ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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LETTERS TO THE PRESS (6)

 

Shook and Collier

 

The Era (5 January, 1889 - p.8)

     ON Wednesday Judge Laurence awarded a verdict of $945 to Messrs Shook and Collier, the former managers of the Union-square Theatre, in their suit to recover the £150 advance paid by them to Mr Robert Buchanan, the playwright, in 1884, for an American society drama. The play, which was called A Heir in Spite of Himself, did not correctly depict society life here, the managers held, and the jury found in their favour.

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The Era (2 March, 1889 - p.9)

THE DRAMA IN AMERICA.
(FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.)

     NEW YORK, MONDAY, FEB. 18.—

. . .

     SOME time since Messrs Shook and Collier recovered $1,135.13 from Mr Robert Buchanan in their suit against him for the advance payment to him on account of the American society play he was to furnish them for the Union-square Theatre, and which they refused to accept on the ground that it was not an American society play. Hitherto, efforts to recover any of the amount have been vain. Recently, however, it was discovered that the production of Partners was under a contract by which Mr Buchanan received five per cent. of the gross receipts, and that $588 was here belonging to him. On Saturday an order was procured from Judge O’Brien requiring Mr Buchanan to show cause why a receiver of his property should not be appointed. In this order the playwright is referred to as an insolvent debtor.

___

 

The Era (9 March, 1889)

THE AMERICAN MANAGER, OLD STYLE.
_____

TO THE EDITOR OF THE ERA.

     Sir,—America is still a long way off, and American ways, especially in the matter of law, are still far beyond the comprehension of purblind Europeans. The paragraph contained in your issue of to-day, and stating that a certain Judge O’Brien has issued an order to attach certain monies of mine at the suit of Messrs Shook and Collier, late of the Union- square Theatre, needs a little explanation.
     It appears, then, that during my absence from America a certain suit, which I thought had long been abandoned as ridiculous, has been decided against me. Several years ago I was requested by Messrs Shook and Collier to write them a play, and on my agreeing to do so they paid me a small earnest-fee of $750, requesting me at the same time to come out to New York City and superintend the production. Having other business in that quarter, I set sail in due course, and found on my arrival that, in defiance of my contract, a play by an American writer was already in preparation to open the season. I interviewed a gentleman sitting in his shirtsleeves in the near neighbourhood of a well-known “bar,” and was taken by him to interview an elderly gentleman-farmer living in retirement far up the Hudson River. These were Messrs Shook and Collier, theatrical managers. A very little observation enabled me to discover that these gentlemen, having discovered, as they thought, a gold-mine in a “native” drama for which they would have to pay very little, meant to throw me over. With this determination they got me to run through the rough draft of my play, and on that hint, informed me that it would not “suit” their theatre. I was not dissatisfied with this decision, as I had in the meantime had an opportunity of discovering that their management was going fast to the dogs; but when, a little later, the gentleman in the shirtsleeves demanded back my earnest money, I refused to “deliver.” Action at law followed. Messrs Shook and Collier, in the sweet spirit of Yankee law, tried to attach my effects in prospect of an issue in their favour; but as they were unable or unwilling to give bonds on their side, nothing came of this vexatious proceeding. By-and-by the active partner of the firm approached me again and asked me if I would dramatise for him “Our Mutual Friend,” making a leading part of the Doll’s Dressmaker, and concluding with what he called “an allegory”—meaning, as I found, an apotheosis. This I declined, but, in a moment of pity for the condition of his business, I showed him Alone in London, which he decided would not suit “American audiences.” The lawsuit ebbed away and was forgotten. Alone in London was produced by me in Philadelphia, and immediately secured by Col. Sinn, of Brooklyn, with a result which is well known, and may be best described in the statement that Col. Sinn is the possessor of a “running” theatrical gold-mine, while Mr Shook has sunk into private obscurity, and Mr Collier is occupied, I believe, in the congenial pursuit of managing, not a theatre, but a Turkish Bath.
     I did not expect to hear any more of Messrs Shook and Collier, and was rather surprised, when Partners was produced at the Haymarket a year ago, to receive a cablegram from Mr Collier, asking me to let him have the American rights. Curious to know if he was in a position to treat for a theatrical property, I cabled back demanding the usual deposit, and received a reply to the effect that he “could not pay anything down,” but would give a large “percentage.” I heard nothing more of my retired managers till, a few weeks ago, I saw in your columns a paragraph that Messrs Shook and Collier had recovered some thousand dollars from me on the score of that old suit. The affair had been decided against me on the showing that I had contracted to supply the partners with “a drama of American society,” and “had not done so.” Of course, in my absence, Messrs Shook and Collier had it all their own way. Up to the hour of writing I have received no official intimation of the judgment, but in a letter received from my friend Mr A. M. Palmer a few days ago, I am informed that any outstanding royalties in Partners are to be attached until the judgment is satisfied.
     Your American correspondent is most anxious to inform your readers that Mr Judge O’Brien, in his “order,” describes me as an “insolvent debtor.” Yet, as I have shown, no direct communication of any kind has reached me, and all I know of this “debt” has been gathered from your columns. As I began by saying, America is a long way off, and though I might easily upset an absurd judgment, it would cost no little trouble. In all possibility I shall let it pass. The sum, though small, may console Messrs Shook and Collier for their loss of the Union-square Theatre, and go to the working expenses of the Turkish Bath.
                                                                                                                     I am, &c.,
                                                                                                                                 ROBERT BUCHANAN.
     Vaudeville Theatre, March 2d, 1889.

_____

 

Is Chivalry Still Possible?

 

[Buchanan’s letter appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 22nd March, 1889. Unfortunately I have not seen the original, but the letter and extracts from Mrs. Lynn Lynton’s replies, were reprinted in The Coming Terror, and other essays and letters (London: William Heinemann, 1891). Rather than just linking to the relevant page of The Coming Terror, I thought it might be best to repeat the whole section here (including Buchanan’s notes) and follow it with material from other papers and magazines engendered by Buchanan’s original letter.]

 

From The Coming Terror, and other essays and letters (William Heinemann, 1891 - p.183-223)

 

IS CHIVALRY STILL POSSIBLE?

 

To the Editor of the 'Daily Telegraph.'

     SIR,
         While congratulating myself on the complimentary expressions contained in your editorial article, on the subject of my paper* in the current number of the Universal Review, I am constrained to deprecate certain remarks in which you appear to class me with merely destructive critics, incapable of enthusiasm for anything contemporary. I know that I have been previously so classified, chiefly because I have thought it my duty on more than one occasion to attack popular reputations. I have invariably done so, however, on public—never on merely literary—grounds. But to say that I do not honour or glorify every contemporary is quite another thing to saying that I have depreciated all. My error, indeed, has been, in certain cases, on the side of enthusiasm. As one instance in point, I may mention the fact that I worked loyally twenty years ago to establish the literary reputation of

* The preceding article.

186 Mr. Browning, and that I have at this moment before me a letter from that gentleman describing me as ‘the kindest critic he ever had.’ In short, I hold him to be a poor critic indeed, or no critic at all, who reserves all his idolatry for the gods of the past, and can find no divinities, literary or artistic, in the present. This, however, is merely by the way. The matter which moves me to write this letter is of far higher importance than any of my personal sympathies or antipathies—of far more burning consequence than any subject merely ‘literary.’ I have touched upon it currente calamo in the paper you have criticised so sympathetically. I am anxious to touch upon it again, with your permission.
     One of my strongest contentions against the Modern Young Man as Critic—against, in other words, the average half- educated, semi-cultivated, small pessimist of the present generation—is that, thanks to him and his, Chivalry is fast becoming forgotten; that the old faith in the purity of womanhood, which once made men heroic, is being fast exchanged for an utter disbelief in all feminine ideals whatsoever; and that women, in their turn, in their certainty of the contempt of men, are spiritually deteriorating. As an illustration of this, I state that the piteous type of the Magdalen, which had so signal and sublime an influence on life, on literature, and on art, is now put aside, not merely as sentimental, but as practically ‘inexpedient,’ 187 while the pent-up barbarity and savagery of the pseudo-scientist falls with all the violence of horror on the class called ‘fallen.’ As I write, one of your contemporaries proposes to get rid of certain midnight nuisances, which culminated a few nights ago in a disgraceful street scene, by giving absolute and practically despotic power ‘to the police’—that is, to its individual members. Every day, in every club-room, we are told by men of the world that there is practically no such thing as ‘seduction,’ and that the hideous nightmare which haunts our civilization is really born out of the folly and the depravity of womankind. So that, it would seem, the only way to deal with the Abominable is to put it under the control of the guardians of the peace, and, while accepting its necessity, to take care that it does not trouble our social comfort.
     Here, again, I am in serious disagreement with the quasi-scientific Pessimist of To-day. So far from having the Abominable hushed up and well regulated, I would have it flaunted publicly, in all its hideousness, till the real truth is understood—that it is a creation of the filth of man’s heart, and that the class called ‘fallen’ is practically a class of Martyrs. Heaven knows, I am not writing as a would-be moralist and Pharisee; Heaven knows, I am not blind to my own or my sister’s infirmity! But when the pessimist postulates, firstly, with Swedenborg, that this human sacrifice is a necessity, and, secondly, that women as a class wilfully and 188 cheerfully sacrifice themselves, I know out of my own experience that he is uttering a lie!
     We have consistently degraded Women. From generation to generation we have denied them their moral privileges. We have asserted that their only function is parasitic, their best qualities less intellectual than instinctive. But hitherto, while complacently admitting their inferiority, we have believed in their moral influence, in their divine sympathy. Now at last, while Jack the Ripper in Whitechapel desecrates and destroys the bodily mansion, his kinsman, the Pessimist of To-day, pollutes the tabernacle of Woman’s Soul. He frankly despises and persistently depreciates what was once a temple where all strong men, all men who were sons, husbands, or fathers, might meet and pray. There is, he says, no  ‘seduction.’ Women minister, for the most part cheerfully, to our vanities and our pleasures. Antigones, Cordelias, Rosalinds, Imogens, Eugénie Grandets, are the mere dreams of ‘poets.’ A popular dramatist thinks he touches the quick of the question by making comic capital of ‘Woman’s Rights.’ Popular poets and novelists swarm the bagnios of literature with Monsters, which they label ‘Studies of Women.’ Certain of contempt, certain of misconception, women at last throw off their lendings, and become what men make them. The Rome of Juvenal repeats itself in the London of to- day. And masculine corruption, male deterioration, is, I contend, at the 189 bottom of it all. The master, who once worshipped his slave because she was beautiful, now scorns her because he believes her to be base. Let it not be forgotten, either, in this connection, that those women who most cheerfully accept the master’s supremacy, and wear with his sanction the raiment of conventional morality—those women who are bought and sold, not in the streets, but in the higher marriage market—are the bitterest enemies, the cruellest judges, of such members of their own sex as sink to sorrow or try to escape convention. The petted favourite assists her lord to hunt down her less fortunate sisters.
     This question is far too broad and world-embracing to be discussed in a newspaper letter. Some good may be done, however, by asking if it is not possible, in the face of the grievous social peril—the threatened loss of a Feminine Ideal—for some few men, knights errant in the modern sense, but full of the old faith, the old enthusiasm, to remind the world, in the very teeth of modern pessimists, of what woman has been to the world, and of what she may yet become; to keep intact for our civilization the living belief which sanctified a Madonna and a Magdalen; to protect the helpless, to sympathize with the unfortunate, and, above all, despite the familiar sneer of the worldling and the coarse laugh of the sensualist, to reverse the familiar adage now and then, and read it cherchez l’Homme? Quite recently, I am happy to  say, 190 the man has been sought and found. We may find him much oftener, if we try! I for one, at least, look forward anxiously and hopefully for some glimpse of the old Chivalry, which set the name of Bayard high as a star in Heaven, and made even the eccentric Don Quixote a figure to sweeten human happiness and ‘brighten the sunshine.’

