"... there's no limit to the public's taste for nostalgie de la boue" are the last few words of Joan Smith's column in today's Independent on Sunday.
Nostalgie de la boue is French for 'nostalgia for the mud'. This is the Oxford English Dictionary's definition: "A longing for sexual or social degradation; a desire to regress to more primitive social conditions or behaviour than those to which a person is accustomed. Also in extended use." Joan Smith's article is about the 'great' train robber Ronnie Biggs, who is often portrayed in the media as a rather cuddly rogue, rather than a violent criminal. She mentions other gangsters who have been romanticised eg the Krays.
Other instances of nostalgie de la boue are the Lady Chatterley syndrome, where genteel women fall for 'a bit of rough'. When Constance confesses to her husband that she is pregnant with Mellors' child he rails at her about the 'beastly lowness of women' and then goes on to say:
'That proves that what I've always thought about you is correct: you're not normal, you're not in your right senses. You're one of those half-insane, perverted women who must run after depravity, the nostalgie de la boue.'
The expression nostalgie de la boue was first used in the 1855 play Le Mariage d'Olympe by French playwright Emile Augier. A former courtesan marries a nobleman and tries to pass herself off as a lady, but she cannot escape her craving for her previous base tastes. Here are the relevant speeches from Act I:
LE MARQUIS: Mettez un canard sur un lac au milieu des cygnes, vous verrez qu'il regrettera sa mare et finira par y retourner. (Put a duck on a lake in the middle of swans, and you'll see that he will miss his pond and end up going back there)
MONTRICHARD: La nostalgie de la boue!