ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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ROBERT BUCHANAN AND THE MAGAZINES

ESSAYS

 

Robert Herrick, Poet and Divine
 published in Temple Bar (No. 2, January 1861.)

 

Illustrated Times (5 January, 1861 - p.11)

     The second number of Temple Bar is a very great improvement on the first; there is more variety in the selection of the articles and a lighter tone throughout. Graver readers are, however, not uncared for; there is a scientific article on “Light,” clearly and intelligibly written, and educing much novel thought; and an admirable description of a coal-mine and colliery explosions, called “What our Coals Cost Us,” and understood to be written by Professor Ansted. Articles of a Household-Words descriptive character are “The Houseless Poor” and “A Visit to the Iron-clad Ship.” Mr. Sala contributes three papers to the number—a complete and concise summary of the events of the year, written with great force, and in its concluding portion with much beauty of expression, called “Annus Mirabilis;” a continuation of the pleasant “Travels in Middlesex;” and the first instalment of his new novel, “The Seven Sons of Mammon,” which promises admirably. Nothing can be better than the description of the millionaire and his surroundings, while so far, at least, the story possesses the grand merit of being kept close to its point, and being free from that diffuse wandering in which its author occasionally indulges. Lovers of old literature will delight in a charming essay on “Robert Herrick,” written in the true spirit of appreciation There are three poems in the number—one by Mr. Stigant; a second of the “London Poems,” full of fine thought and eloquent expression; and a musical song, by Mr. Mortimer Collins.

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A Jovial Bishop
 published in Temple Bar (No. 6, May 1861.)

 

The Evening Herald (2 May, 1861 - p.7)

     Temple Bar flourishes after its manner. “The Seven Sons of Mammon” is the opening story, and is this month, so far as we can see, something more original than last. We detect no “wine” in the present number borrowed without leave or acknowledgement, to use the words of a succeeding paper, “from another man’s vintage,” and this is at least an improvement. “A Jovial Bishop” is a readable and clever paper, “Broad Awake” is sketchy, as Mr. Edmund Yates’ productions not unusually are. “The Real and the Conventional Nigger” should be read at the present time as a counterpoise to the extravagant sympathy in which we are likely to indulge respecting “the men and brethren” of the new American confederation. “For Better, for Worse” is as good as before. “London Poems: Belgravia” is musical and readable; “Clouds” contains some good thoughts; a sketch of “Elizabeth Berkeleigh, Margravine of Anspach,” is respectable; “John’s Wife” is an agreeable story; “On Quacks” is well written, if not very original; “In the Temple Gardens” is well told; and “Three Times” embodies a good idea in three sweet verses. The little poem, in fact, is a perfect gem.

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Holy Mr. Herbert
published in Temple Bar (No. 8, July 1861.)

 

The Evening Herald (4 July, 1861 - p.7)

     Temple Bar is up to its average. The inevitable “Seven Sons of Mammon” commences the number; “The Burg- keeper’s Secret” is a good story; “Chalk” contains a good deal of readable and enjoyable information about those white cliffs of Albion for the neighbourhood of which every one in London is sighing; “Aged Forty” is not worth criticism; “Holy Mr. Herbert” is one of those excellent papers upon minor celebrities of the past which Temple Bar would do well to make a specialty; “Spell-bound” is a short but tolerably good story; “Of the Mountebank Family” records the popular history of the gladiators and fun-makers of old in a sufficiently pleasant fashion; “London Poems” contains “A City Preacher,” very well written; “For Better for Worse” drags its slow length along; “Told at Frascati” reads well; “In Loco Parentis” deserves like commendation; and the concluding piece is some poetry of good quality, suggested by Mr. Holman Hunt’s wonderful picture “Christ in the Temple.” We must not forget to mention as part of the number a complacent, self-satisfied preface, by Mr. Sala, to the volume just concluded.

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Donne The Metaphysician
published in Temple Bar (No. 9, August 1861.)

 

Illustrated Times (10 August, 1861)

     Temple Bar is vigorous as ever. We have a rather smaller instalment of “The Seven Sons of Mammon” than the interest created by it led us to wish for; but when the quality is so excellent, complaint would be ungracious. There is rather more than the usual allowance of poetry; but perhaps none of it deserves, as verses go, any severe criticism. Mr. Williams Buchanan, who seems to be a regular contributor, ought to become a poet. So thinking and so hoping, we would advise him to write less and blot more. The article upon Donne, the metaphysician, is, on the whole, pleasant, entertaining, and appreciating; but would it not be as well if not quite so many magazine-writers were on such uncommonly good terms with their readers? This trick of familiarity is borrowed from Mr. Thackeray, who is becoming so objectionable in this particular as to warn, not instigate, further imitation. The article on “Fires” is full of useful and practical suggestions, and there is a capitally-told and true story of an attempt at deception of the Kaspar Hauser kind, under the title “A Real German Mystery.” There are also a description of life “In the Mining Districts” and two or three short stories.

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Thorvaldsen and his English Critics
published in The Fortnightly Review (No. 2, 1 June, 1865.)

 

The Hampshire Advertiser (10 June, 1865 - p.7)

THE FORTNIGHTLY REVIEW.—No. II.

     We may congratulate the editor, Mr. George Henry Lewes, as well as the publishers, Messrs. Chapman and Hall, on so far a completely successful undertaking. Besides Mr. Lewes’s work, the present number contains articles by Anthony Trollope, Lord Edward St. Maur, Professor Beesly, Robert Buchanan, Sheldon Amos, and George Meredith, as well as a review of public affairs during the last fortnight, and some notices of new books by W. M. Call and John Dennis. Mr. Anthony Trollope gives another instalment of the story, “The Belton Estate,” which commenced in the first number and promises to be in its pure, simple way as attractive as any of his former works. He also makes his appearance in the character of a reviewer, taking for his subject the poems of Henry Taylor, for whom he has, as is natural, a vast respect and admiration.

. . .

     Another article, which will probably be read by the majority with equal pleasure, is that by Mr. R. Buchanan, on “Thorswalden and his English Critics.” The writer protests with much energy and some show of reason against the “goody” style of criticism which estimates a man of genius from a very small standing-point, and without any species of dramatic power. Mr. George Meredith’s verses, “Martin’s Puzzle,” have that peculiar flavour of rural life which is now-  a-days found only in perfection in the writings of the author. The review of public affairs and the article on “Democracy in England,” by Mr. Sheldon Amos, are written in much the same key, that which is commonly termed “Advanced Liberalism.” We believe that we have already named the fact that Mr. Lewes is, or was at least, not long since, one of the reviewers of new books for the Times.

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Emerson
published in The Broadway (May 1869.)

 

Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper (16 May, 1869 - p.8)

     In the Broadway, “Stretton” progresses apace, while Minnie Thomas’s “False Colours” gets worse and worse. Miss Phœbe Cary’s poem is graceful and pathetic. Miss Cary’s genius is so well known, however, that it needs no comment. We can afford space for the first half of “Amy’s Love-Letter:”

. . .

Robert Buchanan has contributed a clever criticism of Emerson, which contrasts strongly with a certain illiberal review of Tennyson, of which we have already written. Buchanan treats his subject tenderly and thoughtfully; perceiving the failings of the man he criticises, and perceiving and making much of the good side of the character and works which, he says, possess a vast influence over a “big and boisterous people.” “The Follies of Fashion,” professedly written by a woman, is, we are confident, the production of masculine genius. From the first of this series, we have always suspected the signature “A Woman,” to be a false one; and this last essay on the “Follies of Fashion,” to our mind, settles the question. G. M. Hoppin gives a delightful description of the Adirondac Lakes, and we long for a glimpse of the forests, afire with the glow of the reddened foliage. A learned paper on heraldry—as forming hieroglyphics of history—is the final one in this excellent number of Broadway.

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George Heath, The Moorland Poet
published in Good Words (March 1871.)

 

Glasgow Herald (4 March, 1871)

     In Good Words Mr Robert Buchanan introduces to the general public the poems of George Heath, the Moorland Poet. Heath was born at Gratton, a hamlet in the moorlands of Staffordshire, on the 9th of March, 1844. He was born of poor parents, and, after learning to read and write, was apprenticed to a carpenter. He died in 1869 of consumption, in which he lingered for four years. Mr Buchanan, as becomes a brother poet, gives us a very loving sketch of poor Heath, in whose fate and genius he finds a striking resemblance to David Gray, the author of the “Luggie.” Among other specimens of the “Moorland” muse we have the following:—

THE POET’S MONUMENT.

Sad are the shivering dank dead leaves
     To one who lost love from his heart unweaves,
Who dreams he has gathered his life’s last sheaves,
     And must find a grave under wintry eaves!

Dead! dead! ’mongst the winter’s dearth,
     Gone where the shadows of all things go,
Stretch me full length in the folding earth,
     Wind me up in the drifting snow;

None of the people will heed it or say,
     “He was a singer who fainted there,
One who could leaven with fire, or sway
     Men’s hearts to trembling unaware.”

No one will think of the dream-days lost,
     Of the ardours fierce that were damped too soon;
Of the bud that was nipped by the morning’s frost,
     And shrivelled to dust in the sun ere noon.

No one will raise me a marble, wrought
     With meaning symbol, and apt device,
To link my name with a noble thought,
     A generous deed, or a new-found voice.

My life will go on to the limitless tides,
     Leaving no trace of its current-flow,
Like a stream that starts when the tempest rides,
     And is lost again in the evening’s glow.

The glories will gather and change as of yore,
     And the human currents pass panting by,
The ages will gather their wrinkles more,
     And others will sing for a day and die.

But thou, who art dearer than words can say,
     My more than all other of earth could be;
Such a joy! that the Giver I thank alway
     With a glowing heart, that He gave me thee.

I shall want thee to dream me my dream all through—
     To think me the gifted, the Poet still,
To crown me, whatever the world may do,
     Though my songs die out upon air and hill.

And, Edith, come thou in the blooming time—
     Thy world will not miss thee for just one hour;
I’d like it best when the low Bells chime,
     And the earth is full of the sunset’s power,—

And bend by the silently settling heap,
     While the Nature we loved is a May all round,
While God broods low on the blue arched sweep,
     And the musical air is athrill with sound;

And look in thy heart circled up in the past,
     And if I am perfectly graven there,
Unshaded by aught, save the anguish cast
     By the parting clasp, and the death despair;

Encirqued with the light of the pale regret,
     Of a “might have been,” all of a day-dream lent,
With a constant hope of a meeting yet,—
     Oh! I shall not want for a Monument.

This month’s number is more than usually readable. We are glad to notice another sketch of Scottish life and manners from the graphic pen of the author of “Peasant Life in the North.”

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Mr. John Morley’s Essays
published in The Contemporary Review (June 1871.)

 

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph (6 June, 1871 - p.3)

     The Contemporary opens with a very interesting and significant article by Mazzini on the Commune, in which he briefly discusses its aims and proceedings.
. . .

Mr. Robert Buchanan has a vigorous paper on Mr. John Morley’s Essays, which is made very remarkable by a scathing, we had almost said savage, censure of Carlyle, which he seizes an opportunity to introduce in the course of it. The article indeed abounds in hard words and knocks dealt out straight from the shoulder on all sides. In discussing Mr. Morley’s essay on Byron, which he considers as perhaps the best ever written on the subject, he declares it “flawed, because the writer, who has just recommended a severe handling of the criminal classes, seems unconscious that he is dealing with a great criminal’s life and character. Scientific criticism, so sharp to the anti-social outcasts, might be less merciful to the outcast whose hand was lifted against every man’s life and reputation, and who was consciously unjust, tyrannous, selfish, false, and anti-social.” “We do not agree,” says Mr. Buchanan, “with Mr. Morley that the public has nothing to do with Byron’s private life. The man invited confidence for the sake of blasting the fair fame of others; and the lie of his teaching is only to be counteracted by the living lie of his identity. If revolters and criminals are to be gibbeted, then we claim in the name of Justice the highest gibbet for Byron.” The Contemporary also contains a very delightful attempt by the Rev. James Davies to re-habilitate those sweet idyllists, Bion and Moschus, and rescue them from the shadow of their great master, Theocritus, which teems with charming quotations; a short essay on the “Range of Intellectual Conception,” by Mr. Ruskin, and several other contributions of the widely catholic character for which this able monthly is celebrated.

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The Examiner (7 October, 1871)

     Mr Ruskin says in the new number of his Fors Clavigera, “There was an article—I believe it got in by mistake, but the editor, of course, won’t say so—in the ‘Contemporary Review,’ two months back, on Mr Morley’s Essays, by a Mr Buchanan, with an incidental page on Carlyle in it, unmatchable (to the length of my poor knowledge) for obliquitous platitude, in the mud-walks of literature.” Many will be disposed to say nearly the same of an article in this month’s ‘Contemporary,’ by a Mr Thomas Maitland, who commences a series of strictures on “The Fleshly School of Poetry,” with seventeen pages about Mr Dante Rossetti.

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The Fleshly School Of Poetry: Mr. D. G. Rossetti
published in The Contemporary Review (October 1871.)

 

Reviews of Buchanan’s original article are available in the Fleshly School Controversy section of the site.

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The “Good Genie” of Fiction
published in The Saint Pauls Magazine (February 1872.)

 

Glasgow Herald (10 February, 1872)

THE MAGAZINES.
_____

     Saint Pauls.—In the continuation of the late Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Romance of Immortality,” there is some excellent writing, with the faint cropping up of a new tragic element in the double form of incompatibility in the temperament of the two lovers, and of a mysterious document which will probably turn out to contain directions for the attainment of immortality on this earth. There is a capital article by Mr Robert Buchanan on Dickens, who is happily designated “The ‘Good Genie’ of Fiction.” There is a poem entitled “Supreme Love,” by John Banks, who, if we mistake not, is also Robert Buchanan. Again, “The Ballad of Judas Iscariot,” although unsigned, is wonderfully like a coin of Mr Buchanan’s mintage. We have also a clever and characteristic poem by the author of “St Abe and his Seven Wives.” Henry Holbeach and Matthew Browne have each an article a piece. These apparent two are one and the same person, whose real name, however, is neither Holbeach nor Browne. Mr Buchanan makes some strong statements regarding Dickens. “The world,” he says,” has decided long ago that Dickens was beyond all parallel the greatest imaginative creator of this generation, and that his poetry (the best of it), although written in unrhymed speech, is worth more, and will probably last longer, than all the verse-poetry of this age, splendid as some of that poetry has been.” This is decidedly generous on the part of the critic, but we should doubt if it is altogether an accurate prophecy. Of Mr Buchanan’s criticisms on Dickens’ humour we quote one passage:—

     “Shakespeare’s humour, even more than Chaucer’s, is of the very essence of divine quiddity. Between Shakespeare and Dickens, only one humorist of the truly divine sort arose, fluted magically for a moment, and passed away, leaving the Primrose family as his legacy to posterity. Swift’s humour was of the earth, earthy; Gay’s was shrill and wicked; Fielding’s was judicial, with flashes of heavenlike promise; Smollett’s was cumbrous and not spiritualising; Sterne’s was a mockery and a lie (shades of Uncle Toby and Widow Wadman, forgive us, but it is true!); and, not to catalogue till the reader is breathless, Scott’s was feudal, with all the feudal limitations, in spite of his magnificent scope and depth. Entirely without hesitation we affirm that there is more true humour, and, consequently, more helpful love, in the pages of Dickens than in all the writers we have mentioned put together; and that, in quality, the humour of Dickens is richer, if less harmonious, than that of Aristophanes; truer and more human than that of Rabelais, Swift, or Sterne; more distinctly unctuous than even that of Chaucer, in some respects the finest humorist of all; a head and shoulders over Thackeray’s, because Thackeray’s satire was radically unpoetic; certainly inferior to that of Shakespeare only, and inferior to his in only one respect—that of humorous pathos. It is needless to say that in the last-named quality Shakespeare towers supreme, almost solitary. Falstaff’s death-bed scene is, taken relatively to the preceding life, and history, and rich unction of Sir John, the most wonderful blending of comic humour and divine tenderness to be found in any book—infinite in its suggestion, tremendous in its quaint truth, penetrating to the very depths of life, while never disturbing the first strange smile on the spectator’s face. Yes; and therefore overflowing with unutterable love.”

Mr Holbeach continues his articles on “Literary Statesmen.” His present subject is the Duke of Argyll, whom he describes as being “in politics and sociology a Conservative-Liberal; and if that phrase were admissible in another sphere, it would be applicable to the Duke as a thinker in theology and philosophy. His intellect moves with great caution, and not without something of the spirit which expresses itself in the proverbial saying—‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.’” The writer says of his Grace that “there is no speculative knight-errantry about him. He feels his way in every subject that he touches, and even with a degree of punctiliousness which has an effect not quite cheerful.” “There was,” continues Mr Holbeach, “a Scotch Professor of Logic who, being urged to go and fight a duel with a man who called him a liar, said, with perfect bonhomie—‘What for fight him? Let ’em pruv it, sir; let ’em pruv it.’ It is the same in all his writings.” These indicated features of the Duke’s character as a thinker Mr Holbeach proceeds to illustrate in a very happy manner, and the whole article, we may say, is as well written as it is interesting. The ballad of “Judas Iscariot” is a curious, indeed, a fine production, the last three verses whereof will show what final fate the poet assigns to the man whom all the world regards as a traitor:—

“’Twas the Bridegroom stood at the open door,
     And beckon’d, smiling sweet;
’Twas the soul of Judas Iscariot
     Stole in, and fell at his feet.

‘The Holy Supper is spread within,
     And the many candles shine,
And I have waited long for thee
     Before I poured the wine!’

The supper wine is poured at last,
     The lights burn bright and fair;
Iscariot washes the Bridegroom’s feet,
     And dries them with his hair.”

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Criticism as One of the Fine Arts
published in The Saint Pauls Magazine (April 1872.)

 

The Nonconformist (3 April, 1872)

     The other magazines of Messrs. Strahan and Co. may be noticed in a single paragraph. St. Paul’s is good, but wants relief. Hawthorne’s “Septimus” is subtle, but unfinished and unsatisfactory, becoming, indeed, more and more so as we go on. Miss Ingelow’s story is more enjoyable. Walter Hutcheson surely has some arrière pensée in “Criticism as a Fine Art,” which, however, is clever; but why does he not cite Mr. Matthew Browne among the critics, whose personality is frequently communicated with peculiar strength! The “Saint Abe” ballad is not so good as we should expect; it wants local colouring.

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Glasgow Herald (9 April, 1872)

     Saint Pauls.—Hawthorne’s “Septimus: a Romance of Immortality,” winds slowly and curiously along.

. . .

“B.”—Mr Robert Buchanan, we presume—has an able and characteristic poem on Mazzini. Mr Walter Hutcheson writes a sort of clever, snappy, happy-go-lucky sort of paper on “Criticism as One of the Fine Arts.” He declares that “scientific criticism is fudge—as sheer fudge as scientific poetry, as scientific painting; but criticism does belong to the fine arts; and, for that reason, its future prospects are positively unlimited.” “Criticism now-a-days,” he says, “simply means (it is doubtful whether at any time it has meant much more) the impression produced on certain minds by certain products.” Listen to how certain things and persons impress Mr Walter Hutcheson:—

HOPE FOR THE LOST.

     “It is great fun—fun given to poor mortality, alas! too seldom—to see the advent of some outrageous genius, some

Monstr’-inform’-ingens-horrendus
Demoniaco-seraphic

prodigy of the Euphocion order, starting up to the horror of criticism, and carrying all the masses before him by simple charm. Wonderful is that gift of producing on thousands of people precisely the same set of favourable impressions; wonderful is that gift, whether possessed by a Dickens, a Tennyson, or a Tupper. Fortunately the great mass of people are their own ‘tasters,’ judging for themselves at first hand, and they won’t be guided by the literary priests, however so wise; and it is simply delicious to observe how reputations grow, in spite of all the priesthood do to tramp them down. Let no man despair merely because the few who write abuse him. The abuse simply means that he is not wanted by Smith, Brown, and Jones; while all the time he is being eagerly waited for by all the legions of the Robinsons, to whom every word he drops is a revelation. Longfellow has ceased to be a favourite with reviewers, but he has his compensations. George Eliot is praised by every reviewer in the country, but the public knows, for all that, that she has never fulfilled her original promise. Dickens was abused by genteel journals, but what cared he?”

CERTAIN CELEBRITIES.

