ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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LETTERS TO THE PRESS (12)

 

Ibsen (2)

 

The Pall Mall Gazette (9 January, 1891)

IBSEN IN DIFFICULTIES.

To the EDITOR of the PALL MALL GAZETTE.

     SIR,—I have an appeal of rather an unusual nature to make to you on behalf of the English stage. Have you any experience as an actor? Could you and the members of your talented staff manage to fill up the casts of “The Doll’s House” and “Rosmersholm” any time this month that would be most convenient to you? The theatre shall be forthcoming; your wardrobes shall be of the best; all expenses are provided for; and your own critic will probably do every justice to your creation of Rosmer—which is the part you would help us best by doing. If you refuse, there is no more chance of the current generation becoming acquainted with the works of the greatest living dramatic poet than there seems to be of their hearing the later masterpieces of Richard Wagner in an English opera-house. You must not suppose that so unreasonable an application would be made to you had not every other means of putting Ibsen on the stage been tried without success. You will say—and truly—that the production of great plays is neither your business nor mine, but that of Mr. Irving and his fellows and rivals in management. But Mr. Irving is content to have done for Goethe and Sir Walter Scott what the Gaiety management has done for “Carmen;” he finds Casimir Delavigne’s Louis XI. more to his taste than Bishop Nicholas in “The Pretenders.” The other managers follow Mr. Irving’s example. But, you will ask, are there not actors to be found both able and willing to play Rosmer, Helmer, and so on, if it be indeed true that the theatre is ready and the money in hand? Sir there are; but they are all fulfilling engagements with Messrs. Irving and Co., who refuse to allow them to appear at the projected Ibsen matinées. The managers will neither play Ibsen themselves nor allow any one else to play him. In 1889 Mr. Charrington and Miss Janet Achurch had to go into management themselves at a heavy risk to put on “The Doll’s House.” As managers they were able to offer Mr. Waring, for example, a regular engagement as well as the enviable chance of “creating” the part of Helmer. At present we naturally turn to Mr. Waring to “create” the part of Rosmer at an experimental matinée; but the management of the Shaftesbury Theatre vetoes the proposition. Mr. Forbes Robertson, at the Garrick, is suggested; but Mr. Hare will not hear of it. Mr. Thalberg, at the Adelphi, is approached; but the Messrs. Gatti are inexorable, perhaps mistrusting the reaction of Ibsen on the popular taste for Adelphi melodrama. The result is that the performance of “Rosmersholm” which Miss Florence Farr all but formally announced for the 15th inst. must be postponed unless you, Mr. Editor, will play Rosmer. And Miss Marie Fraser’s undertaking to produce “The Doll’s House” on the 27th is in jeopardy because Mr. Wyndham has nipped one proposed Dr. Ranke in the bud; and Mr. Alexander has done the like by another; whilst an obvious one at the Shaftesbury is likely to share Mr. Waring’s fate. It is useless to look to the Lyceum; Mr. Irving’s veto is a foregone conclusion. Mrs. John Wood is equally hardhearted on the subject of matinées. In desperation I have suggested that the part of Rosmer be offered to Mr. Robert Buchanan; but it is very doubtful whether his conscience would permit him to contribute in any way to the diffusion of Ibsenism. Hence my last card, an appeal to you personally. Even if you refuse, something will have been gained if the public know definitely whom they have to thank for the exclusion from the stage of the best of modern dramatic literature. Perhaps, too, the managers may be roused to render a reason for their opposition to an experiment which interests them so directly that they ought to be well pleased at escaping an invitation to contribute funds as well as “kind permissions.” Surely artists of their eminence cannot be jealous of the reputations which might grow out of performances of Ibsen’s plays. Still, that hypothesis is sufficiently plausible to make it advisable for them either to relent, to explain, or to come forward and play the unfilled rôles themselves. Mr. Irving as Rosmer, Mr. Wyndham as Dr. Ranke, Mr. Hare as Krogstad would be welcomed as warmly by the public as by the Ibsen entrepreneurs and by yours truly,
                                                                       G. BERNARD SHAW.

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The Pall Mall Gazette (12 January, 1891)

“IBSEN IN DIFFICULTIES.”

To the EDITOR of the PALL MALL GAZETTE.

