ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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BOOK REVIEWS - ESSAYS (3)

 

The Coming Terror (1891)

Is Barabbas a necessity? (1896)

 

The Coming Terror, and other essays and letters (1891)

 

The Liverpool Mercury (18 March, 1891 - p.7)

     Mr. Robert Buchanan is about to publish, through Mr. William Heinemann, a volume entitled “The Coming Terror,” and other essays and letters. Mr. Buchanan, if he is so-minded, should not be short of subjects for a volume with such a title.

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The Derby Daily Telegraph (3 April, 1891 - p.2)

     Mr. Robert Buchanan will be on the war-trail next week. He calls his latest forged thunderbolt “The Coming Terror,” which Mr. Heinemann is to publish. I am told it is to be a scorcher. There is to be no mercy shown all round. No political section, no prominent individuality, will escape the essayist’s flail. Paternal Government and State Socialism are the convenient terms he uses to allow of a bitter attack on the powers that be, He will advocate equality of the sexes with absolute freedom of moral action, and he would like the literary man to write just what he thinks proper. Does this mean the suppression of the National Vigilance Association, or the summary abolition of our libel laws? Mr. Buchanan will survey mankind from China to Peru; in other words, he will tackle subjects as wide apart as Zæo, Mr. Stead, and Ibsen, and when the prophet opes his mouth let no dog bark. Let me hope his vitriolic indictment of things in general will do himself some good, if nobody else; but there is sure to be a run on the book. We are always glad to see ourselves as others (and especially Mr. Buchanan) see us.

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St. James’s Gazette (13 April, 1891 - p.5)

“THE COMING TERROR.”

MR. ROBERT BUCHANAN’S NEW BOOK.

     Mr. Robert Buchanan is sometimes very right and sometimes very wrong; but, whatever we may think of the opinions which he happens for the moment to be upholding, we cannot but admire the vigour with which he slashes around him and the dexterity with which he sends straight to their mark his sharply tipped arrows. He is over-fond of phrases which do not look nice in print; and a perusal of his new book “The Coming Terror” (Heinemann) confirms the impression that he would gain in authority by a more careful restraint of expression. It is as easy to make the dessous too prominent as to commit the fault for which he castigates the Howells-like young man, and to pretend that there is no dessous in the most ladylike of worlds. With the exception of a few pages at the end, there is little in “The Coming Terror” which has not been read, over Mr. Buchanan’s signature, in the magazines and newspapers of the last year or two. Still his controversies with Mrs. Lynn Linton, Professor Huxley, the Ibsenites, and the apotheosized Young Person, were well worth reprinting.

THE MODERN YOUNG MAN.

     “The Coming Terror” which Mr. Buchanan descries not very far ahead is, of course, State Socialism, with its enervating dead-levels, its emasculating dependence upon Grandmamma the State, its Providence made Easy for the lazy and the ignorant. The subject is large enough to afford abundant opportunities of excursions into other fields. One of the most entertaining, because one of the most aggressive, of these excursions is his essay upon the Young Man Critic. Says Mr. Buchanan:—

     With the passing of one brief generation, the world has changed; the youth who was a poet and a dreamer has departed, and the modern young man has arisen to take his place. A saturnine young man, a young man who has never dreamed a dream or been a child, a young man whose days have been shadowed by the upas-tree of modern pessimism, and who is born to the heritage of flash cynicism and cheap science, of literature which is less literature than criticism run to seed. Though varied in the genus, he is invariable in the type, which includes the whole range of modern character, from the young man of culture expressed in the elegant humanities of Mr. Henry James and Mr. Marion Crawford, down to the bank-holiday young man of no culture, of whom the handiest example is (as we shall see) a certain egregious Mr. George Moore.

LIFE WITHOUT JOY.

     Passing from that which has been printed before, we come to the summary of his creed, which Mr. Buchanan appends to his book. He thus restates his case against the form of literature which has given us a drab and joyless view of life:—

     It appears to me that little or no harm can be done to the literature of Imagination by any hostile critic who is thoroughly in earnest. To find edification in the dreary family anecdotes and dingy back-parlour chronicles which are now called “dramas,” and to conceive life as drab-coloured and lugubrious throughout, is far less harmful than to have no taste for novelty and no zeal for humanity. The present apotheosis of what is mean and trivial and cheaply scientific—the present conception of Art as a series of dingy amateur photographs taken in the scullery during sunless weather—is only the inevitable reaction following the great period of loose and unfettered Ideality through which we have just passed. Presently, no doubt, it will be discovered that there is even more falsehood to Nature in a bad photograph than in a wildly executed painting; that no amount of truth to outlines and to shadows, no obtrusion of minor details, can compensate for the glow of light, of colour, of imagination. In the meantime, the craving for Photography in Literature may serve some good purpose if it leads men to be zealous for general truth of presentation. There will always be critics who are colour-blind. There will always, on the other hand, be writers who find in Nature not merely one common black and white, but all the radiant colours of the prism.

ART AND MORALITY.

     There is no end to discussing the relations of morality to art; and we get Mr. Buchanan’s view of that troubled subject in the following paragraph:—

     The impeccable albino of Mr. Howells is just as much tainted with Egoismus as the nerve-shocking negroesque M. Zola. The self-analyzing and hypercultured young lady of Boston is as disagreeable in her superfinity as the nevrose heroine of “La Curée.” In either case Morality has poisoned and perverted Art. Here, as in other developments of the disease, I see in the so-called Gospel of the Ego, not a new revelation, but the last slimy trail of the Goethe system of ethics, shown in productions which, like the forgotten and worthless portion of Goethe’s work, were devoid of imagination and true human sentiment. What is new and immense to the young men of the ferociously “moral” newspapers has been familiar and detestable to me from the first moment I began to think and write. Where they find literary salvation I have found only the last dregs of a Devil’s gospel which has corrupted almost every branch of modern literature, and which, had Heaven not sent the world its literary knights-errant in Victor Hugo and Dumas, would have long ago destroyed all poetry in the world. To them the moral of the Ego is novel; to me it is as old as the “Elective Affinities” and Goethe’s self-culture, with little new in it, and that little untrue, and delivered without a gleam of consecrating insight.

“ZOLA WITH A WOODEN LEG.”