     “In England here, critics for the most part assume the editorial tone, and are proportionally uninteresting. To the long list of critics who write without edification, either because they decline self-revelation or are unpleasant when revealed, may be added, in modern times, the names of Mr. Lewes, late editor of the Fortnightly Review, and the Duke of  Argyll. These gentlemen sign their articles, but utterly fail to attract us—they are so thoroughly, so transparently, editorial. Critics of the higher class, on the other hand, may be found in Mr. Arthur Helps, Mr. Matthew Arnold, and (with a strong editorial leaven) in Mr. R. H. Hutton, who has recently published two volumes of essays. Mr. Arnold may or may not be an interesting being, but he never for a moment represents himself as what he is not. We know him as thoroughly as if we had been to school with him. We do not get angry with what he says, so much as with his insufferable manner of saying it. Mr. Helps is, once and for ever, the optimist man of the world. Mr. R H. Hutton shows us, as in a mirror, his deep-seated prejudice, his quick sympathy with ideas as distinguished from literary clothing, and his genial love of microscopic délicatesse. We know at once that this last critic will pass Hugo by and adore Tennyson; that he will find great pleasure in the poetry of Mr. Keble; and that his sympathy with revolt will take no more violent form than a predilection for the critical poems of Mr. Arnold! And just in so far as they tell us so much, just in so far as they suffer us to see their prejudices and their limitations, are these gentlemen good critics—critics rapidly advancing their profession to a place among the fine arts. Let them come!—the more the merrier! We would sooner take the opinion of Mr. Hutton, or Mr. Helps, or Mr. Arnold, or even Mr. Sala,—any of these gentlemen individually—than that of any unknown oracle, from the Times downwards. Besides, unknown oracles can be bought; but to buy clever men is not so easy.”

“Seraphina Snowe” is the title of a poem by the author of “St. Abe and his Seven Wives.” The present production is clever, but it seems to increase the already existing suspicion that the author is not an American but an Englishman, if not a Scotchman. The article on “Our Dinners” is worthy of being carefully studied by all who are in the habit of giving dinners or of eating them.

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Pity the Poor Drama!
published in The Saint Pauls Magazine (May 1872.)

 

Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury (18 May, 1872 - p.2)

     ST. PAUL’S has altered its outside garb, but in our judgment the alteration is not an improvement. It apes the ancient style of covers, and looks old fashioned. “Child-life as seen by the poets,” is a charming paper, one of the most perfect illustrations of the motto of the magazine. “A neat repast, light and choice, of Attic taste.” “Body and Character,” is a scrappy bit of writing on the relation of the mind and body, a subject treated very fully in one of the older numbers of the Quarterly. A single paragraph in that paper contained more stuff than the four pages of Henry Holbeach’s meandering gossip. Walter Hutcheson writes a pathetic paper, sadly too true, under the dolorous plaint, “Pity the poor Drama!” How low dramatic writing has fallen, who does not know? but still let every lover of the legitimate drama read this lament for himself. “Love in Heaven,” will have its readers; but the “Funeral of Mr. Maurice,” will win for itself a wider circle of attraction. The poetry of the number is by Robert Buchanan, and the author of “St. Abe and his Seven Wives.” Buchanan’s “Faces on the Wall,” consists of a beautiful series of sonnets. Miss Ingelow’s tale grows in fascination, and Septimius grows in weirdness. Aunt Kezia dies, despite her elixir of life; and Septimius is more than ever bent on discovering the one lacking ingredient to make it potent to ward off death.

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The Era (23 June, 1872)

     AND, while on the subject of the wilful propagation of error, we may possibly call attention to the scurrilous abuse of the English Stage, its artists, actors, actresses, and critics, published in the May number of the St. Paul’s Magazine, and signed by Mr. Walter Hutcheson. We need scarcely add that the magazine is no longer edited by Mr. Anthony Trollope. We have nothing to do with the opinions of the young man. We deal merely with his facts, and when he boldly and unblushingly tells the public that the “actors of the present day are unable to parse an ordinary speech in Shakespeare; that they do not know French and German; that they have the manners of strolling players and cockney clerks; that actresses cannot look like women of gentle breeding, and, with rare exceptions, are not virtuous; that the gentlemen engaged to review new plays for the various newspapers are ignorant, ill-educated, and are not generally striking in appearance, save for a certain tendency to wear false shirt-fronts, and to smell of mysterious liquors;” we tell Mr. Hutcheson that his impertinence is only excused by his ignorance. He has libelled wantonly and extravagantly a Profession of eminence and distinction; he has put on record facts which he must know are utterly untrue; and he has dashed off what he may call a spirited article, but one which from henceforth will deny him that very title of “gentleman” which he is so anxious to secure for the Stage. It is the fashion of the day to say that such poor and illiterate stuff as that poured out in the columns of the St. Paul’s Magazine, slanderous and wicked as it is, should be treated with the contempt it deserves. Newfoundlands and retrievers do the same for puppy-dogs; but when the puppy takes to biting as well as barking measures somewhat stronger are required. When a gentleman so far forgets himself as to deny virtue to honest and hard-working women, and call an honourable and equally hard-worked set of men drunken—without a shadow of justification for either statement—he should be ordered to hold his tongue, with an alternative which possibly might not be pleasant even to such a manly personage as Mr. Walter Hutcheson.

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Prose and Verse
published in The Saint Paul’s Magazine (September 1872.)

 

Glasgow Herald (10 September, 1872)

     Saint Pauls.—Miss Jean Ingelow’s story, “Off the Skelligs,” moves rather slowly and unsensationally along. The weakness of the tale seems to be its superabundance of talk and its poverty of incident. The strange adventures in El Dorado of “John Mardon, Mariner,” by the author of “St. Abe,” has advanced into the second part, but is not yet finished. There is some quaint and curious versification in the poem, and the local colouring is pretty true to South America, though here and there perhaps slightly overdone. We have next a slight sketch of the Italian Poet Filicaia, with a fine and faithful, rather than a brilliant analysis of his poetry. Then comes a portion of “An Old Letter,” containing a brief but keenly and cunningly wrought effort of storyology, by Catherine Saunders. Under the title “Head Dresses,” M. E. Haweis supplies a singularly interesting paper on colour, which might be perused with advantage by readers of both sexes. We shall just give a taste of it by quoting a couple of passages:—

. . .

Mr Walter Hutcheson discourses on “Prose and Verse” with good sense and some acuteness. One passage will show partly what he means:—

WHEN COMES THE GREAT POET?

     “A truly great poet is not he who wearies us with eternally sweet numbers; is not Pope, is not Poe, is not even Keats. It is he who is master of all speech, and uses all speech fitly; able, like Shakespeare, to chop the prosiest of prose with Polonius and the Clowns, as well as to sing the sweetest of songs with Ariel and the outlaws ‘under the greenwood tree.’ It is not Hawthorne, because his exquisite speech never once rose to pure song; it is Dickens, because (as could be easily shown, had we space) he was a great master of melody as well as a great workaday humorist. It is not Thackeray, because he never reached that subtle modulation which comes of imaginative creation; and it is not Shelley, because he was essentially a singer, and many of the profoundest and delightfullest things absolutely refuse to be sung. It is Shakespeare par excellence, and it is Goethe par hasard. Historically speaking, however, it may be observed that the greatest poets have not been those men who have used verse habitually and necessarily; and if we glance over the names of living men of genius, we shall perhaps not count those most poetic who call their productions openly “poems.” Meanwhile, we wait on for the miracle-worker who never comes—the poet. We fail as yet to catch the tones of his voice; but we have no hesitation in deciding that his first proof of ministry will be dissatisfaction with the limitations of verse as at present written.”

Mr Henry Holbeach includes Sir John Lubbock in his “Literary Statesmen,” and gives a somewhat sketchy sketch of the scientific baronet.

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The Character of Goethe
published in The New Quarterly Magazine (October 1874.)

 

Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper (25 October, 1874)

NEW QUARTERLY MAGAZINE.

     The New Quarterly Magazine, which has acquired already much popularity among the more thoughtful and serious readers of modern periodical literature, thoroughly deserves the success it has achieved. The men and women who contribute to its solid pages, are writers whose opinions are worth studying and remembering. It seems to us that the great fault of most of the magazine literature with which England is afflicted at the present time is, that there is so little worth remembering or recalling. How few of the “padding” sketches and articles and novelettes which appear month after month, would bear a second reading! It would seem that the English people have a special taste for this poor literature; it is certain that it flourishes in no other country in the same degree. The Americans have their periodicals, it is true; but few of us would complain if we could boast a Scribner’s Monthly, and Atlantic Monthly, as average specimens of popular reading.
     To return to the New Quarterly, however—the October part of which has reached us—we must observe that we can find no fault with the style or intention of the authors who figure therein. The principal point of interest in the list of contents for the quarter just opened will undoubtedly be Robert Buchanan’s estimate of the character of Goethe—an estimate which is on the whole fairly formed and modestly stated. The picture put before the young generation of the great German poet is one that will surprise many. In this self-sufficient age, when interest in great men and curiosity respecting their lives, are very lukewarm, well-educated men know the broad outline of Goethe’s character, but few will have mastered the disheartening details which Mr. Buchanan has set before us. Goethe’s superb selfishness is certainly no new feature in his character; it is recognised by his most fervent students and worshippers. But it is brought perhaps more vividly to light in this minute examination of Goethe’s character than we have been wont to think of it, and the theatrical affectation which accompanied this unworthy trait, does not render it more excusable. He had few real friends, and these were disappointed in him. Witness the following passage from Mr. Buchanan’s essay:—

     His habit of cold impassiveness and stately reserve grew upon him at Weimar; and repelled many of his friends, who were not slow to express their irritation in words. “Outside relations,” he said, “make our existence, and at the same time devastate it; nevertheless, one must withdraw oneself occasionally from study, for I don’t think it healthy to be completely isolated like Wieland.” Schiller, faithful to him as he was faithful in all things, was rewarded by a certain amount of confidence, much the same as Goethe would have vouchsafed to a clinging mistress, Lili or Frederika; and when Schiller died, the blow went straight home to Goethe’s heart. When the aged and noble-minded Klopstock thought fit to remonstrate on the disorderly living encouraged by Goethe at Weimar, the “privy councillor’s” reply was cold and keen as ice. He solicited no confidence and he tolerated no interference. His affectations—for they were affectations— alienated his best friends. “What the devil possesses this Wolfgang!” cried Mark, a friend of his childhood; “why on earth will he play the courtier and the valet-de-chambre? Has he nothing better to do?” And the same excitable person said to Goethe himself, “Look here, Goethe! when I compare what you are with what you might have been, all that you have written seems to me contemptible!” But his most troublesome relations appear to have been with Herder. The great ideal philosopher and the great poetic image-former possessed a strange attraction for each other, by virtue of the individual strength of each; yet they never perfectly comprehended one another, and on one side, at least, there was a great deal of irritation. They met for the first time at Strasburg, when Herder was twenty-two years of age, and Goethe seventeen. This was in 1766. Twenty years afterwards, when both were at the zenith of fame, when Goethe’s name was a household word with young Germany, and Herder’s gigantic “Ule” was delighting all philosophers of the old school, Herder had not yet abandoned the air of patronage which he had affected to his junior student, and Goethe, on his side, had not forgotten Herder’s epigram on his name—

Thou! descendant of Gods, or of Goths, or of Gutters!
                                                                       —(Koth.)