     DEAR SIR,—As the stage manager of Miss Florence Farr’s forthcoming matinée of “Rosmersholm,” I may perhaps be permitted to assure you that no one but Mr. Bernard Shaw himself is responsible for the plaintive appeal that appeared in your columns last Friday. I do not know to what extent his strictures on the policy pursued by our chief theatre managers are justified by facts, but I can at least say that so far as the performance of “Rosmersholm” is concerned, he is somewhat wide of the mark. I have asked neither Mr. Irving nor Mr. Hare to allow any member of his company to take a part, and consequently I have no evidence that either of these managers entertains any prejudice against the production of Ibsen’s plays. I have every justification for the belief that, even failing the assistance of yourself and your staff which Mr. Bernard Shaw implores, “Rosmersholm” will be presented with an appropriate cast about the beginning of next month. This was the date originally selected. Hitherto it has not even been “all but formally announced,” for the simple reason that nothing was to be gained by publishing it so many weeks in advance.
     —I remain, yours truly,
     January 11.                    A. L. BALDRY.

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To the EDITOR of the PALL MALL GAZETTE.

     SIR,—I am very sorry to learn, from Mr. Shaw’s letter, that the managers of London are so unkind to poor Ibsen; but I can assure the writer that I have no such conscience as would prevent me from accepting the part of Rosmer, if it were offered to me. I think, indeed, that the best way to settle the claims of the “greatest living dramatist” would be to get his works acted as often as possible, for there is a curious anomaly in the position of a dramatist whom no manager wants to have anything to do with. I go further than this, however, and concede to every articulate author the right to be heard, and to be judged, by public opinion. I am as anxious, therefore, as any Ibsenite to see “Rosmersholm” properly staged and interpreted.
     Mr. Shaw, with characteristic modesty, passes over the one individual, outside professional actors, who could do justice to Rosmer. If Mr. Bernard Shaw himself will undertake the character, supported (say) by Mr. Archer and other followers of the Prophet of Photography, I will gladly contribute to the expenses of the matinée and pay for my seat into the bargain. The only difficulty is that Mr. Shaw is, or imagines himself to be, very “funny,” and Rosmer, I believe, is not a “funny” character. Perhaps he would kindly suppress his natural humour for the occasion? Even if he could not, the performance would still be entertaining, and compare favourably with Mr. Shaw’s comic performances on the platform and in the magazines. A Socialist Clown, with his tongue in his cheek, flourishing the red hot poker of pantomimic Individualism, and attended by a saturnine critic as Pantaloon, would be really seasonable. Then, and then only, for the first time, the great amateur dramatist, whose dramas are too good for ordinary representation, would be rightly interpreted.—I am, &c.,
     Hampstead, Jan. 10.                   ROBERT BUCHANAN.
     P.S.—Even if this performance does not come off, Mr. Shaw need not despair. When State Socialism is fully established, and providential supervision by unwashed legislators extends even to the Drama, some new St. Just will compel the poor actors to perform, and the poor Public to witness, the dramas of back-parlour edification. Adelphi drama, with all its enormities, will be beneficently suppressed, the Brothers Gatti will be compelled to disgorge their ill-gotten gains, Mr. Irving be convinced by physical force that “he is only doing for Scott and Goethe” what Mr. George Edwards “is doing for ‘Carmen,’” and Mr. Bernard Shaw, still with his tongue in his cheek, be elected by his fellow demagogues to the long-coveted office of Licenser of Plays.                    B.

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St. James’s Gazette (12 January, 1891 - p.8)

IBSEN AT A DISCOUNT.
BY MR. ROBERT BUCHANAN.

     We have received the following letter, which speaks (very plainly) for itself:—

     Sir,—Mr. Bernard Shaw, having complained in a contemporary that he can find no professional actors to create the characters in a matinée peformance of Ibsen’s “Rosmerhohm,” has mentioned casually that he thought in despair of offering the leading part to me, but that he was deterred by the reflection that I objected to Ibsenism. May I assure Mr. Shaw that I would gladly accept the part, were it offered to me? I think, indeed, that the best way to settle the claims of one whom Mr. Shaw noisily calls the “greatest living dramatist” would be to get his plays acted as often as possible; for there is a curious anomaly in the position of a “dramatist” with whom no manager wants to have anything to do. I go further than this, and concede to every articulate author the right to be heard and to be judged by public opinion. I am as anxious, therefore, as any Ibsenite to see “Rosmerhohm” properly staged and interpreted.
     Mr. Shaw, with characteristic modesty, passes over the one individual, outside professional actors, who might do justice to Rosmer. If he himself will undertake the character, supported (say) by Mr. Archer and other followers of the Prophet of Photography, I will gladly contribute to the expenses of the matinée, and pay for my seat into the bargain. The only difficulty is that Mr. Shaw is, or imagines himself to be, very “funny;” and Rosmer, I believe, is not a funny character. Perhaps he would kindly suppress his natural humour for the occasion. Even if he could not, the performance would still be entertaining, and compare favourably with the same gentleman’s unrehearsed comic performances on the platform and in the magazines. A Socialist Clown, with his tongue in his cheek, flourishing the red-hot poker of pantomimic Individualism, and attended by a saturnine critic as Pantaloon, would be really seasonable. His friends, the great Unwashed, would assist gratuitously in the “rallies” at the end of each scene. Then, and then only, for the first time, the great amateur dramatist, whose dramas are too good for ordinary representation, would be rightly interpreted.
     Even if this performance does not come off, Mr. Shaw need not despair. When State Socialism is fully established, and when providential supervision by unwashed legislators extends even to the Drama, some new St. Just will compel the poor actors to perform, and the poor Public to witness, the dramas of back-parlour edification. Adelphi drama, with all its enormities, will be beneficently suppressed, the Brothers Gatti will be compelled to disgorge their ill-gotten gains, Mr. Irving be convinced by physical force that he is “only doing for Scott and Goethe” what Mr. George Edwardes “is doing for ‘Carmen,’” and Mr. Bernard Shaw—still with his tongue in his cheek—be elected by his fellow demagogues to the long-coveted office of Licenser of Plays.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