     Mr. Buchanan never enjoys himself more than when he can toss and gore the sainted Ibsen. And he does it in such a way as to make the Ibsenites frantic; for it must always be remembered that the critic who makes fun of the new prophet hurts the Ibsenites rather than Ibsen. Mr. Buchanan here sums up his opinions upon the Gabblers:—

     One of my critics has abused me roundly for describing Ibsen as “a Zola with a wooden leg.” Another writer avers that “A Doll’s House” is the only play which has not “bored” him within the last few years, and adds (what is more to the point) that the nightly “storm of discussion” over Ibsen’s “ethics” is a proof of the dramatist’s genius and originality. Now, as a matter of fact, nothing is so easy as to outrage common sense, and so arouse discussion and opposition; nothing is so difficult as to please, to refine, and to charm. A playgoer witnessing the great masterpieces of dramatic literature does not become polemical; he carries away with him the pathos, the solemnity, and the calm of life itself. He has been to a theatre, not to a debating-room; he has been enjoying a work of Art, not a feverish and irritating platform controversy. It has ever been the aim of the great dramatists, from Sophocles downwards, to magnify the divine meaning of life, to depict that truth which is beautiful and spiritualizing. The mission of prosaists like Ibsen is the mission of dullards like Zola—to shock and to revolt us with the meannesses of life, and to assume that those meannesses most abound where Religion and Morality are most powerful. My callow critic is not merely disgusted with the modern dramatist; he describes the average home as a “harem,” the domestic affections of average men and women as stupid and conventional, the religious instincts of average humanity as instincts “he grew out of before he was born.” The same jaded and foolish creature who sees in Ibsen’s Nora a living woman representing Woman in the Abstract, would see in the banalities of “La Terre,” if produced upon the stage, a glorious lesson convincing us of the monkeydom of humanity. We want no such lesson, for we have had it of late years ad nauseam.

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The Times (16 April, 1891 - p.10)

     THE COMING TERROR, and other Essays and Letters, by Robert Buchanan (Heinemann). The strength of Mr. Robert Buchanan’s opinion is well known—better known, indeed, than his opinions themselves. His own account is that he is a moderate individualist, who defends freedom with one hand and the reasonable conventions of society with the other—a very commendable attitude, in principle. How far this principle accounts for all his furious onslaughts upon things and persons it would take some time to discuss; but there is certainly something in Mr. Buchanan’s rather cross-grained mood which suggests the idea of a bull which lives in a phantasmagoria of red rags. All that can be affirmed is that some of the objects of this critic’s aversion—Socialist levellers, mouchard journalists, municipal meddlers, Ibsenite emancipators of society, and others—well deserve the caustic things he says of them; while in one and all of his sallies, whether extravagant or not, he displays an exuberance of pungent expression that is itself enough to secure the amused attention of the reader.

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The Echo (16 April, 1891 - p.1)

BOOKS AND AUTHORS.
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     Like a hawk among the dovecots comes Mr. Robert Buchanan upon the critics and criticasters, the log-rollers, and mutual adulators, the literary ’Arrys, and the ’Arrys pure and simple of the period. Every healthy soul, whether it accepts Mr. Buchanan’s teachings or not, will heartily welcome his book of collected papers, “The Coming Terror and other Essays and Letters,” published by Mr. William Heinemann. In these times of cant, convention, and mawkish sentimentality, an article or book by this strong, fearless, vigorous writer, with his detestation of shams, his keen insight, and high ideals in literature, life, and art, is as a breeze from sea or mountain in the stuffy atmosphere of a hot house or a hospital. He stands up against the “wave of mock morality,” which, he says, is threatening to destroy much that is beautiful and pleasurable in life, in literature, and in art. He dreads the advent of State Socialism, which to him means “the greatest tyranny of the greatest number. Every institution, however peaceful, however beautiful, is to be destroyed and trampled down under the hob-nailed boots of Demos. Intellectual activity itself will soon be regarded as a dangerous form of competition. . . In proportion as we limit the freedom of the individual we retard the progress of the race, destroy human character, debase human intelligence, and arrest the development of the social conscience.” But, of course, the Socialists whom Mr. Buchanan attacks would reply that this “freedom of the individual” can never reach its fullest development except in a Socialistic State; and, to say the least, their arguments are forcible. Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Webb are in politics the opposites of each other; they should be read in conjunction. When Mr. Buchanan leathers his modern young man, one wishes more power to his elbow. The sort of young man whom he belabours is by far too common to be ignored. The modern young man as critic is Mr. Buchanan’s special aversion—he is the ’Arry of the doleful countenance, who never was a child, who mixes up Lecky’s “Rise and Fall” with Gibbons’s, who professes admiration for Walter Pater, but who “frankly informs us that he is immoral and indecent, and asserts that those who pretend to be otherwise are simply hypocritical.” By the way, it is a pity that so gifted and independent a critic of life, literature, politics, and art has not an “organ” of his own. Mr. Buchanan is by far too individualistic, too unconventional for the majority of editors. What about that monthly Review which Mr. Buchanan announced he was going to start?

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The Leeds Mercury (21 April, 1891 - p.8)

     The first edition of Mr. Robert Buchanan’s new book, “The Coming Terror,” has been exhausted within a few days of its publication.

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Glasgow Herald (23 April, 1891 - p.9)

(1) The Coming Terror.

     The bulk of this characteristic volume with the sensational title has already appeared in an ephemeral form. Mr Buchanan ingenuously republishes, “at the request” of many correspondents, with a “selfish yet two-fold”—why “yet?”— aim. In the first place, he conceives that these obiter dicta may by and by be useful to readers of his “less desultory contributions to literature;” in the next, in republishing he has an opportunity of restoring one or two passages which were “too outspoken for the columns of the daily newspaper of the period.” “From the first moment I began to write,” Mr Buchanan takes occasion to confide to our sympathetic ears, “I have been endeavouring to vindicate the freedom of human Personality, the equality of the sexes, and the right of Revolt against arbitrary social laws conflicting with the happiness of human nature.” From which the reader will perceive that Mr Buchanan is even more resolutely determined than usual to take himself seriously. Indeed, “The Coming Terror” naturally falls into two moods—one in which the author unconsciously poses as a gravely picturesque, fervidly eloquent, enthusiastically visionary Socialist (“in the good and philosophical sense”); the other in which he refuses to treat otherwise than with half-amused, half-scornful ridicule certain well-known yet altogether no-account persons—Bank-holiday individuals, creatures in Cheap Literary Suits, and other nonentities who share in common the melancholy disadvantage of youth. In the first mood, in spite of his exuberant vocabulary—possibly, after all, in some measure on account of it—Mr Buchanan is apt to become tedious and even dull in the long-run. For a time, however, the poetic comedy of the situation is entertaining, and the declamation of the “higher Socialism,” lit up with flashes of racy personality, is piquant and novel enough. It is refreshing to find the Home Secretary described as a political Pilate Punchinello, Lord Wolseley as a droning military Person, Professor Huxley as our new Daniel come to judgment, “poor Carlyle” as St Thomas of Chelsea, Mr Labouchere as the Paul Pry of journalism and the Scapin of politics, a haunter of the back kitchens of the aristocracy, and a counter of the candle-ends of the governing classes; Mr Parnell as the Perseus of Ireland, and Mr Buchanan himself as the champion of latter-day Rousseauism, the reconstructor of society, the denouncer of the emerging Demogorgon, the propagandist of a Christianity which after all “these nineteen sad centuries” has, it appears, “never been tried yet save by a few isolated individuals, from Father Damien backwards.” To do Mr Buchanan mere justice, his aims and intentions are of the worthiest. The burthen of the remediable misery in the world oppresses him, and he would have it cast off forthwith. Wherein who will not sympathise with him? If only he would keep out the King Charles’s head of his uneasy personality, who would not be deeply interested in the memorial, however imperfect and occasionally mistaken it might be? But here, as elsewhere, Mr Buchanan’s colossal belligerent individuality obtrudes too persistently on the reader’s attention; the fluent periods of his facile but unpractical invective sweep on without that restraint and that resourcefulness of suggestion which one attributes to the philosophic mind; and if warmth of feeling, generosity of intention, an eager philanthropy are abundantly in  evidence, these admirable qualities are marred by exaggeration, cock-sureness, self-complacency, and, indeed, a certain amusing arrogance. Could anything, for example, be more ludicrously impertinent or preposterously unpractical than the stilted and pretentious letter to Mr Matthews respecting the imprisonment of Mr Vizetelly, the publisher of a work by a certain M. Zola, to whom, though he be au fond a dullard, Mr Buchanan has “again and again taken off his hat in open day”—mark the frank audacity of the good, philosophical Socialist—because the said M. Zola, regarding pigsties as the only foreground for his lurid moral landscapes, appeared so much better and nobler than Mr Buchanan himself, “in so much as he loved truth more and feared consequences less.” Here are a few noteworthy passages in the letter:—

