Dear Eleanor

Humphrey Horswell

Humphrey Horswell

The Rt. Hon. Humphrey Horswell, QSM writes an open letter to Eleanor Catton

Young lady, what have you done? I am gravely disappointed in you. You have used the occasion of a literary festival to express opinions on matters that do not concern you. What were you thinking, dear lady? What madness possessed you?

What can a young girl like you know of the world of politics? It is a world far too complex for you to understand. You would have been better to have confined your remarks to matters such as the quality of the fare offered by your hosts.

As to your literary abilities I can have no opinion, considering that I have read not a single word written by you. While I am to understand that your most recent work won a major international prize, might not there have been some terrible mistake in the judging? They call it the Man Booker Prize, so how did a woman win? I shall write to the event’s organisers and point out their error.

Notwithstanding questions about the quality of your work, I do not doubt that you derive some small pleasure from writing these stories. But is this the pastime of a respectable woman? Surely at your age your sole concern ought to be finding a suitable husband.  And yet what sort of husband can you hope to attract while you express opinions about matters you know nothing about? Certainly not a proper gentleman.

But if you must continue with these literary pursuits, why do you not devote yourself to writing cookbooks? I do not doubt that the change would be good for you, as it would encourage you to spend more time in the kitchen where you can be of most service to your family, rather than spouting dangerous nonsense about politics at literary events.

Dear Ms Catton, you have no business holding opinions about things you cannot hope to comprehend. Politics is a complex business, and I doubt one as delicate and lovely as your good self can hope to understand what goes on in the world of men. What can a lady know of matters such as the stock-market, the papist menace, or the continuing unrest in the Belgian Congo?

So please in the future confine yourself to discussing matters such as needlework and dressmaking. If you must attend a meeting of writers, please at least be respectful and let the men do all the talking. Not only do you embarrass yourself when you offer an opinion, but you also bring shame to your country. Imagine our national disgrace if right-thinking gentlemen from other parts of the Empire should conclude that New Zealand women are independent thinkers? What might they conclude about the menfolk of this country?

Now please go and make the tea for the men, dear lady, as we have matters of great import to discuss.