There was no love lost between the two; and their mode of intercourse was rather that of two rival swordsmen than of affectionate friends. On the whole, Goethe seemed rather afraid of Herder’s mighty mind, knowing well that its great scheme of the Universal Idea, with all its practical tendencies towards Optimism and the regeneration of Humanity, was exactly the scheme which refused admittance to so shallow and slight a theory as that of mere self-culture and “pyramid building.” “It is doubtful,” Herder once cried passionately, apropos of Goethe’s cold-bloodedness and affectation—“it is doubtful if a man has any right to raise himself to a sphere where all suffering, true or false, real or merely imaginary, becomes equal to him; where he ceases to be a Man, if he does not cease to be an Artist; and whether this right, once admitted, does not imply the absolute negation of human character. No one cares to envy the gods their eternal tranquillity; they may regard everything on earth as a mere game the chances of which they direct as they please. But we are men, men subject to all human wants, and we do not care to be amused for ever with theatrical attitudes. You study nature in all her phenomena from the hyssop to the cedar of Lebanon. But I should not like you, for all that, to conceal from me the most beautiful phenomena of them all—Man, in his natural and moral grandeur.” To the same effect, though with less success, protested others—Wieland, Jacobi, even Schiller. But Goethe, though the criticism struck home, was not to be moved. Affectation and indifference, two elements quite contrary in themselves, had blended together to form the one pose that he kept for the rest of his life: a pose thoroughly theatrical, as Herder’s keen eye at once detected, but so long used as to become natural at second hand. An earthquake would not have changed it. The statue stood, in courtier’s costume, calm, holding a microscope. A thunderbolt might have dashed the statue to the ground; but it would have altered nothing. To alter Goethe now, God would have had to obliterate him altogether.

     The picture we have of Goethe elaborating his “Theory of Colour” in the Duke’s gardens at Weimar, unmoved by the mighty throes of the great French Revolution, uninterested in its leaders, indifferent to anything that did not immediately concern himself—is by no means a pleasant one; and most persons will leave Mr. Buchanan’s paper with a regret that so great a mind should have been combined with various peculiarities of temperament that cloud the works left behind in his name. Goethe’s dying words, “More light,” should have been his rallying cry through life!
     We have given so much consideration to Robert Buchanan’s able article that we have little space to devote to other subjects of interest that are intelligently and thoughtfully discussed in the course of the New Quarterly Magazine. A paper on “Small Farms,” by Richard Jefferies, will be found excessively useful to readers of an agricultural turn of mind.
. . .

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Thomas Love Peacock: A Personal Reminiscence
published in The New Quarterly Magazine (April 1875.)

 

The Examiner (10 April, 1875)

     In Mr. Robert Buchanan’s “Personal Reminiscence” of Thomas Love Peacock, in the New Quarterly Magazine, the most interesting point is that, on a certain sunshiny day, several years ago, Mr. Robert Buchanan might have been seen “going on pilgrimage” to Lower Halliford, with “youth in his limbs, reverence in his heart, a pipe in his mouth, and the tiny Pickering edition of Catullus (a veritable lepidum libellum, but, alas! far from novum) in his waistcoat pocket.” Mr. Buchanan does not tell us what he had for breakfast before he started; but he communicates the equally interesting fact that, though Mr. Peacock had a horror of tobacco, and he had made a solemn promise not to smoke within five hundred yards of Mr. Peacock’s house, he is ashamed to say that he “violated the arrangement,” and “well remembers one night stealthily opening the bedroom window in the house at Halliford and ‘blowing a cloud’ out into the summer night.” Some people will be surprised to hear that there was perfect agreement between Mr. Peacock and Mr. Buchanan, except on the subject of tobacco-smoke. This, Mr. Buchanan says, proved “the one dark cloud of misunderstanding between  them.”

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Lucretius and Modern Materialism
published in The New Quarterly Magazine (April 1876.)

 

The Nonconformist (12 April, 1876)

     The New Quarterly Magazine is determined to maintain its well-earned reputation for freshness and vigour. Mr. Robert Buchanan opens the present number with a paper on “Lucretius and Modern Materialism,” which one would have thought was not altogether in Mr. Buchanan’s way, but it is now difficult to say what is not easy to him in the way of literature. The article is clever, but just a little flippant. “Primæval Packing of the Middle Ages” is a curious exhumation of dead leaves and flowers of an olden time. Mr. John Dangerfield has given a good story in “Alex Fairford.” The description of the characteristics of the Fairford family is a specimen of fine literary art. Mr. Drummond gives some exceedingly interesting incidents of African travel in an article with that title, which every reader will wish had been longer. Mr. Crawford writes with critical and scholarly knowledge on “Ancient and Mediæval Music,” and there is an appreciative estimate of Artemus Ward and the humourists of America in an article, with capital illustrations, by Mr. Matthew Turner. Mr. Turner might, however, have traced this singular humour to its source in the old Puritans—of whom all these new writers are descendants. A pleasant little tale by Mr. Marston, and the “Current Literature and Current Criticism,” completes this number. Of the last we have to say that it is marked by sound breadth and intimate knowledge, and has none of the drawbacks to which we felt compelled to make reference in January. It is a thoroughly interesting and exceedingly well-executed literary review, more interesting, even to old reviewers, and more happily done than we should have conceived to be possible.

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Sydney Dobell
published in Temple Bar (May 1879.)

 

The Examiner (10 May, 1879)

     The chief feature of Temple Bar is an admirable personal sketch of the late Sidney Dobbell, by Mr. Robert Buchanan. Let us hope it will bring readers to the comparatively neglected poems, “Balder” and “The Roman,” which contain passages unsurpassed in beauty and vigour by anything that has been written for the last fifty years. The problematical task of making the rather slippery memoirs of Captain D’Artagnan, one of the heroes of Dumas’ “Three Musketeers,” the basis of a magazine article intended for popular reading in the reign of Queen Victoria is cleverly solved.

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Free Thought in America
published in The North American Review (April 1885.)

 

The Graphic (4 April, 1885)

     In the North American Review, “Free Thought in America” contains Mr. Robert Buchanan’s views on the teachings of Colonel Robert Ingersoll, and of Mr. Frothingham. Of the first he says that he represents the natural reaction of American Bohemianism against the Puritanism of Boston and the overstrained Transcendentalism of Brook Farm. The vice of America accentuated in Colonel Ingersoll is “its materialism,” and, says Mr. Buchanan, “we owe much to the gods, but for them Europe would have been Americanised long ago,” and he goes on to show what a bad thing this would be for us. With Mr. Frothingham he is less severe; but misses in him “the charm of those fairy stories of God which will continue to add to human happiness so long as the heart of man is as a child’s, and some glimpses of a heavenly dream remain.”—Mr. Charles D. Warner’s “A Study of Prison Management” is descriptive of the system in vogue in Elmira Reformatory, and supplies suggestive reading for members of Social Science Congresses.

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The Modern Young Man As Critic
published in The Universal Review (March 1889.)

 

Pall Mall Gazette (16 March 1889 - p.3)

[Note: A long ‘review’ of Buchanan’s essay, mainly consisting of extracts, is available here.]

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St. James’s Gazette (16 March 1889 - pp.3-4)

[Note: A similar review to the above is available here.]

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Aberdeen Evening Express (19 March, 1889 - p.2)

     THE renegade Scot is by no means an admirable creature. He is despised by his countrymen and never admired in the land of his adoption. It is a recognised axiom that when on the other side of the Border a virulent and abusive attack is made on Scotland or Scottish institutions it is the work of a native who is ashamed of the soil upon which he was born. Amongst the many Caledonians who have left their country and who have degenerated, who have lost apparently all love of nationality, and glory in the loss, is Mr Robert Buchanan. What Scotland has done to merit the contemptuous references to it and to those who remain loyal to the land of the mountain and the flood it would be difficult to tell. It may be that full recognition has not been given to the transcendent genius by which he believes himself to be endowed. Disappointed ambition is certainly to be pitied—a lack of appreciation is very grievous. At the same time, Scotland might have had some reason to reproach herself had Mr Buchanan’s great abilities, according to his own estimate, been found out elsewhere. But, so far as we can discover, this has not been the case. As a poet he has never taken any high place, as a dramatist, we fear, he has not made his fortune, as a novelist any success he may have obtained has been what is known as a succes d’estime, which to the proud spirit is more hurtful than downright condemnation. As a magazine essayist we must admit that Mr Buchanan has at least got himself talked about. That, of course, is something. In this character he has once more shown his colours this month. In an article on modern authors and critics in a comparatively new review he has been given full scope to scatter his vitriolic spleen. He attacks standard writers of all nationalities—Mr Henry James, as the representative of American fiction, several French writers, and, last of all, his own countryman, Mr William Archer, are all mercilessly assailed. The trampling upon Mr Buchanan’s literary corns by the others is nothing as compared with Mr Archer’s offence. Mr Archer has consistently failed to discover that Mr Buchanan is the dramatic giant of the age. For this want of knowledge Mr Archer is beautifully denounced as a man “who wears a cheap literary suit.” Mr Archer has the bad taste to rank other writers above Mr Buchanan, hence these tears, or rather passion turn to rage. But Mr Archer is guilty of another heinous literary crime. He is dramatic critic to one of the leading society papers. To the proprietor of that paper Mr Buchanan was indebted for much kindness at the outset of his career as a man of letters. Since then he has turned, and tried to rend the hand that fed him. Unfortunately the wound was averted, and the knife turned against the assailant. But there has been so sign of repentance. Mr Archer, a fellow-countryman, having stepped into the shoes which Mr Buchanan mayhap fondly hoped to wear, has not in any way improved matters. It is a great pity that Mr Buchanan should give way to such displays of temper. He only thereby makes himself a laughing-stock to the literary world, and tarnishes a reputation which is valued at its worth, a valuation which but for ridiculous vanity would be accepted with gratitude. Mr Buchanan has got his place in the Republic of Letters, and he should be content. At all events he will gain nothing by inconsiderate abuse of those who he thinks are placed higher. Public opinion is remorseless, and it is always best to bow to it with the best grace possible.

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The Graphic (30 March, 1889)

Magazines.

I.

     THE most striking paper in the Universal Review is Mr. Robert Buchanan’s “The Modern Young Man as Critic.” The modern young man is, in this writer’s opinion, very different to the young man of his own early experience. That paragon “lifted his hat to the Magdalen, in life and literature. . . . In Bohemia, he had heard the bird-like cry of Mimi; in the forest of Arden he had roamed with Rosalind. For him, in the light-heartedness of his youth, the world was an enchanted dwelling-place. The gods remained, with God above them.” Mr. Buchanan selects Mr. Henry James, M. Paul Bourget, M. Guy de Maupassant, Mr. William Archer, and Mr. George Moore, for the lash of his scornful criticism, characterising them respectively as “The Young Man who is Superfine,” “The Detrimental Young Man,” “The Olfactory Young Man,” “The Young Man in a Cheap Literary Suit,” and the “Bank-Holiday Young Man.” Of this latter personage we have this:—“If he has studied any books, he is completely fogged as to what books. He knows literature, as he knows Nature, out of his own ill-balanced head. He hates everything— Shakespeare, Art, Poetry, Religion, Decency— everything, but pipes and beer.” Mr. Buchanan is not far wrong in making Thackeray responsible for a good deal of the current cheap cynicism. As a slashing critique his article will well repay perusal, and there is enough truth in it to make it bite.

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The Dundee Evening Telegraph (3 April, 1889 - p.3)

TRUTH ON ROBERT BUCHANAN.

“IS BUCHANAN STILL POSSIBLE?”

     Truth to-day has a severe article on Mr Robert Buchanan’s observations on chivalry towards women. The article is entitled “Is Buchanan Still Possible?” and the writer says:—Mr Buchanan is a man of wide reading, he is a scholar, he is a man of imagination, having a command of rich and varied vocabulary, he possesses apparently all the gifts that go to make a great writer; he is also a man of untiring industry, and yet he has never produced a book nor yet a page that is vital in the mind of to-day. We find all qualities in Mr Buchanan except sincerity. An undefinable, but easily recognisable, falseness pervades his writings. Never do we find there that accent of truth which makes the world akin. Never do we say. We thought that he felt this. Mr Buchanan is grievously stricken with the disease of insincerity. He can never think, feel, or see truly. Pure artistic truth is as impossible to him as whiteness to a rook or as warmth to a snake. “Strength without hands to smite” has ever been the fate of Mr Buchanan. Two generations have turned from him; two generations have passed him by. The triumphant microbe has eaten through all his fine gifts, and the enthusiastic versifier is now the discontented scribbler of all work, who goes about the world raving and raging that God did not create him a genius. Daily he sinks lower in literary estimation, and he is less considered by the young men of 1889 than he was by those of 1869—they do not call him rough names, as did Mr Edmund Yates and Mr Swinburne, but they read and talk and think of him less and less every day. For five and twenty years Mr Buchanan had been false to his friends, false to his art, false to himself, and yet he once again ventures to pose as the upholder of those virtues which he, more than any one else, has shamefully outraged; for five and twenty years the microbe has thriven and multiplied in him. The spectacle is a pitiful one—a genius manque rushing about the world in straits to bite all who would help him out of his delusions and out of his misery by judicious criticism of his deficiencies. Tinker Smollett as tinkered Fielding, say of him as you said of Fielding, that in removing the dirt you are rendering him signal service, that you placed his genius in a purer light; gather about your portly self all that is prurient in purity, of all that is mean in man; make women your disciples—if they will accept you as an apostle—you have failed among men. Rossetti and Swinburne cast you off. Their successors cast you off. You have not got and you will never get their literary esteem—no, not even if you apologise, and you will apologise, if you live (with you all things are a question of time), for what you wrote of them last week, as you apologised for what you wrote of Mr Swinburne and Mr Rossetti twenty years ago. In the meanwhile drink the wormwood and gall of failure. Remember that each of the five men whom you spit at has a literary public that follows him. Meditate on the fact that your poems are forgotten, that your novels are read by servant girls, that your plays are only heard by the patrons of the Vaudeville Theatre, and that your critics are an occasional acting manager and a music conductor, who before the evening performance at dinner at Simpson’s discuss your chances of becoming Poet Laureate.

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The Edinburgh Evening News (4 April, 1889 - p.2)

“TRUTH” ON ROBERT BUCHANAN.

A TRENCHANT CRITICISM.

     Commenting on Mr Buchanan’s article in the Universal Review, Truth says: Mr Buchanan’s case presents some interesting and highly-developed symptoms which, I think, will repay study. He is a man of wide reading; he is a scholar; he is a man of imagination, having a command of rich and varied vocabulary; he possesses apparently all the gifts that go to make a great writer; he is also a man of untiring industry; and yet he has never produced a book, nor yet a page, that is vital in the mind of to-day. He has written 50 volumes, and if we ask of what he is the author no one can tell us. His work is even like the “snows of yester-year.” We find all qualities in Mr Buchanan except sincerity. For five-and-twenty years Mr Buchanan had been false to his friends, false to his art, false to himself, and yet he once again ventures to pose as the upholder of those virtues which he more than any one else has shamefully outraged. The spectacle is a pitiful one—a genius manque rushing about the world, in straits to bite all who would help him out of his delusions, and so out of his misery, by judicious criticism of his deficiencies. For three out of the five names mentioned in his article are blinds—colourable assurances of his sincerity. The truth is that, wishing to revenge himself on Mr Archer for criticism passed on his plays and novels in “About the Theatre,” and upon Mr George Moore for what he wrote of him in his book, “Confessions of a Young Man,” and knowing that no editor would place a dozen pages at his disposal for so personal a purpose, he bethought himself of throwing Mr Henry James, M. Guy de Maupassant, and M. Bourget into the pot, and of saucing up the dish with pessimism and the Eternal Feminine. Rossetti and Swinburne cast you off. Their successors cast you off. You have not got, and you will never get, their literary esteem—no, not even if you apologise, and you will apologise if you live (with you all things are a question of time) for what you wrote of them last week, as you apologised for what you wrote of Mr Swinburne and Mr Rossetti 20 years ago. In the meanwhile, drink the wormwood and gall of failure; remember that each of the five whom you spat at has a literary public that follows him; meditate on the fact that your poems are forgotten, and that your novels are read by servant girls.

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The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent (10 April, 1889 - p.4)

CHIT-CHAT.
_____

[BY OUR OWN GOSSIP.]

                                                                                                   LONDON, Tuesday.

. . .

     Mr. Robert Buchanan has been pitching into the critics rather freely. He has been a critic himself, and ought to know something about them, which makes his behaviour more strange. For though what he says may be very true, it is surely not his experience of his own fraternity that it is wise to pitch into them? Of course, it is not as a critic, but as an author and a dramatist, that he pours out the vials of his wrath against them; but would it not have been wiser to keep it in the vial? I cannot, however, withhold my admiration for this display of righteous indignation; he is not an old man, but he is old for that, and it does him the same credit as the tears in the eye of the judge when he utters the dread sentence of the law. Sydney Smith once declared that he felt so ill that if you gave him a knife he would not have the strength to plunge it into the body of a Dissenter; and though I am not ill, I feel at my age the same disinclination—though at one time nothing would have pleased me better—to butcher a reviewer. It is, he says, on public grounds that he has taken his pole-axe and smitten these bull calves—for they are all young and frisky—upon the head, but one cannot help suspecting that he has at one time felt their horns in his own (ought-to-have-been) sacred person. A sensitive patient squirming under the hands of the dentist, was asked by the operator whether he really hurt him. “No,” he answered, “but it seems as if you were going to hurt me.” That is exactly the position of the meritorious young author with the reviewers; he thinks every unpleasant notice will be the death of him; yet when they have all come out he is not a penny the worse. The literary veteran is assured of this beforehand, and takes the shearing without a bleat. As to the general charges made against the “young men” of the reviews, there seems to me the same ground for them there used to be, but no more. The young reviewer is generally a pessimist for divers reasons; it takes some time for literary merit to gain its reward, and youth is impatient. It is much easier to discover faults in one’s fellow creatures and their works than virtues; it is much more striking to be smart than to be just. As to their leanings towards the “fleshly school” of literature, and their pretence of disbelief in female virtue, these errors, too, may be explained if not excused, by the fewness of their years. Young men often imagine that cynicism is a short cut to maturity of intelligence. “If you will tell me how old he is, and what is his income, I will tell you his opinions,” was not written only of the middle-aged. Young men—even when they are critics—are still young men; and if Mr. Buchanan thinks that youth is less given to enthusiasm than it used to be, or less moral in its ideas, I cannot say I agree with him.

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The Glasgow Herald (20 April, 1889 - p.5)

OUR LONDON CORRESPONDENCE.
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                                                                                                       65 FLEET STREET,
                                                                                                               Friday Night.

. . .

     THE new and considerably enlarged edition of Mr George Moore’s much-discussed “Confessions of a Young Man” has just been published. It has an added interest from the fact that the author now acknowledges the book as autobiographical, notwithstanding all its daring frankness and equally daring critical personalities—what Mr Robert Buchanan (who comes in for many a hard hit) recently called its colossal impudence. The revised edition, which has a new portrait in place of Mr Strang’s etching, is dedicated to the young French painter, Jacques Blanche, and, besides a preface, has some sixty pages of added matter. The most noteworthy portion of the latter is that comprised in the dialogue between Mr Moore and his conscience, which might have been written by Baudelaire and Heine in collaboration.

__________

     MR GEORGE MOORE, who has now come to London to reside, has nearly finished a new novel, which he has some idea of calling “Don Juan.” The drift of the story, however, is so different from that of the blithe and adventurous hero of Byron’s poem, that the name will probably be discarded for one of less committal. While Mr Moore is certainly not popular among his literary confrères in London, he has won their sympathies in his recent article in Truth upon his bête-noire Mr Buchanan. He has certainly wit on his side, and the famous Universal Review “young man” article is fully avenged.

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The Modern Drama and its Minor Critics
published in The Contemporary Review (December 1889.)

 

The Era (30 November, 1889 - p.10)

     IN the current number of the Contemporary Review, Mr Robert Buchanan vindicates the modern drama against the recent attacks upon it, and fully “states the case” on behalf of living dramatists. He contends that two great forces have elevated and purified the contemporary stage—the genius of Mr Irving and the “realism” of the late T. W. Robertson. He surveys the history of the theatre from Shakespeare’s day downwards, and shows that it has been the habit at all times of a certain minority of dissentients to decry the drama and all its works. Finally, he compares the drama to Ingoldsby’s famous “Jackdaw of Rheims.” Though cursed by the “bell, book, and candle” of a small literary priestcraft, it is “never a penny the worse.”

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The Lancashire Evening Post (5 December, 1889 - p.2)

THE AUTHOR VERSUS THE CRITIC.

     THE controversy between Mr. Robert Buchanan and his critics is now entering an acute stage. It is understood that some of the questions raised are to be reserved for the arbitration of the Court of Queen’s bench and a common jury. We naturally do not intend to refer to that particular aspect of the dispute. There is quite enough matter of public interest to render that unnecessary. In the current number of the Contemporary Review, Mr. Buchanan vigorously attacks the young men who presume to say that there is good to be found in the realistic school, and dare to prefer Ibsen to himself. He is good enough to issue a certificate of competency as playwrights to Messrs. Pinero, Burnand, Gilbert, Grundy, and even Mr. H. A. Jones is not regarded as outside the sacred pale, although we are practically told that the end of the second act of “The Middleman” is rubbish. Having thus taken the precaution of bidding for the support of his brother dramatists, Mr. Buchanan proceeds to deliver a furious tirade against critics. It is not only that criticism is worthless; not only that it is, as a rule, inspired by spite; but the individuals who criticise are mostly hypocrites, and their writing can only be described in one expressive word, Cant. Mr. Buchanan then unburdens his soul on the subject of Goethe, a man of giant intellect, whom he is good enough to consider responsible for most of the impropriety of modern literature. Returning to his better self, he tells his readers that Mr. Irving is great and Ellen Terry is beautiful. So far we agree with him. He has abused critics, he has defied criticism, and spurned Press notices. Nevertheless, he goes on to say that Mrs. Kendal, in “The Ironmaster,” displays “a coarseness and commonness of method worthy of a stage chambermaid.” Does he wish us to believe that he is to be allowed to talk such nonsense as this, and to be himself free from comment? Mr. Buchanan may object as much as he likes. But as long as human nature is human nature men and women will be critics. Some of us may have the misfortune to be compelled to set forth our criticism in black and white. The public is the ultimate judge between professional critic and professional playwright. It would be more dignified on Mr. Buchanan’s part if he were content to leave the public to decide between his plays and his critics. When a man responsible for the English version of a play like “A Man’s Shadow” tells us that “if any dramatist, dead or living, has invented a greater situation than the culminating one of the court scene of this play, I should like to know his name,” we can only regard with amusement the intellectual conceit which renders such statements possible.

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The Shields Daily Gazette (12 December, 1889 - p.3)

THE STAGE AND THE CRITICS.

     “Is cheap Science to strangle Art, as well as to poison and asphyxiate Religion?” asks Mr ROBERT BUCHANAN, in the new number of the Contemporary Review. The fact is that Mr BUCHANAN, representing the Art of the playwright, finds himself hampered and half strangled by the critics, who seem to him to be young men destitute of imagination and incapable of appreciating the high tragic emotions. They are of course, accused of incompetence for the work they have undertaken. That is inevitable in any quarrel between authors and critics. Mr BUCHANAN says that any self-constituted authority, however ignorant and uninstructed, may pass judgment on a play, and that if our modern young men were to undertake to criticise seriously a new literary work by any writer of distinction, they would be laughed out of court even by their own associates. But there is more important matter in Mr BUCHANAN’S article than his differences with those who write about his plays. It raises the question of whether the drama should represent great passions and extraordinary personages or merely the life of every day. It should do both, as SHAKSPEARE did, is the natural reply; but the tendency of the day is undoubtedly to reject and cry down strong and vivid emotion, and to give artistic importance to the common-place. Mr BUCHANAN has no patience with this temper of mind. He rails against it vigorously, and for his own part he stands up for the great ideals. Religion, he tells us, is to dominate the drama, and he goes on to say that faith in goodness, faith in imagination, faith in human nature and human character, faith that the goodness of life far outweighs its evil, and that Humanity must go forth under heaven clothed in modesty, not in dirt and nakedness, is the inspiration of all great literature, of all enduring art. Then he goes on to make certain promises in behalf of the stage. We wish we could think they are likely to be kept, for Mr BUCHANAN assures us that the foulness and feebleness of modern Continental fiction will never extend to the English drama. Some observers of the stage have discerned indications which pointed in an opposite direction. There have been popular plays which came perilously near reproducing the worst elements of the French drama. It is good to have an assurance, if it is worth anything, that we are not about to descend into a lower depth, but that the tendency, in spite of the critics who condemn the romantic and the sublime, is upwards, towards light and purity. The stage has a huge influence on life and manners, and if at any period of history there has seemed to be more open moral corruption than is common, it will be found that the stage set the example of loose thinking and loose living. It is to the shame of JOHN DRYDEN, for example, that in his plays he pitched the keynote of the morals of the Restoration. From the level of the drama of that era we have most decidedly ascended into a purer atmosphere. The danger of the present day is the intrusion of Zolaism on to the stage, and it is against this that Mr BUCHANAN so vigorously declaims. But he is not afraid that the influence he condemns will be permanent. He is an optimist, as a true poet should be. “The drama,” he says, “in spite of morbid deviations, remains stronger than ever, perennially sane and whole because its appeal is not to the egotism and ignorance of the small critic, but to the broad sympathy and unerring common-sense of general humanity.”

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The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent (Monday, 20 January, 1890 - p.4)

AMERICA DAY BY DAY.

[FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT.]
VIA COMMERCIAL CABLE.

                                                                                               NEW YORK, Saturday Night.

. . .

     Mr. Kendal has lost no time in answering Robert Buchanan’s recent attack on Mrs. Kendal. On being shown a copy of Buchanan’s onslaught, he sat down and wrote him the following stinging letter:—“A cutting from the St. James’s Gazette sent me is the first intimation I have had of the good taste you have been displaying during our absence in trying to attack Mrs. Kendal behind her back, your motive for which is so transparent and so adequately dealt with by the enclosed, that I cannot refrain from sending it to you with the united compliments of Mrs. Kendal and myself. I have only to add our surprise as well as regret that in a weak moment of chagrin at the phenomenal success of the authorised and acknowledged adaptation of ‘Le Maitre de Forge,’ both in England and America, you should have exposed yourself to such ridicule and contempt.
                                                     “W. H. KENDAL.”

___

 

Pall Mall Gazette (21 January, 1890 - p.1)

     Mr. Robert Buchanan never—well, hardly ever—lets his pen run away with him, but he made a big mistake when he trotted out his recent remarks on Mrs. Kendal and “The Ironmaster.” “William,” however—not Archer but Kendal—has risen to the occasion, and has dealt the polypus playwright a “stinger” from the far-off shores of America. I pause for Mr. Buchanan’s reply.

_____

 

My First Book
published in The Idler (May 1893.)

 

The Echo (9 May, 1893 - p.2)

     Mr. Robert Buchanan lets himself loose in this month’s Idler. He goes further than Mr. Grant Allen in esteeming Literature the poorest and least satisfactory of professions by asserting that it is one of the least ennobling. He has scarcely met one individual who has not deteriorated by the pursuit of literary fame. For complete literary success it is imperative that a man should either have no real opinions or be able to conceal such as he possesses; above all, he must regulate his likes and dislikes by one law—that of expediency. Could Mr. Buchanan fix the period foretold by Mr. H. D. Traill in the New Review, when the honest literary craftsman will be the spoiled child of fortune, when great littérateurs will be millionaires covered with honours and distinctions, and when letters will be regarded as the first of the  professions?

     What I say about the necessity of literary men having no real opinions, or concealing what opinions they may have, only applies to the small fry of the profession. It in no way applies to such a man as Mr. Robert Buchanan, who has the courage of a lion, and who speaks out his words like cannon-balls. Almost all our chief literary men from Ruskin downwards write what they believe. Our Huxleys, Tennysons, Herbert Spencers, Froudes, Stubbses, and eight out of ten of the principal members of the Society of Authors are faithful to their convictions in their writings.

___

 

The Sheffield Evening Telegraph (10 May, 1893 - p.2)

IS LITERATURE PLAYED OUT?

     THERE is no person of importance in the literary world who is more continually falling out with his brethren of the pen than Mr. Robert Buchanan. Possessed of a caustic style, and fortified with a supreme contempt of fear, Mr. Buchanan is for ever raising a storm about his ears. His latest avowal that literature is played out is likely to plunge him into not the mildest of the many pen and ink wars in which he has been engaged. Mr. Buchanan backs up that other literary crank, Mr. Grant Allen, in the avowal that literature is “the poorest and least satisfactory of all professions;” and he goes further by the affirmation that it is “one of the least ennobling.” With a fairly extensive knowledge of the writers of his own period, a knowledge the extent and diversity of which even his bitterest opponent will not question, Mr. Buchanan avows that he can honestly say that he has scarcely met one individual, “who has not deteriorated morally by the pursuit of literary fame.” This is a hard saying, especially for those competitors in the literary race who have the pleasure of Mr. Buchanan’s acquaintance, and much heart burning must necessarily result. Mr. Buchanan would have materially heightened the interest attaching to his statement had he thrown in some reflections on his own personal experience. Does he acknowledge that in his own case the pursuit—which has been successful—of literary fame has been accompanied by a moral deterioration; or does he hold the belief that whilst compeers have been on the down grade the author of “Foxglove Manor” has remained a bright and shining example of the exception to his own rule?

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The Echo (11 May, 1893 - p.2)

     Mr. Robert Buchanan is almost as severe upon his countrymen as Carlyle was when he said that they were mostly fools. “The geese,” he says, “bought twenty editions of ‘The Epic of Hades,’ and left James Thomson and Richard Jeffreys to starve.” Were, then, the men of sounder judgment so few that they could not form a sufficient audience for Jeffreys and Thomson? Perhaps, after all, a man may not be a goose because he finds “The Epic of Hades” more pleasant reading than “The City of Dreadful Night.” If Mr. Buchanan is right, it is not wonderful that the authors he glorifies were insufficiently appreciated, for he says that he has only known two really sane men in his life—Walt Whitman and Herbert Spencer.

     Mr. Robert Buchanan says—“The literary profession is not ennobling,” because “the hunger for applause, the pursuit of fame, seldom elevates the character.” Cannot the same be said with more truthfulness and force of barristers, preachers, and politicians? A literary man can express his own individual thoughts, but the barrister takes a side because he is paid for it, and expresses the thoughts of others, to secure a victory, and is indifferent to the truth of his statements and arguments. It is worse still with the wordy but ambitious party politician, who can scarcely call his soul his own whilst he is under the double dominion of a majority of his constituency and of the party Whip. A literary man is a king in comparison.

___

 

The Sheffield Evening Telegraph (11 May, 1893 - p.3)

IS LITERATURE PLAYED OUT?”

     Mr. Robert Buchanan appears to have a fatal gift of disturbing hornets’ nests. The other day he wrote a very interesting account of the production and publication of his first two or three books, and in doing so communicated to the world a good deal of his early autobiography. His early life was unquestionably a great and heroic struggle to enter upon a literary career, and he looks back upon it now if not from a very high, at least from a satisfactory, literary position. As a result of his experience, he earnestly dissuades young men from attempting literature as a profession, and maintains that a literary life, as now pursued, is distinctly lowering to the moral tone. Accordingly some writers start the cry, “Is literature played out?” in the columns of the same journal where a kindred question with reference to Christianity was recently discussed. But the idea of literature ever being played out while the world lasts is very crude and amusing. What are all the idle young ladies to do if they have not their three volume novel? What are the middle-aged ones to do without their society gossip? How are men to drag on their existence without their morning newspaper? Given a great mind as a gift of nature to the world, and it will, in these days, run more or less into speech. There will always be too many fingers itching to wield the pen, for literature ever to become a lost art.—“Liverpool Mercury” (Liberal).

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Glasgow Herald (13 May, 1893)

THE question of “Literature as a Profession,” much agitated by that eminent professor thereof, Mr Andrew Lang, has been discussed mainly with reference to the pecuniary chances of authorship, but if Mr Robert Buchanan is right in what he says in the current number of the Idler we shall have to look seriously at the moral side of the business as well. Mr Buchanan, with all his wonted emphasis and acerbity, declares that literature is not only “the poorest and least satisfactory of all professions,” but even “one of the least ennobling,” and he affirms that, with a fairly extensive knowledge of the writers of his own period, he has “scarcely met one individual who has not deteriorated morally by the pursuit of literary fame.” The Muses, in fact, those very refined young ladies whose society has always been prescribed as so chastening and elevating, are, after all, it seems, no better than they should be, or such, at least, is the Puritanic testimony of Mr Buchanan. The critic of the “Fleshly School,” we know, was always a bit of a Puritan, notwithstanding such insignificant details as the “White Rose and Red,” and the fine old life on the border of Bohemia (made mention of in the Idler article), which “will not bear translation into contemporary English.” And now, apparently, that same steadfast Puritanism of his is taking a yet stronger development, and bringing him almost to the pitch of those Greenock magistrates who made poor John Wilson give up the “profane and unprofitable art of poem-making,” or of Landor’s Sir Thomas Lucy, mourning over the fall of Shakespeare—“A reputable wool-stapler’s son turned gipsy and poet for life!” Poor David Gray, we have to conclude, would have been better at the paternal shuttle, better perhaps even wagging his poetic and rather distended head in the pulpit of some outlandish Free Kirk. Nay, Mr Buchanan himself would have escaped a moral deterioration had he settled down to a desk in Glasgow, and never aspired to the altitudes of “London Poems” and “North Coast.”
     Mr Buchanan’s complaint, of course, is only another addition to the long jeremiad in which authors, from the very beginning of authorship, have lamented the hardships of their profession, and warned young aspirants against following the example themselves have set. The successful author’s advice to those about to go in for literature is invariably the same as Punch’s counsel to those about to marry— “Don’t.” It would seem as if he hated the thought of propagation of the literary species, and desired himself (perhaps not without much unconscious vanity) to be the last of the line. One, however, can understand these complaints of the precariousness of the literary profession—although, it is true, one does not find the successful barrister in a very parallel case warning off all would-be wearers of silk; but it is not easy to find any sense or justice in a caution against the “demoralising” influence of letters. Why the writing of books should be a less ennobling work than clerking or shopkeeping is a puzzle which Mr Buchanan does not help us to solve. “For complete literary success,” he says, “among contemporaries, it is imperative that a man should either have no real opinions or be able to conceal such as he possesses; that he should have one eye on the market and the other on the public journals; that he should humbug himself into the delusion that book-writing is the highest work in the universe, and that he should regulate his likes and dislikes by one law, that of expediency.” This, however, is not the way in which two of the most brilliant examples of literary success in the last half century, those of Carlyle and Ruskin, to go no further back, were achieved. No doubt there is in the literary career a temptation to sacrifice honest work to the demands of the market, and look only to expediency, but that temptation does not beset the litterateur alone.
     Mr Buchanan will have it that if the man of letters is in arms against anything that is rotten in society or in literature he must be silent; but that is the exact opposite of the truth. The world likes nothing better than to be told that it is going the way of perdition, and some of the most brilliant reputations among contemporaries—Carlyle and Ruskin are again examples—have been won by those who prophesied any but smooth things. Of course, everything depends on the way in which a man takes up his testimony; and if Mr Buchanan as a prophet has been unsuccessful he has nobody but himself to blame. A profession which counts the names of Johnson and Scott, of Thackeray and Dickens and Carlyle, among its votaries is not to be branded as a debasing one, even although Grub Street does lie within its confines. There is striving after unworthy aims in every calling, and he that is filthy in literature would be filthy still in the Stock Exchange or at the bar. It is quite possible for a litterateur in these days to tell the truth, do honest work, and live by it, and withal be as sane and manly as Pope imagined himself when he wrote to Arbuthnot—

“I pay my debts, believe, and say my prayers;
Can sleep without a poem in my head;
Nor know if Dennis be alive or dead.”

It is true that Pope was far from attaining his own ideal, and the same may be said of some poets who come far after him alike in rank and in time. But that is the fault not of the profession of letters, but of certain of its professors.

___

 

St. James’s Gazette (13 May, 1893 - p.12)

     Lamentations of the decadence of our literary day we are always listening to; but the latest and the unkindest is from Mr. Robert Buchanan. “Et ego fui in Bohemia,” sighs Mr. Buchanan in the Idler. “There were inky fellows and bouncing girls, then; now there are only fine ladies, and respectable, God-fearing men of letters.” Littery gents reduced both to cleanliness and godliness—it is a terrible indictment.

     Even as an inexperienced Scotch lad Mr. Buchanan saw at the first glance, he tells us, the whole unmistakeable humbug and insincerity of the literary life. Of all professions, he affirms, literature is the least ennobling. With a fairly extensive knowledge of the writers of his own period, he can honestly say that he has scarcely met one individual who has not deteriorated morally by the pursuit of literary fame. Literary persons who have not enjoyed the advantage of Mr. Buchanan’s personal acquaintance may find in this avowal some compensation for their otherwise lamentable loss. Mr. Buchanan, by the way, has subsequently explained in the Daily Chronicle that he has only known two sane men in his life, Walt Whitman and Mr. Herbert Spencer. Mr. Spencer must feel this a somewhat embarrassing distinction.

     Mr. Buchanan humorously complains that his choice of literature as a profession has involved him in life-long discomfort. That Mr. Buchanan should resent hostile criticism is most natural and most inconsistent, seeing how aggressive he has himself been in the hostile criticism of others. Mr. Buchanan prides himself on his dour and opinionated independence, and his soul is in arms against the rottenness of society and literature. Mr. Buchanan doubtless has done well to be angry; but does he recollect some remarks of Thackeray about the world’s attitude to Barnes Newcome? If you pull faces at the world, says Thackeray, the world will pull faces at you. Mr. Buchanan must not expect to play the double rôle of accusing angel and popular favourite. One regrets to gather from Mr. Buchanan’s allusions to “Westminster Abbey” and “the tendencies of the time,” also to “beautiful ideas” and Rugby School, that he is jealous of Tennyson’s fame, and has not yet forgiven Mr.  Matthew Arnold.

     Still Mr. Buchanan’s paper is lively reading, though he does not present a lively picture of the literary calling. Everybody who desires a fresher and pleasanter taste of the craft should read Mr. Davidson’s “Fleet-street Eclogues,” the specially poetic aspects whereof we had the pleasure of recommending early in the week. All the journalists’ moods are represented among these novel Arcadians, from the mood of

This trade we ply with the pen,
Unworthy of heroes or men,

to the mood of

We wear enchanted armour,
We wield enchanted swords.

Yet none of them seems any longer satisfied, as Johnson was, with his walk down Fleet-street. They all yearn for country sights and sounds, and hold the faith

             that when they come to die
Good press-men to the country go.

What would Charles Lamb say to this heresy?

___

 

The Leeds Mercury (13 May, 1893 - p.12)

ECHOES OF THE WEEK.

                                                                                                                   Friday. May 12th, 1893.

. . .

     Mr. Robert Buchanan is of opinion that authorship is a demoralising craft; and he writes to this month’s “Idler” to say that he heartily agrees with Mr. Grant Allen in his recent avowal that literature is the poorest and least satisfactory of all professions. “I will go,” says the perfervid Mr. B., “even further, and affirm that it is one of the least ennobling. With a fairly extensive knowledge of writers of my own period, I can honestly say that I have scarcely met one individual who has not deteriorated morally by the pursuit of literary fame.” Now, Mr. Robert Buchanan, I take it, is a famous literary man. I have not, to my knowledge, set eyes upon him for more than thirty years, when, if I remember aright, I gave him, when I was editor of “Temple Bar,” almost his earliest literary employment in London. I know nothing of him personally, and little about his writings, but I should be very sorry to learn that he had deteriorated morally by the pursuit of literary fame. So far as I am concerned, I have very few claims to literary celebrity; but I paid my rent last quarter-day, I am on the friendliest terms with my wine merchant, my butcher, and my baker; and I intend to pay my tailor before midsummer. If that be “moral deterioration,” I am a Dutchman.

     “It is an ill bird that fouls its own nest;” and to men of letters, who really have the interests of their profession at heart, and who are honestly anxious to maintain its dignity, it is at once distressing and disgusting to read the fussy effusions of over self-conscious literary men who, fancying themselves to be not sufficiently appreciated, disparage and vilify the calling for the ennobling character of which authors who are not fussy, and who are not perpetually fretting for public sympathy, are quietly and continually working. These bickerings and cavillings seem to me to be mainly of the nature of “bosh”; and when I hear of them, I always think of a favourite utterance of good old Mr. Robert Souttar, a well-known journalist of two generations since, who was for many years sub-editor of the “Morning Advertiser.” Whenever he heard any young Bohemians of his day grumbling and girding at the unthankfulness of the vocation to which they had given themselves, he was wont to say, “Bosh! Produce works, you beggars; produce works! That is what is for supper. Produce works—ill-conditioned and discontented scribes, produce works—and strive your hardest that they shall be works which posterity will not willingly let die.”
. . .
                                                                                                                               George Augustus Sala.

___

 

The Sheffield Evening Telegraph (15 May, 1893 - p.2)

ROBERT BUCHANAN’S YOUNGER DAYS.

