Were there any books or plays famous for being badly written almost to an archetypal hilarity before My Immortal? Like were there any 19th century memetic gothic romances or?
Even just within SF fandom, The Eye of Argon (1970) is a classic viral example of hilariously bad writing from pre-Internet days; there were contests at cons to see who could get the farthest reading it without cracking up.
William Topaz McGonagall’s poetry was considered hilariously bad in his day (late 19th century); according to Wikipedia, “He found lucrative work performing his poetry at a local circus. He read his poems while the crowd was permitted to pelt him with eggs, flour, herrings, potatoes and stale bread. For this, he received fifteen shillings a night.”
I don’t know much more about the history of memetically bad literature than these two examples, but hopefully people can add more!
don’t forget “English as She Is Spoke”, a guide to speaking English written by a man who spoke no English. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_As_She_Is_Spoke
There’s also “Naked Came the Stranger” which was a collaborative effort to write the worst novel possible and still get it published. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naked_Came_the_Stranger
Also, “A Tragedy” by Theophile-Jule-Henri “Theo” Marzials, considered by some to be the worst poem ever written in the English language. (Obviously I am in love with it and intend to somehow incorporate it into my wedding vows.) http://homepages.wmich.edu/~cooneys/poems/bad/Marzials.Tragedy.html