Rare Churchill poem to be sold at auction

Roy Davids with his collection looking through Churchill pictures. Below, the poem by Churchill that will go under the hammer with his other manuscripts Picture: OXOX57288 Richard Cave

The poem which is part of a lot which could fetch £1.5m at auction

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Didcot and Wallingford. Call me on 01865 425425

SIR Winston Churchill was famous for his stirring speeches as a Prime Minister during the Second World War.

Now the world leader’s artistic side has been revealed by Roy Davids, a 70-year-old retired manuscript dealer from Great Haseley, who is selling his collection of poetry manuscripts.

His vast collection – compiled over 40 years – is being sold by Bonhams in April and May.

Among the literary haul is the signed manuscript of Our Modern Watchwords, the only known poem written by an adult Churchill.

Mr Davids, who has lived in the village near Thame since 1990, was head of Sotheby’s books department from 1982 to 1994, and ran his own manuscripts dealership from 1994 to 2006.

The 40-line Churchill poem was written in 1899 or 1900 when Churchill was serving in the 4th Hussars.

The tribute to the nation has been written in blue crayon on 4th Hussars-headed notepaper and could fetch between £12,000 and £15,000.

Mr Davids, whose own poetry collection The Haseleys and Their Abouts, was published in 2011, said: “I don’t think Churchill has written a bad poem. People often don’t have a sense of metre and Churchill certainly had that.

“He was a Nobel Prize winner for literature and had a natural sense of the rhythm of words.”

Mr Davids bought the manuscript from a dealer in London for about £8,000.

“The dealer knew it was rare and by Churchill, but he did not know it was unpublished or unique and I did the work to find out more about it,” he added.

Other highlights of the collection include a manuscript of WH Auden’s poem Funeral Blues, also known as Stop All the Clocks, made famous by the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral.

The Auden manuscript could fetch £8,000 while the draft of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem Binsey Poplars could sell for up to £40,000.

There are more than 500 lots for sale and they could sell for a total of £1.5m.

Mr Davids said: “I would prefer to have the money while I can still enjoy it.”

He said Churchill wrote a poem while a Harrow schoolboy, but Our Modern Watchwords was the only known poem by Churchill as an adult.

Bonhams spokesman Andrew Currie said: “The work certainly provides a fascinating extra insight into the life of one of the country’s greatest figures.”

Bonhams revealed there are no Churchill poems contained in the Churchill Archives in Cambridge.

Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, in 1874 and died in 1965. He is buried at St Michael’s Church in Bladon.

OUR MODERN WATCHWORDS

The shadow falls along the shore
The search lights twinkle on the sea
The silence of a mighty fleet
Portends the tumult yet to be.
The tables of the evening meal
Are spread amid the great machines
And thus with pride the question runs
Among the sailors and marines
Breathes there the man who fears to die
For England, Home, & Wai-hai-wai...

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