On Thursday 22 September 2022 the great British writer Hilary Mantel died unexpectedly. The many tributes have spoken about her gifts as a writer, about her intelligence, her humour, and about the new books that she still planned to write. There is an obituary here, and some remembrances here.
Publishing success and the renown that followed came late to her, with her trilogy on the unlikely subject of the life of Thomas Cromwell set in the reign of Henry VIII. She enjoyed her fame: I heard her speak at the Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival (of which she remained Patron until her death) after the first two books had been adapted for the stage by the Royal Shakespeare Company and for BBC TV, and it was clear that she loved the process of collaboration with other creative people. She took part in a number of events at the RSC and was invited to become a Governor of the Company, another honour she undoubtedly enjoyed.
She endeared herself to historians, writers of fiction and craftspeople by her meticulous research. Quite by chance a friend shared this blog a couple of days ago explaining how a calligrapher created a few stunningly beautiful pages in the style of a medieval book of hours, a prop used in the TV series of Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. She must have enjoyed this attention to historical accuracy.
I’ve revisited some of the posts I wrote about her and her devotion to the craft of writing:
This one was written during her presentation of the Reith lectures, on the subject of writing historical fiction as opposed to historical fact.
Here she writes about the art of poetry as exemplified by Thomas Wyatt, On the Wolf Hall trilogy and their connection with Shakespeare, and On the stage adaptation of her novels.
As one of those remembering wrote, she was the Queen of Literature. She has a unique voice, and we shall not look upon her like again.