McGonagall’s Return from London

Consolation and Presentation to the “Poet”

It may not be generally known that “Poet” McGonagall has returned from London after an unsuccessful visit to the city in quest of a literary or dramatic engagement. The fact is the “Poet” was scarcely absent a week from Dundee when he came home again a sadder if not a wiser man, all his airy castles shattered, and scattered to the four winds. A few friends in the Ninth Ward hearing that the “Poet” was sadly dejected, and sunk in purse and spirits after his luckless tour, banded themselves together for the purpose of getting up a benefit entertainment to console the poor “Poet.” The entertainment came off in the Marine Hall, Marina Place, Hawkhill, on Tuesday evening, and as might have been expected proved a complete success. The hall was crowded “from ceiling to floor” by a respectable and appreciative audience. The chairman introduced the “Poet” by giving a graphic account of his London experiences. It seems that the “Poet” landed in London with about 6s in his pocket, and after paying 4s in advance for a weeks lodgings, he had only 1s 9d left. To the utter disgust of the “Poet,” he met with nothing but coldness and incivility from the Cockneys generally, and was insulted and snubbed by certain members of the dramatic profession in particular. Before leaving Dundee he wrote a poetical epistle to his quondam friend Dion Boucicault, thanking him for the £5 which he sent, as a consolation for the heartless sandwich hoax. In that epistle the “Poet” informed Dion that he intended to visit him when he arrived in London, but he would not be offended if he did not get the luncheon he was deprived of. Accordingly, the “Poet” called at the Adelphi Theatre and inquired if Boucicault was in the green room. The porter at the stage door took the “Poet’s” card to Boucicault’s private secretary, and in a few minutes the secretary returned, and after tearing up the card before the “Poet’s” eyes, he informed him that his master “was so busy at all times that he could not speak to any person.” Cut to the heart, but not killed dead by Dion’s cruel snub, the “Poet” next turned his thoughts towards Henry Irving, to whom he had written a note previous to coming to London. At the stage door he inquired if Henry was in, when the porter, scanning the “Poet” from head to heel, saucily informed him that “Mister Henry Irving would not speak to a person like him.” The “Poet” retorted that he was as good a man as Henry Irving, but it was of no use. Henry was invisible, and the “Poet” failed to get an interview. In fact, at every turn he was treated to the “cold shoulder.” The only offer he got was from a fellow-lodger, a young man who earned an honest penny by playing a tin whistle on the streets. This amiable young man proposed he and the “Poet” should enter into partnership with a view to their mutual advantage; in short, that they would take to the streets; he would whistle, and the “Poet” would sing. We need not inform our readers that the “Poet” rejected the offer with scorn. The chairman concluded by informing the audience that the “Poet,” after undergoing a series of hardships and miseries enough to crush the life out of any ordinary mortal, was still “alive and kicking,” as they could all see for themselves. The programme was very select, including songs and readings from McGonagall’s works, and scenes from Shakespeare and other minor poets. A new poem on London, written since the “Poet’s” return, was read for the first time. The first and last stanzas which we give express in the “Poet’s” original style his opinion of the Metropolis.

As I stood upon London Bridge, and view’d the mighty throng
of Thousands, of people in Cabs and Buses rapidly whirling along,
And driving to and fro up one street and down another,
As quick as they could go.
Twas then I was struck with the discordant sound of human voices there,
Which seemed to me like Wild Geese Cackling in the air.

Oh! mighty city of London! you are wonderful to behold,
But your treatment towards, Strangers, I think tis rather cold.
But you are very kind to them
While they have plenty of Gold.

In the course of the evening the chairman in the name of the “Ninth Ward Dramatic Club” presented the “Poet” with the “gold” medal of the Club as a token of their appreciation of his matchless genius. The “Poet” returned thanks in a suitable manner. At the close a gentlemam moved the following resolution :- “That this meeting appoint a deputation to wait on the Provost and Magistrates to memorialise their honours to take into consideration the propriety of conferring the freedom of the burgh of Dundee on Poet McGonagall.” The resolution was seconded and carried unanimously. Another gentleman moved that a committee be appointed to present the “Poet” with a silvery service. He also proposed that steps be taken to memorialise Her Majesty to depose Tennyson from his office of Poet Laureate, and install McGonagall as perpetual Poet to the Queen. The gentleman concluded an eloquent speech by expressing the hope that when McGonagall shuffled off this mortal coil his sacred dust should be entombed in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey. All these resolutions were passed with acclamation and the meeting quietly dispersed.

From a Dundee newspaper, 20th July 1880

Comments (1) »

  1. Michael Byrne
    In the year 2012, on the 3rd day of December at 11:54 am

    Thank you so much for this article I laughed so heartily that it brought my asthma on. I assume that the writer of the article had his or her tongue in cheek, which just goes to show that the Victorians did have a sense of humour. What a great website, thank you so much for keeping McGonagall’s name and poetry alive. We could do with more McGonagall’s in todays superficial, ‘ironic’, oxbridge kultural ghetto,I wish he was around today what a joy he would be. I would rather attend one McGonagall reading, than a thousand stand-up ‘comedians’gigs.

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