ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)
ROBERT BUCHANAN AND THE GLASGOW SENTINEL - continued (iii)
‘The Literary Lounger’ only appeared in three editions of The Glasgow Sentinel in 1858 and his identity is more speculative. The first is unsigned, but the inclusion of the poem by David Gray suggests Robert Buchanan Jr. is the writer, as do the initial comments about ‘Young America’ which mimic those in his Longfellow review. The next two articles were signed ‘R. B.’ The absence of the ‘W.’ might indicate Buchanan Snr., who, as well as being a journalist, essayist and polemicist, was also a poet. Two years later, after the collapse of The Glasgow Sentinel, at the first of Buchanan Snr.’s bankruptcy hearings (reported in The Glasgow Herald of 2nd June, 1860) he did make this statement:
“For upwards of twelve months before my sequestration, I did not contribute regularly to the literary department of the paper, that being supplied by the sub-editor and other parties who were paid for their contributions. This was occasioned because my mind was taken up by financial matters, and planning to meet my pecuniary engagements. I, however, took a general supervision of that department, and suggested the topics to be written for the papers.”
The Glasgow Sentinel (23 October, 1858 - p.2)
THE LITERARY LOUNGER.
TRULY, Young America is a clever boy, and one who likes his books. At the semi-annual book sale, held in New York recently, the amount sold by auction was rising 200,000 dollars. But he stands in much the same relation to literature as Master Jones, the young hopeful of such and such an honest fellow’s family, to his volume of “Fairy Tales.” The rogue likes to read, but he must be provided with something which he can regard as interesting. He prefers Don Juan to Anacreon, and Tennyson to Puritan John. Heigho! Box his ears, and you will find Jonathan a stubborn lad indeed; but give him the open fields, with full permission to read when he will, and what he will, and you will find him in the ultimate a very talented little fellow. He wont study in a pair of stays, depend upon it. He likes so and so’s writing, and tells you so. He follows impulsively the promptings of his own spirit, and will candidly inform you that his head is hardly old enough to contain the soundest material; that he loves the birds, the flowers, and the sunshine, the voice of Spring, and the little sober path through the wood much better than the bowers of classic Accademus and the society of Plato dux philosophorum; and that his feelings are those of a boy he can give you as his reason why. He is as loving as he is impulsive, and “Love knows no order,” said St Jerome. In the meantime, we may watch his gambols with the Peripatetics and his dallying at the foot of the Holy Hill advisedly; we may wait, in the meantime, for his grey hairs.
A LADY, pale faced in her lore of dreams,
A noble grand was gallant Lord Moraine,
So now sat she, a tear-drop in her eye
The golden stair by which the sun went down
* * * * *
Mr David Gray, the author of the poem transcribed above has contributed some very beautiful effusions to the local press; but his head has evidently been turned a little by Percy Bysshe Shelley and Master John Keats. He is capable of producing good poems, but we would warn him against putting his muse in a pair of stays. She is young and delicate now—far too delicate and young to be tampered with, we should think. Lollipops and bon-bons are well enough in their way, no doubt, but good honest bread and butter must form her staple article of diet now-a-days. Did time and space permit, we would take our young poet most lovingly by the button-hole, and discourse to him “most excellent advice.” The divine faculty is at bud within him, but he must nurse it well. We consider “Lord Moraine” exceedingly creditable to Mr Gray’s head and heart; but he will give us something better one day. A volume of his poems, now in the press, and to a view of which we have been treated privately, contains some effusions of sterling worth.
The Glasgow Sentinel (6 November, 1858 - p.2)
THE LITERARY LOUNGER.
THE snows of eight-and-eighty winters are piled on Alexander von Humboldt’s honoured head. He is old, very old, but the bright impassioned intellect has not died out yet within him. He prosecutes his literary labours quite as assiduously as ever—toiling, thinking, writing, morning, noon, and night. His glorious colleagues are dead and gone; he stood with Varnhagen von Ense in the mighty Presence only a day or two ago, yet he lingers with us still, engaged in the production of the two last volumes of his Cosmos, probably the last study which God will spare him to complete. A long life, and one, indeed, well spent, has been that of Alexander von Humboldt; and this very day the resources of his wonderful intellect appear as manifold and as unimpaired as they were twenty years ago. Friends of his say that he continues as great an enthusiast as ever. Farseeing and prophetic as a man of genius, he is earnest, simple, and light-hearted as a child.
JEANIE’S NAE MAIR.
Oh! sad wails the norlan’s wind round my lane sheiling;
I hear nae her silvery voice ring through the hallan
The sunbeams shoot over the ocean’s dark bosom,
An open-hearted and innocent girl might be even less profitably employed than in the production of verses as meritorious as these.
