More on C. S. Lewis’s Favorite Bad Writer

The Lewis Legacy-Issue 73, Summer 1997 The C. S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing

by Perry Bramlett

Very Bad Poetry (eds Kathryn Peters & Ross Petras, Vintage,1997). Back cover: “Being a compendium of the worst verse ever written in English – including such (mercifully) forgotten classics as “The Stuttering Lover”, “Ode on the Mammoth Cheese”, “An Elegy to a Dissected Puppy,” and the immortal “The Dentologia — A Poem on the Diseases of the Teeth.”

One of the poets in this anthology is our very own Mrs Amanda McKittrick Ros (1860-1939)…

In the 1890’s Amanda McKittrick Ros began amazing audiences with her novels, all of which have alliterative titles such as “Irene Iddesleigh” and “Donald Dudley.” These were soon followed by Ros’s equally alliteratively titled books of verse: “Poems of Puncture” and”Fumes of Formation”, which Ross explains was “hatched within a mind fringed with Fumes of Formation, the Ingenious Innings of Inspiration and Thorny Tincture of Thought”.

Ros applied these “Ingenious Innings of Inspiration” to transform her own rather prosaic life in Northern Ireland. She dropped the extra ‘s’ from her husband’s last name of Ross, probably to link herself to the ancient family of de Ros; claimed that the McKittricks were descended from King Sitric of Denmark; and elevated her beloved husband to friendship with the eminent Victorian leader Sir Randolph Churchill, who apparently once happened to pass through her husband’s train station.

Ros was famous for her bizarre word usage. She coined such descriptive terms as “sanctified measures of time” (Sunday), “globes of glare” (eyes), “bony supports” (legs), “southern necessary” (pants; south refers to the lower portion of the body) and “globules of liquid lava” (sweat).

Although not the “high-bred daughter of distinguished effeminacy” she wished to have been, Ros was something else: a writer with a gift for (as she puts it) “disturbing the bowels.”

Her poems listed are: “On Visiting Westminster Abbey” (A Reduced Dignity invited me to muse on its merits ), “A Little Belgian Orphan”,”Thoughts” (written of a visit to “tracks of lifeless friends, “Rosian for “cemetery.” “What if the poor the rich shall be Before poor Riches’ eyes!”),”The End of ‘Pain'” (a polemic against Ros’s most ardent critic, Barry Pain, at the announcement of his death), “The Old Home” (a polemic against modern fashion and sex, or as Ros put it, s__x), “On a Girl Who Took Action for Breach of Promise,” “I Love to See a Lady Nice and Natural at Any Price” (a polemic against modern women who have picked up masculine habits).