     Hampstead, Jan. 10.                                                                                        ROBERT BUCHANAN.

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The Echo (13 January, 1891 - p.1)

     Mr. Bernard Shaw, Ibsenite, and Mr. Baldry, artist, of Bedford-park, dramatic manager of some of the Park club-house performances and Ibsenite, seem rather to tumble over one another in their Press adoration of their Norwegian idol. Orthodox owners and lessees of playhouses appear to be reluctant to let members of their company help amateurs in some of Ibsen’s less dainty plays. Mr. Robert Buchanan seizes the opportunity to be witty, and suggests that Mr. Archer and Mr. Bernard Shaw should themselves impersonate the characters in the plays of this dramatist, whom managers and public seem so far to find “too good” to be acted. The discussion arises in connection with a meditated Ibsen production, with Miss Florence Farr (Mrs. Emery) who was so charming in the æsthetic, unshod, unhosed, Sicilian Idyll, in the principal part.

 

[See also Buchanan’s letters to George Bernard Shaw and Buchanan’s review of Edmund Gosse’s translation of Hedda Gabler, ‘The French Novelette As Norwegian Drama’, published in The Illustrated London News of 31st January, 1891.]

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Sir Charles Dilke

 

[Sir Charles Dilke was the proprietor of The Athenæum during the ‘Fleshly School’ period, so was no friend of Buchanan’s. In fact he wrote in a letter to Andrew Chatto concerning review copies of God and the Man:

“Please oblige me by not sending to the Athenæum—a journal which has for many years been malignant towards me—I mean, specially & personally malignant.”

Dilke was also a Liberal M.P. who was destined for high office until a divorce case in 1885 ruined his political career. He lost his Chelsea seat in the 1886 election, but in 1892 became M.P. for the Forest of Dean.]

 

St. James’s Gazette (9 March, 1891 - p.4-5)

“PURITAN” PERSECUTION.

To the EDITOR of the ST. JAMES’S GAZETTE.

     SIR,—Who is the most sinful, who deserves most contempt and execration from society—the man who, swept away by the torrent of evil passions, becomes personally a criminal, bespattered from head to foot by filth of his own making; or the man who, scenting the filth from afar off, multiplies it tenfold by filth of his own invention, parades it in the name of virtue, and fills society with ordure from the social sewers? The first man sins and takes his punishment; the second man—the prurient Puritan—stirs the filth and pollutes the very air we breathe.
     In common with thousands of your readers, I have perused the Manifesto against Sir Charles Dilke issued by the extreme Puritans, the well-poisoners, the advocates of eternal punishment and eternal spite. I have already stated, in another connection, that I would condemn no man finally on any evidence produced in the Divorce Court—that chamber of hypocrisy, casuistry, and lies; but whether Sir Charles Dilke be innocent, as he asserts, or guilty, as his opponents would have us believe, I think the time has come when he may fairly be considered to have expiated his real or supposed offences against society. No living man, perhaps, has been so tremendously punished. Is it not time, therefore, to cry to his tormentors “Forbear”?
     I bear no personal love to Sir Charles Dilke; indeed, I have reason, and good reason, to regard him as a personal and not too generous foe. But I would rather stand in the pillory with him than join the Melchiors and Chadbands, the Well-poisoners and Journalists in Absolution, who pelt him with mud and rotten eggs and cry, “Let his punishment last for ever!” If conduct (as these persecutors affirm) is three parts of life, what shall we say of theirs? How shall we assess the infamies of the “unco gude,” who are just now filling the world with the base coin of Mock Morality, degrading Literature, prostituting Journalism, and caricaturing Religion? The world suffers much from the infirmities of its Sinners. It suffers far more, however, from the indecency, the malignity, the pitiless cruelty, and spitefulness, of its self-styled “Saints.” Fortunately, the bias of English feeling has never been towards the descendants of Tartuffe, towards the doctrinaires of eternal malice and eternal punishment. The mass of Englishmen are generous to the erring and disposed to allow fair play even to the poor Devil. They believe, and justly, that the punishment of the criminal should end with the exit from the prison-gate. Sir Charles Dilke has “dree’d his weird” of shame and contumely. The hounds of Justice caught him, fairly or unfairly, in the open. It is not just that he should be attacked, when just rising to his feet, by the whelps of the New Journalism and the wild cats of Prurient Puritanism.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

