Jacob Rees-Mogg's new book on the Victorians universally panned by critics

‘Did Rees-Mogg really write this? Or did he get the work-experience boy to do it?’

Adam Forrest
Sunday 19 May 2019 16:50
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Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg’s new book has been savaged by the critics, who have dismissed his tribute to the Victorians as “staggeringly silly”, “sentimental jingoism” and “so terrible”.

The influential Brexiteer’s latest work The Victorians: Twelve Titans Who Forged Britain looks at the lives of a dozen eminent 19th-century figures – including Queen Victoria, Sir Robert Peel and Lord Palmerston.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Dominic Sandbrook described it as “so bad, so boring, so mind-bogglingly banal that if it had been written by anybody else it would never have been published”.

The historian added: “Did Rees-Mogg really write this? Or did he get the work-experience boy to do it? In any case, the overall effect is soul-destroying. There have been many books on the Victorians, but surely none as badly written.”

AN Wilson was equally withering, describing Mr Rees-Mogg’s effort as “anathema ... to anyone with an ounce of historical, or simply common, sense”. In his review for The Times, Mr Wilson said the book “consists of a dozen clumsily written pompous schoolboy compositions … What a staggeringly silly book this is!”

Historian Kim A Wagner called the book “a sentimental vision of the past as the author wishes it had been” resembling a series of “half-remembered anecdotes from a Boy’s Own story, or perhaps tales told by his nanny”.

“The book really belongs in the celebrity autobiography section of the bookstore,” he wrote in The Observer’s review. “At best, it can be seen as a curious artefact of the kind of sentimental jingoism and empire-nostalgia currently afflicting our country.”

The Guardian reviewer Kathryn Hughes wrote: “At least we know The Victorians isn’t ghost written, since no self-respecting freelancer would dare ask for payment for such rotten prose.”

The MP for North East Somerset has said he spent around 300 hours writing it, and the register of MPs’ financial interests shows he has already received a £12,500 payment from Penguin Random House.

The father of six said his children “did not delay my work ... as Peter, Mary, Thomas, Anselm, Alfred and Sixtus were kindly looked after by my wife Helena and, of course, nanny.”

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