     “Right Hon. Sir,—You are, I understand, a Roman Catholic. I am a Catholic plus an eclectic. I have the highest respect for the creed in which you believe, since it is perhaps the most logically constructed of all creeds; but while I admire the logic I do not admit all the premises, and cannot consequently follow you to all its conclusions. Is it too much to hope, however, that even Roman Catholicism has shared the fate of other beliefs, and been shorn of many of its imperfections?

.          .         .          .         .          .

I can assure you, Right Hon. Sir, that it is in no spirit of levity that I, who have little love for Roman Catholicism, suggest a way in which the Church Infallible may yet be saved. That way is, as I have suggested, to perform a latter-day miracle, and cast in her lot with the Church of Free Thought and Free Speech.

.          .         .          .         .          .

The man who says that a Book has power to pollute his Soul ranks his Soul below a Book. I rank mine infinitely higher.”

One would have liked to watch the Home Secretary’s face as he read—if he did read—this marvellous farrago. In this same communication, however, a delicate suppression of the author’s claims to distinction among “the great writers who have been canonised by Humanity” may be noted with approval. “To come down to contemporaries,” Mr Buchanan informs the Home Secretary, “I think Mr Browning might be adjudged an offender against the law of modest reticence, and Mr George Meredith a revolutionary in the region of sensuous passion.” Why have we no mention of such well- known novels as “A New Abelard” and “Foxglove Manor”? We need not here do more than make special reference to the controversy with Professor Huxley on the question, “Are men born free and equal?” It would be a piece of foolish temerity were we to deal with the Socialistic theories of Rousseau, seeing that Professor Huxley, “admirably as he is equipped for the light skirmishing of popular knowledge, fails altogether to understand the great French idealist.” The “uncrowned poet” makes no such failure, but it is curious that he has not observed that as a matter of historical fact if “all human beings stand, so far as moral rights are concerned, in the same practical category,” they do so not through any “law of nature”—whatever that may mean—but in virtue of that very civilisation which is alleged to have “destroyed to a perilous extent men’s natural freedom and equality.” Nor need we dwell on the dialogue regarding “The Coming Terror” except to note its chief and most sinister characteristics are:—

     “1. Political Tyranny of Majorities, culminating in Providence made Easy, or so-called Beneficent Legislation.
     2. The Destruction of Personal Rewards and Punishments, the General Paralysis of Individual Effort.
     3. Espionage in all the affairs of Life, public and private.
     4. Trades Unionism, and Supreme Despotism of the Public Will; Protection of the Unfittest.
     5. The New Socialism, organizing to suppress free action in all matters of contract and personal activity.
     6. The New Journalism, flaunting over the grave of Free Literature, and clothed in completed Ignorance.
     7. The New Jurisprudence, practically confounding the empirical laws of expedience with the absolute laws of ethics.
     8. Moral Sanitation, extending from things civic to things ethic and personal, while placing written books and painted pictures in the same category as works of drainage and lighting.
     9. The New Ethics, scientific, saturnine, yet Puritanical, and
     10. The New Priesthood of Science, regulating the growth and development of the species, the freedom and activity of mankind, by the arbitrary laws of empirical and materialistic discovery.”

Such are the horrors, or at least some of them, which will accompany, and are in some measure even now heralding the emergence of the Demogorgon. Respecting all which matters, as far as we can perceive, Mr Buchanan suggests no distinct and practical remedies beyond a reform of the criminal law withdrawing the prerogative of mercy from Pilate Punchinello. What possible schemes he might be prepared to propose it is not for us to surmise, though the following passionate declaration looks ominously like the lowest rather than the higher Socialism:—

     “I cannot calmly leave the regeneration of things evil to the slow and certain evolution of the corporate conscience; I feel that there is much to be said for the advocates of a more active social reorganisation, and I am not so convinced as Mr. Spencer of the necessary sacredness of contracts, or of the wisdom of holding them inviolable.”

And yet one would imagine it to be to the evolution of the corporate conscience that one must look for all real regeneration; and if the sacredness of contracts is not to be held inviolable, what is? It is in the second mood of the volume, however, that the reader will find Mr Buchanan most entertaining. In “The Modern Young Man as Critic” and in “Imperial Cockneydom,” for example, there is provocation to inextinguishable laughter. Nor is one’s amusement diminished by the consciousness of how easy it would be for, say, the Young Man in a Cheap Literary Suit or the Bank- holiday Young Man to hit back hard. Of course there is much between the covers of “The Coming Terror”—witness the estimate of Ibsen, “Emma Wade’s Martyrdom,” the “Apotheosis of the Gallows”—with which it is a pleasure to agree with the author, and of course, too, there is ample evidence everywhere of trenchant literary faculty. On the whole, however, the book is a characteristic and diverting, rather than a convincing and helpful, contribution to the controversies of the day.

     (1) The Coming Terror, and other Essays and Letters. By Robert Buchanan. London: William Heinemann.

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The Yorkshire Post (29 April, 1891 - p.3)

     Mr. Robert Buchanan is one of those persons who have a faculty for exciting opposition. His own pugnacity may have something to do with this, for he is never happy unless fixing a quarrel upon some section of society or some individual in it. Nor can we always persuade ourselves that he means to be taken seriously. There is an ever-present tendency to feel that he cannot be half as ferocious, half as uncompromising, as he would have us believe. He reminds one now and then of the iconoclastic demagogue in Hyde Park, who, after breathing out threatenings and slaughter for the space of an hour, was presently seen wheeling a perambulator with a meekness that could never have been assumed. But, whatever his subject, he is at least never dull. Like Mr. Runciman, he has a nice taste in invective, and can denounce an adversary with a diction copious and varied enough to be the envy of men who feel their own denunciations to be flat and insipid by comparison. In the volume entitled “The Coming Terror” (W. Heinemann) he has thrown together a variety of articles and communications conceived in a more or less truculent spirit. He is ready to defend his description of Ibsen as “a Zola with a wooden leg,” or dismiss Zola himself as “a dreary and dismal gentleman whose mind is solely exercised on questions of moral drainage and social sewerage,” or denounce “the modern young man,” or hit off Paul Bourget by telling us that “if we could imagine Zola and Ouida collaborating on a story to be afterwards revised by Mr. henry James, we should get a very good idea of a work of M. Paul Bourget.” Much of the book has so recently appeared in the newspapers that we have not had time to forget it, but the reader will find it at least amusing to renew his acquaintance with the whole collection. He may not agree with Mr. Robert Buchanan, but he will never be bored.