The Glasgow Sentinel (13 November, 1858 - p.2)
THE LITERARY LOUNGER.
LET us take a hasty glance at one or two of the monthlies. First and foremost in the list comes our sober, straightforward, honest old friend, Blackwood, discussing yesterday and to-day in the same sober, straightforward, honest manner. “What will he do with it?” progresses favourably enough. Mr Buckle and his “History of Civilisation” came under notice, and the reviewer appears to regard Mr Buckle as a builder of tangible theories based on unsubstantial foundations, and a man of genius at the same time. He touches that gentleman on the most sensitive point—in the most delicate manner possible; and, admirabile dictu, appears to look upon him all along as a very clever fellow who has made a very great fool of himself. “Cherbourg” is a topic exhausted weeks ago, but Blackwood will have its say about it. The author of the article on Edward Irving talks a good deal of nonsense—nonsense that we have heard from the lips of nonsensical people over and over again. He appears to regard the Scottish clergy in general and Edward Irving in particular (all honour to whom, however) as neither more nor less than angels in flannel waistcoats and pantaloons. He estimates the preacher by an erroneous standard, and magnifies his intellectual powers to bring them to the stipulated calibre. The direct popularity of Edward Irving, instead of resulting from his mental powers, might be traced to causes different indeed.
NEW WAY OF CROSSING THE ALPS.
The work of tunnelling the Alps has been commenced some months. The spot chosen for this undertaking is beneath Mount Cenis, the part of the Alpine chain which separates France from Piedmont. Although the ridge here is high, it is one of the narrowest portions of the chain anywhere hereabouts. The tunnel is to begin at Modane on the north side, and terminate at Bardoneche on the south, these two points being, within a little, on the same level. The convenience of this position for a tunnel was pointed out by M. Medoil, more than 20 years ago, and has often attracted the attention of engineers. The tunnel will be very near eight miles in length, and is designed in the same vertical plane; but, to facilitate drainage, is rather higher in the middle than at the ends, so as to form a slope on each side. The crest of the mountain is about a mile higher than the highest point of the tunnel; hence the sinking of shafts was practically impossible, and the tunnel can only be worked at its extremities. By the ordinary method of tunnelling, the work would occupy 36 years; and by an ingenious mechanical contrivance to be applied, this time will be greatly shortened. . . . The perforating apparatus, set in motion by the compressed air, is so compact and powerful, that in a space barely sufficient for three couples of miners to work, 18 perforators may be employed, so that it will be possible to complete the work in six years instead of 36. The inventors calculate upon being able to advance three metres per day at each end, or six metres per day altogether. The air, after working the perforators, is still available for ventilation. When this work is completed and connected with the Victor Emanuel Railway, it will form one of the finest, if not the finest, road on the continent of Europe; and the journey from Paris to Turin will occupy only 22 hours, and from Paris to Milan only 27 hours.
Fraser opens with a chatty piece de resistance, “Our Failures.” Here we are seized as with an ague. Failures, failers—dupers, dupes—humbugs and shams of all sorts—there they stand in miserable array beneath the comprehensive eye of “A Manchester Man.” Havoc upon the flock, cried he—and no sooner said than done. He ships a director or two to Norfolk Island, pour encourager les autres, and kicks very heartily a few other kite-flyers of the class gregarious. The author of Headlong Hall contributes a curious notice of some translations from the Sanscrit into ancient Greek, by Demetrius Galanus, a Greek settler in Benares towards the end of the last century, which have been recently edited by G. K. Lypallus, Superintendent of the Royal Library at Athens. Mr Lever’s “Davenport Dunn” is continued with vigour. The following exhibits to some extent, the abilities attributed to the man in his varied capacities:—
THE SPECULATOR AND THE MINISTER.
