I was reading an essay written by Winston Churchill in 1947 about a long conversation he had with his father's ghost in a dream. He was telling his father, Lord Randolph, about everything that had been going on in the world since his death in 1895 but not telling him that he, Winston, had embarked on a political career himself. Here's an extract:
"War?" he said, sitting up with a startled air."War, do you say? Has there been a war?"
"We have had nothing else but wars since democracy took charge."
..."Tell me about them."
"Well, first there was the Boer War....We conquered the Transvaal and the Orange Free State."
"England should never have done that. To strike down two independent republics must have lowered our whole position in the world. It must have stirred up a good fight. When I was there I saw lots of them. Men of the wild, with rifles, on horseback. It must have taken a lot of soldiers. How many? Forty thousand?"
"No, over a quarter of a million."
"Good God! What a shocking drain on the Exchequer!"
"It was," I said. "The Income Tax went up to one and threepence."
He was visibly disturbed. So I said that they got it down to eightpence afterwards...
"About those wars, the ones after the Boer War, I mean. What happened to the great States of Europe?..."...
"It cost them their life blood," I said.
"But wars like these must have cost a million lives. They must have been as bloody as the American Civil War."
"Papa," I said, "in each of them about thirty million men were killed in battle. In the last one seven million men were murdered in cold blood, mainly by the Germans. They made human slaughter-pens like the Chicago stockyards. Europe is a ruin. Many of her cities have been blown to pieces by bombs. Ten capitals in Eastern Europe are in Russian hands. They are Communists now, you know - Karl Marx and all that. It may well be that an even worse war is drawing near. A war of the East against the West. A war of liberal civilisation against the Mongol hordes. Far gone are the days of Queen Victoria and a settled world order. But, having gone through so much, we do not despair."
He seemed stupefied and fumbled with his matchbox for what seemed a minute or more. Then he said:
"Winston, you have told me a terrible tale. I would never have believed that such things could happen. I am glad I did not live to see them. As I listened to you unfolding these fearful facts you seemed to know a great deal about them. I never expected you would develop so far and so fully. Of course you are too old now to think about such things, but when I hear you talk I really wonder you didn't go into politics. You might have done a lot to help. You might even have made a name for yourself."