                                                                                                                                   ROBERT BUCHANAN.

 

     [The preceding letter elicited a long and characteristic letter from Mrs. Lynn Lynton, from which I quote as follows:]

     ‘Can anyone explain how it is that, when people discuss the Woman Question in any of its phases, they lose sight of proportion and take their leave of common-sense? The Idealists seem to hold women as altogether of a different race from men; not only different in degree, but different in kind; not only told off by Nature for certain special functions, whereby are emphasized certain common qualities, but as possessing intentions, faculties, characteristics with which men have nothing to do. To these Idealists women, quâ women, are semi-divine, where men are more than half bestial. The sex is sacred, and to be a woman is to be ex officio consecrated. To the Cynics, on the other hand, to be a woman is to be the source of all the evil in the world—where each daughter of Eve repeats her mother’s folly and transgression, 191 and where men are but the puppets whom she makes dance at her pleasure. Mr. Buchanan offers himself as an Idealist, and talks sentimental bunkum with splendid literary power. . . . Where has woman deteriorated? Why, even the poor Abominables are less degraded than of olden times; and the modern danger with respect to them is not of their oppression, but of their being treated with undue partiality—so that the good of the community is less considered than their unchecked individuality. As for the Chivalry of which so much nonsense is talked and so little true knowledge is afloat—well, it may stand as a sign, like any other algebraic symbol. We need these signs and symbols in life—words which evoke ideas, no matter whether the root be real or not. The past of Chivalry was a very different thing from this  all-embracing, all-suggestive, this verbal symbol for an impossible ideal. . . . Chivalry died because it became corrupt, affected, and unreal. The true hold that women had then on the respect and love of men was to be found in the bower and the hall—the house, where women reign, and where alone they ought to reign. Men came from the heat and passion of the strife to the rest and peace, the wholesome purity and order, of the house. Women were their solace, ministering to their needs, soothing their weariness, healing their wounds.The clash and din of battle were exchanged for the music of the bower, the peaceful 192 revelry of the hall. Thus it came about that in those rough fighting times women were indeed, in a sense, sacred; that the house was, as it were, their temple; and that, alternating as they did with the rude life without the castle walls, they were idealized and reverenced by the men who died to protect them. How this spirit will survive the modern acceptance of warfare as part of woman’s life remains to be seen. We have no longer harryings and raids, burning of homesteads, and lifting of cattle, but we have, instead, party cries and political passions; and when these have invaded the home, and women are fighters with their men and against their men, it is to be feared the fabric of society as at present constituted will fall to pieces, to be built up again on a different—but a better?—plan.
     ‘As for the degradation of women by men, that applies to only one of the various relations between the sexes. Do men degrade their mothers, their sisters, their daughters, their wives?* Here and there a few wretches may, just as here and there a few women kill their children for the sake of their insurance money; but not the mass—not the generality. In that most tremendous problem of how to reconcile the imperative laws of human nature with the arbitrary requirements

* Most absolutely. By the existing moral codes, they degrade them. Corruption begins in the household, and spreads thence into the street.—R. B.

193 of society, women suffer, and must suffer. . . . The Magdalen is a very beautiful theme for art and poetry, but the poor drunken flaunting Professionals are stern facts—the results of poverty and passion combined—and white kid gloves are as much out of place when dealing with them as either art or poetry. Let that pass. Women have inflicted the deadliest wrong on their generation in connection with their unhappy sisters, but in a very different sense from that deprecated by Mr. Buchanan; and I repeat it—the present danger is not in over-severity, but in over-petting and sentimentality, in maudlin pity and unjust partiality. If, as Mr. Buchanan says, men are the causes of all the misery of the world, and cherchez l’Homme ought to take the place of the familiar cherchez la Femme, are not men the direct and absolute creation of woman? Built up day by day out of the very substance of her body, do they not also receive their first ineffaceable mental impressions from her? As mothers, have not women unchecked power—absolute authority? How foolish it is to differentiate the sexes on one ground only, and to judge of men and women simply on the platform of unlawful love! For that is what the whole thing comes to. The wholesome orderliness of marriage, the dignity of the home and family, the domestic influence of women—all this is ignored; and the wife and mother, mistress of her house and shaper of her children’s minds and characters; is 194 forgotten for the sake of the poor Abominable whom Mr. Buchanan wants us to idealize as the Magdalen! But, indeed, all this clamour about woman, whether as ideals, as subjects for ‘dissection,’ or as very pitiful realities, is in itself destructive of the virtues which should be specially theirs before all of that modesty which was the very core of her chivalrous ideal. And why all this fatal incense of flattery? Smaller than men, with weaker animal instincts and weaker heroic virtues, why should they be worshipped as superior beings, too good for life as we have it? If men are to worship us, what are we to reverence? Ourselves—like the Buddha on the lotus-leaf? Some already do, not to the edification of the race at large; while those who still frankly and womanfully acknowledge their natural leaders in men are treated as traitresses to the divine cause. . . .

                                                                                                                                           E. LYNN LINTON.

 

To the Editor of the ‘Daily Telegraph.’

     SIR,
         I was in hopes that Mrs. Lynn Linton’s very characteristic letter, published in your issue of the 27th, would have been answered by some authoritative person of her own sex. In common with everybody else, I admire Mrs. Linton hugely, and have done so ever since the days when she who had sat at the feet of the old heathen Landor first began scarifying her less accomplished sisters. 195 Who does not love a clever woman, even one with a bee—in this case was it a wasp?—in her bonnet? Who cannot forgive a brilliant woman, even when she becomes angry and describes male Chivalry as ‘sentimental bunkum’? This gifted lady begins by asking in a tone of no little asperity, ‘Can anyone explain why it is that, when people discuss the Woman Question in any of its phases, they take their leave of common-sense?’ Let me, in Scottish fashion, duplicate this question with another. Can anyone explain why it is that when ladies of a certain temperament discuss the characters of their own sex they take their leave of common charity?
     Mrs. Lynn Linton is a serious writer, and deserves to be dealt with seriously; otherwise I should have looked upon her letter as a mere flash from the sombre spectacles of some Mrs. Pardiggle converted to the religion of the Hall of Science. Strangely enough, she, a woman of rare intellectual gifts, is on the side of those who would rivet the chains on womankind; who sneer at men in whose opinion the ‘sex is sacred’; who talk about the ‘idealization’ of woman as ‘absurd’; who think that the world is in danger, not of being too cruel to the fallen and the driven, but of treating them ‘with undue partiality.’ Well, I suppose she ought to know. George Eliot could never get over her hatred of pretty women—of poor butterflies like Hetty Sorrel; and Mrs. Linton, if she spoke her mind, would no doubt say that all 196  naughty creatures deserve ‘slapping.’ Thus far, indeed, I can understand her; but when she goes on to talk about ‘the imperative laws of human nature,’ and says that ‘the whole question of the Abominable is one not of sentimentality, but of political economy,’ I am lost in wonder. I remember on one occasion, many years ago, when someone was talking at the late G. H. Lewes’s about a simple social question chiefly affecting the nursery, the voice of George Eliot suddenly intoned, ‘Very true; but, in that case, what is to become of our Jurisprudence?’ Jurisprudence was a good word, and so is political economy, but I have yet to learn what political economy has to do with Chivalry. And then, mirabile dictu! ‘the imperative laws of human nature.’ Is Sensuality, then, a ‘law’? Just as much, perhaps, as Virtue is a ‘law,’ or Purity, or Philanthropy, or Misanthropy, or any other ‘anthropy’; and in this case, I suppose, Mrs. Linton’s ferocious Nymphophobia is a ‘law’ too!
     This is not the place, nor is the present the occasion, to discuss the interminable question of Woman’s Rights. To many sensible people the very idea of social and political activity on the part of women is annoying, if not repulsive. For my part, I sympathize with any movement which may render Woman more happy, more active, more beneficent, and, above all, more influential.Woman will never be the equal of Man, because (pace Mrs. Linton) she is so infinitely his superior. Just as 197 the reason of a human being transcends the instinct of an animal, so does the insight of a woman transcend the reason of a man. Deep in the nature of Humanity abides a light which illustrates truth better than any syllogism, and this light burns brightest in the clear souls of the weaker sex. The great Positivist, as we know, admitted this. For what, after all, is Insight? Reason enlarged and glorified. And what, to proceed still higher, is Faith? Insight purified till it reaches the subtlety of Divination.Faith and Insight, the power of perceiving those verities which constitute Religion, are often denied to great men; they are seldom denied to a pure and perfect woman. This, of course, is the creed of Chivalry. In the eyes of a modern knight-errant Woman is the purifier of the earth, the creature

                             ‘Without whom
The earth would smell like what it is—a tomb!’

