ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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MARY BUCHANAN’S ALBUM

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[Photograph of Mary Ann Buchanan from Harriett Jay’s biography of Buchanan.]

 

     Anyone contemplating setting up a Robert Buchanan Museum (just as if) should be warned that, as far as I know, beyond the letters scattered round the globe, there are only three items which have survived from the Buchanan household. There is the photographic portrait, bequeathed to the nation by Harriett Jay and currently stored in the cellars of the National Portrait Gallery, Buchanan’s copy of The Ballad of Reading Gaol, inscribed by Oscar Wilde, in the library at Princeton, and this - the photograph album belonging to Buchanan’s wife, Mary. The album was given to Mary Buchanan by Col. Campbell when the Buchanans were living in Rossport, Ireland in February, 1876 and now resides in the Armstrong Browning Library of Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
     So, how did it end up in Texas? A note on the inside cover reads "Bought among effects of Harriet Jay the actress." Which at first sight implies some kind of auction following her death in 1932, however since nothing else has ever turned up, I believe it could have been put on the market, like the Wilde book, at an earlier date. The album was bought by Marie Ada Molineux, an enthusiastic Browningite and for many years the Secretary of the Boston Browning Society, who could have been attracted to the item because, following the unsigned inscription to Mary Buchanan from “the Fellow on the first page” there is a quotation from Robert Browning, which led to the mistaken belief that the album had been a gift from Browning. Dr. Molineux later gave her extensive collection of books and photographs to Baylor University and that’s why the album ended up in Texas.
     At some point, some of the photographs of Browning and his family from Dr. Molineux’s collection, were placed in Mary Buchanan’s album, which makes it difficult to work out what was in the original. To confuse matters further, someone has made an attempt to identify several of the photos, but some of these pencilled notes are so far off the mark that one begins to mistrust them all.
     The album has over sixty pages, some with photos, some blank, and the later Browning additions occur at several points, possibly suggesting that some of the original photos were removed prior to sale - the lack of any photos of Robert Buchanan could also support this theory. Among the photos of famous writers, artists, actors and actresses, there are also several ‘family photos’ - the question of course, is, whose family?
     I am grateful to
Rita S. Patteson, Director of the Armstrong Browning Library for allowing me to add the following selection to the site.

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A Selection of Pages from Mary Buchanan’s Album.

Courtesy of the Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.

Albumcover

Mary Buchanan’s album.

[Click the images below for full page or larger views.]

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The album was given to Mary Buchanan by Colonel Campbell . . .

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. . . not Robert Browning, despite this quotation occurring on the next page.

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Page 1 - Colonel Campbell.

From Harriett Jay’s biography of Robert Buchanan:

     “But the life we led there was by no means dull. For society there was the parish priest—Father John Melvin—a particularly handsome man who loved a game of chess and a glass of whiskey, and who could produce on occasion one of the finest glasses of potheen ever brewed in Connaught.
     During one of our periodical visits to London we brought with us some of Father John’s potheen and presented it to Charles Reade, who was so enthusiastic over it and who set such store by it that when producing it at his own table he insisted upon having it served in the tiniest of liqueur glasses. There was Father John’s curate, Father Michael Geraghty, a delicate, refined youth of some three-and-twenty summers, whose pathetic life-story was so touchingly told in the novel which was published in 1898 under the title of “Father Anthony,” while Rossport House, the only other habitable dwelling in the village besides our own, was occupied by Colonel Campbell, his wife, and four bonnie daughters; and  last, but not least, there was the Protestant clergyman the Rev. G. H. Croly, who dwelt in Polothomas, just across the ferry. Those were days to which the poet ever looked back with pleasure, and when he published his novel “Father Anthony,” he referred to them in a dedication to the parish priest. ...

     At this point of my narrative I recall an incident which it may be interesting to relate. The Colonel was an omnivorous reader. He subscribed to Smith’s library, and regularly every month came his box well stocked with books, which he was always ready to lend to any member of our little colony, but his reading was limited to prose, the lists which went in never by any chance including the name of a volume of poems. Once, however, a terrible mistake occurred. In the publisher’s announcements the Colonel one day saw the advertisement of an anonymous work entitled, “St. Abe and his Seven Wives: a Tale of Salt Lake City,” and, without waiting to ascertain whether the work in question was in prose or verse, he hastily added it to his list. On the arrival of the box the mistake was discovered and the offending volume was cast into a corner and left there. Some little time later it was taken up, quite by chance, and looked at. Having read a few lines, the Colonel became interested; he read the poem to the end, and his enthusiasm knew no bounds. That same night he appeared at the Lodge with the book in his hand. He had brought it for the poet to read, and having recommended it with all the enthusiasm of which he was capable, he said how much he would like to meet the man who had written it. The poet listened and smiled, but my sister revealed the secret of the authorship with no little pride. Up to that time the friendship between the two men had not been of the closest, for the Colonel, it must be admitted, was in every way the opposite of the poet. Both were Scotchmen, but while one was generous to a fault, the other was what is termed “close,” especially in the matter of sport, keeping to himself his knowledge of the best pools in the river, or the “warm corners” on the moor. But now all was changed—the King could do no wrong—the poet was at liberty to fish in the Colonel’s river if it so pleased him, or to shoot on his land, and following the theory that by pitch one is defiled, the Colonel, by intimate association, imbibed a good deal of the generosity and good-heartedness of his neighbour. From having been tolerated in the village, he became liked, and indeed he was soon quite popular. But much as he esteemed the poet, he never learned to like poetry; indeed, he ever regarded it with horror, despite the fact that he had derived so much pleasure from the reading of “St. Abe and His Seven Wives.”

