Ros, Amanda (1860–1939)
Ros, Amanda (1860–1939)
Irish writer. Name variations: Anna Margaret M'Kittrick; Amanda M'Kittrick Ros; Amanda McKittrick Ros; Amanda Malvina Fitzalan Anna Margaret McLelland Ros; (pseudonym) Monica Moyland. Born Anna Margaret M'Kittrick in Drumaness, County Down, Ireland, on December 8, 1860; died on February 3, 1939; daughter of Edward Amlane M'Kittrick (a school principal); educated at Drumaness School and Marlborough Teacher Training College in Dublin, Ireland; married Andy Ross, in 1887 (died 1917); married Thomas Rodgers (a farmer), in 1922 (died 1933).
Eccentric author of Irene Iddesleigh (1897), Delina Delaney (1898), and Helen Huddleson (posthumous, 1969), works which inspired one critic to call her the "worst novelist in the world"; developed a cult following in England; published collections of poetry Poems of Puncture (1913) and Fumes of Formation (1933); wrote ballads during World War I that were printed in broadsheets under the pseudonym Monica Moyland.
Amanda Ros was born Anna Margaret M'Kittrick in 1860, although she claimed that her mother had named her Amanda Malvina Fitzalan Ann Margaret McLelland M'Kittrick, after the heroine from her favorite novel, Regina Maria Roche 's Children of the Abbey. Ros became as famous for this overblown style of eccentricity as for her writing, which was described as "uniquely dreadful" for its artificial plots and florid narratives. Growing up in Drumaness, County Down, Ireland, she attended the school where her father served as principal. She trained at the Marlborough Teacher Training College in Dublin, Ireland, from 1884 to 1886, and then took a post at Millbrook National School in Larne, Ireland.
Ros claimed to have been writing since age four and pegged the creation of her first novel, Irene Iddesleigh, sometime before she turned 16. However, it is more likely that she produced the novel within five years of the time she self-published it in 1897, using the money given to her by her husband as a tenth anniversary gift for just such a purpose. It sold well enough to enable Ros to build a house, appropriately named "Iddesleigh," and to publish a second novel, Delina Delaney, in 1898. These books serve as prime examples of the shortfalls of Ros' writing style, which relied on powerful coincidences and absurd turns of events to propel her plots about highbred men hopelessly in love with peasant girls after one glance and characters who die of shock brought on by bad news. She was especially well known for her flowery and alliterative phrasing, to which she often sacrificed meaning in complicated run-on sentences.
Ros used her writing to take revenge on her enemies in bald-faced attacks not even remotely masked as satire. She was particularly brutal in regards to the legal profession, which she felt had cheated her out of her inheritance of a lime kiln in 1908. Characters such as Mickey Monkeyface McBlear and Barney Bloater bore the brunt of her ill-will towards lawyers, which was so virulent that she included a completely extraneous section in her last novel, Helen Huddleson (completed by her biographer after her death and published in 1969), for the express purpose of highlighting how evil she thought them to be. She explored her enmity further in her collection of poems entitled Poems of Puncture (1913).
Neither did critics of her work escape her notice; those who attacked her writing often found themselves the subjects of derisive poems, as critic Barry Pain was after he criticized Irene Iddesleigh. Her anger unsoftened by Pain's death, Ros wrote of him as a "rodent of State" in her poem "The End of 'Pain,'" published in her second poetry collection, Fumes of Formation (1933). Much of the collection is devoted to her hatred of critics. Ros made reviewer W.B. Wyndham the subject of a 10,000-word essay, "St. Scandalbags," published posthumously in 1954; and "Donald Dudley: Bastard Critic" starts off what would have been a lengthy collection of sketches about her enemies in the unfinished "Six Months in Hell." Ros referred to critics in general as a "maggoty throng," "claycrabs of corruption," and "hogwashing hooligans."
If Ros were no friend to her critics, she did have a group of admirers at St. John's College in Cambridge, England, who helped elevate her to the level of cult status. Those claiming to admire her included Mark Twain, who kept one of her books in his library of "hogwash literature," and Aldous Huxley, who wrote about her work in the 1923 essay "Euphues Redivivus." Ros herself took her writing very seriously, and also composed ballads during World War I under the pseudonym Monica Moyland. She joined what she termed "the boundless battalion of the breathless" in 1939.
Drabble, Margaret, ed. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. 5th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.
Hogan, Robert, ed. Dictionary of Irish Literature. Rev. ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996.
Newmann, Kate, ed. and comp. Dictionary of Ulster Biography. The Institute of Irish Studies, The Queen's University of Belfast, 1993.
Loudan, Jack. O Rare Amanda: The Life of Amanda McKittrick Ros, 1954.
Susan J. Walton , freelance writer, Berea, Ohio