Whatever sullies her, whatever degrades her to a lower level of thought and action, injures and hampers man’s own progress upwards. I am now, of course, talking of the Ideal, not always, yet very often, realized in contemporary experience. Unhappy, however, is that man who has never realized such an Ideal at all; who, after base moments of the strenuous sense, after misconception and moral backsliding, after the blows and buffets of the world, after all the efforts of his reason to solve the ever-present Mystery, has not been comforted and 198 strengthened by the faith and insight, the pure benediction of a woman’s belief and love. The free-and-easy scientists, the patterers about ‘heredity,’ ‘development of species,’ ‘laws of nature,’ ‘moral dynamics,’ resolve the difference between the sexes into a mere little matter of physiology. Just so; a little matter which, according to some physiologists, gives Woman a second and supplementary brain, or, according to sentimentalists, gives her a clearer spiritual vision, the lens of a finer-seeing soul. The votaries of Chivalry, the preachers of sentimental bunkum, find in the Ewigweibliche an abiding temple; on its threshhold, kneeling prone, the Magdalen; in its inmost shrine, typical and supremely spiritual, the Madonna.
     Here, however, I would pause to deprecate all misconception. When I wrote of masculine purity, I was not posing as a moralist, least of all as an Ascetic. I am not of that sect which macerates the flesh, and pretends to find baseness in all sensuous passion. I simply contend that the relations between the sexes, when not consecrated by spiritual Love, become purely animal; that the buying and selling of what is the divinest possession given by God to human nature is a living horror and a deadly sin. Personally, indeed, I would rather be Burns than St. Simeon Stylites, and should prefer, on the whole, to be lost with Byron than saved with Mrs. Hannah More.
199 Chastity is the noblest privilege of Womanhood; it is more, it is a quality appertaining to Woman as light to the ruby, ‘growing more precious as it nears the core’; but it does not preclude, it includes and sanctifies, Passion. A passionless heart is not necessarily a pure one; on the contrary; those hearts are the purest which can burn most ardently. In one suggestion, perhaps, Mrs. Linton is right enough—that we are all very human. For that very reason let us beware how we forget that the purest Soul who ever wore earth about Him was not only the greatest Sentimentalist, but the greatest Logician. He knew the truth so far as it concerns our poor human nature; and out of His infinite insight came the deathless Ideal from which Mrs. Linton turns to ‘laws of human nature’ and to ‘political economy’—the Ideal of the Magdalen.

                   I am, etc.,
                             ROBERT BUCHANAN.

 

     [To the foregoing Mrs. Linton replied as follows:]

     Mr. Buchanan calls my letter ‘characteristic.’ I accept the term as meaning that in this, as in other matters, I have kept my head cool and level in the midst of the heated and sickly wave of sentimentality with which we are flooded for the moment—let us hope only for the moment! And 200 in this special part of the great, rampant, noisy Woman Question, I trust that it is characteristic in me to remember what the idealizers of street-walkers do not, that we have our virtuous young to care for even more than their poor erring sisters, and that any class movement which weakens the joints of national virtue is an evil to be fought against by all who regard the general good.
     Let Mr. Buchanan or any of his school consider what is the likely effect of all this high-flown idealization on the mind and principles of the struggling hard-worked girl who resists the easy temptation of the streets, and prefers, to vice and champagne, chastity and a crust. She resists that temptation importuning her at every turn, in part for self-respect, in part for religious fear, but in part also for that potent influence—the esteem of the world, with its correlative, the loss of character and consequent loss of consideration. But when she reads of the women whose lives she has been taught to loathe, talked of as only the pitiable victims of man’s brutality, held as themselves free from moral blame, and as the fit objects for admiration and pathetic idealization, how much easier does that make her own hard struggle? Difficult enough as things are—her fall offering her all things pleasant to youth and womanhood—this perversion of the wholesome moral law which pronounced these women moral outcasts makes it ten times harder. It takes away one of the 201 strongest of the props which support her poor fragile temple of virtue, and it undermines the others. There is no religious fear of offending God necessary for a woman who qualifies herself to be called the Magdalen—the beloved of Christ, whose sins were forgiven because she loved much. Instead of the contempt of the world she has the prurient petting of the men who stand and sigh over her—of the women who question first and exhort afterwards. Her self-respect receives no shock, for in her fall she is more cared for than ever she was in her virtue, and the joy of the angels in heaven over one sinner that repenteth is nothing compared to the excitement of which she is the centre. If she believes the newspapers and the idealists, she cannot condemn herself. She is a victim, according to some; a martyr whose life was a sacrifice, and who is worthy of all esteem, according to others. That she preferred fine dresses, idleness, and the excitements of drink and adventures to close, dry, ill-paid work was no sign of a lower taste, but was all the fault of men—as, indeed, in one way it was, but not in the way meant by the idealists. I repeat it, and I know that thousands of kindly women and humane men will bear me out in what I say.This sentimental placing of prostitutes on an ideal pedestal as objects for poetry and pity only, and not at all as objects for condemnation, is one of the most disastrous things in all this flabby age, in view 202 of the young who have to be kept straight against difficulties and in the face of temptations. Anyone who for over forty years has walked about London as I have done must have seen and heard things which take all the sentimentality about vice out of one. Good, generous, loving, and even essentially pure-hearted girls there are, one in ten thousand among the class; but, as a class, to treat them with poetry and sentimentality is a wrong done to society at large, and an infinite wrong done to the virtuous.
     On another account, too, I differ from the idealists. While seeking to enlarge the sphere of woman’s influence and power—as some of us think, disastrously to the nation—they, in the matter of chastity, take from her the moral responsibility she has ever had as the conservator of virtue. It is the fashion now to say it is all the men’s fault, and the women are not to be blamed if they fall—they are helpless to protect themselves. The men ought even to resist temptations offered to them. The conscience of woman says differently. Save in the case of the very young, whose ruin rests on the mothers who did not properly safeguard them, women are their own guardians. And ought to be. If they are to be held capable of governing the Empire, they should be made accountable at least for their own self-governance. If they are to be man’s ‘abiding temple,’ they should of their own proper force keep that temple clean and pure. 203 It is emphatically in their own choice not to listen to serpents and not to eat forbidden apples; or to lend a willing ear, and run the danger of the rest. To give them a broader political margin, and to narrow their moral borders, seems to me, and to many more than myself, a terrible inversion of good sense and right reasoning. . . .

                   I am, etc.,
                             E. LYNN LINTON.

 

     [Like some ladies when they argue, Mrs. Linton would not see the point. I charged men with being the chief factors in the debasement of women, and she retorted that prostitutes must not be idealized, and that we must keep our women pure! etc.
     Perhaps recent revelations, such as the West Ham tragedy, may incline my matron militant to think men are not quite such superior creatures. If she still holds to that opinion, let her consult the Sisters of Nazareth who took under their protection two little children, of seven and five years old respectively. True, these things are not for common publication. The men who defiled a public newspaper with the details of a bestial record must have been without conscience and without shame. But it is well not to blind ourselves altogether to the horrors of masculine Lust; it is as well not to forget the failures of the Beast that walks upright.
204 Again, Chastity in itself is merely a negative merit. There may be, and is, infinite harlotry of the Soul even in so-called virtue. The poetry of life seduces nobody, and is not prurient. The prurient woman is she who hugs to herself the finery of her own purity, and scoffs at sentiment in connection with her driven sisters. Mrs. Linton is, so far as her present utterance is concerned, another example of my proposition—that culture and intelligence are lower in the moral scale than temperament, than sympathy. Reduced to the elements of Science, her opinions would fortify all the filth, all the destructiveness, of our social system.]

 

To the Editor of the ‘Daily Telegraph.’

