Lorne as Laureate
The Marquis is Out of the Race but he Displays at Least One of the Qualifications
London Corr. New-York Sun.
The funny suggestion was made a day or two alter Lord Tennyson’s death that the Marquis of Lorne, the Queen’s son-in-law, was a fit and proper person to fill the vacant position of poet laureate because he had written a good many pretty verses and had a truly poetic spirit. The Marquis soon dropped out of the running, however, and today he is the darkest of dark outsiders in the race for the laureate stakes. Nevertheless, he has given proof this week that he possesses at least one thing necessary to the complete equipment of the average poet, namely, the knack of saying unkind things about the work of other poets. The Marquis and his wife, the Princess Louise, have recently been visiting Dundee, and one McGonagall celebrated the great event in loyal verse which he forwarded to his lordship Here is the reply poor McGonagall received by return of post :
“Sir : I thank you for your enclosure, and as a friend would advise you to resolve to keep strictly to prose for the future. Believe me, yours in faithful dealing,
The Illustrated Buffalo Express, 6th November 1892
Several of my readers have expressed a desire to know more of the poet McGonagall, of Dundee, from whose ode on the death and burial of Lord Tennyson I quoted last week. Fortunately, I am in a position to gratify this desire, as Mr McGonagall has written to thank me for my “appreciative notice” of his efforts, and has enclosed another specimen. The subject this time is “The Lifeboat Demonstration,” and this is how the muse of McGonagall tackles it:—
’Twas in the year of 1892, and on the 24th of September,
Which the inhabitants of Dundee will long remember,
The great Lifeboat Demonstration,
Which caused a great sensation.
Such a sight was really magnificent to see,
The like was never witnessed in the city of Dundee,
To see so many trades and bodies all in rotation,
It certainly filled the spectators’ minds with admiration.
And according to the spectators’ own confession,
Tbe lifeboat Samuel Shawcross was the greatest show in the procession.
Drawn by eight beautiful brown horses, belonging to Messrs Wordie & Co.,
Which inspired the hearts of the spectators as onward they did go.
I am sorry to see, however, from a press cutting which he sends me, that Mr McGonagall, like other poets, has had to submit to contumely at the hands of rival bards. The Dundee poet sent a copy of “The Death and Burial of Lord Tennyson” to the Marquis of Lorne, and this was the crushing acknowledgment vouchsafed to him:—
Glamis Castle, N.B., October 23, 1892.
Sir, — I thank you for your enclosure, and, as a friend, would advise you to resolve to keep strictly to prose for the future.— Believe me, yours “in faithful dealing,”
Mr McGonagall now appeals to me to expose this “shameful treatment.” I would advise him, however, not to take it too much to heart. Lord Lome has himself been recommended for the Laureateship by no less eminent au authority than Mr William Morris. It is easy, therefore, to deduce the motives which prompt him to recommend a possible rival to stick to prose for the future. I may add that if McGonagall had retorted by advising the Marquis to try his own prescription, many persons, and I among them, would have endorsed the advice. The Laureateship is not in my gift, but if these two rival bards like each to submit one of their poems to me, I shall be happy to give a laurel crown to the one who, in my opinion, gives evidence of the most poetic afflatus.
Dundee Courier, 3rd November 1892
The Marquis of Lorne’s wise, if insensitive, advice was quoted as far away as Buffalo – as seen in the clipping from the local paper above. It appears to be the only incident that earned McGonagall a mention in the American press during his lifetime.