The introductory text reads: 'A New Poem, composed May 1898, by Sir WM. TOPAZ. M'GONAGALL, Poet, Knight of the White Elephant, Burmah, No. 21 Lothian Street, Edinburgh.' The poem itself begins: 'Alas! The people now do sigh and moan, / For the loss of Wm. Ewart Gladstone'. It has been signed by the poet. Gladstone (1809-98) was a former Liberal Prime Minister.
McGonagall has gone down in history as one of the worst poets in the English language. Born in Dundee around 1825, he began his working life as a handloom weaver. It was not until 1877, however, when he was in his late forties, that he 'found his muse'. Throughout his 25-year career, he always remained convinced of his own genius. He died in 1902.
Broadsides are single sheets of paper, printed on one side, to be read unfolded. They carried public information such as proclamations as well as ballads and news of the day. Cheaply available, they were sold on the streets by pedlars and chapmen. Broadsides offer a valuable insight into many aspects of the society they were published in, and the National Library of Scotland holds over 250,000 of them.
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1898 shelfmark: APS.4.90.31
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