     SIR,
         Mr. Robert Buchanan asks you whether ‘Chivalry is still possible’—meaning, as I gather, Is it possible to revive that ideal of conduct on the part of man towards women, which is designated, in strictly modern metaphor, ‘chivalrous’? I say in metaphor, and in modern metaphor, because, as Mr. Buchanan is of course well aware, the ideal which men of later days have constructed for themselves in this matter has never had any complete historical realization in the past—the position of woman in the so-called age of chivalry being, in more than one respect, conspicuously inferior to that which she occupies even in our own unchivalrous 205 times. Taking the word, however, in the meaning which Mr. Buchanan obviously intends us to assign to it, and asking ourselves the question whether it is possible to revive chivalry in this sense, it appears to me that we are at once brought face to face with two preliminary questions: First, did chivalry of this description ever exist at all, except among a comparatively small class of the community? And, secondly, is it not to the limited extent of that existence still as flourishing and as little in need of revival as ever?
     That genuine examples of this noble habit of mind and lofty standard of conduct are, and always have been, to be found among us, I would be the last to deny. There have always been men of pure and high nature who have constructed for themselves an ideal type of womanhood, which they have not only reverenced as sacred in itself, but have regarded as extending its consecration to every individual member of the sex; so that there shall be no woman, however humble or homely — nay, however sunken and degraded — who can be deemed to have altogether forfeited her title to some share of that exceptional leniency of judgment, that special gentleness of treatment, which chivalry recognises as the inalienable birthright of the whole sisterhood. Such men, I admit, have always existed. Colonel Newcome, their immortal representative in English fiction, is no 206 mere fanciful creation in a novelist’s brain. Originals of that inspiring and pathetic portrait are to be found among us yet; but they are few, and, with submission to Mr. Buchanan, they never have been, never will be, otherwise than few. It is not given to the average man to idealize, to discern for himself the ‘soul of goodness in things evil,’ the indestructible element of purity in things impure; and it is of the average man that Mr. Buchanan, I have a right to assume, is talking. If he is not, he on his part has no right to frame, as he appears to me to have framed, an indictment against society at large. Such an indictment can only be sustained by showing that a general decline has taken place in the masculine conception of womanhood—that the average masculine mind is more sceptical than formerly of the existence of female purity, truth, and goodness, and less ready to do homage to these qualities where their presence is too unmistakable to be denied.
     It is for Mr. Buchanan to produce proof, or at any rate, if absolute demonstration is, as it well may be, impossible in such a matter, to establish a reasonable presumption that such a change has taken place. I cannot think that he has done so. I cannot admit that his appeals to the cynical talk of ‘club-rooms,’ to the disquisitions of the ‘quasi-scientific pessimist,’ and to the ‘analytical’ fictions of the day, prove anything. As to the 207 cynicism of the club-rooms, it is no doubt, so far as it is sincere, and indeed, to some extent, if it is insincere, a decidedly unlovely thing. But I altogether decline to treat it as a portentous sign of the times. Does Mr. Buchanan imagine that the walls of those apartments have ever listened to talk of any other kind since clubs, or the taverns which were their forerunners, first came into being? Does he suppose that the ‘man of the world,’ and still more the ‘boy of the world’—if he will forgive my calling him so—has ever talked otherwise in any age; that the young bloods of Mr. Richardson’s day did not think it fine to give themselves the airs of his Lovelace, and proclaim with many a ‘damme’ their profound disbelief in the possibility of female virtue? It is no doubt true that even among the rakes of that time there were many too honest and too manly to feign an incredulity so dishonouring to the sex to which their mothers and sisters belonged. Tom Jones—to cite an example which Mr. Buchanan ought especially to appreciate—scapegrace as he was, held no such debasing view of women.His attachment to Sophia saved him from that, and his love for that young lady was no doubt a passion of the most purely chivalrous kind. But Tom, after all, would be a dangerous witness for Mr. Buchanan to call, for he would certainly be cross-examined as to his relations with Molly Seagrim and Lady Bellaston, towards neither of whom was 208 the element of chivalry very apparent in his behaviour. Probably he would have brought himself under your correspondent’s condemnation by citing these two ladies in proof of the odious proposition that ‘Women minister, for the most part cheerfully, to our vanities and our pleasures.’ No, sir; I do not believe that cynical dicta of this kind are at all more frequently propounded in our own day than at any previous period. There has never been a time when men, and especially young men—and still more especially vain young men—have not professed this ‘delightfully wicked’ disbelief in female virtue. It is a necessity of their own conception of themselves, for how else could they be the irresistible dogs they are? Men, however, who have outgrown this little weakness, and have no longer the character of Lotharios to support, are as ready to recognise and to respect purity in woman as ever they were; whilst their attitude towards women of whom that feminine grace can no longer be predicated has, I make bold to say, distinctly changed for the better and the more ‘chivalrous’ in these latter days. Mr. Buchanan seems to take peculiar exception to man’s present treatment of ‘the class called “fallen,”’ as though it had undergone a change for the worse. But surely it is a matter of the commonest experience and observation that the class he refers to are, on the whole, treated nowadays with a forbearance and tenderness which our 209 rougher ancestors would have been simply unable to comprehend.
     As to Pessimism and the modern ‘naturalistic’ and ‘analytical’ novelist, they do not appear to me to play anything like that important part as causæ causantes of the decline of Chivalry which Mr. Buchanan assigns to them. ‘Naturalism,’ or the discovery of the great fact that human nature consists wholly of the hideous, is a constant phenomenon in life and letters; and its exceptional popularity and vogue at any given moment only shows that the writers who for the time being are the preachers of that dismal gospel happen to be preachers of exceptional directness and force. Byron made the same discovery in poetry, and, lo! a wind of Byronism swept over the land, laying all young men’s collars flat before it. Now it is Zola who makes the discovery in prose, and very unpoetic prose, and straightway follows the epidemic of Zolaism. Of course the great discovery is the discovery of a mare’s-nest, and in their secret hearts the discoverers know it. They do not believe in their own theory of humanity. Only one man of letters ever did; and he died mad, and is buried in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. Mr. Buchanan should seek consolation and reassurance in a pilgrimage to that sombre shrine. Jonathan Swift has preached the gospel that your correspondent abhors as no man ever preached it before him, and as none is ever likely 210 to preach it again; and Mr. Buchanan may console himself with the reflection that a race which has retained its faith in itself after reading the ‘Voyage to the Houyhnhnms,’ is not likely to be converted to the doctrine of despair by the author of ‘L’Assommoir.’
     As to the operation of Pessimism considered as a philosophy, and the grave injustice of Mr. Buchanan’s attempt to fix it with responsibility for the decline of Chivalry and other mischievous consequences, there is much which I should like to say. And some day, sir, when you can put seven or eight columns of your esteemed journal at my disposal, I may perhaps endeavour to say it. I will content myself at present with asserting that the most complete acceptance of the philosophical doctrine of Pessimism is perfectly compatible with as complete a recognition and as anxious a cultivation of all that (in unphilosophical language) is ‘pure, lovely and of good report’ in life; and that, pending an opportunity of expounding and defending this truth at greater length,

                   I am, etc.,
                             AN INJURED PESSIMIST.

 

To the Editor of the ‘Daily Telegraph.’

     SIR,
         Would that Fortune always sent me adversaries like your correspondent ‘An Injured Pessimist,’ 211 who, while lightly and playfully tilting at me, manages to make his gallant steed frisk and curvet all round, to the discomfiture of my original opponents! I have only one fault to find with him, which he shares with the famous knight in ‘Ivanhoe’—that he comes disguised, and very lugubriously! In point of fact he is about as much ‘a pessimist’ as Charles Dickens. I fancy, indeed, that if he deigned to lift his visor, the world would laugh merrily in recognition of one whose name is a synonym for kindliness and kindly optimism. He challenges me, however, to prove my case further, and, since your insertion of the challenge intimates your approval, I will join issue with him at once. Let me premise, however, by saying that the subject is one of unusual delicacy, and could not be completed save with the addition of evidence necessarily given in camerâ, not in the columns of a newspaper; nor would even the six columns asked for by your correspondent afford sufficient space for its full and absolute discussion. One can only select a few points out of many, and leave all corroborative testimony to the experience of our jury, your readers.
     Of course students of Modern Pessimism know very well that, as a philosophy, it claims to be beneficent. Its founder, Schopenhauer, and its chief apostle and re-creator, Hartmann, feeling profoundly for the sufferings of creatures emerging 212 into life and pain, have assured us that the only comfort and joy of Humanity, so soon to perish, is in acts of mutual service, mutual pity, mutual love. The blind Will or the blind Unconscious (whichever name we give it) flowers up to its apex of moral sentiment, gleams piteously, and disappears. These philosophers, like all others, testify, of course, to the beauty of human affection; and, so far as I personally am concerned, I could as easily find comfort in their gloomy Nirwâna as in the mysterious Immanence of approved Pantheists like Spinoza. It is not with pure pessimistic philosophy, however, that I have at present to deal.

When Bishop Berkeley said there was no matter,
And proved it—’twas no matter what he said,’

