ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)
ROBERT BUCHANAN AND THE MAGAZINES
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.
My First Book
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?
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).
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.”
“I pay my debts, believe, and say my prayers;
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,
to the mood of
We wear enchanted armour,
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
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.”
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.
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.
The Sketch (24 May, 1893 - p.22)
Has any philosopher of common things ever turned his attention to the classification of back-yards as seen from the railway? ...
And I really cannot see why the weekly wash of No. 57, Bloggins Street, properly understood, should not be as helpful and as interesting a spectacle as that glimpse into his back-yard which many a literary man nowadays is but too anxious to afford to all men. What a vision, for instance, has this month’s Idler given us of Mr. Robert Buchanan’s mental back-yard and intellectual clothes-line? Not that there is anything new or unknown in the views he expresses on literature; but there is a certain primitive piquancy in coming on them unexpectedly, without the prefatory passage through the front garden.
The Southern Reporter (1 June, 1893 - p.2)
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,
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.”
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.
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.
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.
The Grantham Journal (30 January, 1897 - p.3)
... “The Quintessence of Impudence” is the title of another militant contribution, in which Robert Buchanan champions the modern Drama against the masterpieces of contemporary fiction. He says some very hard things of those novels of the season—“Weir of Ormiston” and “The Sorrows of Satan,” and holds that the playwrights of the day do not deserve the reproaches levelled at them. It is a good fighting paper—as interesting to the layman as to the professional.
Pall Mall Gazette (3 February, 1897 - p.1)
An article by Mr. Robert Buchanan on “The Quintessence of Impudence” mightily takes our fancy. We do not agree with Mr. Buchanan, but we like a man to be trenchant. His complaint is that somebody has compared contemporary plays unfavourably with contemporary novels. So Mr. Buchanan examines recent fiction. “Weir of Hermiston”—he calls it “Weir of Ormiston”—is “a crude and singularly coarse schoolboy exercise, without one original note, without real virility, without adequacy of conception or individuality of execution.” . . . . . “And, putting aside fiction for a moment, what other offering has Literature given us? For poetry we have had the raucous cry of the Cockney Jingo, in a collection of ballads worthy of the worst instincts of the naked savage . . . for popular belles lettres we have had the Poet-Laureate’s account of his back garden and the Penny Classics as appraised by Mr. Stead!” We are not at one with Mr. Robert Buchanan, but his agreeable little appreciations are pleasant to read.
The Aberdeen Weekly Journal (17 February, 1897 - p.2)
Mr Robert Buchanan is running amok again, remarks a writer in the “National Observer.” It is long since he made any deliverance on a literary subject, being perhaps too much occupied in the making of plays and novels. But now, in the pages of the “Theatre” magazine, he is quite in his old vein. “The quintessence of impudence,” he declares, “is surely reached when the self-constituted judges of the modern drama reproach that popular form of Art with its inferiority to the masterpieces of contemporary fiction! The finest sort of ‘well-made’ play, “he contends, “must be to a certain extent a work of art, in so far as it must be fashioned under more or less artistic restrictions, while the modern story or novel is, under any circumstances, the most formless and inchoate structure as yet tolerated or spared by destructive criticism.”
The Voice of The Hooligan
The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent (29 November, 1899 - p.5)
In the pursuit of my profession as a journalist it has been my hard fate to hear five public recitals of the “Absent-Minded Beggar.” I am therefore, perhaps, in a fit frame of mind to feel keen sympathy for Mr. Robert Buchanan in the protest which he makes in the “Contemporary Review” for December against what he calls “the voice of the Hooligan” in literature. Of course the protest will be set down to Mr. Buchanan’s jealousy of Kipling’s popularity, but I am bound to say I meet with many cultured people who, not being writers of poetry and having no motive for jealousy whatever, are yet very much of Mr. Buchanan’s opinion. “Mr. Kipling’s muse,” says Mr. Buchanan, “alternates between two extremes—the lower Cockney vulgarity and the very height of what Americans call high-falutin; so that when it is not setting the teeth on edge with the vocabulary of the London Hooligan it is raving in capital letters about the seraphim and the pit, and the maidens nine and the planets.” Mr. Buchanan is cynic enough to admit that he is scarcely surprised to find the spirit and language of Hooliganism in our newspapers, but what he mourns is that the noisy strains and coarse importations of the music-hall should be heard where the fountains of intellectual light and beauty once played, where Chaucer and Shakespeare once drank inspiration, and where Wordsworth, Hood, and Shelley found messages for the yearning hearts of men.
The Morning Post (30 November, 1899 - p.3)
Mr. Robert Buchanan has often felt himself impelled to make exaggerated attacks, in prose or in verse, on his contemporaries who live by their pens. Never, however, has he been more virulent than in his assault on Mr. Kipling in the current number of the Contemporary Review. That Mr. Buchanan should have been the person to protest against the unreserve of language and descriptive passages in certain of Mr. Kipling’s books is perhaps strange enough, but when he abuses the author and his readers in the unmeasured strain seen in his present article he launches a boomerang which, if we consider the delight with which Mr. Kipling’s work is read by thousands on thousands of his countrymen, is as certain to recoil on its thrower as it is to leave the object of his aim entirely unaffected in his hold on popular esteem.
The Morning Post (30 November, 1899 - p.6)
The word “Hooligan” is still so new as to be hardly discoverable in slang dictionaries, yet we are all sadly familiar with its meaning. To put the matter briefly, the “Hooligan” is a youth who does no honest work, who lives by theft, and loves violence for its own sake. He is assuredly a born criminal, and, if we were to accept the theories of the ultra-humane, we should be compelled to regard him as a criminal lunatic and in now wise responsible for his deeds, since his extremest outrages are commonly without any adequate cause. He has rendered his name redoubtable in many of the London suburbs; but it remained for Mr. ROBERT BUCHANAN to discover that he has at last made himself master of the London Press. Mr. BUCHANAN has never been particularly famous for his praise of his own times, but it now appears that he does clearly remember a period when Englishmen were filled with noble ideals and bore a name of which a self- respecting man could be proud. All that is changed now. One might quote, by way of proof, almost any passage from the article on “The Voice of the Hooligan,” which he contributes to the current number of the Contemporary Review; that which follows is not especially distinguished by the moderation of its tone, but, at any rate, is a sample taken neither from the top nor the bottom of the basket. It represents, in fact, the average, except that Mr. BUCHANAN happens at this point to be rather “more than usual calm.: “The Mob, promised a merry time by the governing classes, just as the old Roman mob was deluded by bread and pageants—panem et circenses—(sic)—dances merrily to patriotic War tunes, while that modern monstrosity and anachronism, the Conservative Working Man, exchanges his birthright of freedom and free thought for a pat on the head from any little rump-fed lord that steps his way and spouts the platitudes of Cockney patriotism. The Established Church, deprived of the conscience which accompanied honest belief, supports nearly every infamy of the moment in the name of the Christianity which it has long since shifted quietly overboard.” Mr. BUCHANAN goes on to explain that the Press is as corrupt as the nation for which it speaks, and that the popularity of Mr. RUDYARD KIPLING is entirely due to the fact that he has prostituted great talents in order to outdo the journalists at their own game. Now, we are not concerned to argue with Mr. BUCHANAN as to the merits of the work of Mr. KIPLING. He once found indecency in ROSSETTI’S “Jenny”; and, after that, who shall say what terrible qualities he may be able to find in such things as “The Man who would be King,” “Without Benefit of Clergy,” and “Mandalay?” As a matter of fact, he does actually discover some merit in “Mandalay,” though he is clearly ignorant of the fact that it was published long before the “Jungle Books” were ever heard of. Yet for the most part he looks on Mr. KIPLING as a mere disaster. We can only say in reply that the British, where they were clearly given to understand the