McGonagall, William Topaz

(1825-1902)
   He has the reputation of being the writer of the worst poetry in the English language. He was born in Edinburgh of Irish parentage and for a while the family lived in South Ronaldsay, Orkney, where the father was a peddler. William was largely selfeducated and took up loom weaving in Dundee. He started his career as working poet in 1877 and delighted and appalled large audiences across Scotland and beyond with his peculiar poetic style and dramatic entertainment. After Dundee and a short stay in Perth, he returned to Edinburgh, where the title of "Sir William Topaz McGonagall, Knight of the White Elephant of Burma" was bestowed upon him (by letter) by order of the King of Burma. Part of his obituary reads: "Many in Dundee will regret to hear of the death of the 'Grand Old Man'" (Dundee Courier, 30 September 1902). All his poems can be read at http://www.mcgonagall-online.org.uk/. Some of his poems: "Adventures of King Robert the Bruce," "An Adventure in the Life of King James V of Scotland," "The Hero of Khartoum," "The Pennsylvania Disaster [1889]," "The Royal Review," "The Tay Bridge Disaster [1879]."
   Sources: Dictionary of National Biography. Electronic Edition 1.1. Oxford University Press, 1997. Poetic Gems of William McGonagall. G. Duckworth, 1954. The Oxford Book of Death. D.J. Enright, ed. Oxford University Press, 1987. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. 6th edition. Margaret Drabble, ed. Oxford University Press, 2000. Unauthorized Versions: Poems and Their Parodies. Kenneth Baker, ed. Faber and Faber, 1990.

British and Irish poets. A biographical dictionary. . 2015.

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