and there is nothing that Metaphysics cannot establish, when we once grant its premisses. I spoke of Pessimism and Pessimists as they emerge in Literature, I spoke more particularly of Pessimistic Realism. Your correspondent’s contention appears to be that the phenomenon to which I alluded is merely a familiar one, certain to emerge from time to time, and equally certain to disappear. To support this contention, he asserts, truly enough, that a certain class of men have always been cynical and unchivalrous, just as the majority of men have always been impure. Lovelace and his friends, he says, talked much the same banalities as the modern young men about town. Quite true. But 213 just then, in the person of the inspired little printer, in some respects the sanest and wisest soul of his generation, rose the Knight- errant of Literary Chivalry. It is the custom, as we all know, to sneer at Richardson. While the warm weak heart of Fielding awakens love, Richardson’s piercing intellect almost repels it. Women, however, who are supposed to have no logic, recognised the great Logician of Morality, and cried, ‘This man is our champion! This man understands us— justifies us!’ In the story of Clarissa Harlowe—tedious, monotonous, straggling, bourgeois—the great tradition of Literary Chivalry was carried on, and the world had the spectacle of a Chaste Soul, reaching its fulness at that moment when the martyred girl, with the libertine maundering at her feet and offering to make her ‘an honest woman’ by  marriage, turned quietly and proudly away, and passed through the portals of the tomb. Almost any English author, from that moment to this, would have satisfied himself and his readers by bringing down the curtain on the happy union of Miss Harlowe and the tamed, repentant Lovelace. Good, honest, virile Fielding would have done it, and chuckled over it. Richardson, far wiser, knew that, horrible as is the outrage of the body, still more horrible may be the outrage of the Soul; that for a Soul once violated, once disenchanted, there is no possible human reparation; that for Woman cast from her sphere of purity, bereft of 214 her faith in Humanity, the only hope lies beyond the shades of Death!
     Which brings me to the heart of my sad argument. I have mourned the decay of Chivalry; I have asked if its revival is not possible. Your correspondent—who loves Chivalry as much as I do, who has bowed down as I bow down before Don Quixote and Colonel Newcome—says, firstly, that Chivalry never existed at all save in a small class of the community. Yet it is admitted by the realists that Literature represents the spirit of itsage—is, in other words, the adumbration of the noblest temper of the community at large. What, then, must have been the temper of communities which, crystallizing in individual genius, produced Iphigenia and Antigone, Beatrice and Francesca, Cordelia and Imogen (to say nothing of the whole female galaxy of Elizabethan drama), Eve and the Lady of Comus, Clarissa Harlowe and Sophia Western, Beatrice Cenci and the heroine of Epipsychidion, Eugénie Grandet and Modeste Mignon, Lady Esmond and Laura Pendennis, Lizzie Hexam and Little Nell? I should be unjust, moreover, to the lights under which we live if I denied that, even now, this tradition of purity survives, that now and then Divine things come to us, such as I found the other day when I read the infinitely piteous episode of Lyndale in the ‘Story of an African Farm,’ such as give modesty and charm to the ‘girls’ of Black and Besant, and 215 power to the full-blooded women of Thomas Hardy, such as ennoble the stainless page of Mrs. Oliphant and brighten the gladsome books of Bret Harte, such as lend glory to the maidens of Alfred Tennyson, to the Madonna-like young mothers of Coventry Patmore, and to the Shakespearean women of Robert Browning. But, alas! most of the writers I have named belong to the last generation, and several of them are already voted ‘old-fashioned.’ The triumph now is with the realist, with the pessimist, with the young man who has never been a child, who has never dwelt in Bohemia. Why, the whole attempt of my original argument was to draw a comparison between the last generation and the one in which we live!
     Your correspondent asserts, secondly, that after all Chivalry is still flourishing, and as little in need of revival as ever. Does he deny, then, that within the last decade, since the apotheosis of popular science and the spread of popular materialism, a very great change has taken place in the moral estimate of women? Of their social position I say nothing—that is another matter; but they, like the Irish nation, have won all that for themselves. It is not a question of whether we fear their power more, but of whether we honour and reverence them as much? The best proof of such honour and reverence would be the condition of our own morals, the purity of our own lives. Are we, then, so pure? I will turn away from the revelations of the Divorce 216 Court, from the reports of the newspapers, and just walk out once more into the midnight streets. What do I see there? Instead of the bold, painted woman’s face of twenty years ago, I see the pale, thin face of a child! Instead of the coarse, robust young person from the country, I see the delicate young person, who has perhaps been a ‘lady’ and has known luxury. Let me tell, in this connection, two absolutely true stories within my own knowledge. A little while ago two pure young girls, daughters of a clergyman, left Yorkshire and came to London deliberately, out of choice, dispassionately, to throw themselves on the London streets! They did so, and were swept away into the great vortex. Here, certainly, we seem to have a proof in favour of the man of the world’s argument that there is no ‘seduction’; but the exception is meant to prove the rule. These young girls, well educated, familiar with modern pessimistic books, concluded that the world was impure, and, having lost all vital belief, followed their despair to a logical conclusion. My second story is of a young girl who, when I first met her, was a beautiful child of seventeen, reared in luxury, accomplished in music and painting, the idol of her home. She, too, became a reader of the new literature; she, too, had become utterly without faith, either in God or human nature, when, a few years later, she made the acquaintance of a married man, an officer in the army. This man deliberately set himself to undermine 217 those moral instincts which still kept her personally pure. He convinced her that society was honeycombed through and through with libertinism; that there were no pure women; that, since life was transient, indulgence of all kinds was wise and justifiable. Eager, like poor Lyndale, to know, she came at last to as piteous and terrible an end, dying in utter despair. Never shall I forget the contrast between the bright, happy girl I first met, all intellectual ardour, all moral purity, all faith and hope, and the poor heart-broken woman whom, only a few years later, I saw lying on her bed of death.
     My correspondent thinks the world is no worse; that Chivalry is no longer needed. Let him remember, however, that a generation ago the Devil lacked his one last convincing argument which proves to the weak and blind that there is absolutely no God, no hope, no succour beyond these voices. If Pessimism means anything, it means that. Science corroborates it. Experience seems to justify it. So that, after all is said and done, we come to the final and irresistible conclusion that there is no hope in this world because there is no faith in another, and that Schopenhauer was right when he described Death—i.e., annihilation—as the great and only Nirwâna. In that case, of course, it is useless to trouble ourselves about what old-fashioned people call the Soul. Let us legislate for something more substantial.
218 So the world is no worse?—nay, hints your correspondent, it is possibly much better, especially in this particular point of woman’s condition. How, then, does he account for the fact—which I suppose he will not deny—that the ranks of the so-called ‘fallen’ (I say the ‘driven’) are now to so large an extent recruited from the educated classes, from those classes which are aware of the culture of the age? I speak within my own knowledge when I state that I have personally found, among the throngs who nightly haunt such places as the Empire and the Alhambra, women whose refinement of manner and purity of accomplishment would grace any drawing-room; faces which not all the fever of the gaslight could rob of the beauty and distinction which come of gentle blood. A generation ago these types did not exist on this side of the Channel. But now, as the satirist sings:

‘Instead of Greece, whose lewd arts poisoned Rome,
The harlot France infects our island home!’

and the educated girl who discovers that she has been brought up in a dead Faith, and turns her early accomplishment to use in the secret study of detrimental French novelists, soon loses the hallucinations which kept her pure.She, too, discovers that Divine sanctions are no longer needed. She, too, finds that Pessimism is the only creed thoroughly alive. Her father, possibly, is either an open sceptic or a person who still accepts 219 religion because it is ‘respectable.’ Her brothers, perhaps, are young men about town, from whom she soon learns the argot of fast life. It is a horrible thing to say in this connection, but I have known many instances of pure young girls whose minds first became polluted through the conversation of their own brothers.
     Now, Chivalry, as I conceive it, and as I hope and pray for it, might do something to remedy this grievous state of things, on which I have touched but very lightly. But Chivalry, unfortunately, means Religion—not necessarily the religion of any creed or sect, but that large faith in a Divine Power conditioning all we think and feel; and even that nebulous sort of religion, as we know, is hard to find. Energetic Mr. Frederic Harrison, contemptuous of an anthropomorphic God, offered us his master’s fetish, Humanity, the Grand Être, as a substitute, until quite lately a ferocious Professor, not to be humbugged that way, pulverised the Monster, to the general satisfaction (see Professor Huxley’s diatribe against Positivism, passim). In all the conflict of the new discovery that the moon is made, not of green cheese, but of magnesium, there is not much time for reverence; and, unfortunately, the scientists are even harder on Woman than the poets and romancists. How, then, shall Chivalry arise?
     In one way only. Through the physical purification of men. I am certainly not for turning the 220 world into a moral seminary, for eliminating from life that Passion which alone, perhaps, lifts it towards divinity. But the man who goes out into the market-place to buy the body or the soul of a woman is a leper, and as such he should be treated. Put a label on his breast, put a clapper into his hand, that all the world may know he is ‘unclean.’ My entire argument is that Man is the sinner here, and that Woman is the martyr. I know well how my good physician and physiologist, Mr. Worldly Wiseman, will smile at my logic. From time immemorial the Master has usurped the privileges of sensuality, while the Slave has been forced to acquiesce. Only when the master has become a knight-errant, and has said to his ideal, ‘Be pure, and I will emulate, so far as my coarser nature may, your purity! Be good, and I will uphold your goodness before the world!’ then, and only then, has Woman become glorified—no longer a Martyr, but a Madonna.
     I have hinted pretty broadly at certain social phenomena which I allege to be taking place in our midst. Thousands of your readers, if they cared to speak, could, I feel sure, corroborate me on such points as the decay of self-respect in women owing to male contamination, and as the want of Chivalry or purity in the young men of their homes. With what your correspondent says on the abominations and absurdities of Naturalism I thoroughly agree; but I open my eyes in wonder when I find him 221 classing Byron among the discoverers ‘of the great fact that Nature consists only of the hideous.’ Byron was a romanticist pure and simple. He discovered that the world and society were full of shams, and he turned in gloomy pride to Nature, to the mountains and the sea. Bitter things said about mankind, sarcastic things said about the sex, do not make a Pessimist—in fact, Poetry and Pessimism are antagonistic terms. Byron’s idea of Woman was not, perhaps, the highest, but it was a high one, nevertheless, and I only wish we had a few of his women now. To put the creator of Haidée in the same pillory as the author of ‘La Curée’ seems rough-and-ready justice indeed! Byron, with all his thoughts, was a Man, and when he revolted against what Mr. Morley justly calls ‘the piggish virtues of the Georges,’ Nature revolted with him and proclaimed him right.Had he lived a little longer, he would have become, perhaps, the noblest knight-errant that modern Chivalry has seen.

                   I am, etc.,
                             ROBERT BUCHANAN.

 

     NOTE ON THE PRECEDING.—My question, ‘Is Chivalry still possible?’ elicited, in addition to the letters of Mrs.  Linton, a vast amount of correspondence, occupying the columns of the Daily Telegraph for some weeks. As usual, the discussion ended on the level to which all high things 222 fall in this country—that of the comic paper; and there the question arrived at its reductio ad absurdum, whether men who travelled in omnibuses were still sufficiently chivalrous to get outside to oblige a lady? As a matter of fact, however, it was found impossible, in the columns of a daily journal, to touch the quick of the matter, which chiefly concerned Prostitution, classed by me with War, as one of the two hideous Sphynxes of modern civilization.
     I may remark in this contention that my statements concerning the change of type among fallen women, concerning the spread of social disease to the higher classes of society, were corroborated by innumerable private correspondents, as well as by a letter of emphatic assent from the present Secretary of the Lock Hospital.
     By far the most important published communications were the letters from the pen of Mrs. Lynn Linton, conveying as they did the anti-sentiment of that large class of women which is moved alike by the scientific spirit and the puritanical bias—in other words, by a desire to dogmatize in matters of feeling, and to be severe on the weaknesses of human nature. I do not dispute for a moment that Mrs. Lynn Linton’s ideal of womanhood is a high one; but it is an ideal based quite unconsciously on the British ideal of commercial virtue. Mrs. Linton sees in Woman only the type of chastity and maternity; I see in her the partner 223 of Man’s passion and Man’s power. She sees a domestic machine; I see an ever- present inspiration. She elevates conventional Chastity as the highest of female virtues; I see in it only the unchastity of English legislation.She would limit the sphere of woman’s activity and energy; I would enlarge that sphere indefinitely. She has spoken of the inexorable Laws of Human Nature, and indirectly has drawn from these laws an inference that Prostitution is a necessary evil; I, on the other hand, have affirmed that there are no laws to turn man from a rational being into a beast of the field, and have asserted that spurious Chastity, the puritanical bias in ethics and in legislation, is sacrificing the rights of one class of human beings to the vices of another. We are trying to appease the angry gods by a holocaust of helpless women. That holocaust would be recognised as what it is, an enormity, if women were made more free and men became more pure. The Passion of Love is not of necessity, as puritans affirm, an unclean passion. It is the breath of Heaven which sweetens and purifies every coarse necessity of Earth.

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Buchanan’s initial letter to The Daily Telegraph was also printed in full in the Cambridge Daily News and a long extract appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette on 22nd March, 1889.

 

The Gloucester Citizen (22 March, 1889 - p.3)

IS CHIVALRY STILL POSSIBLE?

