ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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Fiction - A Hero In Spite Of Himself

 

In the summer of 1884 Robert Buchanan went to America with a play entitled A Hero In Spite of Himself which had been written for the managers of New York’s Union Square Theatre, Sheridan Shook and James W. Collier. The play was rejected and remained unproduced in both America and Britain, and in 1888 Shook and Collier took Buchanan to court for the repayment of their advance. Press reports of the trial reveal that Shook and Collier rejected the play on the grounds that they had commissioned a ‘society drama’ and objected to the scenes set in the wild west. According to Harriett Jay’s biography of Buchanan, the play was never written and is not named. However, in October 1886, a novel with the same title and the same setting, began serialisation in The York Herald (it may also have been serialised elsewhere, but, so far, I’ve only come across this version). The novel, which is divided into two volumes, and runs to over 51,000 words, was never published in book form. More information about the play, newspaper reports of the 1888 legal action and Buchanan’s version of events are available here.

A note on the text:

In transcribing the book from the pages of The York Herald I have taken the liberty of correcting obvious misprints and altering some spellings for the sake of consistency. Occasional mistakes made by Buchanan in relation to the names of characters and places were also corrected, especially in the passage concerning the cause of the first gun battle in Abraham’s Town in which Buchanan relates the death of Ned Searle. Since Ned turns up alive in the following chapter, I thought it made more sense to have the sheriff kill Ned’s brother, Bill. Hopefully that fits in with Buchanan’s intention and I haven’t ruined his claim to be the originator of the cowboy-zombie subgenre of the western novel.

The characters of Miss Romney and Miss Schwartz, who appear at the beginning of the novel in the English school, turned up later in the 1895 play, The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown.

Finally, I feel I should mention one passage in the book which had me puzzled for a while. In Chapter 6 the following description of Charles Fotheringay appears:
“A small but most elegantly built buggy, containing a gentleman and a tiger, and drawn by a pair of thoroughbreds running tandem, made its appearance amongst the vehicles on the Parade.”
I kept waiting for another mention of Fotheringay’s pet tiger, wondering whether Buchanan had such a tame beast in mind for the stage version (not such a daft idea when you consider the lions in Theodora). However the next appearance of the tiger described him as Fotheringay’s “diminutive servant”, so I thought it best to look up ‘tiger’ in the dictionary, which, after the obvious, came up with “groom accompanying master in light vehicle.” Which was a little disappointing.

If you wish to read the original uncorrected version of A Hero In Spite Of Himself the pages from The York Herald can be accessed here in pdf format.

Or you can download the complete novel in zipped rtf format.

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A HERO IN SPITE OF HIMSELF.

By

Robert Buchanan.

 

CHAPTER I:       THE LADIES’ SCHOOL.

CHAPTER II:      INTRODUCES THE HERO “IN POSSE.”

CHAPTER III:     IS CONVIVIAL.

CHAPTER IV:    THE NEXT MORNING.

CHAPTER V:       AT LONG BRANCH: AFTER THREE YEARS.

CHAPTER VI:      ANGELA AND ISABEL.

CHAPTER VII:   “WILL YOU KEEP YOUR PROMISE?”

CHAPTER VIII:  ISABEL’S PERPLEXITIES.

CHAPTER IX:    A ROVING ENGLISHMAN.

CHAPTER X.     (untitled)

CHAPTER XI:    A “HOP” AT THE OCEAN HOUSE.

CHAPTER XII:   THE GIRLS CONSPIRE.

CHAPTER XIII:  MELVIN REAPPEARS.

 

BOOK II.

CHAPTER I:       THE ENGINEER’S REPORT.

CHAPTER II:      THE GAME PREPARES FOR FLIGHT.

CHAPTER III:     MISSING.

CHAPTER IV:    IN SANCTUARY.

CHAPTER V:     A THUNDER CLAP.

CHAPTER VI:    A GLEAM OF HOPE.

CHAPTER VII:   A CURIOUS RAILWAY JOURNEY.

CHAPTER VIII:  THE BATTLE OF ABRAHAM’S TOWN.

CHAPTER IX:    AT SPERANZA.

CHAPTER X:     THE NIGHT ATTACK.

CHAPTER XI:    THE FUGITIVE.

CHAPTER XII:   A SPECIAL TELEGRAM.

CHAPTER XIII:  A RESURRECTION.

CHAPTER XIV:   NEMESIS.

CHAPTER XV:    THE EPILOGUE.

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Home
Biography
Bibliography

 

Poetry
Plays
Fiction

 

Essays
Reviews
Letters

 

The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law

 

The Critical Response
Harriett Jay
Miscellanea

 

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Site Diary
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