Play List:

1. The Rath Boys

2. The Witchfinder

3. A Madcap Prince

4. Corinne

5. The Queen of Connaught

6. The Nine Days’ Queen

7. The Mormons

8. The Shadow of the Sword

9. Lucy Brandon

10. Storm-Beaten

11. Lady Clare

[Flowers of the Forest]

12. A Sailor and His Lass

13. Bachelors

14. Constance

15. Lottie

16. Agnes

17. Alone in London

18. Sophia

19. Fascination

20. The Blue Bells of Scotland

21. Partners

22. Joseph’s Sweetheart

23. That Doctor Cupid

24. Angelina!

25. The Old Home

26. A Man’s Shadow

27. Theodora

28. Man and the Woman

29. Clarissa

30. Miss Tomboy

31. The Bride of Love

32. Sweet Nancy

33. The English Rose

34. The Struggle for Life

35. The Sixth Commandment

36. Marmion

37. The Gifted Lady

38. The Trumpet Call

39. Squire Kate

40. The White Rose

41. The Lights of Home

42. The Black Domino

43. The Piper of Hamelin

44. The Charlatan

45. Dick Sheridan

46. A Society Butterfly

47. Lady Gladys

48. The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown

49. The Romance of the Shopwalker

50. The Wanderer from Venus

51. The Mariners of England

52. Two Little Maids from School

53. When Knights Were Bold

___

Short Plays

Other Plays

Buchanan’s Theatrical Ventures in America

Poetry Readings

ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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JAMES KENNEDY

 

In June, 2017 I received an email from Judy Denison of Colorado, informing me that she was the great-granddaughter of the Scottish/American poet and engineer, James Kennedy. Until that time my only information about the links between Kennedy and Buchanan were the two poems that the former wrote about the latter. The first was written on the occasion of Buchanan’s departure back to England after his, almost a year’s, stay in America. The second was written after Buchanan’s death. However, Judy informed that her great-grandfather had named his only son, born on 23rd August, 1885, Robert Buchanan Kennedy. She also sent me the transcription of a letter from Buchanan to Kennedy, written shortly after Buchanan arrived back in England. All of these items, the poems and the letter, are in their relevant sections of the site, but I thought it made sense to bring them all together on this page, along with some biographical material relating to James Kennedy.

 

The Poems

 

LAMENT

ON THE OCCASION OF THE DEPARTURE OF ROBERT
BUCHANAN, THE BRITISH POET, FROM AMERICA.

MY Muse fu’ dowie faulds her wing,
An’ nought but sabs an’ sighs she’ll bring:
An’ sad-eyed Sorrow bids me sing,
Her tears to draw,
How, like a wild bird journeying,
Our Bard’s awa’!

O Rab was bright an’ warm an’ free,
Like sunlight on a simmer sea!
He aye was fu’ o’ mirth an’ glee
An’ wit an’ a’;
An’ graced wi’ gifts o’ Poesy,—
But Rab’s awa’!

O blythe it was I trow to trace
The sweet saul in his manly face,
His blue een sparkling kindly grace
On ane an’ a’:
Rab dearly lo’ed the human race,—
But Rab’s awa’!

The puir newspaper chields may mourn,
If Rab should never mair return;
His words cam’ like a bick’rin burn
An’ filled them a’:
He did them mony a friendly turn,—
But Rab’s awa’!

Play-actor billies round him hung,
An’ listened to his silv’ry tongue,
That sweet as only clair’net rung
In house or ha’:
He was the pride o’ auld an’ young,—
But Rab’s awa’!

The lang-haired literary louns
That live real puir in muckle touns,
Will miss him for the royal boons
He shower’d on a’,—
Bright silver bits as big’s half-crowns,—
But Rab’s awa’!

O when he met wi’ men o’ spirit,
Real clever cheilds o’ modest merit,
Owre oysters an’ a glass o’ claret,—
O then—hurrah!
The very earth they did inherit,—
But Rab’s awa’!

That day he gaed on board the ship,
He gied my hand a kindly grip,
An’ while a tremor shook his lip,
Said—“Tell them a’
They’ll never frae my memory slip
When I’m awa’.”

