Birmingham I think, and a couple of other places most Americans including myself have never heard of, but I can't recall anything about Liverpool. (And, like a lot of Americans, it was the only British city other than London that I could have named until I was a ways into my twenties, so I probably would have remembered it.)

Now, for a true Churchill-centric jest about Americans, look no further than Roy Jenkins' biography from a few years ago. After a lengthy assessment of Winnie's car accident in 1931 in New York, he concludes that the mishap "cannot be too easily attributed to the perverse habit of the Americans of driving on the right."
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  #13  
Old 14 June 2007, 09:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hyper Squirrel View Post
Excuse me? I don't know the answer to your question, but even if what you said was a joke I don't find it very funny.
British humour is generally self-deprecating, as such no-one really sees it as an insult when extended to others. This is a difference between the British and American cultures which has lead to misunderstanding the past.

As for Shaun of the Dead, I have it on DVD. It's amazing.
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  #14  
Old 14 June 2007, 06:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Billy Beccles View Post
If I offend, it is with my good will. I don't think I could give up being flippant now. I've cut out dope, I've cut out alcohol, I've cut out tobacco. I'll be cutting out paper dolls next.

Anyway, you didn't laugh, and what have you lost? Forty seconds of reading time. A couple of years back, I went to see Shaun Of The Dead: that's two and a half hours and seven quid of my life just gone, vamoosed, never seen again. I'd say you got off lightly.
I want to be you when I grow up. Is that ok?

-Baikal
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  #15  
Old 15 June 2007, 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Dactyl View Post
British humour is generally self-deprecating, as such no-one really sees it as an insult when extended to others.
And, according to an anthropological study of the English (not Britons, just English although I have a feeling that it extends to Welsh and Scots as well), I have read they are compulsory jokers. They just have to slip in a joke or a pun or whatever in their conversations.
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  #16  
Old 25 June 2007, 10:09 PM
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Billy Beccles Billy Beccles is offline
 
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Originally Posted by Artemis View Post
...but you didn't laugh ONCE at Shaun of the Dead? I'm not a zombie fan either normally...but c'mon...
I'm not boasting, just reporting. I want to like Simon Pegg and his band, if only because they give employment to Julia Deakin, who's one of Mrs Beccles's World Domination League members. I can see the care, I can see the craft, I can appreciate the effort - and pffft. As Orwell once said (he was talking about Housman) he used to shiver when he read it, but 'now it just tinkles'. On the other hand, Florence Foresti makes me laugh like a drain, and I don't understand much more than a quarter of what she says.

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Originally Posted by Baikal View Post
I want to be you when I grow up. Is that ok?

-Baikal
Ye maun dree yir ain weird.
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  #17  
Old 25 June 2007, 10:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Billy Beccles View Post
I'm not boasting, just reporting. I want to like Simon Pegg and his band, if only because they give employment to Julia Deakin, who's one of Mrs Beccles's World Domination League members.
Do you have your own World Domination League? I used to be in one of those. *sigh* I don't suppose you know of Spotty Muldoon.
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  #18  
Old 28 June 2007, 03:05 PM
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Billy Beccles Billy Beccles is offline
 
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Originally Posted by Tarquin Farquart View Post
Do you have your own World Domination League? I used to be in one of those. *sigh* I don't suppose you know of Spotty Muldoon.
He's training the bees. We never found any lovely ladies for him.
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