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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 September 2006, 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK
Is this the world's worst writer?
McKittrick Ros was born near Ballynahinch
McKittrick Ros was born near Ballynahinch
Literary critics and readers are being invited to judge if a Northern Ireland woman is the world's worst writer.

Amanda McKittrick Ros, who was born in 1860, has been accused of delivering some of the worst passages of literature ever written.

Described as formidable, she rejected her critics as being the "auctioneering agents of satan".

Now Culture Northern Ireland has challenged "lovers of awful literature" to see if they can read the longest passage from McKittrick Ros's work while keeping a straight face.

Her expectation was that she would "be talked about at the end of 1,000 years" and the organisation hopes the unique nature of her verse can match that.

David Lewis, director of Culture Northern Ireland website, said: "Any writer who is proud of 'disturbing the bowels' of her readers and can describe critics as 'auctioneering agents of Satan' is worthy of praise in my book.

Mocking Angel! The trials of a tortured throng
Are naught when weighed in the balance of future anticipations.
The living sometimes learn the touchy tricks of the traitor, the tardy, and the tempted;
The dead have evaded the flighty earthly future,
And form to swell the retinue of retired rights,
The righteous school of the invisible,
And the rebellious roar of the raging nothing

Irene Iddesleigh (1897)
Amanda McKittrick Ros

"Ros was an inveterate social climber, claiming to be descended from King Sitrick of Denmark. She even changed her name from Ross to Ros, linking herself with the old family of de Ros.

"In fact, she was a school mistress who married Andrew Ross the station master at Larne Harbour."

It was he who published her debut novel, Irene Iddesleigh, as an anniversary present.

It was the story of a marriage doomed from the first moment by unrequited love.

Sections of the literati in London established special societies which held gatherings to read her verse and Tom Sawyer author Mark Twain, Brave New World author Aldous Huxley and war poet Siegfried Sassoon were said to be fans.

McKittrick Ros, who was born near Ballynahinch, came top in a book entitled In Search of the World's Worst Writers by Nick Page.

Amanda McKittrick Ros
Beneath me here in stinking clumps
Lies Lawyer Largebones, all in lumps;
A rotten mass of clockholed clay,
Which grown more honeycombed each 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'

The Lawyer Poems of Puncture (1912)

He described her as "the greatest bad writer who ever lived".

Frank Ormsby, editor of Thine in Storm and Calm, an anthology of Ros's work, said "she alliterated obsessively".

He added: "Even if one has forgotten her work for a few years, you only have to read a few paragraphs and you find the smile broadening on your face.

"You begin to realise why her work had such an appeal."

While her critics were many and often acerbic, the County Down writer is still held in great affection by her fans.

She was recognised by the people of Larne, who erected a plaque in her honour in the local library.

Amanda McKittrick Ros died on 3 February 1939.

The challenge night to recite her verse will end the Celebrate Literary Belfast festival, and takes place at the John Hewitt bar on Tuesday 26 September.

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