Quo’ I, wi’ heart as saft as jeel,
“Braw be your chance in Fortune’s wheel;
May seas slip past your sliding keel
Wi’ canny jaw,
An’ may the bodies use ye weel
When far awa’.”

Sin’ syne I muse on Fortune’s quirk:
She shines, then leaves me in the mirk;
I canna sleep nor wreat nor wirk,
Nor ought ava,—
I’m doited as a daunder’d stirk
Sin’ Rab’s awa’.

But whiles round Friendship’s wreathéd urn
Hope’s vestal fires fu’ brightly burn;
An’ though the vanish’d joys I mourn
That blossomed braw,
Wha kens but Rab may yet return?—
Though Rab’s awa’!

                                                                                                                                 JAMES KENNEDY

(From The Deeside Lass, and other Poems (Aberdeen: Cormack & Co., 1888). Reprinted in The Scottish and American Poems of James Kennedy (New York: J. S. Ogilvie Publishing Company, 1899, p.59-61) available at the Internet Archive.)

 

The Glasgow Herald (23 February, 1889 - p.9)

     We have been told that the Scottish lark, though transported to America, sings the same song that he lilted over the meadows of Doon or Dee. It is the same with the Scottish poets who take wing to the West. When the singing mood seizes them all America vanishes, and they are back in the old country again—it is “Scotland yet.” Such a poet is James Kennedy, whose new volume, “The Deeside Lass, and other Poems,” republished in Aberdeen by Cormack & Co., has all the air of being a home product. he is a fine, kindly, pawky chiel, Mr Kennedy; and it is pleasant to hear him sing as if he were sitting under the gleaming eye of the Scottish Lion, and not under the voluminous folds of the star-spangled banner. We don’t care so very much for his “Deeside Lass,” though it is a clever poem in its way. But his lyrics are rich gushes of music in the “guid auld Scottish style.” Among these “The Mournfu’ Mither” is excellent, so, as a bit of humour, is “Mactavish’s Feast,” with its huge haggis. There are some fine bits of hearty Scotch verse in “The Lament on the Departure of Robert Buchanan,” who visited America a few years ago, and made many friends, Mr Kennedy among the rest. The parting is good:—

“That day he gaed on board the ship,
He gied my hand a kindly grip,
An’ while a tremour shook his lip,
                   Said—‘Tell them a’
They’ll never frae my memory slip
                   When I’m awa’.’

“Quo’ I, wi’ heart as saft as jeal,
‘Braw be your chance in Fortune’s wheel;
May seas slip past your sliding keel
                   Wi’ canny jaw,
An’ may the bodies use ya weel
                   When far awa’.’”

That poetic prayer has not been in vain. Since that date Mr Buchanan has prospered; and there is not a kindly Scot in the world but wishes he may win still more prosperity and fame.

___

 

ROBERT BUCHANAN.

 

LET the bells of London toll
For a grandly gifted soul;
Silent be the busy throng
While a peerless prince of song
Passes shrouded to his rest
With the bravest and the best.
Lay him in his honored tomb
Where the fairest flow’rets bloom;
Wreathe the blossoms fresh and sweet,
Plant the daisies at his feet;
Twine the roses, white and red,
Round about his noble head.

Poet! in whose varied verse
All the muses might rehearse
All the forms and all the fire
Warbled by the tuneful lyre;
Tragic, mirthful, tender, sweet,
In a flood of fancies meet,
Swaying with thy accents strong
All the winning wiles of song,
Till each sympathetic soul,
Master’d by thy mild control,
Owns thy witch’ry and admires
Poesy’s celestial fires.

Wizard! from whose cunning hand
Rose, as if from fairyland,
Magic scenes on storied page,
Stirring life on mimic stage:
Full of laughter and of tears,
Full of tender hopes and fears,
Rich in grandeur and in gloom,
Rich in beauty and in bloom:
Fired with madness, sweet with grace,
All the feelings of our race—
Passion, pathos, pity—all
Come illumin’d at thy call.