     Mr. Robert Buchanan writes an extraordinary letter to the Daily Telegraph this morning, in which he says this question is too great to be discussed in a newspaper letter, but that some good may be done by asking if it is not possible, “in the face of the grievous social peril—the threatened loss of a Feminine Ideal—for some few men, knights errant in the modern sense, but full of the old faith, the old enthusiasm, to remind the world, in the very teeth of modern pessimists, of what woman has been to the world, and of what she may yet become; to keep intact for our civilisation the living belief which sanctified a Madonna and a Magdalen; to protect the helpless, to sympathise with the unfortunate, and, above all, despite the familiar sneer of the worldling and the coarse laugh of the sensualist, to reverse the familiar adage now and then, and read it cherchez l’Homme?” Mr. Buchanan looks forward anxiously and hopefully for some glimpse of the old chivalry, which set the name of Bayard high as a star in Heaven, and made even the eccentric Don Quixote a figure to sweeten human happiness and “brighten the sunshine.”

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The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser (23 March, 1889 - p.6)

     MR. ROBERT BUCHANAN resents the imputation contained in being classed as a destructive critic, incapable of enthusiasm for anything contemporary. On the contrary, Mr. BUCHANAN can be very enthusiastic, indeed, as his reply to the strictures passed upon him shows. He is not a destructive critic. He cannot, it is true, admire everything in modern society. Its tone is essentially false and corrupt, for the old ideals have vanished, and men now laugh at goodness, and have no faith in social creeds which in the past made men heroic. The Rome of JUVENAL, Mr. BUCHANAN tells us, repeats itself in the London of to-day, and masculine corruption, male deterioration—which is pretty nearly the same thing as masculine corruption—is at the bottom of it all. We confess to a little haziness as to Mr. BUCHANAN’S meaning in his diatribe against “modern young men.” Were he simply a destructive critic he would no doubt have made his meaning clear, but writing as an enthusiast, full of indignation against “the small pessimist of the present generation,” it is but natural, perhaps, that he should be a trifle obscure. Strong emotions, when not under absolute control, not unfrequently paralyse the intellectual faculties. We gather from Mr. BUCHANAN’S letter that he is annoyed at something, and that that something has something to do with the position, the character, the estimate, or the treatment of women. We are told that chivalry is fast becoming forgotten, that the old faith in the purity of women is fast becoming exchanged for an utter disbelief in all feminine ideals. Were we to stop here it would appear that the estimate entertained of women is the ground of complaint. But, reading further, we find that Mr. BUCHANAN is of opinion that women are no better than they are thought. The fault still is the men’s, however, for women only become what men make them; but if it is true that the Rome of JUVENAL repeats itself in the London of to-day, Mr. BUCHANAN’S sneers at the “small pessimist of the present generation,” who has no very high “Feminine Ideal,” are a little out of place. The “small pessimist” cannot himself have made woman utterly bad. If he finds her so by fact, or fancy, it mat account for his pessimism, and for the absence of the feminine ideal from his social creed. We conclude, then, that in Mr. BUCHANAN’S view women are no better than they ought to be, but that at the same time it is our duty to think them infinitely better than they are. We have every respect and admiration for Mr. BUCHANAN’S appeal to men’s more chivalrous sentiments. He cannot pour too much contempt and loathing on the young man of the world who sees in womankind nothing higher than the blurred and blotched image of his own depravity. We believe that there is only too much truth in the view that chivalry and high ideals are not so much things of the present as of the past, but Mr. BUCHANAN has still involved us in a paradox. If he will withdraw what he says about JUVENAL’S Rome and the London of to-day and its context, we shall be obliged to him.

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Hull Daily Mail (25 March, 1889 - p.2)

     After “Is Marriage a Failure?” we are, it appears, to have yet another boom by the largest circulation in the world. This is to be—“Is Chivalry still Possible?” Mr Robert Buchanan sets the snowball of sentiment a-rolling, and to-day there is a column on the same subject. The idea is excellent. The everyday young man and maiden will be able to gush or grumble over the age in which we live for weeks and weeks, and will buy the paper daily to read their own gushings and grumblings therein. The man who helped a lady out of an omnibus, and the lady who couldn’t get a man to help her out, will each have an innings, and Europe will marvel the while at the drollery of those English.

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St James’s Gazette (26 March, 1889 - p.4)

     Mr. Robert Buchanan continues to mourn the decay of Chivalry, this time filling nearly two columns of the Daily Telegraph with his lamentations. With unctuous solemnity he begins by saying that the subject is one of unusual delicacy, and then proceeds to show by practical examples how idle and foolish people can best utilize the licence allowed them for recording their reminiscences of the pavement. “Thousands of your readers” are invited to corroborate what Mr. Buchanan says about the decay of purity; and it is evident that for some little time to come the Daily Telegraph will hardly be a safe family paper.

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St James’s Gazette (27 March, 1889 - p.5)

     Mr. Robert Buchanan has done the Daily Telegraph a good turn. His lamentation of the days of chivalry dead-and-gone and his denunciation of the modern male cynicism about female virtue have drawn a rejoinder from Mr. Lynn Linton, written in her most trenchant vein. It is all very well, she says, to advise men to worship women, but—what are the poor women to worship? The obvious answer is that they must return the compliment by setting up a masculine idol. The happy result will be that every particular woman will live up to every particular man’s ideal of Womanhood in the Abstract, and every individual man will justify in his own person every woman’s conception of Manhood in General. But what is this that Mrs. Lynn Linton writes about her own sex?

     And why all this fatal incense of flattery? Smaller than men, with weaker animal instincts and weaker heroic virtues, why should they be worshipped as superior beings, too good for life as we have it?

Without endorsing these words, we may unreservedly commend Mrs. Lynn Linton for stripping away, with a few strokes of her logical knife, all the fantastic nonsense which has been talked about the Age of Chivalry when women received “a certain poetic solatium for the brutal prose of the feudal marriage,” and for pouring well-deserved contempt on the mawkish fictions about the Modern Magdalen.

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Hull Daily Mail (27 March, 1889 p.2)

     Mr Robert Buchanan continues to mourn the decay of Chivalry, this time filling nearly two columns of the Daily Telegraph with his lamentations. With unctuous solemnity he begins by saying that the subject is one of unusual delicacy, and then proceeds to show by practical examples how idle and foolish people can best utilize the license allowed them for recording their reminiscences of the pavement. “Thousands of your readers” are invited to corroborate what Mr Buchanan says about the decay of purity; and it is evident that for some little time to come the Daily Telegraph will hardly be a safe family paper.

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Local Government Gazette (28 March, 1889)

     The columns of the Daily Telegraph, always open to the discussion of a subject likely to attract readers, contain a series of letters on the subject of the extinction of chivalry. Mr. Robert Buchanan opened the correspondence with a diatribe against modern manners and customs, and the decay of the chivalrous feeling. We are all much worse than our ancestors. Youth is pessimistic, heartless, and cruel, and women are bad because man has made them so. This is not a new idea by any means; but as so many people rely for philosophy on the Daily Telegraph, it will, no doubt, strike some of the readers of that paper as little short of a revelation. Mr. Buchanan’s lamentation of the days of chivalry, and his denunciation of the modern male cynicism about female virtue, have drawn a rejoinder from Mrs. Lynn Linton. This lady, who can more than hold her own in controversy of this kind, says:—“Can anyone explain how it is that, when people discuss the woman question in any of its phases, they lose sight of proportion and take their leave of common sense? The idealists seem to hold women as altogether of a different race from men; not only different in degree, but different in kind; not only told off by nature for certain special functions, whereby are emphasised certain common qualities, but as possessing intentions, faculties, characteristics with which men have nothing to do. To these idealists women, qua women, are semi-divine, where men are more than half bestial. The sex is sacred, and to be a woman is to be ex-officio consecrated. To the cynics, on the other hand, to be a woman is to be the source of all evil in the world—where each daughter of Eve repeats her mother’s folly and transgression, and where men are but the puppets whom she makes dance at her pleasure. Mr. Buchanan offers himself as an Idealist, and talks sentimental bunkum with splendid literary power. He speaks of chivalry as ‘fast becoming forgotten,’ of ‘the old faith in the purity of womanhood which once made men heroic,’ as ‘being fast exchanged for an utter disbelief in all feminine ideals whatsoever;’ and says that ‘women, in their turn, in their certainty of the contempt of men, are spiritually deteriorating.’ What does he mean? Is this a tilt against the woman’s rights women? or against the pretty ‘impecuniosities’ who marry contemptible millionaires? or against the heroines of the Divorce Court, of whom we have lately had some notable examples? Outside these three sections where do we find the spiritual deterioration of women?” It is all very well, says Mrs. Linton, to advise men to worship women, but what can the poor women worship? Here is a problem, indeed; for, unless women return the compliment by adoring men, we do not see where they can turn for their earthly idol. Mr. Justin H. McCarthy, who joins in the discussion, gives a hopeful turn to it by pointing out that the young men of the age are not all the besotted admirers of Zola and Zolaisms. They do not all look askance upon life with an eye jaundiced by ill-digested science, and a mind starved upon the poorest possible culture. There are plenty of young men who most devoutly delight in Don  Quixote, that incomparable saviour of society; there are plenty of young men whose ideal is higher than that of the Venetian Baffo or the French De Sade; there are plenty of young men who do not think the secret of existence is shut up between the yellow covers of the Parisian so-called realist, or their imitators in London and in New York. Let us, at least, hope so.

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The Nottingham Evening Post (28 March, 1889 - p.2)

     The discussion which Mr. Robert Buchanan has initiated in the Daily Telegraph, and the lament over dead and gone “chivalry” and “modern male cynicism” in regard to the opposite sex, has brought Mrs. Lynn Linton into the field, and this lady goes straight to the point of the matter with a delightful frankness. Writing of “woman in the abstract,” as the Scottish young lady once observed, Mrs. Lynn Linton says:—“Why all this fatal incense of flattery? Smaller than men, with weaker animal instincts and weaker heroic virtues, why should women be worshipped as superior beings, too good for life as we have it?” Without endorsing the assertions, we may at all events echo Mrs. Lynn Linton’s query. Why should it be thought necessary to exalt woman—still “in the abstract”—at the expense of man. If a woman takes all the talk about her higher qualifications, and keener instincts, and grander aspirations as aught but the mere gush of the hour she will not be a sensible woman. Women are respected by honourable men, but it is certainly not on the ground that they “are too good for life as we have it.”

