McGonagall, Sir William Topaz, Lines in Defence of the Stage, self-published by McGonagall, Knight of the White Elephant, Burmah, No. 12 Grove St., Edinburgh, . First edition, original broadsheet poem by William Topaz McGonagall, “one of God’s clumsy innocents,” as written and published in inimitable style by sometime Shakesperean tragedian, William McGonagall (1825-1902) and sold at one of his legendary riotous recitations, or on the street, taken from an autograph album, printed on beige paper and signed boldly in ink across the top of the sheet, as “Sir Wm. Topaz McGonagall, poet.”
Identified by the heading on the sheet as “New Poem by Sir William Topaz McGonagall, Knight of the White Elephant, Burmah, the Bard of Tel-El-Kebir, El-Teb, the Capture of Lucknow, &c. Patronised by Her Majesty [royal arms reproduced] and Lord Wolsey of Cairo, H.R.H. The Duke of Cambridge, the Right Hon. W .E. Gladstone, and General Graham; also the Nobility and gentry, &c.”.
A twelve verse poem that uses the mummers’ re-enactment in Hamlet to illustrate the point contrary to the view voiced by the clergy in McGonagall’s time, (“that by going to the theatre you will be led astray,”) in fact, in the theatre, “we see vice punished and virtue rewarded / The villain either hanged or shot, and his career retarded.” Reference is also made to Othello: “We see in Shakespeare’s tragedy of Othello, which is sublime, / Cassio losing his lieutenancy through drinking wine; / And, in delirium and grief, he exclaims– / “Oh, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains!”
McGonagall believed he was the true Poet Laureate of England. Called by the Times of London “… a real genius, for he is the only memorable bad poet in our language.” The “worst poet in the English language” printed these sheets and sold them for a penny, two pennies if the Great McGonagall signed. Dated according to the holdings in the National Library of Scotland. Two minor fold tears have been mended, with no loss of text or paper. Fine.