Friend! where’er thy heavenward flight,
Wing’d through realms of quenchless light,
Onward in thy glorious course,
Homeward to thy primal source,
Unimagin’d splendors be
Waiting somewhere long for thee.
Kindred souls, to greatness grown,
Greet thee gladly as their own;
Rest, that like a blessing lies
Beaming in thy radiant eyes,
Peace, indwelling like a grace,
Glow like sunshine on thy face.
                                                           JAMES KENNEDY

(From The Complete Scottish and American Poems of James Kennedy (New York: J. S. Ogilvie Publishing Company, 1920, p. 171-172).

_____

 

The Letter

[I’ve not seen the original, but I would suggest that the ‘Charley Cook’ referred to is the actor, Charles Coote, who played Jenkinson in Col. Sinn’s production of Alone in London at the Park Theater, Brooklyn in May, 1885.]

 

Westward Ho
Southend on Sea
Essex
England
June 1885

My dear Kennedy,

I should indeed be churlish if I did not appreciate your fine lines on the unworthy theme of myself; they are as clever as they are complimentary, & you manage the Doric like a master. What specially endears them to me is the pleasure they gave to my dear mother, whose only fault is loving her son too much. I write this by the sickbed; for though she was well on my arrival & very happy in our re-union, she was yesterday taken suddenly ill with pneumonia, & for twenty four hours seemed at Death’s door. She is a little better now, & my poor heart is somewhat lighter. Unless God spares to me, I shall be a broken man; for since the earliest period of my remembrance, she has been the one sacred affection of my life. My days have been tiring & sad enough, & my fortunes often dire, but this one comfort has been left to me, & now it is all I ask.

You may believe how ardently my heart goes to you, when I open it thus on a theme so sacred. I am grateful to you, my dear Kennedy, for your breezy sympathy & honest, simple, kindness, and shall ever be glad to hear from or of you. With even your reverence for literature & literary men I can sympathize, tho’ I cannot feel it; for in my eyes there is no thing under the sun worthy reverence save goodness & love – intellect is nothing – literature is nothing – save as they advocate [?] what is diviner, & what the simplest nature may share with the highest. Intellect is like money – a minted coinage very useful for the affairs of this world – but compared with human sympathy, it is dirt & dross. But I need not say this to you, who have learned it long ago.

When my mind is easier, & my heart less burthened, I will try to send you some books of mine which you may like to keep for my sake. I am glad you have been enjoying [?] with Charley Cook. He is a frank openhearted lovable fellow, honest to the core, with the rare quality of never pretending to any sentiment he does not feel; and he is clever, apt, & with insight, though not after the literary fashion. After all, is not the literary fashion a very poor one, compared with all the vital & [?] fashions of life in general?

But poetry in its essence is, as you rightly believe, the salt of the earth; not because of its literary quality, but because it sanctifies & mutualizes[?] the common dish of experience, & makes men love one another & believe in something higher than themselves. So highly does Providence value the mere gift of poetry, that He seldom supplements it with any other gifts; and indeed, it is all sufficient. Strife for Fame is another thing: an ignoble strife generally is very often. The poets God loves best are those man never knows.

Write to me as often you care to write; I shall always hear from you with pleasure, for believe me I am Always yours

Robert Buchanan

I am glad to hear that you were amused at Brooklyn. Of course the play is pure enough, but it serves its simple purpose. I think Cook’s performance most remarkable, & quite agree with you that he will make a great comedian if he perseveres. It was a good thing to have your kind face among the [?], I am sure it brought us luck!

