Now You Can Read The Worst Novel Ever Written For Free!

 "Irene Iddesleigh" by Amanda McKittrick Ros

Lots of criticism gets heaped on E.L. James for her clunky prose and all-around bad writing, but the Fifty Shades author doesn't hold a candle to Amanda McKittrick Ros, who is believed by many to be the worst writer in history. In this vein, her lone novel Irene Iddesleigh is also considered one of the worst books ever written, and now you can download it for free over at Project Gutenberg.

The history behind Irene Iddesleigh will no doubt remind you of the aforementioned Fifty Shades. According to an article from Cracked titled "5 People Who Failed Their Way to Fame And Fortune," the publishing of McKittrick Ros's novel was financed by her husband in 1897 as a 10th anniversary wedding present. No doubt the book would have faded into obscurity had it not been for humorist Barry Pain, who publicly sang Irene Iddesleigh's lack of literary virtues, calling it "a thing that happens once in a million years" (ironically, of course). Mark Twain labeled it "one of the greatest unintentionally humorous novels of all time."

GalleyCat posted an excerpt from Mark O'Connell's Kingle Single "Epic Fail," in which he reveals this hilarious bit of bookish trivia:

There were Amanda McKittrick Ros societies at Oxford and Cambridge. C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and their fellow Inklings were largely responsible for this enthusiasm: the informal Oxford literary group held sporadic Ros reading competitions, in which the winner was the member who could read from one of her novels for the longest without breaking into laughter … She was a sort of Bizarro World Oscar Wilde: an Irish author who became a London cause célèbre for the complete witlessness of her writing. Her fame even reached the shores of the New World, with no less a figure than Mark Twain crowning her 'Queen & Empress of the Hogwash Guild.'

So, just how bad was Irene Iddesleigh? Read the first paragraph, and see for yourself:

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?

Do you have any idea what she was trying to say there? Me neither.

Who's going to read the whole thing?

Image via The McCune Collection

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Karen Crockett's picture
Karen Crockett from Salt Lake City is reading The Last Werewolf April 18, 2013 - 3:56pm

I am kind of tempted to read it but, I'm kind of worried my brain will explode.

lyndonriggall's picture
lyndonriggall from Tasmania is reading Going Bovine by Libba Bray April 18, 2013 - 6:52pm

I hope you can help me, Christoper. Great article, but when I opened the Gutenberg ebook the passage that you've quoted above isn't included? Any idea where that has come from/gone to?

EDIT: I've worked it out. This is actually the opening to her other novel, Delina Delaney. Which has me thinking... she's written two books. What's my excuse?

cshultz81's picture
cshultz81 from Oklahoma is reading Best Horror of the Year Volume 8 April 18, 2013 - 10:11pm

Nice catch lyndonriggall. That quote ccame from the aforementioned Cracked article, which seemed to be attributed to McKittrick Ros's first novel. My mistake.

Gerd Duerner's picture
Gerd Duerner from Germany is reading Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm April 20, 2013 - 6:26am

In this vein, her lone novel Irene Iddesleigh is also considered one of the worst books ever written

Her lone novel... how can there be a quote from a second work then? :D

cshultz81's picture
cshultz81 from Oklahoma is reading Best Horror of the Year Volume 8 April 21, 2013 - 6:30am

Every thing I read on the subject indicated she only produced one novel, so this could be from one of the short stories or poetry collections she published. It's possible I may have misread something as well.

Point is, the lady's a stinky writer.

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. April 28, 2013 - 10:31pm

I wonder if it's anything like Travis Tea's novel Atlanta Nights

I Tweet Books's picture
I Tweet Books May 3, 2013 - 9:07pm

I'll take that challenge!