     Hampstead, March 6.                                                                                        ROBERT BUCHANAN.

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Perfect Manhood And The Way To Attain It

 

[Not a letter, but Buchanan’s response to a ‘symposium’ in the New York Herald on the subject of ‘Perfect Manhood and the Way to Attain It’. The Pall Mall Gazette’s report on the exercise (18th June) ends with the following comment:

     ‘Mr. Jerome K. Jerome’s contribution to the discussion was not bad. He had no time, he said, to answer the questions; but, he added, “Isn’t Mr. Robert Buchanan your man? He would settle the whole thing for you, I am sure, in ten minutes.” And Mr. Buchanan did!’

New York Herald (7 June, 1891 - p.13)

nyheraldperfmanbuchbit

The rest of the page from the New York Herald is available here.

Later in June, 1891, Buchanan took part in another ‘symposium’, this time in the London edition of the New York Herald, on the subject of ‘Ibsen and the English Drama’. Unfortunately I’ve not been able to find the original but The Era (20th June) summarised Buchanan’s contribution as follows:

‘... Mr ROBERT BUCHANAN, in three exhaustive paragraphs, expects that a play of high comedy, something on the lines of Le Monde où l’on s’ennuie, or Lionnes et Renards, will be the dominant type of drama in the near future. IBSEN Mr BUCHANAN considers to be—like the Barbadian people described by one of their units in a novel of Captain MARRYAT’S as being “only too brave”—only suffering from an excess of morality. As regards realism, Mr BUCHANAN would leave the dramatist absolutely free to choose his own subject, and to justify himself. He would impose no limitations either of conventional good taste or conventional morality. This is “rather a large order;” but if Mr BUCHANAN were the Reader of Plays, or the responsible critic of a daily paper, he might, perhaps, hold other views.’

The rest of the article is available here.]

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The Outcast

 

St. James’s Gazette (9 September, 1891 - p.12)

MR. ROBERT BUCHANAN’S NEW POEM.

To the EDITOR of the ST. JAMES’S GAZETTE.

     SIR,—In your review of the “Outcast” you commit yourself to an astonishing statement, as follows:—“Vanderdecken spends a delicious year in the society of a sort of South Sea Haidee,” adding, “Byron did all this much better in ‘Don Juan,’ and then it had the merit of being original.” Now, it is no business of mine to impugn your critical estimate of my verses; but I do think I have a right to question the accuracy of your description of my purpose, more especially as other eminent critics are busily echoing or chorusing your blunder. Your statement, indeed, makes me wonder whether you have really read my book at all. If the “Outcast” has any purpose or meaning, it is to unmask and ridicule the very “Byronism” in question—the rampant and dyspeptic Individualism which is just as potent now as when Napoleon was sent to Elba. The episode of Haidee, describing faithful love in excelsis, is one of the divinest things in our language. My episode of Aloha describes what Byron never thought of or heeded—the folly and fatuity of self-conscious intellectuality trying to assert itself with pure natural passion. Juan is a boy, the type of eternal boyhood; my Vanderdecken is a jaded man, who will never be a boy again; and at every step he takes, in the self-conscious endeavour to recover a lost innocence, he is pursued by the writer’s scornful invective. Of all this, of my reiterated ridicule of hero-worship and genius-worship, you say not a single word; but you convey to your readers the impression that I am treading in the path of the very Folly which it has been my lifelong effort to contemn. I may have expressed myself badly, but I have repeated the same idea so often, in passage after passage, that I cannot have failed to express myself altogether. It is fair to assume, therefore, that the misstatement of facts of which I complain is due quite as much to the carelessness of my critic as to my own literary incompetence.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

     London, Sept. 8, 1891.                                                                                       ROBERT BUCHANAN.

     [We can answer for it that the reviewer of “The Outcast” did read the book, and read it with care. If, therefore, Mr. Buchanan has not succeeded in making his meaning clear to a careful reader of certainly not less than average intelligence, we are not surprised that he should find himself misunderstood by the general public.—ED. St. J. G.]

 

[Note: The St. James’s Gazette review of The Outcast is in the Reviews section.]

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W. S. Gilbert on Living Dramatists

 

The Echo (17 September, 1891 - p.2)

     The tardy honours paid to Christopher Marlowe yesterday ought to convince even Mr. Robert Buchanan that Mrs. Grundy is not after all Queen of England. The Dean of Canterbury sent an apology for his absence, and one of the Canons of Canterbury Cathedral, the Hon. and Rev. H. Fremantle, was present at the celebration, as also was the reverend head-master of the Grammar School at which Marlowe received his early education. These facts are noteworthy, considering that not very long after Marlowe’s death the bishops ordered his translations of Ovid’s “Love Elegies” to be burned, on account of their licentiousness. Truth to say, their licentiousness cannot be denied, from a modern point of view, though it should always be remembered that, in “the spacious times of great Elizabeth,” men and women in good society spoke with a freedom in regard to sexual relations which would shock the audience of a modern music-hall.

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The Times (18 September, 1891 - p.7)

A POINT OF TASTE.
_____

TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.

     Sir,—At the recent unveiling of the statue to Christopher Marlowe, the Hon. and Rev. Canon Fremantle is reported to have asked, in the course of his speech, “Why it was that our English nation, so capable of literary excellence, had hardly produced any really great playwright in these latter days?”
     It is, unfortunately, too true that, although we have several capable dramatic writers among us, we have none who have any claim to be considered great. But was it polite or tactful on the part of the honourable and reverend orator to impress this unpleasant fact upon an assemblage of gentlemen intimately connected with the stage, and among whom was that excellent dramatist, Mr. A. W. Pinero? Probably we have not many great divines among us, but what would be thought of Mr. Pinero if, finding himself in the society of a number of clergymen engaged in honouring the memory of (say) Bishop Latimer, he ventured to make such an assertion to such an assembly? It might be quite true, but it would not be pretty to say so.
                   I am your obedient servant,
     September 17.                             W. S. GILBERT.

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The Echo (19 September, 1891 - p.1)

HEAR ALL SIDES.
_____

TO THE EDITOR OF THE ECHO.

MR. GILBERT ON LIVING
DRAMATISTS.

     SIR,—In a brief letter to this morning’s Times, apropos of the Rev. Canon Fremantle’s disparaging remarks concerning modern English dramatists, delivered on the unveiling of the Marlowe Memorial, Mr. W. S. Gilbert says:—“It is, unfortunately, too true that, although we have several capable dramatic writers among us, we have none who have any claim to be considered great”; adding, however, that it was very bad taste to obtrude such a remark in the presence of that “excellent dramatist,” Mr. A. W. Pinero. Now, writing as one fairly familiar with great literature, I wish to express my opinion that Mr. Gilbert is himself guilty of unreasonable judgment, if not of bad taste. It has been the fashion from time immemorial for hasty and impertinent writers and speakers to deny “greatness” to contemporaries; it is so easy to find gods ready-made, and so difficult to discern them during the process of development. Let me take one illustration, which is here at my hand. I have always held that Mr. Gilbert himself is a great, because an original and unique,  humourist. In all the range of the drama, I know no writer who surpasses him in quiddity, in oddity, and in individuality; and I believe the time will come when his “greatness” will be as obvious as (say) that of Congreve, or of Farquhar, or of Sheridan. But I, personally, do not take dramatic “greatness” on hearsay; I discern it as easily in a living contemporary as in an unacted “fossil.” Of Mr. Pinero’s works I know less than of those of Mr. Gilbert, owing to the fact that they have never been printed. Yet I have no doubt in my mind that those of his plays which have delighted me on the stage would compare favourably with the impudence, the sham sparkle, the general emptiness and tawdriness, of many “great” comic writers. Be that as it may, a reproach to living dramatists comes ill from the mouthpiece of a Church which, now as ever, is at deadly war with the Drama, as with Freethought generally. Why will not Churchmen leave us alone? We have never had their sympathy, and we ought to decline their patronage. And why will the professional Idiot, ignorant of the whole history of literature, persist in sounding pæans to the “great” spirits of the Past, and consistently deny the possibility of any “greatness” in the Present?
 —I am, &c.,                   ROBERT BUCHANAN.
    
London, Sept. 18.

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The Echo (21 September, 1891 - p.4)

MR. GILBERT ON LIVING DRAMATISTS
_____

TO THE EDITOR OF THE ECHO.

