ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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LETTERS

 

“Although Buchanan was a prolific letter writer and carried on an extensive correspondence with a large number of important and interesting Victorians, no collection of his letters exists. Harriett Jay includes a few in her biography, as well as a few scattered excerpts from his diary, but my advertisements for such personalia both in Britain and the United States have met with scant success.”

After reading the above passage in John A. Cassidy’s Robert W. Buchanan (Twayne Publishers Inc., 1973) I thought I should make my own enquiries into what happened to Robert Buchanan’s personal papers after his death. Buchanan suffered a stroke on 19th October 1900 which, according to Harriett Jay’s biography “rendered him helpless as a little child”. He seems to have endured this state for the next eight months until he finally passed away on 10th June 1901. From this I surmised that Buchanan probably made no provision for the dispersal of his estate which then would have passed directly into the hands of his sister-in-law, Harriett Jay. As Cassidy notes she does refer to using Buchanan’s diaries and letters in the biography so I think it is safe to assume that that is the case.

Harriett Jay never married and died in 1932, so I obtained a copy of her will, hoping that there would be some mention of Buchanan’s papers. Although the will refers to a portrait of Buchanan and assigns money for the upkeep of his grave, it does not mention his papers directly. The bulk of her estate she left to her nephew William Paul Jay of 56, Roydene Road, Plumstead, S.E. 18, including “all my books and papers”, which I suppose could also include whatever remained in her possession of Buchanan’s papers.

I have contacted the obvious places in search of Buchanan’s papers, including the British Library, the National Library of Scotland and his final publishers, Chatto & Windus (now part of the Random House Group) but there doesn’t seem to be an extensive Buchanan archive located anywhere. And, as far as the Jay family line goes, there is this, from page 16 of Christopher D. Murray’s 1974 thesis, ‘Robert Buchanan (1841-1901) : An assessment of his career’:

“She [Harriett Jay] died in 1932, leaving all her books and papers to her nephew, whose daughter, Elizabeth Jay, is now the sole survivor of the family. She knows little of Harriett or Buchanan, and nothing of the whereabouts of their library and papers (which, besides the autobiography, would have included, since Buchanan carefully kept such things, letters from such men as Browning, Tennyson, Whitman, Gladstone, Peacock, Dobell, Lewes, Reade, Shaw, Beerbohm Tree and many others). Elizabeth Jay steadfastly refuses to talk about her great-aunt or about Robert Buchanan.”

So, there seems to be just odd pieces of correspondence scattered around various institutions, whose survival in many cases is due more to the recipient’s reputation than Buchanan’s. A list of these locations is available below and I have now begun the (rather expensive, and hence very slow) process of adding Buchanan’s letters to the site.

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The Letters of Robert Buchanan

 

Letters to Robert Browning (1864 - 1879)

A collection of 40 letters from the Alexander Turnbull Library in New Zealand.
Plus two additional letters, one from the Library of Congress, the other from the British Library.

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Letters to Roden Noel

Nine letters and three fragments from the collection of Desmond Heath, author of Roden Noel: A Wide Angle.

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Letters to Alfred Tennyson (1864 - 1873)

Seven letters from the Tennyson Research Centre, Lincoln.

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Letters to the Brothers Dalziel (1866 - 1867)

Five letters from various sources including three from a private collection.

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Letters to Augustin Daly (1875 - 1893)

Eight letters from the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington D.C. Plus a copy of a letter from William Terriss to Buchanan regarding Daly’s production of A Man’s Shadow.

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Letters to Chatto & Windus (1881 - 1899)

146 items (including 119 letters, telegrams and notes from Buchanan) relating to Robert Buchanan’s association with Chatto & Windus, from MS 52480 in the collection of the British Library.

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Letters to George Bernard Shaw (1891 - 1896)

Thirteen letter from MS 50529 in the collection of the British Library.

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Letters to Alfred Russel Wallace (1899)

Four letters from the British Library. Fully annotated versions on the Wallace Letters Online website.

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Letters from Collections

As I acquire letters from various institutions the transcripts will be placed here.

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Letters to the Press

Letters to various newspapers and journals in the Buchanan and the Press section of the site.

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Published Letters

Although Buchanan’s letters have never been collected and published, a few have turned up in other books, mainly the biographies of his contemporaries.

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Random Letters

Letters from other sources - mainly ebay.

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List of Locations of Buchanan’s Letters and Related Material

 

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

 

Links
Site Diary
Site Search