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Thursday, 23 September 2010

"not a spark of literary talent"

This was what they said about poor "Poet Close" who in desperation to be a published writer decided to set up his own stall on the shores of Lake Windermere by the steamer pier and sell his books and pamphlets to passers-by. Those who bought a book were rewarded with praise, and those who did not were richly abused! Shoud I not find a publisher for my latest novel, I am tempted to do as he did - get out my stall, print off a few copies, and add to it what seems to be the contents of my attic or garage, and follow his example. I understand completely his desire to have someone read his work, and whether it is "good" or not never diminishes that desire to comunicate with the reader.

Close (the bearded man on the right having a well-deserved rest after all that pen-pushing) was an extraordinary publicist, sending unsolicited copies of his books to the rich and famous, and then later sending them a bill - he did this to clergymen, dukes and even Queen Victoria. If they failed to pay they were reviled or featured in his next book of poems. This was spamming Victorian-style, but his ruses worked and he did become truly famous (or is that infamous) in his day. He died in1891, and now his doggerel verses are much sought after as collector's items, despite the Dictionary of National Biography describing him as having "not a spark of literary talent."

"Who is it moves with such a grace,
with glasses 'cross her lovely face,
so like an Angel in this place"

was a typical offering made to flatter a local lady and persuade her to open her purse! Her heirs will now be glad that she did.


  1. Not a bad idea, Dee, and I love the Lake District. But I don't suppose his poems can possibly be as bad as those of the (in)famous McGonagall, writer of immortal verses such as:
    "Beautfiful silvery Tay,
    With your landscapes, so lovely and gay..."
    The poem continues steadily downhill from then on. Wonderful, in its way. Perhaps if some of us don't make the grade as great novelists, we could make our names writing really, really bad novels.

  2. Hi Frances,
    Yes, tempting isn't it - to abandon the quest for really good writing and to embrace making it as bad as possible!

  3. You do have to admire his entrepreneurial spirit, don't you :-)

  4. I didn't know anything about this guy! How did you find out about him??

    This reminds me of a man called Joseph Marinus... although his poems are rather good. He's a travelling poet who "sells" his poems in London - a donation gets you a reading and a typed poem of his - or you can just ask to be read a poem! He's very friendly and talented, but the authorities in London really hate him because he's an oddball. They keep trying to get rid of him under the pretence that he's selling goods without a licence....

  5. Hello DeAnna and Rebecca. Thanks for stoppig by and the link to joseph marinus, I'll go and check out his website - looks really interesting.