Amanda McKittrick Ros 1860-1939

The worst novelist in history is how some cruel-hearted souls once referred to an Irish Victorian writer by the name of Amanda McKittrick Ros. Of her contemporaries, Mark Twain was said to be a great fan of her style - though whether he was a straight-faced admirer of McKittrick Ros's purple prose the VV really cannot say. But she would be surprised if Mr Twain had not had a chuckle or two to himself when reading of eyes as 'piercing orbs', or legs described as 'bony supports', or that to blush is to be touched 'by the hot hand of bewilderment.'

One of her most outspoken critics was the poet Barry Pain who others assumed would be amused by McKittrick Ros's exuberance. However he was not so charmed and wrote this review after reading her work -

“The book has not amused. It began by doing that. Then, as its enormities went on getting more and more enormous in every line, the book seemed something titanic, gigantic, awe-inspiring. The world was full of Irene Iddesleigh, by Mrs. Amanda McKittrick Ros, and I shrank before it in tears and in terror.”

One might be mistaken for thinking that he had just read her novel, Six Months in Hell.

However, McKittrick Ros could hold her own with the critics, calling those who abused her work the 'auctioneering agents of Satan' or  'bastard donkey-headed mites', or the 'clay crabs of corruption'. She also claimed that their venom was simply the result of jealousy - or of being secretly in love with her. 

The VV assumes that those reading this post may already be getting a very good sense of this reviled novelist's style - and also her personal faith in her talent, because the author firmly believed that her work could compare to Daniel Defoe's - or George Eliot's - or Dickens' - and what's more, it was sure to be talked about for more than 1,000 years to come. Well, that may prove to be the case - but not for the reasons she might have expected!

When it came to the Nobel Prize for Literature, she contacted her publisher to say, 'What think you of this prize... Do you think I should make a dart for it?' 

She had no doubt whatsoever that all would clamour to read her work, because it was exceptional literature. It was certainly unique. In her novel, Helen Huddleson, most of the characters are named after fruits and vegetables - such as Lord Raspberry, Sir Christopher Currant, Madam Pear or Lily Lentil.

And these are the opening lines of the novel, Irene Iddesleigh which, for any inspired to read, is available free on Kindle -

"Sympathise with me, indeed! Ah, no! Cast your sympathy on the chill waves of troubled waters; fling it on the oases of futurity; dash it against the rock of gossip; or, better still, allow it to remain within the false and faithless bosom of buried scorn,"

The VV is particularly fond of the mention of private parts as being the 'fleshy triangle' in this, the first occasion when the lovers Delina Delaney and Lord Gifford chance to meet -

"Could a king, a prince, a duke – nay, even one of those ubiquitous invisibles who, we are led to believe, accompanies us when thinking, speaking, or acting – could even this sinless atom refrain from tainting its spotless gear with the wish of a human heart, as those grey eyes looked in bashful tenderness into the glittering jet revolvers that reflected their sparkling lustre from nave to circumference, casting a deepened brightness over the whole features of an innocent girl, and expressing, in invisible silence, the thoughts, nay, even the wish, of a fleshy triangle whose base had been bitten by order of the Bodiless Thinker."

What more is there to say?

Oh... has the VV mentioned that McKittrish Ros was a poet as well as a novelist? No? Well, perhaps that joy should be saved - and savoured on another day.


  1. Writing styles have changed over the years, and for that we are truly grateful.