_____

 

Biographical Materials

 

From Electric Scotland:

jameskennedy

JAMES KENNEDY, engineer, editor, author, poet, is from Aberlemno, Forfarshire, Scotland. The Forfarshire Kennedys are descendants of the Lochaber clan, 300 of whom fought at Culloden. On his mother’s side, Mr. Kennedy is descended from the Mackintoshes of Glenshee. He learned the machinist’s trade in Dundee, and came to America at an early age, and worked at locomotive construction and repairs on some of the principal railroads in America. In 1875, he was graduated with honours in the literary courses of the High School, West 13th Street, New York. He had charge of a department in the locomotive shops of the New York Elevated railroad from 1879 to 1902. In 1883, the first steam locomotive built at the company’s works, and from which the succeeding locomotives were modelled, was constructed under Mr. Kennedy’s superintendence. He was Chief Cashier in the Water Department of New York City, 1902-3, and Deputy Superintendent of Elections in 1904. He became associate editor of Railway and Locomotive Engineering in 1905, and advanced to managing editor in 1910. He is a contributor to periodical literature, and an author and writer on technical subjects. His Collected Poems, Songs and Lyrical Character Sketches were published in 1883; The Deeside Lass and Other Poems, in 1888; Scottish and American Poems, in 1899; and a revised and enlarged edition was published in Edinburgh, 1910 (seventh thousand). His chief engineering work is The Valve-Setter’s Guide, 1914 (tenth thousand). Mr. Kennedy is Vice President of the Angus Sinclair Publishing Company, 114 Liberty Street.

Such is a brief outline of the career of one of the most unique and popular Scots of our time. In regard to his merits as a writer in verse in the Scottish dialect, he is conceded to be the chief of the modern Scottish poets, and has also shown an admirable facility in English. He is no idle jangler of the lute strings. A peculiar kind of worldly-wise humour gives point to his character sketches. His ruling passion as exhibited in his more serious verses is an intense love of Scotland, and all things Scottish, a faithful attachment to his adopted country, and an abiding belief in the brotherhood of humanity. His genius is essentially lyrical, and his mastery of versification at once easy and complete, and all the characteristics of true Scottish poetry—simplicity, tenderness, pathos and humour are found in his work. Time has deepened and broadened his poetic faculty, an excellent example being his nobly stirring verses on the occasion of the six-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, which he delivered on the battlefield, and where he met a most enthusiastic reception, not only at Stirling, but at the Liberal Club, Edinburgh, and in the town Council of Dundee, and at other places in Scotland.

Indeed, it must be said that the Scottish people at home and abroad, as well as the Scottish press, have not been slow in appreciating Mr. Kennedy’s surpassing abilities. In America, he has been engaged in the national and state elections, and has been prominently identified with the occasional reform movements in New York City, and through all these phases of literary and social activity he has never wandered far from his chosen vocation. As a skilled artisan, and mechanical engineer, he has made a distinctive mark, while his home life has been of the sweetest and best and he has had the good fortune to live in his own house for many years where his fine family has grown up around him.

It is also good to know that among his engineering, political, literary and social acquaintances, he is held in the highest esteem. In journalism, he is associated with Dr. Angus Sinclair, the eminent author and publisher on railway engineering. In politics he has held many places with honour. Among literary men he has had the warmest encouragement from the highest and best. In the social circles he has been President of nearly all of the Scottish and other societies to which he has been attached. As a fluent and ready debater, as a teller of stories, as a finished parliamentarian, he has the easy grace of a man of the world, while the moral purity of his life has kept his heart sweet and young, and withal a manly modesty that lends a charm to his engaging personality.

Mr. Kennedy married Isabella, fourth daughter of Francis Low, tenant of Easter Clune, Finzean, Aberdeenshire. Mrs. Kennedy died in 1910. There are five surviving children: Isabella, Jessie, Margaret, Robert and Jean. The only son, a staff surgeon, served with the rank of captain surgeon on the Mexican border in 1916.

___

 

From Scottish Poets In America, with Biographical and Critical Notices (1889), by John D. Ross (New York: Pagan & Ross, 1889 - pp.38-46):

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The New York Times (28 June, 1917 - p.11)

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The New York Times (16 August, 1922)

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The New York Times (17 August, 1922)

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Buchanan’s Theatrical Ventures In America 1884-1885

Robert Buchanan Obituaries or Random Letters

 

Home
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Poetry
Plays
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Essays
Reviews
Letters

 

The Fleshly School Controversy
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The Critical Response
Harriett Jay
Miscellanea

 

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