Some years ago in Nice we were looking for bookshelves. We found one in art deco style in a brocanteur for I think $500, one of it shelves being full of books in English from the 1920s. I saw immediately what the books were and got out my money. The owner said the books were extra. Who wants a bunch of foreign language books 60 or 70 years old, I said. Finally I convinced him they were worthless, gave him the $500, and collected the books, and the art deco piece was delivered later. There were 20 or more books, many by Dos Passos, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Archibald MacLeish, Zelda Fitzgerald and others all inscribed to "Gerald and Sara." Some of the others were children's books in which the Murphy children had scrawled their names, and Gerald Murphy had written his name and address in certain others. I concluded that the piece itself had once stood in the Murphys' house in Antibes.
Among the books was a single volume from Churchill's 6 volume, History of World War I, the one covering the year 1915. I read it avidly for I had never read a thing about 1915. I was looking for trench warfare information but there was none. Instead it was the personal account of Churchill's attempt to force the Gallipoli invasion into existence over the objections of the generals and admirals who were intent only on undermining him. Finally a version of Churchill's plan went forward, by then truncated and too late, a half baked version, doomed to certain failure. A fiasco ensued, tens of thousands of men killed, for which he was blamed, and he was forced out of the government, his career ruined. The story is beautifully, movingly told. He is suffering, he bleeds all over the page. To me a terrific story and terrific book. So it is thanks to Gerald Murphy that I already knew about Churchill in World War I.
There is a corollary I should report as well. I took the signed books back to America and contacted a rare book dealer, the one who advertises in the NYTimes Book Review every Sunday, for I thought the books might be worth money. The woman there had never heard of the Murphys who had attracted all these literary lights plus Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, Picasso and others to their Antibes house in the 20s. She offered me nothing. She did call back the next day very excited, asking to see the books, but by them I had decided to keep them.