By Elizabeth S. Anderson
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Winston Churchill is probably the most popular British prime minister ever. Having served his country as a soldier and politician, he is often considered among the greatest of Britons. But while his heroic stand against the Nazis is well known, there are still a few facts about the popular politician that might surprise you.
The classic image of Winston Churchill includes a giant cigar stuck between his lips. Churchill developed his love of cigars as a young man, when he traveled to Cuba to report on an ongoing rebellion against the colonial Spanish government. For the rest of his life, he smoked eight or nine cigars every day. However, he almost never took a puff , preferring to chew on the end until it went out, then relight it and start again. To prevent the cigar from becoming soggy, Churchill invented the “bellybando,” a strip of brown paper which could be glued around the end.
At any given time, Churchill had 3,000 to 4,000 cigars in his house, mostly his favorite Romeo & Juliet brand. The cigars were kept in boxes labeled “large” or “small” and “wrapped” or “naked.” They were mostly gifts, which helped keep expenses down. (One of his servants observed that “in two days his cigar consumption was the equivalent of my weekly salary.”) On one occasion, the president of Cuba presented Churchill with 2,400 top-quality cigars, although his paranoid security team insisted that one cigar from each box be sent off and tested for poison. Perhaps the story that best illustrates his love of cigars occurred during World War II, when he had a special oxygen mask designed so that he could still smoke his cigar on an unpressurized, high-altitude flight.
2. His White House Birthday Suit
Churchill apparently had several naked incidents while staying in the White House. On one occasion, he supposedly encountered the ghost of Abraham Lincoln while naked. They stared at each other for some time before Lincoln politely disappeared.
President Franklin Roosevelt also saw him naked, along with several White House staff during his 24-day visit in 1941. Churchill had just taken his bath and was pacing around in the nude when Roosevelt came in. The president quickly tried to leave, but Churchill told him not to, declaring that he clearly had nothing to hide from his closest ally .
This incident is somewhat controversial, since Churchill later insisted that he “never received the president without at least a bath towel” to cover himself. However, Churchill’s stenographer and bodyguard both claimed to have witnessed the incident and Roosevelt’s secretary said the president told her about it later, describing Churchill as “pink and white all over.” And Churchill himself once told King George VI that he was the only person on Earth to ever meet with a president naked.
3. The Two Winstons
Although it’s somewhat overshadowed by his political career, Winston Churchill was an accomplished writer. In fact, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953. His first book was The Story of the Malakand Field Force, a first-hand account of a military campaign in what is now Pakistan.
Funnily enough, there was another writer named Winston Churchill who was active at the same time. This Winston Churchill was an American who wrote a number of novels, six or seven of which became huge bestsellers. These included Richard Carvel, described as “a serious historical novel, embracing a romantic courtship and many events on land and sea,” which sold an astonishing two million copies and made the author a rich man.
Interestingly, both Churchills published their first books in 1898, although the American Churchill was the first to become famous for his writing. Unsurprisingly, he would eventually be eclipsed by the fame of his British counterpart and is almost forgotten today. But at the time, the two writers were often confused with each other. To avoid further difficulty, the two Churchills eventually agreed that the British Churchill would publish as “Winston S. Churchill” while the American would simply go by “Winston Churchill.”
4. The Accident That Almost Killed Him
In December 1931, Churchill was on a late-night visit to his friend Bernard Baruch in New York when he had a brush with death. While crossing the street, he was hit by a car, which then dragged him behind it for a short distance. As it turned out, Churchill had instinctively looked to the right when he wanted to cross. However, since cars drive on opposite sides of the road in America and Britain, he should actually have looked left. Instead, he stepped serenely into the path of an oncoming car.
Churchill sustained severe bruising on his chest and a sprained shoulder. He played down the severity of the injuries, writing that he couldn’t understand “why I was not broken like an eggshell or squashed like a gooseberry.” He also accepted all the blame for the accident, informing the police that the driver was innocent and securing his release. Since the accident occurred during Prohibition, Churchill managed to talk his doctor into writing him a note asserting that “the post-accident concussion of Hon. Winston S. Churchill necessitates the use of alcoholic spirits, especially at meal times.”
5. His Black Dog
Throughout his life, Churchill probably suffered from manic depression , which he called his “black dog.” At times, his depression was so severe that he didn’t like standing close to a passing train or looking at the ocean from a ship because he feared he would be tempted to commit suicide. His close friend Lord Beaverbrook once said that he was always either “at the top of the wheel of confidence or at the bottom of an intense depression.”
During his bouts of depression, Churchill would almost cease to function, spending a great deal of time in bed and losing his appetite and ability to concentrate. When he recovered from one such bout, he memorably described how “all the colors come back into the picture.”
When not depressed, Churchill was famously full of energy, usually working and talking until the early hours of the morning. He bounced constantly from one topic to another, causing Roosevelt to quip that he “has a thousand ideas a day, four of which are good.” In fairness, Roosevelt knew Churchill best during the later years of the war, when his doctor had taken to prescribing him amphetamines in order to avoid any depressive episodes, which didn’t help his manic tendencies.
6. His Quotes
The great quotes of Winston Churchill have filled entire books. Unfortunately, many of the quotes attributed to him just aren’t true. For instance, Nancy Astor is often said to have told him “If I were your wife I would put poison in your coffee,” to which Churchill replied “If I were married to you, I’d drink it.” The incident did happen, but Churchill wasn’t involved at all. Instead, his good friend Lord Birkenhead delivered the reply.
Churchill did have a run-in with Astor, herself a great wit and the first female British Member of Parliament, but it was rather less quotable. Apparently, Churchill complained that he “felt when you entered the House of Commons that a woman had entered my bathroom and I had nothing to protect myself with but the sponge” to which Astor replied “Would it never occur to you that your appalling appearance might have been protection enough?”