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The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser (30 March, 1889 - p.16)

     MR. ROBERT BUCHANAN returns again, and this time with added unctuousness, to his lay of the decay of chivalry. Why cannot he confine himself to fiction and poetry, instead of inflicting upon us his disagreeable and probably ill-assorted facts? Indifferent prose in fiction and worse verse are more endurable than personal opinions and personal experiences which are vouched for as founded upon or as recording facts of the nature which Mr. BUCHANAN brings before us in these letters. We cannot remember without a shudder the laceration the public had to endure and the demoralisation wrought by a certain notoriety-hunting London evening paper when it purported to make a revelation of the rottenness of society. What it did reveal was the rottenness of some aspects of journalism, and we all were grateful when the curtain fell over the harrowing scenes of impurity which, to all decent people, were both disgusting and defiling. We are now threatened with a repetition of something of the same sort. Mr. ROBERT BUCHANAN believes that within the last decade the conditions of social life have altered radically for the worse. He blames the materialism of the age for these altered conditions, and he relies for his proof of them on his own experience. There can be no doubt, we think, that materialism and agnosticism have been productive of a certain amount of degeneracy, but we do not think that either the cause or the consequence is so widespread as Mr. BUCHANAN believes. And it seems the merest nonsense to maintain that the ranks of “the fallen” are recruited from such sources as those alleged by Mr. BUCHANAN. He tells us what his own experience is, or rather what comes directly within his own knowledge. That is the most common of all fallacies and the most fertile source of mistakes. We need not mention in detail what Mr. BUCHANAN has met with in his perambulations. He has met with refinement, he says, where he expected coarseness, and from this he makes a sweeping generalisation as to the character of the vice he condemns, or rather as to its victims. He has known many instances of pure young girls whose minds first became polluted through the conversation of their own brothers, and putting together the scattered fragments of his experience he formulates upon them a view of life which appears to himself to be both true and consistent. It is here, if anywhere, that the caution contained in POPE’S line should be observed—“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” But what does Mr. BUCHANAN seek to accomplish? Supposing his view of life to be true, which we do not admit, can he effect a reformation by disclosing the sores of society? If not, why should he drag us through additional defilement by his own disclosures and his appeals to thousands of other who could, he says, corroborate him as to the decay of self-respect in women? Let him preach down pessimism and materialism if he can, for in them he finds the cause of this decay; if he cannot, let him spare us the infliction of his contaminating revelations.

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The Devon and Exeter Daily Gazette (30 March, 1889 - p.4)

     VERY interesting, though in some respects very sad, is the discussion which during the last few days has been proceeding upon the subject of chivalry and woman’s social position and treatment. Without endorsing or condemning the views and arguments put forward by Mr. ROBERT BUCHANAN in connexion with this matter, we are bound to confess that while, generally speaking, the condition of woman has, even within the last half century, been greatly ameliorated, there is still much room for its improvement. Mr. BUCHANAN asks, “Is chivalry still possible?” and proceeds to urge that now-a-days woman, although she has attained a high point in the social and intellectual scale, is, under the influence of pessimism and pernicious literature, developing a distinct downward tendency. In some respects, and to some limited extent, this may be true, but if we are to gauge the general tendency of womanhood in this country, if we are to see how the tide is flowing, we must, as one of Mr. BUCHANAN’S critics forcibly puts it, climb up to the cliffs. “Mr. BUCHANAN sits down in sheltered little coves and watched the pools.” Few who have a broad knowledge of the world and its ways, will deny that woman is now regarded more than ever as almost man’s equal, except, perhaps, in physical strength; and there are those who contend that, in the fulness of time, she will possibly be his superior. At present, however, especially in the lower ranks of life, she calls, from many quarters for assistance, sympathy, and succour. We will not now pretend to deal with what, in paradoxical terms, may be described as the higher phases of woman’s degradation, but confine ourselves to a practical everyday view of woman’s condition, and especially with that phase of it which is presented by the surroundings in which our toiling womankind are placed. Recent revelations in connexion with the sweating system have shown that while manhood is terribly dwarfed and contorted by the pressure of want and the relentless cruelty of work which must be done to stave off starvation, womanhood is frequently as much victimised, and often more degraded. Ever since the day when HOOD penned his immortal “Song of the Shirt” society has been painfully aware of the needs and sacrifices of a countless class of women who toil and suffer and die under a burden of poverty, hunger, and dirt, which must needs crush out those higher, sweeter attributes with which the gentler sex is endowed. Later champions of modern chivalry, headed by such men as WALTER BESANT, have placed the social needs of women in powerful evidence, and have given practical form to the sympathy which those needs demand. The struggling work-girl has recently had much done for her. For her, and the class to which she belongs, the People’s Palace has been created, and opportunities for culture and refinement have been made. From the work thus done good is already issuing. Now, our attention is drawn towards a lower grade of womanhood. The sweating system claims amongst its victims women who toil at such unwomanly occupation as that of the chain-maker, and who are so pinched by want that even though they spend their time in carrying iron and otherwise assisting in the nail and chain trades, they are so poor that, in the words of one of Her Majesty’s Inspector of Factories, “they work every second they can to get a living.” Not only do women thus slave in a manner which unsexes them for the mere sake of earning the bitter bread of poverty, but the wretched competition which they create by doing men’s work exposes them to the malicious jealousy of some of their male competitors. The story of the lives led by many women engaged in the nail and chain trades as told before the Sweating Committee of the House of Lords, is pitiable indeed; and so long as there exist such cases of female degradation as this Committee has been made acquainted with there seems to us little room for academical discussion of that refined poetical chivalry of which Mr. ROBERT BUCHANAN is so ardent an exponent. While women work like galley-slaves under conditions which make them little better than beasts of burden there is surely something more practical to be done on their behalf than the special argumentative hair-splitting in which Mr. BUCHANAN and his fellow disputants are now engaged. That man is, in this matter, a great sinner few will deny. That the nobility and refinement of ideal womanhood are suffering at the hands of selfish men is, as we have said, undoubtedly true. But that which demands our most immediate attention, and which calls for prompt and effectual remedy, is the material as well as the mental and spiritual degradation of women who are forced or permitted to lead lives little higher than those of barbarians. From a broad and high standpoint it may be seen that woman is steadily progressing towards that higher and better station for which she is destined. The necessities of the times, however, hold her, in some grades of life, in a material thraldom from which she must be liberated. But her freedom can only be purchased by persistent philanthropic effort, and by resolute co-operation on the part of those who are capable of controlling and remodelling our social system.

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Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper (31 March, 1889)

WOMAN: HER RIGHTS AND WRONGS.

     The conference of the National Society for the Promotion of Women’s Suffrage once more revives the whole question as to the assumption by women of public functions. With regard to the suffrage, the opinion is growing that it is ungenerous and unfair to deprive women ratepayers and householders—who stand in precisely the same relation to the State as men—of this right or privilege. Eminent statesmen of all parties are agreed upon this; though there are still some, like Mr. Bright and Sir Henry James, who do not see their way to its acceptance. Many, again, would not oppose the granting of the franchise to single women, if they could be sure it would not be ultimately extended to married ones. We confess that there is a good deal to be said for this view. If a husband and wife are in perfect political accord it is obvious that there is no necessity for giving the vote to the latter; and where they disagree it would manifestly not conduce to the peace of many households if the husband and wife took an active part in promoting the claims of rival political candidates. Mr. Woodall, M.P., stated at the demonstration in Prince’s Hall that on the second reading of the Women’s Suffrage Bill he should ask the direct vote of all who were in favour of its great cardinal principle, but that in Committee members should be free to exercise their judgment either in enlarging or in limiting the measure as they might think wisest and most expedient. But Sir Richard Temple, Sir Wilfrid Lawson, Mr. McLaren, and Mr. Jacob Bright are in favour of giving the suffrage to all women alike, and a resolution to that effect was carried at the meeting. This is a definite issue; but it is doubtful whether the House of Commons, or, at least, the present Parliament, will consent to open the doors of the Constitution so widely as this. On the contrary, a measure restricted to single women and widows would have had a very good chance of passing. It is neither just nor expedient that property which is in the hands of female owners should continue to go unrepresented. There are many questions upon which the voice of women ought to be clearly and distinctly heard—such questions as education, health, morals, and the operation of the poor laws. As to the argument that women are sentimental, impulsive, easily open to influence, and impervious to reason, we attach little weight to it; for there are many men of whom the same might be said. Let but women vote for sensible male candidates to represent their interests, and the suffrage would be shorn of half its terrors. Women are certainly not unfitted for going to a polling booth and tendering their votes, though there is a natural conviction amongst the great bulk of the community that public life, when regarded in all its bearings, and with what it entails, is not desirable for women, either for their own sakes or for those of their families. But we are glad that this whole question of the claims of women is pressing to the front. For every one of their legitimate grievances there should be found a remedy. There are too many in our midst who affect to despise the status of women; and Mr. Robert Buchanan’s timely and vigorous condemnation of such in the columns of a contemporary will elicit many a hearty response. Woman is too often regarded by man as a mere plaything, and it is time that a higher and nobler standard of womanhood prevailed. It will be an evil day for England when woman is degraded beneath her proper level; and there can be no surer sign of the speedy decadence of a nation than when the spirit of chivalry towards her begins to die out.

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

TRUTH ON ROBERT BUCHANAN.

“IS BUCHANAN STILL POSSIBLE?”

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

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

“TRUTH” ON ROBERT BUCHANAN.

A TRENCHANT CRITICISM.

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

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The Dundee Evening Telegraph (4 April 1889 - p.3)

THE UNFORTUNATE AS A SUBJECT
OF POETRY AND PITY.

A WRONG DONE TO SOCIETY AND THE VIRTUOUS.
MRS. LYNN LINTON REPLIES TO MR BUCHANAN.