“I am now coming to myself—to my own case, my Lord,” said Dunn, with the very slightest tremor in his voice. “Need I say that I wish it were in the hands of any other advocacy? I am so far fortunate, however, that I address one fully conversant with my claims on his party. For five-and-twenty years I have been the careful guardian of their interests in a country where, except in mere name, they never possessed any real popularity. Your Lordship smiles a dissent; may I enter upon the question?” “Heaven forbid!” broke in the Minister, smiling good-humouredly. “Well, my Lord, were I to reduce my services to a mere monetary estimate, and furnish you with a bill of costs, for what a goodly sum should I stand in the estimates! I have mainly sustained the charge of seven county elections, hardly contested. I have paid the entire charges on twenty-two borough contests. I have subsided the provincial press in your favour at a cost of several thousand pounds out of my own pocket. I have compromised three grave actions about to be brought against the Government. Of the vast sums I have contributed to local charities, schools, nunneries, societies of various denominations, all in the interest of your party, I take no account. I have spent in these and like objects a princely fortune; and yet these hundreds of thousands of pounds are as nothing—mere nothing—to the actual personal services I have rendered to your party. In the great revolution effected by the sale of encumbered estates, I have so watchfully guarded your interests that I have replaced the old rampant Toryism of the land by a gentry at once manageable and practicable—men intent less upon party than personal objects, consequently available to the Minister, always accessible by an offer of direct advantage. I have, with all this, so thrown a Whig light over all the rising prosperity of the country that it might seem the result of your wise rule that stimulated men to the higher civilisation they have attained to, and that a more forbearing charity and a more liberal spirit went hand in hand with improved agriculture and higher farming. To identify a party with the great march of this prosperity—to make of your policy a cause of these noble results, was the grand conception, which, for a quarter of a century, I have carried out. When Mr O’Connell kept your predecessors in power, his price was the bit-by-bit surrender of what in your hearts you believed to be the bulwarks of the constitution. In return for my support what have I got? Some patronage; be it so; for my own dependants and followers, no doubt! Show me one man of my name, one man of my convictions, holding place under the Crown. No, my Lord; my power to serve your party was based on this dure foundation, that I was open to no imputation; I was the distributor of your patronage to the men best worthy to receive it—no more.”
Our old friend Punch has sprung his Christmas rattle before all his rivals and issued his illustrated ephemeras for 1859. The “Pocket Book” is a repertoire of honest, good-natured fun. “A pic-nic is a drawing-room,” drawn by John Leech, makes a capital frontispiece. The artist has shown us how to get up a real rus in urbe, free from insects, flaring hot sun, or charge for waiters. The comic translations from Horace are decidedly clever; and the classico-comical cut of Demosthenes haranguing the waves, supposed to typify his sublime serenity the Speaker of the House of Commons, is among the best of the kind we have ever seen.
I also came across two reviews of poetry, both unsigned, which struck me as possibly the work of Buchanan Jr., but I have no evidence to support the feeling, so I’ve just added the scans below.
The following items from The Glasgow Sentinel of 1858 have no overt connection to Robert Buchanan, but I found them interesting.
A poem by David Gray on the marriage of Princess Victoria (eldest child of Queen Victoria) to Prince Frederick William of Prussia (later German Emperor Frederick III) which took place on 25th January, 1858.
The Glasgow Sentinel (27 February, 1858 - p.6)
THE PRUSSIAN WELCOME.
LO! she comes in glory,
Lo! pour out the wine,
We know the tender parting
Merkland. D. GRAY.
The Glasgow Sentinel (10 July, 1858 - p.6)
THE moon hath sunk behind the Strachurben,
Over Ben Cruachan she glides in glory,
Is deepening yonder into passionate brightness—
Darker and darker grows the pensive west,
Full of the silent eloquence of Night,
I cannot tell why thoughts have me o’erwhelmed—
I am an idle dreamer among men,
Hid from the softened lustre of the moon,
The world is shrouded in a shroud of light:
Are cowled, like friars, with a cloud of grey—
And in my soul, a sympathetic glow,
Of Night, Day’s soft-eyed sister, now is born
Hush! lone and chilling as the painful wail
Fair “Isle of Beauty!” fairest Innishail!
Faded thy convent as a morning dream
Is surely praising in a better sphere
Sure, happiness is all our own creation,
O, God of Heaven! and deities immortal!
And thou, fair moon! mild Cynthia of old!
Farewell! and happy what I now have gained
Merkland. DAVID GRAY.
The Glasgow Sentinel (2 October, 1858 - p.8)
Review of the Public Reading by Charles Dickens.
The Glasgow Sentinel (9 October, 1858 - p.4)
Robert Owen died on 17th November, 1858. Considering the importance of Owen to Robert Buchanan Snr., I thought this editorial in The Glasgow Sentinel might be of interest.
The Glasgow Sentinel (27 November, 1858 - p.4)
And this is very ‘of its time’.
The Glasgow Sentinel (4 December, 1858 - p.2)
THE PHRENOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE
BY FREDERICK BRIDGES, OF LIVERPOOL.
Checking every edition of the 1858 Glasgow Sentinel for adverts for Buchanan’s two poetry books, the following advert appeared in every issue. I still have no idea what ‘Alliance Trousers’ are.
A WORD OR TWO ABOUT ROBERT HERRICK.
[Note: I have not transcribed this (perhaps when there’s time...) but the scan of the page is available here.]