questions at issue, have been ever guided by lofty ideals. Sometimes they have been led astray by the exhibition of false lights. For example, there was a considerable period when large numbers of the people were induced to admire the ignominious policy adopted by Mr. GLADSTONE after Majuba Hill. But there is usually some authoritative voice on the right side, and in the end it gets listened to. At the present moment, for example, we know, thanks to these “Hooligan voices,” that the war is a thing we are bound to carry to its proper end. Many of us cannot offer our lives, and there are few who hope to gain any personal advantage when the British Flag flies over Pretoria. Still, we have been taught that it is necessary to fight when circumstances demand the adoption of such a course; and that the men who stay in these islands owe a heavy debt to those who go to the front. There is not a man who would boast of what he has done, for there is no credit to be gained by a mere discharge of duty. Yet Mr. BUCHANAN need only look at the subscription lists which have been published to know that there are still ideals among us. All sorts and conditions of people have given liberally, and does he think that none of them has given more than he could afford without some self-sacrifice? They have done it in the weeks that are past, and they will go on doing it so long as the war lasts, not because they have any hope of personal gain, but simply and solely because they have learned that this is their duty. Mr. ROBERT BUCHANAN may hold, if it pleases him, that these facts are altogether lamentable. For ourselves, we rejoice in them whole-heartedly, and we are not more grateful to Mr. RUDYARD KIPLING for his magnificent stories and poems than for the fact that they have helped to make men understand that they must pay for the privilege of being British citizens, and that they must once and for all forget what it is to grumble when there is business afoot.
The Boston Sunday Globe (3 December, 1899)
“Popularity Has Sprung From Lowest
LONDON, Dec 2—Robert Buchanan fiercely attacks Rudyard Kipling in the Contemporary Review in an article entitled “The Voice of the Hooligan.”
The World (New York) (4 December, 1899 - p.6)
BUCHANAN ON KIPLING.
Rudyard Kipling is beyond question the most conspicuous of living writers of English. The attitude of the discriminating reading public toward him reminds one of a famous remark of Sydney Smith’s. Some one asked Smith if he had read a now-forgotten but then for the moment everywhere-read novel. “No,” replied Smith. “I have been waiting in hope it would blow over.” Still, Kipling has not missed those who do not mistake eccentricity for style, or the reckless energy of mental youth for strength and reserve power, or impertinence for virility. He has appealed to that large class which reads merely “for the plot” and is not over-particular about fidelity to nature or to art. And he has been exploited by all the little critics who write platitudes in the conventional literary “slang” and fancy they are recording the judgments of posterity.
The Boston Globe (4 December, 1899 - p.7)
UNDER THE ROSE.
. . .
Robert Buchanan makes a fierce “literary” attack, in London, upon Kipling. He says Rudyard is not much of a poet, and he wants to know who this Kipling is, anyway.
The Sandusky Star (6 December, 1899)
POEM ON THE BOER WAR.
About a Drummer Boy Who Was
In a recent issue of Today of London appeared a long poem dealing with the Anglo-Boer war from the pen of Mr. Robert Buchanan. The first and last verses give a fair idea of the spirit of the poem, which related the adventures of a small drummer boy who was captured in the last Boer campaign, but kindly treated by the Boers.
“Boys, give the divil his due. He’s a man like me and you,
The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent (6 December, 1899 - p.4)
THE PLAINT OF THE HYPER-SENSITIVE.
The person of over-strung literary susceptibilities is not always audible in our midst; but now and then he raises a prolonged and piercing wail of protest against what he regards as our national literary degeneracy. There has always been a certain number of people who consider the age in which they live as a debased and demoralised age, and who say so in unmistakable language. In some ages these protests are justified; in others they are not. They occasionally crop up in our own. There is a lively example of them in the current “Contemporary Review”—an attack by Mr. Robert Buchanan on things in general, and on Mr. Kipling in particular. In Mr. Buchanan’s eyes Mr. Kipling typifies the baseness and grossness of the time; he “adumbrates,” in Mr. Buchanan’s own words, “all that is most deplorable, all that is most retrograde and savage, in the restless and uninstructed Hooliganism of the age.” Before opening fire on Mr. Kipling, Mr. Buchanan devotes a few pages to our present universal depravity. All our high ideals have gone. We have “repudiated the Enthusiasm of Humanity altogether and exchanged for it the worship of physical force and commercial success in any and every form.” This is just the sort of thing that anybody could have said at any time within the last hundred years with just as much truth, or as little truth, as Mr. Buchanan, who says it just now. It is the popular theory of the “good old times” expressed in terms of culture. We know so much more of the goodness of these old times than of their badness, nay, those who are old remember so much more of their goodness than their badness, that evidence on this point is seldom impartial or reliable. It is quite accurate to say that the people of the present age are not perfect; they are decidedly not perfect. But they compensate for their imperfections by certain good qualities which are not inherited, or which at any rate have improved as they have been handed down. But to return to Mr. Buchanan. He makes an attack on the Newspaper Press—no Jeremiah is complete without an attack on the Newspaper Press—and a protest against the British disposition to new conquests of territory and constant acts of aggression. Undoubtedly, the British race acquires territory; it cannot help it. It has been acquiring territory for centuries; and it is only just finding out what a quantity of territory it possesses, and what is its mission in regard to that territory. Our Society, says Mr. Buchanan, is rotten; our statesmen are unworthy of the slightest respect; the Established Church supports “nearly every infamy of the moment in the name of the Christianity which it long ago shifted quietly overboard”—rather vehement this, even for Mr. Buchanan; and our popular literature has been in many of its manifestations long past praying for.” Now we get to Mr. Kipling. Mr. Buchanan does not deny that his pet aversion has ability of a sort; indeed, he condescends to approve loftily of the “Jungle Books.” But the chief object of hatred in Mr. Kipling’s poems is the volume of “Barrack-Room Ballads.” The majority of these are, in Mr. Buchanan’s opinion, “descriptive of whatever is basest and most brutal in the character of the British mercenary.” Now Mr. Kipling’s endeavour has been to depict British as they are, good, bad, or indifferent; and British soldiers, on Mr. Kipling’s authority, are not plaster saints. The “Ballads” are not intended to be classics; they aim at brisk realism, and they succeed in their object. The language and the manners of Tommy Atkins are not pleasing to the sensitive soul; but Mr. Kipling has shown him to be decidedly human, a sinner in various respects, but a good fellow taken altogether. Mr. Buchanan is not wrong in taking exception to the dialect used by Mr. Kipling’s Tommies; for soldiers are certainly not all Cockneys. But to look upon the “Barrack-Room Ballads” as sheer brutality and vulgarity is unjust. Mr. Ruskin has told us how at one time in his early years he took a disgust to Shakespeare on account of the brutality of the tragedies, and how he recovered from that disgust. Mr. Kipling is by no means a Shakespeare, but nevertheless he deserves fair play. “The Seven Seas” comes in for treatment almost as severe as the “Barrack-Room Ballads”; and over “Stalky and Co.” Mr. Buchanan lashes himself into an insane fury. He concludes with a terrific denunciation of the kind of Imperialism preached by Mr. Kipling. It indicates “a fierce and quasi-savage militant spirit,” and Mr. Buchanan proceeds to say that “no honest thinker can combat the assertion that we have exhibited lately, in our dealings with others, a greed of gain, a vainglory, a cruelty, and a boastful indifference to the rights of others,” etc. This is sheer violent rubbish, the creed of Morleyism preached by a Mad Mullah. To say that such a state of things exists is as wrong as to say that Mr. Kipling would have such a state of things exist. Mr. Kipling, with all his faults—and they are many—has done much that is good. He has sung of an Empire that is great not merely because it is strong, but because it is free; he has sung of order, duty, and unswerving swift obedience to the law; he has told us to humble ourselves at thought of our mighty heritage; he has praised the virtues of self-sacrifice, truthfulness, and silent toil. Is this a man whose writings can be dismissed, as Mr. Buchanan dismisses them, as “characterised by brutality and latent baseness?”
