JENNIE: Lady Randolph Churchill by Peregrine & Julian Mitchell Churchill

JENNIE: Lady Randolph Churchill

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Not only does this collection of Lady Churchill's letters lack the panache and gossipy verve of Ralph G. Martin's two-volume Jennie (1969 and 1971), but the connective narrative between the mostly trivial correspondence is so discreet as to be dishonest. The jolly infatuation of the likable young couple who met on the Isle of Wight and became engaged three days later is amply conveyed in the chirping, high-spirited early notes that passed between the pair as they plotted to overcome parental objections to their wedding. It is also clear from letters that even in the early, happy years of marriage Jenny Jerome, the uninhibited American, found life at Blenheim, the ancestral home--and particularly Randolph's mother, the Duchess of Marlborough--a trial. Most of the correspondence is devoted to domestic small talk or the untangling of family quarrels, though Jenny's headstrong impetuosity (""I won't marry you unless you let me do exactly as I like"" she wrote Randolph) comes through as does the bristly, stubborn nature of her aristocrat husband. Peregrine Churchill, Lady Randolph's grandson, and Julian Mitchell explicitly deny that Jenny was, as so many have asserted, an indifferent, cold mother to young Winston, but the social swirl of London and the Prince of Wales' set seems her chief preoccupation. We are never told that Randolph died of progressive syphilis and the authors insist that there is no evidence for Jenny's infidelity before her affair with Charles Kinksy, the dashing Austro-Hungarian attache. Jenny's two marriages after the death of Lord Randolph Churchill receive much less coverage, though the letters to and from George Cornwallis-West, her lover and second husband, show him as little more than an infatuated kid--he was in fact the same age as Winston. Jenny Jerome was, by all accounts, a magnetic, formidable woman--but only the social butterfly flits through these pages.

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 1975
Publisher: St. Martin's