Poets, unless they bask in the smile of Royalty or manage to hit the taste of the ciitics, are an impecunious race of geniuses. Mr “William McGonagall, Poet” as he subscribes himself, is no exception to the rule. He has wiitten an appealing letter to Mr Scrymgeour to the effect that owing to his present circumstances the “poet” intends to go to America shortly because he “cannot make a proper living here, and looking to my abilities, ” says Mr McGonagall, “I need not fear to do so.” The poet evidently has no small faith in his “abilities,” for he goes on to say, “I consider it to be a great shame that a man of my abilities should have to leave the town of Dundee to seek for fame and fortune across the broad Atlantic, but necessity compels me to think of doing so, because I am in abject poverty, which ought not to be the case. Talent is money, and you know that I have got it.”
There is one thing the writer of this extraordinary effusion possesses in no small degree — a superlatively good opinion of himself. He wants Mr Scrymgeour to get up an entertainment on his behalf to pay his rent and other little necessaries. If this were done Mr McGonagall says he would not need to go to America. If something is not shortly done to help him he threatens to sell all his manuscripts to raise his passage money! What a dire calamity is looming ahead for the people of Dundee should the great McGonagall sell those priceless treasures.
I have before me as I write one of his poems — “Wreck of the Schooner Samuel Crawford.” The first line of verse ono has 20 feet in it, the second 18, the third 15, the last 14! Further down this ”poem” I find lines of 8 feet and 7, then of 15 again. The only aim of the writer seems to have been to make the lines rhyme, utterly regardless of sense or rhythm. In fact, there is as much “poetry” in this production of McGonagall’s talent as there is in a cabbage stalk!
Dundee Courier, 9th February 1887