….If you have not read Churchill’s works before, I hope you find something in this exhibition to tempt you into the world of eloquent language used in the service of history and country.And so, on a grey day in late February, this reporter met Mrs. Carolyn L. Smith, President of The Grolier Club, in the majestic second floor room that serves as The Grolier’s “Rare Book Room” and where the Churchilliana exhibit currently resides. There, sitting in overstuffed armchairs, surrounded by a fine show of rare Churchill and Churchill-related materials, we talked about things Churchill and things Grolier. In the selective paraphrase that follows, CLS stands for Mrs. Carolyn L. Smith; AT stands for this reporter.
---C[arolyn]. L. S[mith]., Introduction (pp.9-10) to Grolier Club-produced pamphlet, “Churchilliana From The Collection of Carolyn L. Smith.”
AT: I feel compelled to start by saying that I have been in the book business for some time and have curated and catalogued some of the most formidable Churchill collections around. One thing that I noticed in all my years of working with these materials was that I never dealt with a woman Churchill collector. Perhaps this was just a matter of chance. But I’d like to start this interview by asking what drew you to Churchill as a figure worth collecting?
CLS: No, I think it’s true; there are not many female Churchill collectors, at least not many that I have met. But I tend to think of gender as irrelevant here. I was drawn to Churchill by the things about him that fascinate me in all books: his use of language. He was a writer who used language well. And he was always interested in history, as am I. Few writers can match him.
AT: I agree. His use of language was magnificent, and is one of the things that still makes him a pleasure to read. Can you tell me approximately how long ago you started collecting Churchill, and what you started with?
CLS: I started collecting Churchill about 25 years ago, give or take. At first I collected just his books. Then his pamphlets. Speeches. Then affiliate publications. The collection just kind of grew itself. Then it got to the point where I made a conscious effort to round out the collection.
AT: Where did you acquire most of your Churchill material from?
CLS: Mostly from dealers, in England.
AT: Did you or do you collect any other author’s works?
CLS: I have a small collection of Jane Austen and of Dickens. But Churchill has taken over. And I have a joint collection with my husband, who collects the works of early 20th century poets, of the works of the Irish poet Seamus Heaney.