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The Birmingham Daily Post (1 May, 1891 - p.3)

     Here are some of the epithets which Mr. Robert Buchanan applies to his contemporaries: Mr. Labouchere is “the Scapin of politics,” Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson “a hard-bound genius in posse,” Mr. William Archer “a saturnine severe young gentleman” in a “cheap literary suit,” Mr. John Morley “a belated Hume whose mind had been nurtured on the gospel of the Hall of Science,” Mr. Andrew Lang “a very typical Cockney,” Ibsen an “arid writer” who is “the dustman of a suburb,” while Zola is “the scavenger of a city.”

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The Birmingham Daily Post (15 May, 1891 - p.5)

     Mr. Robert Buchanan’s latest work, “The Coming Terror,” has reached a second edition, to be published in a few days by Mr. William Heinemann. This will contain a special “Note” by the author, retorting in characteristic fashion upon his critics, and congratulating himself “on a fair measure of old-fashioned abuse.” “To have been saluted amicably by the Wooden Walls of Cockneydom,” cheerfully observes Mr. Buchanan, “would have been proof positive that my little vessel contained nothing but sailing orders for the lumbering Literary Fleet and complimentary messages from headquarters to the blundering gentlemen in command.”

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The Liverpool Mercury (20 May, 1891 - p.6)

LITERARY NOTICES.
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MR. BUCHANAN’S NEW BOOK.*

     Somebody ventured to indicate, without conveying the opinion in so many words, that Mr. Buchanan himself was the “coming terror”; but the inference, even if intended, was not wholly true, because Mr. Buchanan is in no sense “coming,” as he has long been a good deal of a terror in certain quarters. What he will be in the future remains to be seen, but in the past he has shown indomitable pluck in defending any position he has taken up, and rarely shows much mercy to an opponent. He really confesses himself fond of a tussle with the enemy, and the public, very often much in the position of idle spectators, rather like to watch the contest. The book before us is quite unlike either “A Poet’s Sketch Book” or “A Look Round Literature,” and has less literary interest than anything we should expect from a novelist, a poet, and a dramatist. All the same, “The Coming Terror” is vastly entertaining, and every page contains statements which might fairly give rise to much contradictory criticism. Dealing with socialism, Mr. Buchanan’s main contention is “that no amount of political or social tinkering will complete the process nature chooses to work out by her own slow methods of conscientious evolution, and that, by the present growth of quasi-providential restriction, by the emergence of mob morality and mob rule, those sublime methods are being indefinitely retarded, even occasionally reversed.” Mr. Buchanan deals with many other questions. “Are Men Born Free and Equal?” “Is Chivalry Still Possible?” “Is the Marriage Contract Eternal?” are only a few of the topics dealt with. He treats “The Modern Young Man as Critic,” but we rejoice to say that the application of the attack is limited. Mr. Buchanan enters a strong plea on behalf of the absolute liberty of the press, and, speaking of the Burns carnival every year, says—“Were I a Scotch poet, living or dead, I should prefer a very little sober appreciation to any amount of drunken idolatry; and I should not care to gauge the height of my success by the depth of degradation into which I had plunged my votaries.” In a word, let us say that “The Coming Terror” must arouse the interest of every one who takes up the book; and that it will give rise to much serious thought we cannot doubt, both by reason of the subjects treated and the masterly manner in which the author handles his arguments.

     *The Coming Terror, and other Essays and Letters. By Robert Buchanan. London: Heinemann.

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The Arbroath Herald (28 May, 1891 - p.2)

A GOOD story is told of Robert Buchanan’s new book, “The Coming Terror.” The title page of the first copies read, “The Coming Terror”—Robert Buchanan. The author saw the joke, the volumes were recalled, and a “By” was inserted.

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Hull Daily Mail (28 May, 1891 - p.2)

     In the preface to a new edition of his latest book, Mr Robert Buchanan informs the world that he is “a singularly calm person,” who writes “quite coolly and good-humouredly.” This is news, indeed. Then, if Mr Buchanan ever got into a passion, what things he would say!

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The Graphic (30 May, 1891)

THE COMING TERROR

     UNDER this title Mr. Robert Buchanan has published a volume of essays and letters on topics of the day, in which he lays about him as with a flail, affording rare sport to the onlookers who are out of the reach of his arm. The first essay, though it takes the objectionable form of a dialogue between Mr. Buchanan and a dummy figure, is worth study for the timely warning it holds out as to the future the tyranny of the odd man is preparing for us. But Mr. Buchanan is strangely unequal; he is in such a hurry to score his points that he frequently overstates his case, and weakens his argument where a little discretion and reticence would have strengthened it. The same fault runs through all the other essays. No one will object to Mr. Buchanan dancing upon the prostrate body of the Young Man, though even here he is more than a little unjust; but the lust of battle is so strong in him that whenever he sees a head he cannot refrain from hitting it, even though it be a reverend or an able one. Mr. Buchanan battling with strong words for things which are noble and pure and of good report is altogether admirable, but he should beware of excess of zeal, and remember that he himself is not infallible, and has written works for the stage which do not conform exactly to the severest canons of Art for Art’s sake only. Still it is good to see a man wield his pen vigorously, even though there is occasionally more force than direction in his blows. Mr. Heinemann is the publisher of the volume.

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The Academy (6 June, 1891 - No. 996, p.581-582)

The Coming Terror, and other Essays and Letters. By Robert Buchanan. (Heinemann.)

TO reprint newspaper letters in a volume forms a bad precedent. For already too much journalism gets itself enclosed in cloth bindings; and, if the contents of even the correspondence columns are, henceforth, to flood the book-market, what is to become of the bewildered reader? All letters are not as clever as Mr. Buchanan’s; yet, even in his case, considering the importance of the subjects he discusses, a more deliberate and finished statement would have been acceptable In this volume, in addition to the letters, are two or three essays from magazines, a quantity of “Flotsam and Jetsam,” and no less than eight separate sets of “Final Words.” Nevertheless, the collection is not a mere miscellany. It has a common object, namely, to exhibit and denounce the various phases of “the coming terror.”
     What this coming terror is we may gather, in the main, from the dialogue between Alienatus, a provincial, and Urbanus, a cockney, with which the book opens. Sundry problems of the hour are here brought under review; and we are given to understand that things are in a terribly bad way already, and rapidly tending from bad to worse. The coming terror, we are told, will, at least temporarily, be the “submergence of individual freedom and activity under the waves of political and social anarchy,” by which is meant the confused and confusing legislation of these socialistic times. Among the things to be dreaded are the political tyranny of majorities, one form of which is what is termed beneficent legislation; espionage in all the affairs of life; trades unionism; the new socialism, “organising to suppress free action in all matters of contract and personal activity”; the new journalism; the new ethics, “scientific, saturnine, yet Puritanical”; the new priesthood of science; the new jurisprudence, “practically confounding the empirical laws of expedience with the absolute laws of ethics.” While rejecting the New Socialism, Mr. Buchanan claims to be a Socialist. The true Socialist is, he says, “a man eager for the common good, but one who believes that good can only be attained by such complete freedom in life, morality, and religion as is compatible with the general growth and welfare.” He insists strenuously that the terms Socialism and Individualism, so far from being contrary terms, as most people suppose, are in reality “two facets of the same proposition.” It may be so; everything depends on your definitions. But, now that the term Socialism has become so generally identified with what Mr. Buchanan calls the New Socialism, the attempt to reclaim it is fraught with  confusion. The discussion with Prof. Huxley on the question, “Are men born free and equal?” was quite spoiled by Mr. Buchanan’s untimely insistence on his definition of Socialism. Instead of reaching any satisfactory conclusion whether men are naturally free and equal or the reverse, the argument degenerated into a wrangle whether Mr. Herbert Spencer was or was not a Socialist. Prof. Huxley cannot be blamed for declining to think that he was.
     In Mr. Buchanan’s opinion, Mr. Spencer’s is “the sanest and clearest intellect known to us at present on this planet”; and he is, for the most part, an ardent disciple, on social questions at least, of the great philosopher. But, as he is careful to explain, he does not follow Mr. Spencer with his eyes shut, and takes leave to differ from him here and there. According to Mr. Buchanan, Socialism “contends that it is not want of energy, but want of opportunity that pauperises men and destroys individuality.” No doubt something of the same kind might be said of Individualism; but as soon as the question is asked how the opportunity is to be secured, the parting of the ways is marked and final. Socialism would try to create artificial opportunities by legislative and other action, while Individualism is concerned only to remove obstructions and give men and women free scope to work out their own redemption in their own way. At least, this distinction applies to the New Socialism—the only thing usually known as Socialism nowadays. The Socialism of a former generation did, no doubt, come nearer to what Mr. Buchanan understands by “true” or “higher” Socialism. From about the year 1835, Robert Owen and his followers were designated Socialists. Later came the Christian Socialism associated with the names of F. D. Maurice and Charles Kingsley. To-day witnesses the third phase of over-ripeness and decline. The first Socialism was commercial, the second was religious, the third is political. The first proclaimed self- help—the great self-help movement, known as co-operation, came out of it; the second proclaimed human redemption; while the battle cry of the third is state-control.
     The primary function of Socialism in this third or modern phase, not less than in its preceding phases, was that of protest against undue luxury, greed, and the careless indifference of the well-to-do classes to the sufferings of the poor. As such, it was timely and useful. It served to awaken men and women to truths about themselves which it was good for them to realise. Luxury, like a moral leprosy, was eating away the souls of members of the richer classes; to warn the sufferers was merciful. Greed and carelessness created a needless burden of misery; it was well that those upon whose shoulders the burden was laid should be told that their consent ought first to have been obtained. But this much-needed “criticism of life” was misguided, and became impetuous. The sufferers were taught to demand, not what was good for them but the very luxury which had been poison to their fellow-creatures; and to insist, not simply on a just and proper freedom from unnecessary burdens, but on a transfer, to gratify mere malice, of the burdens to shoulders that had hitherto been free. The want of brotherly goodwill on the part of the rich for the poor was not remedied, but, instead, an attempt was made to counteract it by creating ill-feeling on the part of the poor for the rich. So now, the temporary triumph of the classes hitherto down-trodden discovers in them all the worst faults against which the original protest was made. There is an undoubted present tyranny, and, Mr. Buchanan thinks, a coming terror. Radicalism, as the present reviewer wrote many years ago, is the philosophy of roots. A Radical is defined by Mr. Buchanan as “one who reforms at the root and not the branches.” Modern Socialism is not radical. It sees the evil, fails to apprehend the cause, and, mistaking the mode of treatment, proceeds to lop the branches and threatens to cut the trunk; but, as it never once examines the root, after all the pruning the old diseased fruit reappears in a new position. We have described the present as the declining phase of socialism; even as we write it is wasting itself in visions and dreams of an impossible future, in relating “News from Nowhere,” and the like.
     The emphatic protest “against over-legislation in matters literary,” which Mr. Buchanan entitled “On Descending into Hell,” was written in connexion with the prosecution and imprisonment of Mr. Henry Vizetelly for publishing English translations of Zola’s works. It took the form of a letter to Mr. Henry Matthews, the Home Secretary, and was an appeal for the liberation of the unlucky publisher. As a specimen of the author’s power of vigorous criticism and  invective, the article is excellent; and it exposes the weakness of the position taken by those who advocate the suppression—not the extinction—of vice. The moral of the prosecution is, he says,

"Leave the drains alone; let the world wag, even if typhoid fever should flourish. Moral number two, very acceptable to the average insular intelligence: conceal from all clean people, especially young people, the fact that there is any sewerage at all” (pp. 104-5).

As to Zola himself and his “pornography,” Mr. Buchanan says:

“I have always been Puritan enough to think pornography a nuisance. It is one thing, however, to dislike the obtrusion of things unsavoury and abominable, and quite another to regard any allusion to them as positively criminal. A description even of pigsties, moreover, may sometimes be made tolerable by the cunning of a great artist; and this same M. Zola, though a dullard au fond, for the simple reason that he regards pigsties as the only foreground for his lurid moral landscapes, appears to be so much better than myself, in so much that he loves truth more and fears consequences less, that I have again and again taken off my hat to him in open day. His zeal may be mistaken, but it is self-evident; his information may be horrible, but it is certainly given in good faith; and an honest man being the rarest of phenomena in all literature, this man has my sympathy, though my instinct is to get as far away from him as possible” (p. 105).

The protest and appeal did not serve the ostensible end. Mr. Henry Matthews was not moved by it to grant Mr. Vizetelly relief; and, it must be confessed that, with all its excellencies, it was not well designed to secure any such result. It recalls to mind the German advocate who, being appointed to defend a Socialist in the days when Socialists were considered criminals, took the opportunity of expounding his own extreme doctrines, in language which he would not have dared to use on any other occasion. The trial ended, he sought the friends of the prisoner, and announced, “A glorious triumph.” “Is he acquitted then?” asked the friends. “Oh, no!” was the reply; “he is to be executed; but I have declared our great principles in open day.”
     Another letter, quite as vigorous, on “Is Chivalry still possible?” brought Mr. Buchanan into collision with Mrs. Lynn Linton, who roundly accused him of “talking sentimental bunkum with splendid literary power.” His “splendid literary power” was, of course, rivalled by hers; so, too, was his “bunkum”; but while his was “sentimental,” hers was cynical; his the weakness of an enthusiast, hers the defect of a sneering, virtue- doubting woman-hater. Mr. Buchanan’s plea in this case was for the “outcast” women of society. Perhaps he did not take sufficient account of the fact that in most instances the only kind of love of which these women were victims was self-love. But as self-love is not exclusively a woman’s vice, if it be at the root of the evil there is no justice in measuring out severer punishment to one sex than to the other. In truth, however, as Mr. Buchanan perceives, and Mrs. Lynn Linton does not care to perceive, it is no moral enthusiasm which makes society thrust out these women sinners. But there is the pretence to be maintained that our marriage system is monogamous and not founded on polygamy and polyandry, and to this end a show of righteous anger at those who too obviously break the pretence is useful. In this way these women are, in a certain sense, as Mr. Buchanan says, the “martyrs” of society. At least they are the scapegoats; and along with them, of late years, from time to time, go certain public men who blunder in their private lives. Respectability is thin ice covering a sea of corruption, which is useful but must be ignored. Anyone who falls and, breaking the ice, gets besmirched, had better be thrust under out of the way lest unpleasant truths become known and other ills befall. Mr. Buchanan’s main contention is simply that “a man has no right to set up for a woman any personal standard of thought or conduct by which he is unable or unwilling to measure himself;” and, Mrs. Lynn Linton notwithstanding, there is not much “bunkum” in that.
     There are many literary judgments scattered through the volume; and it goes without the saying that they are stated with freedom and vigour. As usual, contemporary writers and writing suffer the most. In “The Modern Young Man as Critic” and “Imperial Cockneydom”— both remarkably clever essays—Mr. Buchanan is at his sauciest. He is no respecter of persons; and though probably mistaken when he says he has no idols, he is a truly energetic breaker of other people’s images. No man is safe from his hammer—not even Goethe. Mr. Henry James is a “superfine young man” and Mr. George Moore a literary “’Arry.” Matthew Arnold was “spiteful” and “jejune”; Mr. Walter Pater’s essays are also “jejune”; Mr. Andrew Lang is “the chirpy prophet” of nepotism; Zola is “a man deformed”; Mr. Henry Labouchere is “the Paul Pry of journalism.” Strange that such an epithet-flinger should dislike Carlyle, and even censure him for flinging epithets! From a humourist like Mr. Buchanan a truer estimate of that supreme humourist was surely to be expected.
     Other points of kinship exist between Mr. Buchanan and Carlyle. If ever a man was a “provincial” in Mr. Buchanan’s sense, it was “St. Thomas of Chelsea”; and what is more, in the midst of “Cockneydom” he continued a “provincial” to the end of his days. Even Carlyle was hardly severer on the present time, or more regretful of the good old days behind, than is Mr. Buchanan. True, Carlyle was not an optimist, and Mr. Buchanan is. We have his own statement that he writes “as a pure optimist and sentimentalist” (p. 175); but, for an optimist, it must be admitted he takes an uncommonly gloomy view of life and letters. The change around him is, he thinks, “only a lurid and hideous nightmare,” not a reality. But ordinary optimists do not have such dreadful dreams; and if he is satisfied it is a dream, why does he fight so strenuously against it? In the days of his youth the young man

“was feather-headed but earnest; impulsive and uninstructed, but sympathetic and occasionally studious. . . . A great thought, even a fine phrase, stirred him like a trumpet. . . . But now, with the passing of one brief generation, the world has changed; the youth who was a poet and a dreamer has departed, and the modern young man has arisen to take his place” (p. 146).

A sad falling-off indeed from his earnest if feather-headed predecessor, for the modern young man is

“a saturnine young man, a young man who has never dreamed a dream or been a child, a young man whose days have been shadowed by the upas tree of modern pessimism, and who is born to the heritage of flash cynicism and cheap science, of literature which is less literature than cynicism run to seed” (p. 146).

Allowance, however, must be made for the different points of view of the seer. It was with the half-inward gaze of youth that he saw the young man of his own youth; and he is regarding the young man of to-day with the wider, more critical, and more experienced observation which comes when youth is past. Probably that young man of the past was no more than the somewhat idealised portrait of himself as he was or aimed to be. Young men do not study other young men with any considerable amount of critical discernment. The world as they know it is the world as they see it in their conscious selves.
     Again, discussing chivalry, Mr. Buchanan suspects it is extinct. At any rate he is sure that

“it is fast becoming forgotten; that the old faith in the purity of womanhood which once made men heroic, is being fast exchanged for an utter disbelief in all feminine ideals whatsoever, and that women in their turn, in their certainty of the contempt of men, are spiritually deteriorating” (p. 186).

The whole outlook is appalling:

“Nothing certainly can be more terrible than the existing condition of things, both social and political” (p.97).

It is well Mr. Buchanan tells us he is an optimist, for he would be sadly misunderstood.
     The book, as a whole, is stimulating. If Mr. Buchanan were less impetuous, he would be a great critic. As it is, carried away by his emotion—sometimes, possibly, by a desire to be brilliant—he overstates, occasionally repenting and retracting; more frequently, in another mood, contradicting himself. He sees both sides of a subject, but at different times. But sturdy independence is as characteristic of him as it was of Carlyle. Errors of judgment there may be, and errors of taste there are; but the thought he speaks is, at least, his own thought and never an echo. He has convictions and the courage to declare them. If he does not convince, he compels attention and excites thought. Of his literary estimates he says, “they have one poor merit; they are, at least, my own.” This merit his social and political as well as his literary estimates assuredly have; and it is not a poor one, but, on the contrary, the supreme merit of all.
                                                                                                                                               WALTER LEWIN.

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The Boston Daily Globe (27 July, 1891 - p.6)

NEW LITERATURE.
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Robert Buchanan’s Essays

...

     A reprint of Robert Buchanan’s “The Coming Terror and Other Essays and Letters,” will powerfully influence thought in this country, as it is doing in England, where a third edition is called for.
     Throughout there is a vigorous assertion of individualism in religion, social ethics and literature, or the natural right of man to liberty of action, thought and speech in all matters which do not infringe on the liberties of other free men, but there is just as strong assertion of altruism in place of egotism. “Individual development being often crass, anarchic, selfish and harmful to society, has to be carefully watched and qualified by the corporate conscience.” In the opening essay, “The Coming Terror,” a dialogue, he points out how generally the limitation of the freedom of the individual in ways described tends to political and social anarchy. “Are Men Born Free and Equal” discusses principles. “On Descending Into Hell,” growing out of the sentence of Vizitelly for the publication of books by Zola and others, and “Is Chivalry Possible,” deal with the social evil, and insist upon a higher standard of purity on the part of men. Chivalry is the belief “that the moral temperament of women is superior to that of men, and that men should regulate their conduct by the laws feminine insight has discovered.” “The Modern Young Man as Critic” and “Imperial Cockneydom,” while treating of prevailing pessimism regarding feminine ideals and criticising severely Henry James, Paul Bourget, de Maupassant, William Archer and George Moore, shows how pessimism has caused the old-fashioned faith in female purity and goodness to pass away. In “Is the Marriage Contract Eternal,” he takes the negative, making marriage depend for its continuance upon the spirituality of its love. Under the head, “Flotsam and Jetsam,” there are a number of papers on topics of social and literary reform. There is conscience to hold to the highest idealism of manhood in every line, and there is fearless logic to make it respected by others when it cannot be obeyed.