The Nottingham Evening Post (7 December, 1899 - p.2)
CRITICISING MR. KIPLING.
Mr. Robert Buchanan, in the Contemporary, goes for Mr. Rudyard Kipling. He attributes the sudden vogue of Mr. Kipling’s early stories and verses to two influences: “The utter apathy of general readers, too idle or uninstructed to study any works of length, or demanding any contribution of serious thought on the reader’s part, and eager for any amusement which did not remind them of the eternal problems which ever beset Humanity”; and, secondly, to the spirit of Greater Englandism, or Imperialism. Mr. Buchanan does not mince matters. Referring to the poem, “An Imperial Rescript,” he caustically remarks, “Here, as elsewhere, he is on the side of all that is ignorant, selfish, base, and brutal in the instincts of Humanity.” “On the side of” is surely a little rough. Was Shakespeare on the side of drunkenness and profligacy because he represented a Falstaff, or of treacherous villany because he painted an Iago?
The Church Times (8 December, 1899)
The Contemporary Review is a distinctly strong and interesting number. ... Our own authorities, with their eyes open, have allowed the Boers to complete their preparations against us, and not until the last moment have formulated a counter-plan. Mr. Robert Buchanan employs his wealth of invective in showing up Mr. Rudyard Kipling as the vates sacer of Hooliganism. That the writer of the Recessional should prostitute his great gifts in writing bloodthirsty and profane barrack-room ballads is deplorable enough, but Mr. Buchanan is the last man in the world to convince us of Mr. Kipling’s naughtiness. For, in Mr. Buchanan’s judgment, we are all of us Hooligans—the Government, the Church of England, the gentle poet-primate of all Ireland, and the British public generally. Mr. Buchanan must chasten his tongue, if he would persuade us. ...
The Gloucester Citizen (9 December, 1899 - p.3)
Mr. J. M. Barrie’s new play may after all be Jacobite in character. His admirers who deny him any capacity for historical romance will hear this news with foreboding. He is to have a very handsome cheque on accounts shortly, though he has not yet put pen to paper. Another item of literary intelligence may wring the heartstrings of Mr. Robert Buchanan, whose favourite literary society in Scotland has invited the “Grand Hooligan of Literature” to deliver an address to the members on “Patriotism.” It said that a fee of £500 has been proferred to Mr. Kipling for the occasion. If he visits Scotland he will probably stay with Lord Rosebery at Dalmeny.
The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent (9 December, 1899 - p.6)
ODDS AND ENDS.
[BY OUR OWN CYNIC.]
Pardon me if I say that I am becoming very weary indeed of “The Absent-minded Beggar.” I dare not go to places of entertainment for fear of hearing it recited; references to it appear daily in every newspaper; and people quote it who never quoted poetry in their lives before. It is by far the most popular poem that Mr. Kipling has ever written; and it is indubitably one of the poorest. It serves its purpose, and that purpose is a most humane and admirable one. I do not deny its usefulness; but I do deny its literary merit. Probably if it had possessed literary merit, it would have failed to catch the public ear. The verses, I admit, are comprehensible and to the point; but they have none of the power, the expressiveness, and the melody of some of Mr. Kipling’s earlier patriotic poems. They are slangy, and the slang has none of the pungent picturesqueness which makes the “Barrack-Room Ballads” a delight except to particularly squeamish readers like Mr. Robert Buchanan. As to the refrain, it is simply vile; there is no other word for it. “Duke’s son—cook’s son—son of a hundred Kings”—could anything be jerkier or more unmelodious? “Cook” has been selected because it is supposed to rhyme with “Duke”; and it doesn’t rhyme with “Duke.” Then why drag in Lambeth publicans? What proportion of the men serving in South Africa are the sons of cooks or Lambeth publicans? Again, why should our soldiers, any more than any other class of men, be described collectively as “absent-minded beggars”? They are no more absent-minded than anybody else. There is no fitness about the name. The poem, as I said, serves a useful purpose; it brings in money for a good cause. But when the war is over and Tommy resumes responsibility for his wife and kids, I trust that “The Absent-minded Beggar” will disappear into obscurity. It is not for Mr. Kipling’s good that it should live.
The Guardian (13 December, 1899)
The Contemporary opens with a paper on the military situation by “An Officer,” who emphasises the widely felt necessity of a serious addition to the permanent strength of our army, in view of what war with a couple of petty States has meant. More justly may-be than he thinks Mr. Robert Buchanan labels a bitter attack on Mr. Rudyard Kipling “The Voice of the Hooligan,” the literary manner of hooligans being by no means confined to jingoes. Mr. Buchanan has discovered that—
The Independent (14 December, 1899)
One of the most striking papers in the Contemporary is that of Robert Buchanan entitled “The Voice of the Hooligan,” which is really a very keen review of Rudyard Kipling’s literature of the barracks. We are not prepared to endorse all Mr. Buchanan’s views. But it was certainly high time that something should be said relative to this new style of Jingo poem and story. It is very difficult to understand how the same man who has written the second verse of the “Absent-minded Beggar” can be the author of the “Recessional” ode. That ode is full of fine sentiment, and sentiment which in the present tone of warlike feeling needs to be specially impressed upon our people. But all Mr. Rudyard Kipling’s other work would almost seem intended to efface the impressions which those stirring verses had made. Mr. Buchanan has here addressed himself to the subject, and he has certainly done it with an unsparing hand. “Stalky & Co.” is one of the principal subjects of his animadversion, but he deals also with Mr. Kipling’s works in general. If he does his literary merits less than justice, some excuse may at all events be found in the exaggeration on the opposite side. The reaction was sure to come, and if it has gone a little, perhaps a great deal, too far, the swing of the pendulum is pretty sure to keep the balance tolerably right.
“THE KIPLING CRAZE.—A NATIONAL SCANDAL.”
To the Editor of the Hereford Times
SIR,—Because Mr Robert Buchanan, who has ere this done yeoman service in the cause of sweetness and light and who formerly most rightly stigmatised Mr Kipling’s deplorable ethics as those of “A mother-naked savage,” has now amplified his former fugitive reflections into a powerful indictment of that Veiled Prophet of evil, that vile influence that has been wafted to this country from India like a deadly malaria to settle on the national vitals, he has become the butt of certain puny whipsters in the press who seem to imagine that he stands alone in the matter. This being so I shall endeavour by various extracts to show that Mr Buchanan is by no means the first writer of eminence who has strongly reprehended the worst features of Kiplingese, that his article in a current “Contemporary,” destined, I trust, to a like immortality with Macaulay’s on Robert Montgomery, is mainly a particularly well-pounded pemmican of views previously expressed or adumbrated.
Daily Mail (2 January, 1900 - p.3)
WHY WE LOVE KIPLING.
Mr. Robert Buchanan’s unmeasured and ill-mannered attack on Mr. Rudyard Kipling is well answered in the new issue of the “Contempoary Review” by Sir Walter Besant.
The Daily Gleaner (Jamaica) (10 January, 1900 - p.4)
Mr. Robert Buchanan, in the current number of the Contemporary Review, is responsible for a remarkable jeremiad on the subject of the British public’s “present wild orgy of militant savagery” in general and Mr. Rudyard Kipling in particular. He calls his article “The Voice of the Hooligan.” Of course he means Mr. Kipling, but most readers will think it is Mr. Buchanan who is the real Hooligan—for he knocks Mr. Kipling down and jumps on him as savagely as any Seven Dials loafer administering discipline to his wife. He calls Mr. Kipling brutal, savage, indecent, disgusting, cockney, and a score of like adjectives; and says of “Stalky & Co.” that “it is simply impossible to show by mere quotations the horrible vileness of the book.” It goes without saying that Mr. Buchanan sees nothing in the present outburst of patriotism throughout the British Empire but “the love of conquest” and “the spirit of mercenary militarism.” One thing is certain. Neither the British Empire nor Mr. Kipling will pay any more attention to him than a bulldog does to a puppy yapping at his heels.