Very few afternoons in my life compare for joy with that on which, when I was about twenty years old, I discovered the poetry of William McGonagall, who is by common consent the worst poet in the English language, unlikely ever to be overtaken in the race to the bottom. Indeed, some have made the enlarged claim that he is the worst poet in any language, but this claim would seem to require linguistic abilities beyond even those of Sir Richard Burton. Suffice it to say that, where the English language is concerned, to open a volume of McGonagall on any page is sufficient to convince even the most exacting critic that the lines of Gerard Manley Hopkins, written in another context, are apposite to his verse: “No worst,/ There is none.”

It was a cloudless summer day, and I lay down on the grass with the tartan paper– covered volume printed in Dundee. I did...


A Message from the Editors

Our past successes are owed to our greatest ambassadors: our readers. Our future rests on your support, as The New Criterion Editor Roger Kimball explains. Will you help us continue to bring our incisive review of the arts and culture to the next generation of readers?

Popular Right Now