Computers: Feedback: McGonagall not guilty

Click to follow
The Independent Online
One of the most dreadful errors in last Friday's Independent was, sadly, yours. McGonagall, indeed. If your mailbox isn't jammed with shocked letters of correction, it ought to be. Those lines couldn't possibly have been by McGonagall: a) they rhyme and b) they scan, and both these arts were beyond him.

And whoever wrote them, they weren't about the death of Queen Victoria, but about the illness of the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, they should run:

Across the wires the electric message came:

He is no better, he is much the same

and they are usually attributed to Alfred Austin (1835-1913; Poet Laureate, 1896-1913), but were probably not his.

D B Wyndham Lewis and Charles Lee, in their splendid book The Stuffed Owl - An Anthology of Bad Verse, attribute them to 'an unknown university poet, on the recovery of the Prince of Wales', but spoil the whole effect by replacing the word 'electric' by 'gloomy'. I suspect that 'gloomy' is indeed what the unknown poet wrote: 'electric' is an inspired emendation, but it's too good to be true.

R G Chambers


IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing