The world's worst novelist, ever. An Ulsterwoman who lived from 1860 to 1939, she wrote three novels, one incomplete, and several volumes of poetry. The poetry stinks and is hilarious, but it's not as bad as that of William McGonagall, and not a patch on her novels.
In 1897 her husband privately paid for Irene Iddesleigh to be published; this was followed by Delina Delaney in 1898. The third, Helen Huddleson, was released posthumously. But her first novel made her famous and her second made her a cult, a cult she was unaware of.
She came to the world's attention when Barry Pain, a humorous critic, discovered and reviewed Irene Iddesleigh in February 1898. He called it the Book of the Century. She hated critics. Here are some things she said about critics:
I open my book of selections (Thine in Storm and Calm, edited by Frank Ormsby) literally at random, and fasten on the first paragraph I see. That'll do nicely.
"Can it be that your attention has ever been, or is still, attracted by another, who, by some artifice or other, had the audacity to steal your desire for me and hide it beneath his pillaged pillow of poverty, there to conceal it until demanded with my ransom?
"Speak! Irene! Wife! Woman! Do not sit in silence and allow the blood that now boils in my veins to ooze through cavities of unrestrained passion and trickle down to drench me with its crimson hue!
I was going to start writing some textual criticism just now, some mildly amusing barbs at her style, but do I really need to? Let's simply quote from the next novel. She conveys the flavour far better than I could.
A panic swept over the entire court, whilst Delina fell heavily against the front of the dock.
A laugh of devilish triumph lit up the features of Madam-de-Maine.
Lord Gifford groaned aloud.
Ladies became hysterical, some fainting, others weeping copiously, and nothing was heard save sobbing and wailing. One young girl named Fanny Fowler, who had been a companion of Delina's at school, died from shock as the words fell from the clerk's lips.
The sight was one never, never to be forgotten. Mothers wringing their hands in deep and groaning agony; ladies supported in the arms of their husbands; and girls screaming because their parents could not be quieted.
A deep hush prevailed as the judge pronounced the sentence.
"Delina Delaney, you have been found guilty of this horrible crime by a jury of your own countrymen, and it is piteous to see such a handsome young girl sharing part of her bright years in a convict cell. You were set apart to attend to the wants of Lord Gifford, and devote your untiring energy to his comfort. Being tempted through some motive or other to administer to him certain deadly poisons, you must now suffer the consequence."
This opening the book at random is quite sufficient. The first words from Helen Huddleson my eyes light on will do for us here.
Lord Raspberry breathed the oxygen of artifice, sniffed the smoke of suspicion, exhaled the acid of anxiety as he stood resolving his scheme.
"Action -- action -- I must act now," he murmured in breathless haste, then drawing from his vest pocket a pen-knife, opened the window as he had so often done before.
On entering he found himself confronted in his pyjamas by Sir Peter Plum, a mourning light exhibiting itself issuing from the next room.
Instantly Lord Raspberry struck Sir Peter who staggered and fell moaning on the softly carpeted floor.
Amanda hated critics. She hated lawyers, Roman Catholics, Americans, anyone she suspected was taking the mickey, editors, people of bad breeding... but she reeeally 'ated the critics. A lot. After Barry Pain's review, her next book contained an eight-thousand-word preface ironically praising his perception to the skies. After his death in 1928 she crowed about how little money he had left. When D.B. Wyndham Lewis cautiously attempted to review her in 1926 while almost keeping a straight face, she came back with a ten-thousand-word paragraph-by-paragraph demolition of his review, calling him St Scandalbags, a criticising crowdrop, not what you'd call a 'larned feller', a Brain-buster, creamiest genius-beetler, the most hellish of a hell-deserving calumniator, wonderful 'nerve-disturber', cox-comb, 'de feller sidin' wid'' Barry, low vulgar mind, low dirty dog, genius-scather, ...
Look, it just goes on and on. That's just in the first three pages. And that's just the things she calls the reviewer. The newspaper it appeared in is "that celestial-like-celebrated-talent-tarnisher"; his writing tools and techniques are an exhaustive dose of jalap and spite, threadbare knowledge, blackguardly remarks, outbursts of slum slang, frothing with bawdy beads of banter, a tissue of contemptible untruths, the razor of ridicule, the sword of sarcasm, ...
I'll stop there, about half way down page 2. Time for a bit of poetry.
EPITAPH ON LARGEBONES - THE LAWYER
Beneath me here in stinking clumps
Lies Lawyer Largebones, all in lumps;
A rotten mass of clockholed clay,
Which grows more honeycombed every day.
See how the rats have scratched his face?
Now so unlike the human race;
I very much regret I can't
Assist them in their eager 'bent'.
She was born Anna Margaret McKittrick in Drumaness, County Down, on 8 December 1860, married Andrew Ross, an inoffensive stationmaster. From this and her belief that "I afford pleasure and give satisfaction to the million and one who continually thirst for aught that drops from my pen", and that "surely there must be something strangely great about my Works when they create such a furore among the World's noblest and best down to the 'Hogwashing Hooligans whose sole foundation is based upon spleen", she constructed the tale that her full name was Amanda Malvina Fitzalan Anna Margaret McClelland McKittrick Ros, and she happened to be descended from King Sitric of Denmark.
Amanda Ros societies were formed among the fashionable set in London, while she stayed in her little village posting out her books, her blessings, or her denunciations. Among her admirers were Aldous Huxley, Anthony Powell, Siegfried Sassoon, Mark Twain, James Agate, Sir Osbert Sitwell, ... at Oxford, the Inklings would hold contests to determine who could read Ros' work aloud the longest without laughing. Members included J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
Huxley wrote an essay about her, Euphues Redivivus; but it's mainly big chunks of her text. You do that when you write about Amanda.
Can you buy her novels? No. Why haven't these gems been reissued? For more selections from her works, and the Huxley essay, and other links about bad writing, see: