ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)
ROBERT BUCHANAN AND THE MAGAZINES
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.
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.
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.
Donne The Metaphysician
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.
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.
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.
George Heath, The Moorland Poet
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
Dead! dead! ’mongst the winter’s dearth,
None of the people will heed it or say,
No one will think of the dream-days lost,
No one will raise me a marble, wrought
My life will go on to the limitless tides,
The glories will gather and change as of yore,
But thou, who art dearer than words can say,
I shall want thee to dream me my dream all through—
And, Edith, come thou in the blooming time—
And bend by the silently settling heap,
And look in thy heart circled up in the past,
Encirqued with the light of the pale regret,
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.”
Mr. John Morley’s Essays
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.
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.
The Fleshly School Of Poetry: Mr. D. G. Rossetti
Reviews of Buchanan’s original article are available in the Fleshly School Controversy section of the site.
Glasgow Herald (10 February, 1872)
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,
‘The Holy Supper is spread within,
The supper wine is poured at last,
Criticism as One of the Fine Arts
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.
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
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?”
“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.
Pity the Poor Drama!
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.
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.
Prose and Verse
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.
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.
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!”
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!
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.”
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.
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.
Free Thought in America
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.
The Modern Young Man As Critic
Pall Mall Gazette (16 March 1889 - p.3)
[Note: A long ‘review’ of Buchanan’s essay, mainly consisting of extracts, is available here.]
St. James’s Gazette (16 March 1889 - pp.3-4)
[Note: A similar review to the above is available here.]
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.
The Daily Telegraph (19 March, 1889 - p.5)
IN a vivacious and introspective paper contributed to the “Universal Review” under the title of “The Modern Young Man as Critic,” Mr. ROBERT BUCHANAN frankly confesses that he does not know what the subject of his essay is coming to. The young man of his own early experience, he observes, was “feather-headed, but earnest; impulsive and uninstructed, but sympathetic and occasionally studious; though his faults were many, lack of conviction was certainly not one of them. He dreamed wildly of fame, of fair women, or beautiful books; and when he read the masters, he despaired. A great thought, even a fine phrase, stirred him like a trumpet. . . . The heaven of his literary infancy lay around him. Out in the darkened streets he met the sunny smile of DICKENS, and down among the English lanes he listened to the nightingales of KEATS and TENNYSON. But now, with the passing of one brief generation, the world has changed; the youth who was a poet and a dreamer has departed, and the modern young man has arisen to take his place. A saturnine young man, a young man who has never dreamed a dream or been a child, a young man whose days have been shadowed by the upas-tree of modern pessimism, and who is born to the heritage of flash cynicism, and cheap science—of literature which is less literature than criticism run to seed.” Having set forth thus incisively his generic definition of the modern young man as critic, Mr. BUCHANAN proceeds to classify him in a very painstaking manner, subdividing his “types” under the following headings: “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.” All these young men, as the essayist points out, have “drifted” into literature, and have certain characteristics in common, although there is an immeasurable distance between the distinction and culture of type number one and the unkempt barbarity of type number five. One and all, they sport “an easy air of omniscience in dealing with the great problems of life and thought, an assumption of complete familiarity with the ‘facts’ of existence, an open or secret disrespect for average ideals, a constitutional hatred of ‘conventional morality,’ and ‘imagination,’ and, above all, a general air of never having been really young, of never having loved or worshipped, or been mastered by, anything or anybody, on the earth or above it.” Some of Mr. BUCHANAN’S illustrations of his “types” are sketched with singular felicity. His superfine young man is so omniscient as to have no clear opinion at all upon any subject. This variety of critic is bent upon convincing us, at any expense, that he sees every side of a question, and, “in the eagerness of this desire, is paralysed out of all conviction.” The sort of psychological analysis indulged in by the detrimental young man is exemplified by reference to certain contemporary French works of the FLAUBERT school, such as “Un Crime d’Amour” and “Cruelle Ënigme,” the authors of which only “escape dulness by choosing subjects which, though trivial, are suggestive or unclean.”
The Graphic (30 March, 1889)
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.
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.
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.
The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent (10 April, 1889 - p.4)
[BY OUR OWN GOSSIP.]
. . .
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.
The Glasgow Herald (20 April, 1889 - p.5)
OUR LONDON CORRESPONDENCE.
65 FLEET STREET,
. . .
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.
The Modern Drama and its Minor Critics
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.”
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.
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.”
The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent (Monday, 20 January, 1890 - p.4)
AMERICA DAY BY DAY.
[FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT.]
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.
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.
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