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Page 2 - Roden Noel.

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Page 10 - Robert Browning (signed and dated March 25th, 1876), James Carnegie, 9th Earl of Southesk, author of Jonas Fisher (signed), unidentified, and (rather surprisingly) Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

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Page 11 - Unidentified, William Morris, George R. Sims (signed).

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Page 17 - Alfred Lord Tennyson, J. B. Buckstone, Thomas Carlyle and William Canton.
The photograph of William Canton is signed on the back, “Affectionately yours, William Canton, July 24, 1874.” Robert Buchanan was collaborating with Canton on his novel, The Shadow of the Sword, during his time at Rossport, as detailed in Chapter 18 of the Harriett Jay biography.
Buchanan’s play,
A Madcap Prince, was first produced by J. B. Buckstone at the Haymarket Theatre on 3rd August, 1874. In June, 1883, Buchanan produced an unsuccessful version of Buckstone’s The Flowers of the Forest.

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Page 19 - Two photos of Conrad Broë and two of Dibdin Culver, all signed. The photo of Conrad Broë at the top left is dated October, 1869. The two photos of Dibdin Culver are signed “Yours truly, Dibdin Culver.”
Conrad Broë was Roden Noel’s brother-in-law, the son of Paul de Broë of the Ottoman Bank. Roden Noel married Conrad’s sister, Alice on 21st March, 1863.
There are at least four photos of Dibdin Culver in the album (a fifth is speculative), which, leaving aside the later additions of Browning material, is more than anyone else. I find it curious that I’ve never come across any other mention of Dibdin Culver in relation to Buchanan.
He was an actor, although not presumably a particularly successful one since I’ve only come across two credits for him: he played ‘Father Francis’ in No Thoroughfare by Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens at the Olympic Theatre in December, 1876 and was also in the cast of The Termagant at Her Majesty’s Theatre in September 1898. In 1882 he was convicted twice for obtaining money by false pretences. The transcript of the first trial is available on the Old Bailey site. The following press cuttings deal with the second offence.

The Otago Witness (New Zealand) (7 October, 1882 - p.24):

dibdinotago

The Times (23 October, 1882):

dibdinculver
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Page 22 - Ada Cavendish.
There are two pictures of the actress, Ada Cavendish, in the album. She appeared in three of Buchanan’s plays, The Queen of Connaught (1877), Lady Clare (1883) and The Bride of Love (1890).

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Page 28 - Unidentified, Alexander Strahan (signed), Edward Burne-Jones, unidentified.
A particularly annoying page. The fellow in the top left-hand corner looks very familiar, but there is no pencilled note of identification. The photo beneath is identified as Edward Burne-Jones, but I’ve found no similar portrait online which corresponds to this, so I’m not sure. However, the last photo on the page is identified as Arnold Bennett, and I am quite positive that this is wrong, unless of course it refers to another Arnold Bennett and not the famous writer from the Potteries. Apart from the fact that it looks nothing like him, Bennett’s first novel, A Man from the North was not published until 1898, which would make him a very late addition to the album.
There are no such doubts about the photograph of Alexander Strahan (Buchanan’s publisher from 1865 to 1873) which is signed.

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Page 35 - Hermann Vezin
After several portraits of Robert Browning comes this photograph of the actor, Hermann Vezin, which I feel must belong to the original album. Around 1878 Buchanan was writing The Flying Dutchman for Hermann Vezin but the play was never produced. In 1884 they collaborated on Bachelors, which, after a brief run at the Haymarket Theatre in September of that year, was revived two years later at the Opera Comique and ran for 112 performances.

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Page 59 - The Buchanan Coat of Arms.
Finally, towards the end of the album there’s this, the Buchanan coat of arms. Whether it was part of the original, or added later, I have no idea. The motto, “Clarior hinc honos” translates as “Brighter hence the honour”.

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The Fleshly School Controversy
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Harriett Jay
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