City Gossip

McGonagall’s manuscripts seem to be at a discount. A week or two ago I dropped a hint that the poet was prepared part with some of his valuable MSS. for a consideration. I said little at the time, as I was doubtful if the Poet was really in earnest. It turned out that he was more so than I expected. Whether by his own suggestion or acting on the advice of friends he took his papers to an auction room the other night with the view of having them disposed of by public roup to the highest bidder. It was a grand mistake, as the sequel proved. He might as well—perhaps better—have taken them to a Cheap John in the Greenmarket.

The auctioneer honestly did his best for the “Poet’s” goods, but the fact turned out they were unsaleable wares. “Here are the original manuscripts of that great poem. ‘The Bridge of the Silvery Tay,’ by the great poet McGonagall,” he cried. “If you don’t know McGonagall you ought to know him. He’s the greatest poet Dundee ever produced. His works will be sought for when he is dead and gone, and the original manuscripts will then worth money. Now’s your chance to invest. What’s bid for this lot?” A pause. The audience look at each other. “Will no one offer me five pounds for this valuable manuscript?” said the auctioneer. “I’ll gi’e you penny for’t,” said one of the audience. “A penny I’m only bid; one penny. Come, gentlemen, that’a too bad. Only a penny.” “Twopence,” cries another, and there it stuck for a minute or two, the auctioneer volubly repeating “Twopence for the ‘Silvery Tay.’ I’m bid twopence; only twopence; going at twopence.” A few more nods and winks are telegraphed to the man of the hammer, and the bidding goes on till it reaches sixpence, where it stuck altogether.

On being consulted the Poet indignantly refused to let it go for sixpence. “No,” he replied, proudly, “I look on that as an insult. I’ll burn the manuscripts rather than part with them for a paltry sixpence.” And so the goods were withdrawn. McGonagall was consoled for his disappointment by a friend who assured him that those who attended that sale were lot of country clodhoppers who could not appreciate such things. “It’s like casting pearls before swine,” the Poet observed.

Notwithstanding the coldness of Dundee, McGonagall’s fame is spreading abroad. Here is a letter he received from South America the other day:—

Fabrica de Tecidos Sao Joao, Rio de Janeiro,
Brasil, S.A., May 18, 1891.

Mr W. McGonagall (Poet)

Dear Sir.—Being a native of Bonnie Dundee and a constant reader of the Weekly News, I read with great interest the extracts from your valuable works, which appear in that well.known paper from to time. I may inform you that there are a number of Dundonians resident here, and they, along with your humble servant, recognise your sterling worth as a man and your undoubted ability as a poet, and we feel that it is a disgrace to our native city the cruel treatment they have inflicted upon one so talented as you are. I have not yet had the pleasure of perusing your interesting work, but hope to do so very soon. l am sure they cannot fail to be both instructive and amusing, judging from the extracts which are published occasionally in the newspapers. Please accept this humble tribute to your genius, and that you may long be spared to instruct and amuse the people of Dundee, and wherever the English language is spoken, is the wish of your humble servant,

Andrew D. W. B. Procter

Weekly News, 20th June 1891

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