New York: United States Book Company. Boston: De Wolfe, Fiske & Co.

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The Theatre (1 August, 1891)

     “The Coming Terror,” by Robert Buchanan. (Heinemann).

     From the first moment Mr. Buchanan began to write, he has been endeavouring, he assures us, to vindicate the freedom of human personality, the equality of the sexes, and the right of revolt against arbitrary social laws conflicting with the happiness of human nature. It would appear, then, that his aims and Ibsen’s are identical. Yet, strange to say, Ibsen is singled out, in this second essay upon “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies,” for the weightiest missiles of contumely and wrath! This fact is the key to Mr. Buchanan’s seemingly irreconcilable contradictions. He must and will stand alone. His foot is on his native heath and he’ll hack and slash at all, till the crack of doom. His Individualism shall be actual. There shall be none like unto him, neither in the heavens above, nor on the earth beneath, nor across the waters of Acheron that are under the earth. For this the man is to be admired. The splendid audacity of the challenge, the glove flung down by one to millions, reconciles us to a hundred worthless foibles, and a thousand unjust and hasty verdicts. The spirit Macaulay breathed into Horatius stirs within us still. “For how can man die better than facing fearful odds For the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his gods.” The sentiment which leads us to canonise Robert Bruce, and to accept Rider Haggard as a novelist, now urges us to read every page of “The Coming Terror,” and thank its author for having written it. Within its covers we find a literary Umslopogaas, and the play he makes with that deadly axe of his is worthy of Mr. Haggard in his most Homeric vein. No odds are too great. The Home Secretary, “the new Pilate Punchinello;”  ex-Justice Stephen, “the Caiaphas of the Bench;” Mr. Labouchere, “the Paul Pry of journalism, and the Scapin of politics;” Professor Huxley, “a moral troglodyte;” Emile Zola, “a merry and dismal gentleman” devoted to “questions of moral drainage and social sewerage;” Lord Wolseley, “a droning Military Person;” Paul Bourget “ridiculus mus of a social mud heap in parturition;” Henry James, “a fatuous young man;” Ouida, “that classic of the Langham;” Guy de Maupassant, “whose lovers find out each other, like animals, by the sense of smell;” Mr. William Archer, '”a dull young man of saturnine proclivities; “Mr. George Moore, “a cockney Bohemian of the Latin Quarter;” Mrs. Lynn Linton, his “matron militant;” Mr. John Morley, “a belated Hume;” Louis Stevenson, “a hard bound genius in posse;” Mr. Andrew Lang, “the prophet of modern Nepotism;” Mr. Rider Haggard, “a teller of tales to the marines, a disseminator of the philosophy of the preposterous;” Huxley again, “the Pharisee who passes by,” “the quasi-scientific Boanerges;” “the impeccable albino, Mr. Howells;” “the nerve-shocking, negroesque M. Zola;” are a few of the adversaries this braw Scot, with Gargantuan appetite for slaughter, sets himself to demolish. Up swings razor-edged “In kosi kaas” and down it comes with sledge-hammer force, maiming, disfiguring, crippling, and strewing the ground with corpses. The Grand Old Zulu, to continue the metaphor, never falters. Not for an instant does he pause for breath. He is fleet of foot, supple of limb, and never a blow does he strike in vain. The lust of war is in his flaming eye and his distended nostrils. And a good deal of sympathy must go out to this dauntless warrior who keeps the bridge against an army. Mr. Buchanan’s pungent and pregnant sentences always repay perusal, but of “The Coming Terror” more than that may with justice be said. It is indeed something of a rara avis, a store of original thought and lively speculation, without a dull page to endanger its worth.

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Northern Daily Mail (18 August, 1891 - p.2)

THE COMING TERROR.
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     MR ROBERT BUCHANAN is best known to the British Public as a poet, novelist, and dramatic author, but on occasion he can throw aside the poetic muse, quit the weaving of intricate plots, and the high falutin’ language of melo-drama, and figure with more or less—according to the judgment of the reader—success as a serious essayist. Ever and anon the clever author of “God and the Man,” “breaks out in another place,” so to speak. He has just published through the medium of the house of Heinemann “The Coming Terror, and other Essays and Letters.” Mr Buchanan is fearful of the future. He believes there is social danger ahead, and the Coming Terror he writes of is that of “the majority trampling down the rights of the minority.” This unhappy state of things he thinks is being hurried on by over-legislation and “the vulgar tyranny of the New Journalism,” but, although Mr Buchanan dogmatises at length, he adduces very little in the way of argument or logical reasoning to support his theory that the Coming Terror which has moved him to write this essay is really coming. There is a good deal of egotism—maybe unconscious egotism—in Mr Buchanan’s book. He has been at pains to tell his readers in rather wearisome detail what Robert Buchanan has done, and written, and what Robert Buchanan thinks. This probably is very interesting to Robert Buchanan, but his personality is not sufficiently potent to influence the masses of the people either one way or the other. He tells us in the present volume that he is an advocate of the “higher socialism,” and, further, that from the earliest day of his literary career he has been “endeavouring to vindicate the freedom of human personality, the equality of the sexes, and the right of revolt against arbitrary social laws conflicting with the happiness of human nature.” This “higher socialism” appears to be a figment of the imagination of idealists such as Mr Buchanan, and it is not a little singular that those gentlemen who speak and write most about it have never condescended to define it, so that those of us who are less advanced in our ideas may learn something of its nature.
     The New Journalism, and some of the leading new journalists, are scathingly handled by Mr Buchanan. The New Journalism, he declares, “has paralysed literature and destroyed free thought and free feeling all over the world.” But why, we wonder, seeing that it is so utterly bad and deleterious in its effects, does Mr Buchanan employ one of its most objectionable methods in support of his arguments? The New Journalism is nothing if not personal; and we much fear Mr Buchanan’s diatribe would be quite uninteresting to the many-headed, but for the personalities it contains. For instance his estimate of Mr Labouchere is plainly written down in the third person singular. The hon. member for Northampton, he says, is “the Paul Pry of journalism; the Scapin of politics.” Mr Henry James is not treated with any more kindness, for Mr Buchanan says he is “omnisciently silly,” and Mr George Moore is described as “the prophet of straightforward animalism.” The New Journalism is remarkable for its plain, personal speaking, but we fear the new journalists are no match for Mr Buchanan. He can fight them with their own weapons and beat them. We have always admired the author of “The Coming Terror, and other Essays and Letters” but we do not think he has added to his reputation by the publication of the volume under notice. We like Mr Buchanan as a poet, we have read some of his novels with more than passing interest, but we admire him most as a dramatist. He may not, perhaps, think it quite complimentary, but we would very much rather see one of the admirable melo-dramas he has written in conjunction with Mr George R. Sims for the Adelphi Theatre, than read a dozen such essays as “The Coming Terror.” His plays are humanly interesting, and natural, but his essays. as one reviewer has remarked, are more remarkable for sophistry than wisdom.

comingterrorad

[Advert from The Academy (5 September, 1891 - No. 1009, p.188).]

