A lot of new titles have been added to the online British Newspaper Archive since the last time I spent much time there, meaning that I’ve been able to bring the number of press cuttings about the great man on the Life page up to a hundred.
Amongst the new arrivals are a couple from 1901 which cast some light on the “was he real or was he faking it?” debate. The first condemns the Perth Lyric Club for making fun of a deluded old man. The second defends them saying McGonagall is a paid clown. You’ll still have to make up your own mind though.
Another story solves a long standing mystery (to me, anyway). Why was A Tribute to Henry M. Stanley subtitled “The Prize Poem” on broadsheets and some versions of Poetic Gems? The answer is simple: he won a prize for it, “for originality and other peculiar and obvious qualities.” Never was ten shillings better earned.
But, saving the best till last, the search has unearthed a hitherto unknown McGonagall “gem” that appeared in an 1893 newspaper story. Untitled in the original, I have taken the liberty of calling it “Lines in Praise of the Arbroath Oddfellows.” It’s unspectacular stuff, but if you read it you’ll be one of the first people in 120 years to do so.