Amanda McKittrick Ros : biography
Anna Margaret Ross (née McKittrick; 8 December 1860 – 2 February 1939), known by her pen-name Amanda McKittrick Ros, was an Irish writer. She published her first novel Irene Iddesleigh at her own expense in 1897. She wrote poetry and a number of novels. Her works were not read widely, and her eccentric, over-written, "purple" circumlocutory writing style is alleged by some critics to be some of the worst prose and poetry ever written.
McKittrick was born in Drumaness, County Down, on 8 December 1860, the fourth child of Eliza Black and Edward Amlave McKittrick, Principal of Drumaness High School. She was christened Anna Margaret at Third Ballynahinch Presbyterian Church on 27 January 1861. In the 1880s she attended Marlborough Teacher Training College in Dublin, was appointed Monitor at Millbrook National School, Larne, County Antrim, finished her training at Marlborough and then became a qualified teacher at the same school.
It was during her first visit to Larne that she met Andrew Ross, a widower of 35, who was station master there. She married him at Joymount Presbyterian Church, Carrickfergus, County Antrim on 30 August 1887. She died after a fall in her home in 1939.
Nick Page, author of In Search of the World's Worst Writers, rated Ros the worst of the worst. He says that "For Amanda, eyes are 'piercing orbs', legs are 'bony supports', people do not blush, they are 'touched by the hot hand of bewilderment.'"
Aldous Huxley wrote that In Mrs. Ros we see, as we see in the Elizabethan novelists, the result of the discovery of art by an unsophisticated mind and of its first conscious attempt to produce the artistic. It is remarkable how late in the history of every literature simplicity is invented ... This is how she tells us that Delina earned money by doing needlework: "She tried hard to keep herself a stranger to her poor old father's slight income by the use of the finest production of steel, whose blunt edge eyed the reely covering with marked greed, and offered its sharp dart to faultless fabrics of flaxen fineness." Huxley, Aldous, On the Margin, 1923 (essay "Euphues Redivivus" accessed here 21 November 2011).
Her novel Delina Delaney begins:Have you ever visited that portion of Erin's plot that offers its sympathetic soil for the minute survey and scrutinous examination of those in political power, whose decision has wisely been the means before now of converting the stern and prejudiced, and reaching the hand of slight aid to share its strength in augmenting its agricultural richness?
The Oxford literary group the Inklings, which included C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, held competitions to see who could read Ros' work for the longest length of time without laughing.
Northrop Frye said of Ros' novels that they use "rhetorical material without being able to absorb or assimilate it: the result is pathological, a kind of literary diabetes"."Rhetorical Criticism: Theory of Genres," inThe Anatomy of Criticism, Princeton University Press, 1957. 329.
A poet as well as a novelist, Ros wrote Poems of Puncture and Fumes of Formation. The latter contains "Visiting Westminster Abbey," which opens:Parsons, Nicholas, The Joy of Bad Verse, London: Collins, 1988, p. 272.
- Holy Moses! Take a look!
- Flesh decayed in every nook!
- Some rare bits of brain lie here,
- Mortal loads of beef and beer.
As of 2004, none of her works are in print. Her books are rare and first editions command prices of $300 to $800 in the used-book market. Belfast Central Library has an archive of her papers, and the Queen's University of Belfast has some volumes by Ros in the stacks.
The Frank Ferguson-edited collection Ulster-Scots Writing: An Anthology (Four Courts, 2008) includes her poem 'The Town of Tare'.
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