     Mr. Robert Buchanan, in an autobiographical fragment just published, expresses the opinion that when he was a young man he “must have seemed conceited and ‘bounceable.’” “Figaro” thinks Mr. Buchanan need have no doubt on that point. If he has, let him turn up some of the anonymous articles he wrote for the reviews at that time, in which he occasionally managed to drag in his own name as being among the great poets of the day, although he was then a young and unknown versifier. A hobbledehoy in his teens who had the audacity to class himself with browning and Tennyson need have no misgivings as to whether he was conceited or not. Besides, is there not the delightful anecdote of John Murray which he himself tells. After Buchanan had had an interview with the great publisher, the latter remarked, “I don’t like that young man; he talked to me as if he was God Almighty—or Lord Byron!”

___

 

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph (17 May, 1893 - p.4)

     In the “Idler,” Mr. Robert Buchanan gives an interesting account of his early struggles and the birth of his first books. It is a characteristic medley of paradox and regretful reminiscences of one who, judging from the text and accompanying illustrations of his present lares and penates, has made the best of both worlds—the vanished Bohemia he regrets, and the present conventional monde he despises but enjoys. No doubt there are grounds for his piquantly frank and free out-of-the-ring criticism, and for his sarcastic suggestions of the weaknesses and dangers to art and literature of being too much afraid of middle-class Mrs. Grundy, and too anxious to bend the knee to “Society.” He may be read with profit by others than youthful aspirants of talent and genius who, fired with noble ambition for laureateship and Westminster Abbey, forget that the republic of letters has frequently given death through the key of the streets even to those since thought worthy of the barren honours of posthumous fame. By-the-by, the bard is surely out of date in classing among the necessities of pen-and-ink “respectability” that of saying “this country is the best of all possible countries.” Mr. Gladstone and minor austere public moralists obviously obtained a reputation for super-eminent righteousness by taking every opportunity of belittling and libelling England and its people.

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The Graphic (20 May, 1893 - p.13)

The World of Letters
_____

BY H. D. TRAILL
_____

. . .

     The Chicago Exhibition is to be signalised by what we are assured is the first Conference of Authors ever held, and by what will certainly be the first public discussion of one of the themes suggested for debate. I should, at least, imagine it to be pretty safe to say that no deliberative body has ever yet tackled the subject of “Poetry in the Twentieth Century”; and one can only hope that the exchange of views on the subject will be fruitful. It is sure to be animated—at least, if there are any poets of the nineteenth century present; and there can hardly fail to be at least half a dozen or so, unless the Conference is very small indeed.

     It must not be supposed, however, that all the subjects for discussion are as delightfully “viewy” as this. Most of them, on the contrary, are severely practical, and some of them full of stern monition for the Wicked Publisher; while the main object of the Conference—as is that of the Authors’ Society, which delegates Mr. Walter Besant and Mr. Sprigge as its representatives thereat—is to “maintain the worth and dignity of Letters.” One cannot say that the object is a bad one. It is true that the individual in private life who is always “maintaining his worth and dignity” is not usually of an ideally worthy and dignified type of character, and it were, no doubt, much to be preferred that literature, and those who follow it, should dispense with this sort of self-assertion.

     Unfortunately, however, we live in an age in which it seems impossible to attain the mean in anything except by the somewhat violent and barbarous method of opposing one extreme with another. Men and things have to be stinted of their due praise by the judicious in order to counteract the effect of the extravagant laudations of the foolish, and so to strike a sort of rough balance between the two. At times, though less frequently, the reverse operation becomes necessary; and it certainly looks as if just at the present moment the “worth and dignity of letters” could, as the vulgar phrase is, “do with” a little maintaining. One is getting a trifle tired of that cry which is just now being taken up by one successful literary person after another, and which Mr. Robert Buchanan has been the last to echo. The declamations of these gentlemen against the Art which has brought them fame and fortune strike me, I must confess, as mighty unbecoming. Why, there are scores of less fortunate contemporaries of theirs in London to-day following literature for love, and journalism for bread and cheese who would not think of speaking so ungraciously and ungratefully, even of the handmaid, as Mr. Buchanan and a still older offender are in the habit of speaking of the mistress.

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The Southern Reporter (1 June, 1893 - p.2)

THE LAUREATESHIP.

     Mr Lewis Morris has been commissioned to write yet another ode, though the warmest admirers of that genuinely great work, “The Epic of Hades,” cannot honestly applaud his efforts to ennoble the Imperial Institute by verbal eulogy. Mr Gladstone is presumably too busy to fill the vacant place of our lost Laureate. Meanwhile, Mr Robert Buchanan, with his usual courtesy, informs the public which read the Idler, that Lord Tennyson was not the true genius we ignorantly worshipped as “sole star of all the place and time.” Rumour has become tired of naming probable successors, but one does not imagine that Mr Buchanan would be an especially popular candidate. His grudging estimate of Tennyson is not likely to much effect any one. Perhaps he is of opinion that, in the immortal words of Mr W. S. Gilbert,

“You must stir it and stump it and blow your own trumpet,
If you want to get on in the world.”

___

 

Pall Mall Gazette (3 July, 1893 - p.2)

     On Saturday night, art and literature met and kissed each other and the Lord Mayor, in the persons of Sir Horace Davey, Q.C., Sir Henry Isaacs, Mrs. Perugini, Mr. Edmund Gosse, M.A., the Master of the Grocers’, Drapers’, Salters’, and Vintners’ Companies, Mr. Harry Quilter, Mr. Marcus Stone, R.A., Mr. Arthur à Beckett, Mr. McVicar Anderson, P.R.I.B.A., Mr. Alfred C. Calmour, Mr. Clement Scott, Mr. Aird, M.P., Mr. Jerome K. Jerome, Sir Henry Doulton, Mr. Holman Hunt, Mr. Soulsby, Mr. Theodore Watts, Mr. Newnes, M.P., and many other gentlemen, most of them with more or fewer letters after their names. Sir Frederic Leighton, P.R.A., Mr. Shaw Lefevre, M.P., and Mr. Goodall, R.A., were absent. The Lord Mayor, in proposing Art, regretted the President’s absence, but rejoiced at the presence of so many members of “that institution to which we look for the encouragement of talent exercised on the true principles of art.” The Lord Mayor, in proposing Literature, pointed out that literature is the principal and fundamental part of art, and that the Corporation has a Free Library. Mr. Horsley, R.A., Mr. McVicar Anderson, P.R.I., &c., as above, Professor Jebb, and others responded in appropriate terms. Owing to the unavoidable absence of Mr. Robert Buchanan, the toast of “Philistia” was not given. But it was a pity to leave it out, all the same.

___

 

Pall Mall Gazette (4 July, 1893 - p.5)

     Mr. Walter Besant, in commenting upon a recent paper by the irrepressible Scottish poet, playwright, novelist, and pamphleteer who has written under the names of Thomas Maitland and Robert Buchanan, makes an interesting confession. “There is one thing in my own experience,” he says, “on which I look back with great satisfaction. It is that I was able to resist the very great temptation to live by writing till such time—about eight years ago—when I thought myself justified in so doing. I then, and not till then, resigned a post which had for twenty years taken the cream of the day, and given me a certain independence.”
     Mr. Besant’s advice to young men who desire to take up literature as a profession recalls Sir Walter Scott’s remark that, while it was a good walking-stick, it was anything but a trustworthy crutch. “My own advice to a young man” (says the genial author of “All in a Garden Fair”) “would be, Do not attempt to live by literature. Earn a livelihood some other way. At all cost—at any cost—be independent of your literary work. There is hardly any kind of work which does not allow a man time for as much literary work and study as is good for him. Look at the men who have been journalists, civil servants, medical men, lawyers—anything. Be independent.”

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Sunderland Daily Echo (4 July, 1893 - p.2)

Mr Berry in Misery.

     The late hangman, Mr Berry, is a victim of our civilised institutions. We condemn men to death, and then, with a beautiful want of logic, we contemn the man who carries the sentence into effect. For Mr Berry we cannot call up much sympathy, as he resigned his post in favour of literature. But Mr Robert Buchanan can point to him as another example of the miseries of men of letters.

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Pall Mall Gazette (13 July, 1893 - p.5)

     Mr. Robert Buchanan—tardily, it is true, but vigorously, and in his own manner—has replied to certain criticisms recently passed upon a paper of his by Mr. Walter Besant. We cannot agree with the enthusiastic young man of the Chronicle—in which journal Mr. Buchanan’s effusion appears—in thinking that “Mr. Besant’s ears ought to tingle.” Because a soured and disappointed man chooses to describe the literary profession as “mean, snobbish, and ill-paid,” is no reason why more genial and more successful writers should either exhibit wrath or cease to possess their souls in patience. And in this light Mr. Besant will, no doubt, regard the matter.
     Mr. Buchanan’s letter, however, is interesting—especially those portions of it in which he speaks of himself. “I have never stood up in the market-place cackling over either losses or gains; I have never taken off my hat to any bogus reputation; and I have chosen in preference to joining any clique of authors or logrollers, the liberty of speaking my mind—with the result that the whole tribe of professional literary men have been up in arms against me.” And again: “I have earned and lost large sums of money, but I have never, up to date, discovered that literature and lucre are convertible terms. It is not for my pen to proclaim what the hand which holds it has done, but I could stake my oath that I have fed more mouths, and helped more struggling comrades, than all the Societies of Authors put together. I care little for Fame, and less for Money. I have known too many famous men to respect them, and too many rich men to envy them.” Happy Mr. Robert Buchanan! But why, if in so blessed a condition, be so querulous?

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The Sheffield Evening Telegraph (14 July, 1893 - p.3)

     There is in this morning’s “Chronicle” a characteristic letter bespattered with capitals on “Literature and Lucre” by Robert Buchanan, who is always ready to tilt his lance no matter what the cause. To-day he wishes “to emphasise the fact that the pursuit of mere Fame is fully as demoralising as the pursuit of mere Money,” and he points the moral with numerous illustrations. Browning, for instance, according to Leigh Hunt, “hungered eagerly for the praise of even his washerwoman.” It may have been so, but in the case of authors without either Money or Fame, the washerwoman is generally understood to be quite as hungry for payment as her client is for praise.

     Mr. Buchanan on this occasion holds a brief for the Publisher, and contends that “the only real enemy of Genius is public stupidity,” which is another way of saying that the world knows nothing of its greatest men. But Publishers are different; again and again they have “helped the struggler, boiled the pot, guided the improvident, and sympathised with the deserving. There may be rascally Publishers; there are also rascally Authors. It is quite a mistake, at any rate, to regard the Writer of Books as a benignly innocent creature, absolutely at the mercy of Book-dealers and other Birds of Prey.” Certainly no one would be foolish enough to so regard Mr. Robert Buchanan.

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