 

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Is Barabbas a necessity? A discourse on publishers and publishing. (1896)

 

The Newcastle Courant (22 February, 1896 - p.5)

     Mr Robert Buchanan has added to his fame by publishing a pamphlet to announce that he is to be in future his own publisher, and to tell the world why. “The barnacle on the bottom of the good ship literature” is the name he calls the publisher; but surely this must be the dramatic way of putting it. If certain publishers fail to agree with Mr Buchanan as to the exact merit of his literary work, surely this is no sufficient reason for denying a right of existence to publishers as a whole. Mr Buchanan has added to his fame in various unattractive ways lately, and this new move does not seem to suggest any improvement.

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Glasgow Herald (3 March, 1896)

     “Is Barabbas a Necessity?” asks Mr Robert Buchanan, and he answers the question with a decided affirmative, in joining the ranks himself. It may, of course, be said that Byron’s opprobrious characterisation of the publishing trade applied only to publishers who acted for other people, not to men who published for themselves. Mr Buchanan, however, gives away his whole case by one simple act. He has set out on the adventurous path of publisher of his own books; but he also announces one other work which is to appear under his imprint, and in doing so he surrenders the very principle for which he contends with characteristic vehemence. He pleads, of course, that his offence in this direction is a very small one. The book is a mere “unpretending piece of farcical tomfoolery,” and he explains, with unconscious humour, that it “comes from a source so near to me that it may be considered more or less mei generis.” But the inherent unimportance of “The Adventures of Miss Brown” does not alter the fact that Mr Buchanan, at the very moment of flouting Barabbas, enrolls himself under the banner of that much-abused personage. While he denounces all existing publishers as “the barnacles on the ship’s bottom criticising the cargo in the hold,” he sets up in business himself as the barnacle on the cock-boat of “Charles Marlowe!” But nobody ever looked to Mr Buchanan for rigid and prosaic consistency. One is thankful to find him always amusing when, in his capacity of righter of wrongs, he goes forth to tilt at abuses and make mincemeat of his enemies. He has never been more amusing than in his latest diatribe against the “Highwaymen of literature,” “Messrs Barabbas, Macheath, Wild & Co.,” who interpose with “Stand and deliver” between the poor but honest author and his public, and who wax fat in the exact ratio in which the unfortunate producer of books wanes and becomes mentally and physically lean. With such remarkable qualifications for the part of funny man, it is sad to behold Mr Buchanan wasting them on the “eternal problems of Life and Death,” which could be quite well left in other hands, while comic journalism, at present so barren, offers him a field of infinite possibilities that he might make all his own. Meanwhile he has his hands sufficiently full. The eminent poet, novelist, essayist, biographer, and dramatist has added to his other avocations that of publisher, and a curious world will await with eagerness the result of his experiment. One must admire the lightness of heart with which he enters upon his new sphere of usefulness. But it is not surprising that he should do so. The ordinary existent type of publisher is a person who “grows fat and prosperous on the author’s foolishness, and whose heirs are rich men when the descendants of the author are being carried to the workhouse.” And yet his duties are simple and easy, and he comes to them equipped in the lightest possible manner. His main duty is to “stick his name” on the title page, and he frequently has difficulty in “accurately distinguishing between a manuscript and a millstone,” or in “knowing a book from a razor.” Why, then, should not a Great Poet (witness Marie Corelli) step into this royal road to fortune, and, in the intervals of solving the problems of life and death, acquire wealth beyond the dreams of avarice?

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The Gloucester Citizen (3 March, 1896 - p.6)

     The publishers and the Authors’ Society will, no doubt, watch with amused curiosity the spectacle of an experiment by the enterprising and self-assertive Mr. Robert Buchanan as author-publisher. Mr. Buchanan henceforth will be his own publisher, and will have no more dealings with the mere commercial publisher, whom he describes as “the barnacle on the bottom of the good ship Literature, yet presuming to criticise the quality of the cargo in the hold.” Here be tropes, metaphors, and similes. Mr. Buchanan should reserve himself for a duller season, when the public has nothing of real interest to think about.

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The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent (6 March, 1896 - p.5)

     In Mr. Robert Buchanan’s pamphlet, “Is Barabbas a Necessity?”—which, by the way, is published by the author—we come upon a little bit of personal gossip (says the “Literary World”) which will greatly amuse the author of the book called “Barabbas.” [The “necessity” of Mr. Buchanan’s title does not refer, we should interpolate, to the lady’s book, but to the typical publisher.] “Now, I like Miss Corelli. Whatever the authorised critics may say of her, she has won her public—a very large one—by sheer energy of pluck and talent. I have taken tea with her, and I have it in her own pretty handwriting that I am a Great Poet, that she sits (metaphorically) at my feet, and that she has drunk rapture and inspiration from my masterpieces of song. I was a little surprised, therefore, when she went out of her way, about a year ago, to call me ‘a Scottish Playwright,” and to say that ‘there would be something inexpressibly funny in a Robert Buchanan pronouncing doom on the Christ, if it were not so revolting.’ This, alas! after all the tea, all the missives on pink-tinted paper, and all the adoration! But I fancy that the angry little lady conceived, for some reason or other, that I was one of her adverse critics, and that I had inspired my friends to treat her writings cavalierly. She actually believed, I fear, that I, the very Ishmael of Authors, who never had a log rolled for me in my life, had been in league against her with the Nonconformist Conscience and the ‘Daily Chronicle!’ Hence the sudden and startling ‘’Tilda, I hate you!’ from Fanny to her dearest friend.”

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New York Tribune (22 March, 1896 - p.26)

     Mr. Robert Buchanan has girded on his armor, that shining armor which rattles like a tin shop whenever he enters the arena, and has taken unto himself a citadel of publishing. From this he is issuing books and pamphlets. One of the latter is a kind of manifesto, called “Is Barabbas a Necessity?” the title and the pamphlet making the most of Byron’s well-known fling at the publishing fraternity. The publisher, in Mr. Buchanan’s view of the matter, is “a barnacle on the bottom of the good ship Literature, yet presuming to criticise the quality of the cargo in the hold.” It would be amusing to know what kind of a barnacle Mr. Buchanan considers himself to be. It is hardly credible that he will print the productions of any one who happens to demand that he should do so, waiving all rights of criticism, to say nothing of rejection. Considering the way in which Mr. Buchanan discusses most subjects that come under his notice, it is likely that he will have trouble in his new venture. The very authors who may join with him now in his query as to Barabbas—are they unlikely to ask the same question in regard to Mr. Buchanan, after the latter has been using some of a “publisher’s discretion?”

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