     SIR,—In your issue of Saturday Mr. Robert Buchanan, criticising Mr. W. S. Gilbert’s recent letter in the Times concerning certain remarks on our modern English dramatists delivered by the Rev. Canon Fremantle on the occasion of the unveiling of the Marlowe Memorial, ventures to express his opinion that Mr. Gilbert “is guilty of unreasonable judgment, if not of bad taste.” Mr. Buchanan must allow me to endorse his statement, and at the same time permit me to say that the same accusation may still more fairly be brought against himself. Among the many eloquent speeches that were made at the luncheon that followed the unveiling of the Marlowe Memorial, at Canterbury, last Wednesday, that of Canon Fremantle’s was one of the most remarkable, not only for the able and earnest manner in which it was spoken, but for the frank confession that he made, that those who cared for religion had to look back with sadness over the past and feel that they had done a great wrong not only to the memory of Christopher Marlowe, but also to English literature; and for the seriousness with which he dwelt on the importance of the two institutions of Pulpit and Stage uniting in the task of building up a noble conception of humanity. And these excellent remarks on the advantages of an alliance between Church and Stage have no other effect upon Mr. Buchanan than to cause him to angrily and petulantly exclaim, “Why will not Churchmen leave us alone? We have never had their sympathy, and we ought to decline their patronage.” I am not a Churchman myself, and I don’t suppose the time will ever arrive when the Stage will be gathered under the banner of the Church, but I fail to see the necessity for such a vigorous protest on the part of Mr. Buchanan. That Canon Fremantle made certain remarks about our modern dramatists is perfectly true, but that they were disparaging to Mr. A. W. Pinero, or any other dramatists present is entirely erroneous. We have amongst us many capable playwrights, but I venture to think that Mr. A. W. Pinero, Mr. W. S. Gilbert, Mr. Henry Arthur Jones—or even Mr. Robert Buchanan himself, for instance, would scarcely consider themselves great, in the same sense that Marlowe and many other Elizabethan dramatists were. Mr. Robert Buchanan is a very excellent type of a literary fighter, but it is seriously to be regretted that he does not display a little more discretion and courtesy in his assaults upon his opponents. If he only would do so his unexampled polemical abilities would be prevented from running to waste so much.
—Yours, &c.,                   JAMES ERNEST BAKER.
     London, Sept. 19.

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The Era (26 September, 1891)

