We do not like thee, Hilary Mantel,
The reason why – we cannot tell;
But this we know, and know full well,
We do not like thee, Hilary Mantel.
The British press has gone bananas. This time over remarks about the Duchess of Cambridge made by an acclaimed author of Tudor historical novels.
A few days ago Hilary Mantel delivered a lecture based on her essay Royal Bodies, published in the London Review of Books (podcast and essay at this link).
The offending words (all out of context):
“… a jointed doll on which certain rags are hung … a shop-window mannequin, with no personality of her own, entirely defined by what she wore … as painfully thin as anyone could wish, without quirks, without oddities, without the risk of the emergence of character. She appears precision-made, machine-made.”
Outraged journalists described Mantel’s words as mean-spirited and venomous and vitriolic. The prime minister came out in defence of The Most Noble Kate. He was joined by the leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition.
The controversy spilled onto the radio-waves when people rang the Jeremy Vine Show to give their opinions (slide to 1h 10m). The people talked over each other. They insisted on missing the point. They engaged in fallacies and cognitive bias. And after their initial reserve they triumphantly identified themselves as either royalist or republican. The labels were irrelevant; mutual opposition was all that mattered. A man (republican) clinched the argument with the phrase: “My arse!” The line went dead, and Jeremy apologised for, “the word that is not bottom”.