The Victorians by Jacob Rees-Mogg review – history as manifesto


This post is by Kathryn Hughes from Books | The Guardian


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Confidence and moral purpose made Britain great, argues this poorly written book, designed to reflect the rightwinger back to himself at twice the size

On the cover of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s cymbal-clashing account of 12 Victorian “Titans who forged Britain” is a statue of a lion. At least I think it’s a lion. The animal’s musculature is so wildly exaggerated that it appears to have put on body armour for the occasion. It has also spiked its hair into a coronet and arranged its face into the sort of warning snarl that suggests that it is not planning to lie down with a lamb any time soon. Neither entirely real nor exactly symbolic, here is an animal that has been assembled not from close observation or deep contemplation, but from feverish memory and desperate desire.

This unlocated quality is entirely fitting for Rees-Mogg’s collection of biographical essays of eminent Victorians. ...