A Night with McGonagall

Honour and Surprises to the Poet

A night with Burns or Shakespeare is common enough, but a night with McGonagall the Great is a thing to be remembered. That pleasure was enjoyed last night by the Associates of the “Dundee, Lochee, and East of Scotland Poetical Society,” when, at their invitation, the poet gave them a grand recital in their chambers in the city. It was a select gathering, composed of ardent students and lovers of poetry and the legitimate drama, truly an appreciative audience, before whom the poet could  display his peculiar talents. The entertainment consisted of select readings from McGonagall and Shakespeare. Tbe poet, though much afflicted with that horrid roaring in his “lug,” and the effects of the frost, exerted himself to please, and his success was far beyond the expectations of himself and the audience. The ball was opened with a recitation of the “Bridge of the Silvery Tay, ” which was rapturously applauded. A new line has been struck out by the poet. It was nothing less than “Shakespeare Reviewed,” a prose essay of high literary calibre. It has now been published and copies are on sale by the poet. He read it with the aid of his specs, and wound up a brilliant critique with a lamentation on the decay of Shakespeare, and remarked that men like Phelps, Kean, Sullivan, &c., were much wanted nowadays. One of the audience remarked that McGonagall’s modesty had restrained him from mentioning himself, than whom there was no better living delineator of the beauties of the Bard of Avon. In proof of this, a scene from “Macbeth” was given by the poet, which drew forth raptures of applause. The far-famed poem of “Bannockburn” was recited in good style, the only drawback being the want of a sword and room for the fight. But the poet did his best by the aid of a walking-stick, which he flourished vigorously, to the great danger of the gasalier, while the English army were allowed to escape with only half a thrashing. In the course of the evening the President of the Society presented the poet with the diploma of the Society, constituting him an associate. The diploma was beautifully engrossed on “vellum,” and bore the seal of the Society and tbe signatures of the three head officials. The inscription ran as follows:— “The Dundee, Lochee, and East of Scotland Poetical Society. — These lines certify that William McGonagall, poet and tragedian, Dundee, has been enrolled an associate of the Dundee, Lochee, and East of Scotland Poetical Society, on the recommendation of a quorum of the members of the said Society, on the 19th day of February, in the year of our Lord 1892.'” The reading of the diploma was received with enthusiastic applause. Mr McGonagall thanked tbe President and the Society for the honour conferred upon him in a neat brief speech. A gentleman present suggested that a subscription should be at once set on foot to raise funds to frame the diploma. The hint was as once taken, and the “hat” passed round Sufficient funds were raised on the spot to enclose  the diploma in a handsome gilt frame, after which it will be finally handed to the poet, who will hang it in his parlour as a memorial of that eventful evening. But there was another surprise still in store for the poet. A gentleman present, who had just returned from Zululand, surprised the poet by handing the President a letter to read which he had received from the poet in that far-off corner of the world. The poet was completely amazed. The letter was in his own hand, and his own composition, but the circumstance of his having penned that epistle had escaped his memory. The gentleman assured him that he was the writer of the letter from Zululand which had appeared in the Weekly News. The poet’s name was a household word at the Cape. His portrait in oil adorned the walls of every club, the portraits of Tennyson, Burns, and others having been kicked out of doors. At the close of the entertainment a vote of thanks and a handsome donation was given to the poet, and then he shook hands all round, and withdrew.

Dundee Courier, 20th February 1892

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