Hilary Mantel 1952-2022

Hilary Mantel died yesterday. As well as twelve novels, three story collections and a memoir, she wrote many pieces for the LRB, the first of them in 1987. She sent Karl Miller a note afterwards: ‘If you would like me to do another piece, I should be delighted to try ... I have no critical training whatsoever so I am forced to be more brisk and breezy than scholarly.’ More than fifty pieces followed, on French revolutionary figures from Robespierre to Théroigne de Méricourt; on Tudors from Jane Boleyn to Margaret Pole; on her own childhood and early adulthood. Her 2013 Winter Lecture on ‘Royal Bodies’ considered the public perception of royal women from Anne Boleyn to Kate Middleton. She wrote to Mary-Kay Wilmers in 2005:

I started writing The Complete Stranger, my novel set in Africa, and left it off because it was frightening me – I hope that means it will be good, ultimately – and decided to have a go at Wolf Hall, my novel about Thomas Cromwell. Oh, the joy of having a main character who’s not neurotic! I wish I’d thought of it before. The only trouble is I have to kill off Cardinal Wolsey soon, and I’m going to miss him so much. The outfits, my dear! I wonder why we bother wearing anything but scarlet.


  • 23 September 2022 at 4:16pm
    Mary says:
    It's so sad to think that there will never be another new Hilary Mantel article in the LRB. She always had something interesting to say and I learned a lot from reading her.

  • 23 September 2022 at 8:25pm
    Tracy Poe says:
    Devastated. The great Dame Mantel was surely one of the most mischievously witty, erudite, brilliant, trenchant, and ferociously feminist authors of the 21st century. I can hardly believe all we have of her is what she’s already committed to the page, and there will be no more.
    Somebody please do a welfare check on Mary Beard. HM’s death has got me worrying.

    • 24 September 2022 at 7:13am
      Tracy Hodson says: @ Tracy Poe
      Yes, she had an astonishing mind. And I read today that she had, unexpectedly, started a new novel instead of going on to write a play. This makes losing her so much worse.

  • 23 September 2022 at 9:01pm
    nlowhim says:
    Shame. Will have to start on her short stories. Never read them before, mind you.

  • 24 September 2022 at 7:07am
    Tracy Hodson says:
    I've been in a terrible state all day. Authors I love have died before, but somehow this is more terrible. I didn't just devour everything she's written, I felt close to her, maybe because we both spent much of our lives in pain, both had ruinous childhoods that became the raw material with which we worked, maybe because I listened to her lectures when I couldn't sleep so her soft voice came to me from the pillow next to my head. Maybe because the intimacy created when she put us inside Cromwell's head, became intimacy with her. I don't entirely understand it, but I am devastated. She felt like a friend.

    I hope her going was easy and peaceful. I hope she knew how much she wasn't just admired, but loved.

  • 24 September 2022 at 11:11pm
    Nicholas Biebuyck says:
    Sad loss of a beautiful writer who was and is an aspiration to emulate for me. Tony Biebuyck.

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