GREAT DRAMATISTS.
_____

     “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Mr PINERO has been placed in the last-named category by the too-scrupulous solicitude and very zealous sympathy of Mr W. S. GILBERT. It seems that at the recent unveiling at Canterbury of the statue to CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE a Mr FREMANTLE, who was both Honourable and Reverend, asked, in the course of his  speech, “Why it was that our English nation, so capable of literary excellence, had hardly produced any really great playwright in these latter days?” It is difficult, by the way, not to be reminded by this of the Rev. Mr CHADBAND’S plaintive inquiry why he and his friends did not fly, and of Mr SNAGSBY’S suggested but promptly suppressed explanation, “No wings!” Mr PINERO seems to have borne the implied detraction patiently enough; but Mr GILBERT, with a delicate sympathy which, while we are still in the realm of DICKENSIAN reminiscence, recalls the solicitude of TILLY SLOWBOY for the feelings of the injured baby, has written to remonstrate publicly with Canon FREMANTLE for his remarks. It is true, says Mr GILBERT, that we have no great writers amongst us; but why mention it? “Was it polite or tactful to impress this unpleasant fact upon an assemblage of gentlemen intimately connected with the stage, amongst whom was that excellent dramatist Mr A. W. PINERO? It may be quite true,” says Mr GILBERT, “but it is not pretty to say so.”
     The touching solicitude for the feelings of others which Mr GILBERT has invariably shown, and his well- known native sweetness of disposition make this remonstrance quite characteristic, and it is pleasing to find that the exercise of the stern functions of a country magistrate has not blunted Mr GILBERT’S sensibilities or hardened his moral cuticle. But this is not all the pleasure which we have derived from perusing correspondence on the same subject. If Mr GILBERT is not satisfied with the “prettiness” of Canon FREMANTLE, Mr GILBERT’S letter itself does not please Mr ROBERT BUCHANAN. This, perhaps, is not to be wondered at. Mr BUCHANAN’S gentleness and urbanity need only be alluded to in order to be acknowledged, and he finds Mr GILBERT guilty of “unreasonable judgment, if not of bad taste.” In order that Mr GILBERT may not be too deeply depressed by this finding, Mr BUCHANAN administers to him a corrective in the shape of the statement that he (Mr BUCHANAN) has always considered Mr GILBERT to be great. It is a difficult task, Mr BUCHANAN admits, this “discerning gods in the process of development,” but Mr BUCHANAN is specially gifted in this direction. He can “spot” dramatic greatness as easily in a living contemporary as in an unacted fossil. Mr BUCHANAN somewhat weakens the effect of his protest against bad taste in letter writing by an allusion to a professional Idiot ignorant of the whole history of literature. To call a man, even a canon, an idiot—and with a capital I, too—is certainly as Mr GILBERT would put it, “not pretty.” Mr PINERO is in an embarrassing position. If he agrees with the Canon and approves of his speech, he “gives away” his excellent friend Bombardos—we beg pardon, Mr W. S. GILBERT; if he takes umbrage people will say he (Mr PINERO) is jealous of MARLOWE. We congratulate him upon adopting the only judicious course, viz., to possess his soul in peace, and put the finishing touches to his new comedy for Mr EDWARD TERRY.
     It is impossible not to be touched by the exquisite sense of the fitting and the courteous which has been displayed both by the author of The Gondoliers and the part-proprietor of The Trumpet Call. It is evident that we are entering upon a new epoch of behaviour in the world of playwrights. In future, not only will authors object to that being said which is offensive to themselves; they will protest against the statement of anything that may possibly be unpleasant to other people. Mr GILBERT is too modest to cherish any illusions as to his own greatness; but he has an idea that Mr PINERO may be hurt by certain remarks being made in public. It would be interesting to know if Mr PINERO gave any signs of suffering at Canterbury—if he was “visibly affected” by the ugliness of the Canon’s remarks. Did his cheek flush or his lip curl? Was there a “pained expression” about the corners of his mouth, and did his appetite at dinner afterwards appear to be abated? From what little we know personally of Mr PINERO, we should say that he was too sensible to trouble himself about posterity, too philosophical to worry about the merit of his work, and too reasonable to take amiss a simple statement of fact which was introduced incidentally into a remarkably broad and liberal speech.
     It is a pity that so entirely satisfactory a ceremony as the unveiling of the MARLOWE Memorial at Canterbury could not be allowed to pass without even a shadow of adverse criticism. We cannot even coincide with those who seriously entertain the opinion that the memorial might better have stood within the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral. There are probably a great many worse men than CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE was who are interred within those precincts; but that is not the point, which is one concerning the fitness of the thing. The evidence concerning the man MARLOWE is so meagre that those who are always willing to whitewash a man of genius, even at the cost of emasculating his memory, may make out a case in this instance. But there is really no reason to reject the brief account of FRANCIS MERES, in his Palladis Tamia, or, all allowances made for Puritan animosity and prejudice, to doubt that MARLOWE was a dauntless Freethinker, and, like most of his fellow-playwrights of the period, a wild and turbulent spirit. He and his works were the most intense expression of his time, an epoch of great and sudden passions, of violent animalism, of grandiose and ill-regulated efforts. It is difficult, indeed, to believe that the man who wrote Tamburlaine when he was twenty-four, and died a terrible death in a base quarrel in a Deptford tavern at thirty, after pouring out, with volcanic prodigality, works like Doctor Faustus, The Jew of Malta, and Edward II., was a sober, orthodox citizen. MARLOWE was a child of the Renaissance, and a Pagan to the backbone. We feel certain that the deceased poet would have turned uneasily in his grave if he had learned that there were proposals to place his Memorial within the precincts of a cathedral. We much prefer it where it stands, “on the site of the old bull stake at the lower end of Mercery-lane.” There is more fresh air there than in the precincts, decorous and pretty as they are.

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The Sentencing of Charles Grande

 

[Another ‘work in progress’ since I have not seen Buchanan’s original letter to The Echo protesting the 20 year sentence imposed on Charles Grande for demanding money with menaces. The Grande case is confusing since he was simultaneously tried for another crime, but the accounts from The Times of his arrest (The Times 29 September, 1891 - p.2), the first day of the trial (Times, 20 November - p.13), the second day (Times, 21 November - p.4), the third day (Times, 25 November - p.13), and the final sentencing (Times, 26 November - p.3) are available for those wishing to know the background. And if you want to enter the darker labyrinths of the Ripperologists, there’s more information about Charles Grande and his candidacy as a possible Jack, here. Since Grande was sentenced on 25th November, and it was reported in The Times, the following day, and the mention of Buchanan’s letter in The Echo occurs in The Dundee Evening Telegraph of 28th November, I would suggest that it was published on 27th November, 1891.]

