Julius Henry Marzials (sometimes spelled Theophillus, Theophile, or just Theo) was born in Belgium
. He was educated in Switzerland
and worked as a librarian
where he spent most of his adult life. He was also a poet
with some well-known work. But he was also known for his odd behavior; Max Beerbohm
referred to him as "poet and eccentric
" in 1880
, and Kathryn and Ross Petras describe him as having "long blond hair, a baritone voice, and a continental-sized ego
." They also note that he was prone to give unannounced public performances of his works, and omce loudly declaimed "Am I not the darling of the British Museum
reading room?", breaking the silence
of said room.
He published a collection of poetry in 1874, The Gallery of Pigeons and Other Poems. His song "Twickenham Ferry," originally published in 1875, was very popular in both the U.S. and Britain (and is quoted in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations 10th edition, 1919). He translated the librettos of various operas into English, in 1883 arranged all the music in Panpipes: A Book of Old Songs which was illustrated by well-known children's book illustrator Walter Crane , and set works of Christina Rossetti to music. His sheet music can still be found in antiquarian bookstores. He died in 1920.
Despite such praise as came from Ford Maddox Ford, who said Marzials' “lyrical and polished” verses were “by far the most exquisite that were produced by
any of the lesser Pre-Raphaelite poets,” Marzials seems to be remembered largely for "A Tragedy," which has appeared in several anthologies as "the worst poem ever written in the English language. Nonetheless, a "Selected Poems" of his work was edited by John M. Munro in 1974 which labels him a worthwhile if minor poet of his era.
Kathryn Petras and Ross Petras, "Very Bad Poetry," 1997.