Jacob Rees-Mogg is apparently as bad at writing books as he is at getting rid of Theresa May.
The Conservative MP and influential Brexiteer has written a nostalgic take on 12 historical figures from the Victorian era, which he argues shows the “spirit, drive and values” that forged modern Britain.
Unfortunately, critics weren’t as kind about the book.
First up was AN Wilson, who wrote his own history of the Victorians in 2002.
Writing in The Times, Wilson called the book “anathema, surely, to anyone with an ounce of historical, or simply common, sense.”
He summarised the book like this:
'The Victorians' consists of a dozen clumsily written pompous schoolboy compositions of 19th-century characters.
And he had some harsh words for Rees-Mogg’s write-up of General Charles Napier, a colonial general who’s military conquest of Sindh was extremely controversial.
At this point in the book you start to think that the author is worse than a twit. By all means let us celebrate what was great about the Victorians, but there is something morally repellent about a book that can gloss over massacres and pillage on the scale perpetrated by Napier.
The Guardian’s Kathryn Hughes followed with another scathing review on the same day, in which Rees-Mogg was accused of using the book primarily to promote himself.
It doesn’t look like he succeeded though, as 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.
She also criticised the lack of women in Rees-Mogg’s history, which contains 11 men and only one woman – Queen Victoria.
The only female who appears in the book is Queen Victoria herself who, Rees-Mogg assures us, ‘became no less of a woman when she learned to rely upon Albert as a partner and to trust him’.
I’m pretty sure this is offensive, although the contorted construction makes it hard to be certain.
Next up was historian Dominic Sandbrook, who called the book “soul-destroying” and “absolutely abysmal”.
There have been many books on the Victorians, but surely none as badly written.
The book is apparently so bad that it made Sandbrook want to stop Rees-Mogg from writing by any means necessary…
Before I started, the prospect of Rees-Mogg in Downing Street struck me as a ridiculous idea. But if this is what it takes to stop him writing another book, then I think we should seriously consider paying the price.
And another historian, Kim Wagner, stepped in to give the book one more kicking.
Wagner went even further in an opinion piece on Sunday.
The book really belongs in the celebrity autobiography section of the bookstore. At best, it can be seen as a curious artefact of the kind of sentimental jingoism and empire-nostalgia currently afflicting our country.
However, the reviews weren’t entirely negative - as there is one positive review on the Penguin Books page promoting The Victorians.
Andrew Roberts, who wrote an acclaimed history of Winston Churchill, described the book as a “well-researched and extremely well-written exposition of the Victorians and their values.”
Alongside that review are some other positive comments which appear to be about Rees-Mogg as a politician rather than a writer.
In one of them, The Spectator described him as “the best-dressed man in the House of Commons.”
If only his writing skills matched up to his sartorial choices.