Amanda McKittrick Ros 1860-1939
The worst novelist in history is how some have 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 - though whether he was a straight-faced admirer of McKittrick Ros's purple prose the VV cannot say. But she would be surprised if Mr Twain had not chuckled to himself when reading that eyes are 'piercing orbs', or that legs are '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 to be charmed, writing this 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 any such critics, calling them the 'auctioneering agents of Satan' or 'bastard donkey-headed mites', or the 'clay crabs of corruption' and claiming that their venom was the result of jealousy - or of being secretly in love with her.
The VV thinks the reader may already be getting a sense of this reviled novelist's style - and also her personal faith in her talent, because she firmly believed that her work was as good as that of Defoe, or Eliot, or Dickens - and that it would be talked about for more than 1,000 years to come. Well, it may be - but not for the reasons that she might have expected! For when it came to the Nobel Prize for Literature she expressed her thoughts to her publisher in the following way, 'What think you of this prize... Do you think I should make a dart for it?'
She had no doubt whatsoever that everyone was clamouring to read her work because it was exceptional literature. It was certainly unique. In the novel, Helen Huddleson, most 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 those who are inspired, is available free on Kindle -
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 too? No? Well, perhaps that joy should be saved - and savoured - on another day.