Churchill couldn’t really complain about Astor’s rudeness, since he genuinely did respond to another female MP accusing him of being drunk with “Madam, you are ugly and I will be sober in the morning.” However, he probably didn’t say that “Americans will always do the right thing, after they have tried everything else” or tell a civil servant bemoaning prepositions at the end of sentences that “this is the kind of English up with which I will not put.” And both Churchill and George Bernard Shaw denied the famous story in which Shaw sent Churchill two tickets to his new play and invited him to “bring a friend, if you have one” only for Churchill to reply that he would come on the second night “if there is one.”
However, Churchill fans shouldn’t despair just yet. It most likely is true that Churchill was in the toilet when an aide informed him that the Lord Privy Seal had arrived to see him, prompting the memorable instruction to “tell the Lord Privy Seal that I am sealed in the privy and can only deal with one s–t at a time.”
1. Winston Churchill: 温斯顿•丘吉尔（1874—1965），英国政治家、演说家、作家，曾两度出任英国首相，被认为是20世纪最重要的政治领袖之一。
2. prime minister: 首相，总理。
3. politician: 政治家；Briton: 英国人。
4. heroic: 英勇的；stand: 态度，立场；Nazi: 纳粹分子。
5. Cuba: 古巴，北美洲国家；ongoing: 持续的，正在进行的；rebellion: 造反，反抗；colonial: 殖民地的。
6. puff: 喷（烟等）。
7. soggy: 湿软的；strip: 带，条；brown paper: 牛皮纸。
8. label: 给……贴标签；wrapped: 有包装的。
9. equivalent: 等价物。
10. paranoid: 多疑的。
11. 二战期间，丘吉尔还特制了一种氧气面罩，使他在高空非增压舱时仍可以抽雪茄。这或许是证明丘吉尔对雪茄痴迷程度的最好例子了。illustrate: （用事例、图表等）解释，说明；oxygen mask: 氧气面罩；altitude: 海拔，高度。
12. birthday suit: 一丝不挂，赤身裸体。
13. supposedly: 据称，可能；encounter: 遇到；Abraham Lincoln: 亚伯拉罕•林肯（1809—1865），美国第16任总统。
14. Franklin Roosevelt: 富兰克林•罗斯福（1882—1945），美国第32任总统。
15. in the nude: 赤身裸体地。
16. ally: 同盟者，同盟。
17. controversial: 有争议的；receive: 接待，会见。
18. stenographer: 速记员。
19. King George VI: 乔治六世（1895—1952），是现任英国女王伊丽莎白二世的父亲。
20. overshadow: 使相形见绌；accomplished: 才华横溢的，技艺高超的。
21. The Story of the Malakand Field Force: 《马拉坎德野战军纪实》，丘吉尔的第一部著作，于1898年在英国出版；first-hand: 第一手的，亲身的；account: 描述，叙述。
22. embrace: 包括，包含；courtship: 求爱期，恋爱期；astonishing: 惊人的。
23. eclipse: 使黯然失色；counterpart: 对应的人（或物）。
24. Bernard Baruch: 伯纳德•巴鲁克（1870—1965），美国政治家、金融家、投资大师；a brush with death: 与死神擦肩而过。
25. as it turns out: 事实证明；instinctively: 本能地，直觉地。
26. serenely: 平静地，沉着地。
27. bruising: 清淤，擦伤；sprained: 扭伤的。
28. play sth. down: 淡化，降低（重要性）；eggshell: 蛋壳；squash: 压碎，压扁；gooseberry: 醋栗。
29. innocent: 无辜的，无罪的。
30. 因为事故发生在禁酒时期，丘吉尔设法说服他的医生把他的报告写成“温斯顿•丘吉尔阁下事故后出现脑震荡，需要饮用烈性酒，尤其是用餐的时候”。Prohibition: 禁酒时期，指美国历史上一段推行全国性禁酒的时期，从1920年开始至1933年结束；concussion: 脑震荡；Hon.: 即Honourable，尊敬的；necessitate: 使成为必要；spirit: 烈性酒。
31. manic depression: 躁郁症。
32. be tempted to do: （使）很想做。
33. Lord Beaverbrook: 比弗布鲁克勋爵，指威廉•马克斯韦尔•艾特（William Maxwell Aitken）（1879—1964），英国政治家、报业大亨，1940年任丘吉尔内阁的飞机生产大臣。
34. bout: （疾病或感情的）发作；cease: 结束，停止。
35. quip: 说俏皮话。
36. prescribe: 开药，为……开处方；amphetamine: 安非他明，苯丙胺（一种药物，可增强体力和兴奋度，减少饥饿感）；episode: （某疾病的）发作期。
37. quote: 引语，语录。
38. attribute sth. to sb.: 认为……出自（某人）。
39. Nancy Astor: 南希•阿斯特（1879—1964），英国下议院第一位女议员。
40. run-in: 争执，争论；wit: 机智风趣的人；Member of Parliament: 下议院议员，也写作MP。
41. House of Commons: （英国议会中的）下议院；sponge: 海绵；appalling: 令人恐惧的，使人震惊的。
42. accuse sb. (of sth.): 谴责，控诉；sober: 清醒的，严肃的。
43. civil servant: 公务员，文职人员；bemoan: 哀怨，悲叹；preposition: 介词；put up with: 忍受。
44. George Bernard Shaw: 萧伯纳（1856—1950），爱尔兰剧作家。
45. Lord Privy Seal: （英国的）掌玺大臣，privy意为“参与机密的”，后文为名词，指“厕所”，seal意为“玺，印章”，后文为动词，指“封闭，密封”；prompt: 导致，促使。