MCGONAGALL, Sir William Topaz, Poet, Knight of the White Elephant, Burmah.

Beautiful Oban.

A New Descriptive Poem.

Edinburgh, No. 21 Lothian Street: [1894-1902] Stock Code: 117956
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"'Oh, what a beautiful sight!'"

Very scarce broadside poem by the "World's Worst Poet", William McGonagall (1825-1902), signed at the head, "Sir. Wm. Topaz. McGonagall. Poet". Gord Bambrick in "The Real McGonagall" acknowledges that "William McGonagall is best known as the world's worst poet. His unique style of versification breaks the laws of rhythm, rhyme and common sense in a manner that has eluded his thousands of imitators for more than a century."

According to his own autobiography, McGonagall "received the spirit o' poetry" in June 1877, in his 50s, and (as Bambrick continues) "gave up his job to spend his last twenty-five years combing the streets of Dundee and central Scotland for buyers of his incompetent verses, which he sold on single sheets called broadsides and various collections he saw fit to call Poetic Gems. Although McGonagall appeared convinced of his own genius and utterly devoid of humour, his public was composed largely of those who enjoyed laughing at him.

By the 1880s, 'Poet baiting' had become something of a national pastime, with McGonagall frequently being invited to give readings from his own works and those of Shakespeare (whom he claimed as his greatest 'influence'). At one such gathering in 1894, McGonagall was treated to an elaborate ceremony by representatives of King Theebaw who had evidently travelled all the way from Burmah to name him 'Sir Topaz, Knight of the White Elephant' - a title which McGonagall immediately affixed to his broadsides." We can as such date the following poem post-1894, as the honorific appears here fully emblazoned. Scholars, as well as his enduring fanbase (see, continue to argue whether or not McGonagall was in fact aware of his egregious failings as a poet, and only baiting his audience for his own amusement (and profit). He was, after all, once "spotted leaving a performance with what appeared to be a 'satiric smile' sneaking out from the shadow of his egg-spattered cleric's hat" (Bambrick). This broadside poem, "Beautiful Oban", finds McGonagall encouraging his readership to go and take a stroll about the pretty West Scotland coastal town: "And when you reach the little gate on the right hand, / Then turn and feast your eyes on the scene most grand; / And there you will see the top of Balloch-an-Righ to your right, / Until as last you will explain - 'Oh, what a beautiful sight!'" etc.

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Single leaf broadside printed recto only. Glazed and framed (20 x 260 mm).


Royal crest imprint to masthead.


Three creases from folds, some very small closed tears to the margins, but a bright example in excellent condition.


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