Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ros! Ros! Ros!

Rediscover the work of Amanda McKittrick Ros.

Amanda McKittrick Ros, who was born in 1860, has been accused of delivering some of the worst passages of literature ever written.

Described as formidable, she rejected her critics as being the "auctioneering agents of satan".

Now Culture Northern Ireland has challenged "lovers of awful literature" to see if they can read the longest passage from McKittrick Ros's work while keeping a straight face.

Basically, Ros is what you'd get if you crossed Emmeline Grangerford (the bad poet from Huckleberry Finn) with a schoolma'arm (which Ros in fact was). She produced so much bad writing, in verse and prose, that no one has been able to match her fabulous awfulness. A sample of her verse, via Fetch Me My Axe:

"On Visiting Westminster Abbey"

Holy Moses! Have a look!
Flesh decayed in every nook!
Some rare bits of brain lie here,
Mortal loads of beef and beer,
Some of whom are turned to dust,
Every one bids lost to lust;
Royal flesh so tinged with 'blue'
Undergoes the same as you.

And a sample of her prose, from the novel Helen Huddleston:

'Now Helen, my darling, my queen, my all, had I not loved you as never woman before, I'd have allowed you to go on your way rejoicing, but, I can never, NEVER, I say, see you the wife of any other man save myself.' Helen still remaining laconic as he continued:

'The illimitable love I possess for you within this heart of mine can never suffer that blow you fain would strike it. Truly, it would kill me outright were you to reject an offer hundreds of society shams grieve because they cannot grasp. I have travelled through many foreign climes, I have seen the fairest daughters Nature can produce-or critic-crabs denounce -- but none so fair as you, my Helen.'

Still spurnful, he went on:

'You may think it dishonourable of me trying to wreck the happiness of him to whom you have plighted your vow but there is nothing unfair in love and war, the mightiness of two such strongholds banish all faintness from the human heart. I can't live without you, Helen Huddleson. Say no. I die. Say yes. I will live for you, love you, worship you, cherish you while this life lasts.'

He gazed at her wan face moulded in rigidity, a face immersed in indecision that gave him a thread of hope. He pressed her ruby lips to his, her colour grew white and red alternately, through force of her thoughts.

'Will you love me, my fond girl?' he panted. 'Will you?' She remained immobile -- taciturn.

'Ah, darling -- speak,' he pleaded plaintively. 'I am mad with excitement, wild with expectancy, awaiting those sweet lips of yours to open and act their part in conveying to me that for which I have yearned for years.' He pressed his hot forehead
with his hand.

'Will you be my wife, Helen Huddleson?' the sweat drops pebbling his brow as he anxiously awaited her reply.

She trembled violently until at last the answer came. 'Sir -- I cannot,' wringing her small hands as the negative dropped from her parched lips ...

'Then, by heaven, I'll end the scene,' drawing from his jacket pocket a pistol. 'I shall shoot you first - myself after,' holding the weapon menacingly to sever the soul and body of her he could never bear to see the wife of another.

Helen rose, rushed forward towards him screaming:

'Why, oh why, sir, damn your soul forever by such savage acts?'...

He looked upon her where she stood gasping, her bleached lips quivering, her hand upon the weapon she still regarded with awe.

He gave her a murderous stare, exclaiming in frenzy:

'Helen, Helen, 'tis all your fault. I'll give you another minute to decide, another minute to aid this acheing heart of mine you have so cruelly stabbed by your refusal to own it.'

He counted the seconds and on reaching fifty-nine she clasped him in her trembling arms-shouting:

'I will -- I will marry you, Lord Rasberry.'

She then fell fainting at his feet.

Sarah has more.

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