Monday, August 17, 2009


"'You are the only woman alive,' claimed an irritated friend, 'who still uses cotton handkerchiefs. Everyone else makes do with Kleenex.' It's nice to be distinguished for something, even if only for the quantity of your laundry. I admit it, they all have to be washed and ironed and stacked in a box, and it's not a very 21st century thing to be doing: if I wanted to be extra-provoking, i could dab them with lavender like a Victorian great-aunt. My excuse is this: I used to be a great weeper. And it's bad enough, in company, to be inexplicably lachrymose and blotchy, without strewing sodden tissues on the ground.

It was never personal setbacks that made me cry [...] it was a view, a prospect, a picture in a museum, or some pin-prick contact with the past - one of those moments, when history dabs out a pointed fingertip and the nail sinks straight through your skin. I have cried in many art galleries, and aroused the suspicion of the curators. [...]

And gradually, the friction of contact with the world thickened my skin and dried my eyes. I didn't cry much after I was 35, but staggered stony-faced into middle age, a handkerchief still in my bag just in case."

Hilary Mantel, The Guardian, 15.8.2009, Review, p.12


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