The Glasgow Sentinel (1 January, 1859 - p.8)
TRUTH robes her sons in golden mail,
Thus hearts are open, old and young,
To-day the soul which sits and sings
It sitteth at the humblest hearth,
We hear it in a thousand songs
When Deity in life and light
From sea to sea, from land to land,
To-day each manly bosom burns,
Where Love her perfect seed has sown,
And thus our Right and thus our Might
The laurel which our poet won
Wise Nature holds her wealth apart,
Our human hopes hang evermore
A mingled sorrow, awe, and pride,
The happy tears that it is ours
The myst’ry of the starry page,
From off the mountain-peak of song
So, gentle meanings sit and sing
The people’s harp is old with years,
The spirit, brooding in his eyes,
The spirit, glorying to pursue
Truth robes her sons in golden mail;
Thus hearts are open, old and young;
Sweet pieties must bloom apart
We would not give the whole world wide,
ROBT. W. BUCHANAN.
[Note: To compare like with like, here is Robert Buchanan Snr.’s poem about the Robert Burns Centenary printed in this account of a meeting of ‘The Literary and Artistic Club’ at the King’s Arms Hotel, Trongate, Glasgow in The Glasgow Free Press of 29th January, 1859 - p.4.]
“MARY: AND OTHER POEMS.” BY THE AUTHOR
“A SHAPE celestial, tending the dark earth with light and silver service as the moon, is poesy,” exquisitely utters the most tenderly-melodious of all our modern poets, and with such a definition we rest contentedly until philosophy shall have given another as widely-embracing, and inspired by sympathies as touchingly intimated, as in the extract we have had the happiness to quote. With such canon before us, it is with misgivings that we at any time pronounce criticism upon the impalpable art, to create which is the poet’s mission. Deterred by misdoubts of limiting by conventional words the thought intentionally, rather suggested than defined, we ever feel the impossibility of attempting such critical analysis of the poetic form of language as may freely be indulged in with the less ideal language of prose. This difficulty becomes daily more palpable, since every addition to our poetical literature confirms its tendency towards this suggestive character, which is the eminent trait of all art in its highest interpretation. A volume of poems now before us, by the author of “Love Lyrics,” betrays ample evidences of the universality of that hopeful tendency to which we have referred, and which marks the most estimable works of the modern poetical school. This is especially a volume of thoughts, undisturbed by any false endeavour to make these rather subservient to the completion of a narrative than to the expression of all their individual meaning may intrinsically suggest. In freeing himself from the practices and traditions of those preceding schools which aimed at a treatment wholly subversive of the practice of our author, he has shown a worthy sympathy with the highest aspirations of his art, and strengthened in no inconsiderable degree the ambitious claims of the school he is a representative of. In our present notice of this volume we have chosen only to review the poem entitled “The Graves,” leaving its further contents for a future occasion. Through a bold flight of that blank verse which has shipwrecked many a hope, we are borne with the poet into nature’s
as he has well expressed it, to the scene in which is laid the chief episode of this tale. In this progress we, however, pass many happy thoughts interwoven with the verse by such a simple contiguity as sacrifices nothing of their expression to the story, besides a preconceived unity with its general character. These thoughts, often striking in character, have found, in many instances, a most touching utterance, although spoken of by the poet as
With such confession of his success, we have of course the less reason to expect such fortunate passages as continually recur in the perusal of the poem we quote from, but we none the less pleasantly fall upon these, feeling, as we do, that in writing them the poet must have felt
Even while, as he says,
“I sigh among my melancholy days,
We extract from the first page of this volume the following very forcible intimation of that eternal creative fiat which has borne our earth out of the past, and follows it into the future—
Like another Alastor, a hero of this tale is pictured:—
“Within the centre of an ancient wood,
Here was his favourite resort—meet bower
This gentle poet—
“Who grew grey betimes,”
and of whom his sympathising brother sings he had
“High, sinless thoughts of peace and human weal,
And Nature was his solitary bride”—
at length is stricken with the tender passion, or as it is picturesquely worded,
“Love, the wandering Arab, had pitched his tent
and so are the lovers carried away—
“Like summer flies upon a silver brook,
From some verses following their confession of a mutual passion we quote the subjoined for its rythmical beauty:—
“Ah! love that lies in gentle eyes,
As a fine instance of that descriptive form of the poetic art which, through its suggestiveness, excites our interest in the poet’s creation, we give the description of Kate Hathorne, as introduced into the narrative of which she is the heroine:—
“Her form was fairy-like as atomies
With such extracts we must now rest, contenting ourselves with so far having overtaken an agreeable task, while at the same time believing the notice we have given is sufficient to increase an interest in this recently published volume of verse. Having promise of becoming an acceptable addition to our modern poetical literature, it is wit the more regret that we have hastily perused even that portion of this volume we have particularly chosen to refer to.
J. D. B.
A WORD OR TWO ABOUT ROBERT HERRICK.—II.
[Note: Again, I have not transcribed this, but the scan of the page is available here.]