Sunday, May 18, 2008

'Worst poet' outsells boy wizard

A private collector has paid £6,600 for poems by the man ridiculed as "the world's worst poet". A total of 35 of William McGonagall's works - many of them autographed - have been up for auction in Edinburgh. The ditties by "The Tayside Tragedian" went for more than a collection of Harry Potter first editions signed by author JK Rowling. McGonagall, who died in 1902, was often mocked and had food thrown at him during readings in Dundee. He was born in Edinburgh in 1825, but spent much of his life in Dundee as a handloom weaver in the jute mills. He did not start writing poems until he was 47, but went on to write about subjects including Scottish battles and Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. He also took pleasure in writing about death and catastrophe, and his most famous work was a poem about the Tay Bridge disaster of 1879. A section from it reads: "So the train mov'd slowly along the Bridge of Tay, Until it was about midway, Then the central girders with a crash gave way, And down went the train and passengers into the Tay..." Alex Dove, from auctioneers Lyon and Turnbull, said: "He was a confident gentleman who thought that his poetry was some of the best. "He once walked all the way to Balmoral to try to become Poet Laureate. Unfortunately the Queen wasn't in. "He spent a lot of time on the streets of Dundee trying to sell his poems and performing them, much to the amusement of the residents. "Poet-baiting became quite an activity for the students of the time, where they would encourage him to perform, and then they would throw eggs and vegetables at him. ...

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