     Mrs E. Lynn Linton, writing in the Daily Telegraph to-day in reply to Mr Robert Buchanan, says:—This sentimental placing of prostitutes on an ideal pedestal as objects for poetry and pity only, and not at all as objects for condemnation, is one of the most disastrous things in all this flabby age in view of the young, who have to be kept straight against difficulties and in the face of temptations. Any one who for over forty years has walked about London as I have done must have seen and heard things which take all the sentimentality about vice out of one. Good, generous, loving, and even essentially pure-hearted girls, there are one in ten thousand among the class; but, as a class, to treat them with poetry and sentimentality is a wrong done to society at large, and infinite wrong done to the virtuous.
     It is the fashion now to say it is all the men’s fault, and the women are not to be blamed if they fall—they are helpless to protect themselves. The men ought even to resist temptations offered to them. The conscience of woman says differently. Save in the case of the very young, whose ruin rests on the mothers who did not properly safeguard them, women are their own guardians, and ought to be. If they are to be held capable of governing the Empire, they should be made accountable at least for their own self-governance. If they are to be man’s “abiding temple,” they should of their own proper force keep that temple clean and pure. It is emphatically in their own choice not to listen to serpents and not to eat forbidden apples, or to lend a willing ear and run the danger of the rest. To give them a broader political margin and to narrow their moral borders seems to me and to many more than myself a terrible inversion of good sense and right reasoning. Just as the sentimentalists of justice pity the condemned criminal, but have no thought for the murdered victim, so does the sentimentalist of unchastity idealise the street-walker, but never give a thought to the virtuous girls whom this prurient poetry of itself seduces. No! It is not because I am a “puellophobist” that I repudiate this view; it is because I love and reverence the purity of my girls, my young wives, my young mothers, too well to see it shaken or confounded with prostitution in one mass of mingled flowers and garbage. Just because I love and reverence all the noblest womanly qualities of my own sex do I stand out against movements which I feel and know will weaken those qualities, and which will give us women without womanly charm, leaders without knowledge, and men without courage, honour, or backbone.

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The Penny Illustrated Paper (6 April, 1889 - p.221)

chivalrycartoon

THE SHOWMAN.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—

     The first green buds gem our trees. Ye know of old—in the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. And that’s the reason, I guess, why Master Robert Buchanan, his poet’s eyes with a fine frenzy rolling, took up his versatile pen, and asked the learned Editor of the Daily Telegraph— “IS CHIVALRY STILL POSSIBLE?” Quite possible, say I. When gents sit inside a ’bus, and the ladies, bless ’em! outside—when men persist in wearing their hats in theatres to hide the actors from the unbonnetted fair sex —and when lovely woman stoops to folly and makes the east end of Piccadilly a scene of midnight uproar —who can deny this D. T. question is, at least, seasonable? Why this riddle has succeeded the “Is Marriage a Failure?” conundrum is another matter. Peradventure, it has been sprung upon the public by the shrewdest newspaper conductor in London, because he held that the “Special Commission” and Palaver debates did not wholly satisfy the average palate for breakfast. There’s no London daily (save the London New York Herald) which caters for the fairer half of creation so well as the D. T. does. And I imagine that it was in fulfilment of his morning duty in this direction that (Sir) Edward Lawson (attended by his smart young esquire, Harry Lawson, M.P.) really threw down the gauntlet to the callous “Mashers” of the period who opine that Chivalry is no longer possible. There’s a world of romance, friends, to be threshed out of this theme, believe me!

     “Is Chivalry still possible?” Why, certainly! Look at Hodge’s courteous and chivalric reception of each Primrose Dame who canvasses him at election-time, and who doesn’t hesitate to offer bribes or to threaten social boycotting to secure her ends, as she often did in Enfield, I’m told. Aren’t our elections immeasurably refined by the seductive billing of these real canvass-back ducks? We doff our hats directly to these descendants of the irresistible Duchess of Devonshire of historic memory—and only pray they may escape imprisonment for the practised wiles that bring them within “measurable distance” of the Bribery Act and the jail. “Is Chivalry still Possible?” I own much parlous nonsense has appeared in the D. T. on the question, which is held to be not yet answered. But who can look around, and estimate the amount of self-sacrifice and busy bees of this world cheerfully subject themselves to in order to keep their women folks at home in comfort, and not agree with me that the best and most lasting kind of Chivalry is not only possible, but flourishes in our midst?

     Ye will have observed that on Tuesday our sandy young friend Buchanan returned to the subject in the  D. T.; exclaiming afresh, “The man who lays his hand upon a woman, except in the way of kindness, is unworthy the name of man!” The gallery has cheered that heroic, if stale, sentiment anew. But, when all has been said that can be said, I fancy the discussion will resolve itself into this:—

Sing a song of Chivalry—
     Chivalry all awry—
Lawson throws his gauntlet down
     To give the Tel. a cry.
When the cry was opened,
     Buchanan ’gan to sing,
“Isn’t this a pretty cry?
     ’Twill advertise me like anything!”

                                                                                                   CODLIN.

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Punch (13 April, 1889 - p.177)

’ARRY ON CHIVALRY.

     DEAR CHARLIE,—Your letter ’as reached me, and give me a reglar good laugh.
Me engaged to be married? Who tipped you that kibosh, or is it your chaff?
The world’s awful given to Pigotting, C
HARLIE, jest now, and no kid;
But you didn’t suck
that in, now did yer? You wos a fair mug if you did.

Not percisely, my pippin. No, thanky; I know a game wuth two o’ that.
I am not a Buchananite, C
HARLIE, so don’t write me down for a flat.
Read your dear D. T. lately, no doubt, my dear boy? Well, then, wot do you think
Of this “Chivalry” question, which R
OBERT has got in no end of a kink?

I ain’t much up in histry, myself, it seems dismally dry tommy-rot,
Fur as ever yours truly looked into it, a regular rummy old lot
Our ancestors seem to have bin; blooming geesers all round, big and small;
And, like L
ABBY, I think it’s a pity we ever ’ad any at all.

Wot this Chivalry wos, mate, fust off, BOB BUCHANAN may know—or he mayn’t—
But if it meant making the Woman a speeches of gingerbread Saint,
And a bobbin’ around her with billy-doos, big battle-haxes, and such,
Like a lot of tin-kettles with trimmings, it won’t work to-day, mate, not much.

BUCHANAN’S a poet, they tell me, and poets don’t nick me, nohow,
Kind o’ long-winded loonatics, mostly, dead-nuts on the biggest bow-wow;
Sort of gushing G. O. M.’s in metre; and Chivalry, if you arsk me,
Seems a stror-stuffed poetical “property,” all bloomin’ fiddle-de-dee.

Knights be jolly well jiggered, I say, ’cept the turtle-fed City Swell sort,
Like Sir R
OBERT, the Parnell-boohooer; now he is a plucky old Sport;
But you don’t ketch him planking on Chivalry; no, it’s as much out o’ date
As D
ON QUICKSHOT’S old crock, Rosy Nanty, would be in a race for a Plate.

But Woman! Well, Woman’s all right enough, not arf a bad sort of thing
When a fellow is young and permiskus. And when he has ’ad his fair fling,
And wants quiet diggings or nussing, she do come in ’andy no doubt;
In fack, taking Woman all round, she’s good goods the world carn’t do without.

But washup ’er, CHARLIE? Wot bunkum!—as Mrs. LYNN LINTON remarks.
To watch her wire into ’er sex like Jemimer, old man, is rare larks.
She do let ’em ’ave it to-rights. ’Ow I larf as she lays on the lash!
It must rile ’er to know she’s a She, but I do like ’er devil and dash.

ROBERT’S down on the Modern Young Man, who’s a ’ARRY sez he (’ang his cheek!)
With a H.! Now that give me the needle, old man. I ain’t mealy or meek,
Nor yet one of yer rhyme-pumping milksops wot look on a gal as a saint,
But I
do know the petticoats, yus, and I’m fly to palaver and paint.

I’m a Modern Young Man, if there is one, a “Cynick” right down to the ground;
Wich means that I am not a juggins, nor yet to be copped on the bound.
Pap’s passy, old pal; pooty sentiment’s fairly played out; no one ’ooks
Yours truly with patter of “fame and fair women, and beautiful books.”

Yah! Sech hantydeluvian kibosh may cosset up kittens or kids,
But Chivalry ain’t in the ’unt when it’s matched agen Class and the quids.
Your Magdalen muck will not wash, nor we don’t want it washed, wich is more,
In Bohemia p’raps it might work, in the Strand sech soft soap is a bore.

BOB BUCHANAN may lather his ’ardest, may scrub and blow bubbles like steam,
But his moral Spring-clean won’t come off, it’s a quill-driving laundress’s dream.
Old mivvies are too fond of sluicing and tidying-up like all round;
Let Chivalry’s charwomen chatter; they won’t mop me up, I’ll be bound.

The Modern Young Man? Wy, that’s Me, CHARLIE! ’ARRY’s the model and type,
But no more like B
UCHANAN’S stuffed dummy than prime
pully sowty’s like tripe.
At the Pubs or the Clubs it’s all one; it is me sets the fashion, old pal;
And we’re all of a mind to a hinch about togs, lotion, larks, or a gal.

This here Chivalry ain’t in our maynoo; we ain’t sech blind mugs as all that.
The Modern Young Man must be wide-oh! He’s never a spoon or a flat;
Takes nothink on trust, don’t “part” easy, is orkurd to nobble or spoof;
And there’s only three things he believes in—hisself, a prime lark, and the oof.

There you ’ave it, BUCHANAN, my buffer, put neat in a nutshell, old man.
We don’t dream, or kotow to the petticoats; no, Sir, that isn’t our plan;
And you arsk wot we’re coming to? Well, you may arsk and arsk on till all’s blue,
But one thing we
ain’t coming to, B
OB, that’s to learn of a poet—like you!

If I wrote a Young Man’s Confessions, like Mr. GEORGE MOORE, as you say—
Don’t know him myself, but he seems to be fly to the right time o’ day.
I should make you sit up jest a mossel; and this I can promise, old chap,
You’ll find no tinpot “Chivalry” there, nor no moonstruck poetical pap.

Woman washup’s good fun in its way; I can fake it myself, dontcher know—
With a jolly clear heye to wot’s wot, and a sense of the true quid for quo
But be a mere moke to the Feminines, mugged up to kneel, fetch, and carry?
That may do for Chivalry-B
OB, but I’m blowed if it will for
Yours, ’A
RRY.

_____

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