 

The Dundee Evening Telegraph (28 November, 1891 - p.2)

MR ROBERT BUCHANAN ON THE
SENTENCE OF THE THREATENING
LETTER-WRITER.

     Robert Buchanan writes as follows to the Echo on the sentence pronounced by Mr Justice Hawkins on Charles Grande, convicted of sending threatening letters to a nervous lady with a view to extract blackmail. No sane man, says Mr Buchanan, can justify this criminal; he was guilty of the basest and meanest kind of crime, conducted in a spirit approaching fatuity or imbecility, yet absolutely indefensible from any standpoint. No breach of the peace, however, no catastrophe of any kind, resulted from his conduct. He had merely frightened an hysterical woman, and such a bungler was he in his sorry business that he strewed incriminating documents over the floor of his own lodging. The truest estimate of him would be that he was insane, or nearly so, and needed severe looking after in an asylum. Yet this poor, bungling creature, rendered desperate by our false system of society, has been sentenced to imprisonment for twenty-seven years. A monstrous sentence! A sentence only possible in a “Christian” country, only utterable by a “Christian” Judge! Why, the man Grande might have committed actual murder at an infinitely cheaper rate! He might, like the ruffian who has just been convicted of driving his helpless wife out of a second-floor window, and of gloating savagely over her death agony, have been convicted of “manslaughter,” and have received a far lighter punishment! The imbecile blackmailer, sending fatuous letters to a person in good society, who might simply have handed them to her nearest male protector, and who should surely have seen the absurdity of such epistolary nonsense, is more criminal, in the eyes of the law, than the wife-butchering bully of low life.

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The Derby Daily Telegraph (28 November, 1891 - p.2)

     Mr. Robert Buchanan is once more upon the warpath. Sir Henry Hawkins is his victim and the sentence on Charles Grande is the cause of the outburst, which is amusing for the two reasons, that he declares the judge to have been a mountebank before he was raised to the Bench, and that he traces some connection between the sentence and the book of selections from the poets just compiled by Mr. Henley. The logic is admirable in its way: sentences of such severity are only possible in a land where boys are fed on such literature (that is, poems like Tennyson’s “Revenge” and Rudyard Kipling’s “Flag of England.”) This reminds one of the very old syllogism that the existence of old maids leads to an increase in the clover crop.

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The Pearl Case

 

[Briefly, the ‘Pearl Case’ involved the theft of some jewellery from Mrs. Hargreave in February 1891. When the pearls turned up in a jeweller’s shop, both Mrs. Hargreave and her husband made their suspicions known that the theft had been committed by Ethel Elliott, Mrs. Hargreave’s cousin, who was engaged to Captain Osborne. The Hargreaves were accused of slander and the case came to court in December, 1891. However the case was abandoned when evidence came to light which confirmed Ethel Elliott’s (Mrs. Osborne’s) guilt. The Osbornes fled to the continent. In February 1892, they returned to England and Mrs. Osborne (now pregnant) gave herself up to the police. She was subsequently tried for perjury and theft and on 9th March was sentenced to nine months hard labour. However, due to the state of her health she was released from Holloway prison on 31st March 1892.

The case was reported in newspapers throughout the land, but the court reports from The Times probably give the most detailed account of the affair. Too detailed, in fact to be included here, for the sake of a single letter from Buchanan. However if you click the pictures below there’s a report from Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper which gives some background to the case and the report from The Times of the final court appearance of Mrs. Osborne.]

lloysosbornep1thmb lloysosbornep2thmb

Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper
(7 February, 1892 - p.10 and p.11)

pearltimefinalthmb

The Times
(10 March, 1892 - p.3)

The Echo (28 December, 1891 - p.2)

PUBLIC CLAMOUR AND PRIVATE
CONSCIENCE.
_____

TO THE EDITOR OF THE ECHO.

     SIR,—This pearl-stealing case is so dreadful and so instructive that I beg to be allowed some concise remarks:—
     (1) The conduct of Mrs. Osborne is so hideous towards a confiding cousin, and so infamous towards her bridegroom, now her husband, that I dare not wish on her account any punishment milder than a severest English tribunal would award. Only, if a severe, yet just, sentence does but heap new suffering on those whom she has already cruelly injured, and is of infinitesimal weight to deter like offences; on that ground, Mercy, not to the guilty, but to the guiltless, may be implored.
     (2) What is still more to be considered—if the like crime occurred beyond Christendom, it is all but certain that Mrs. Osborne would be judged to have obtained her position as a wife by false pretence, with a cruel wrong to her husband. She has acted a part which, in all natural probability, must turn his love, if not into hate, yet into such utter contempt and distrust as to make marriage unnatural and miserable. Whatever else her punishment, great or small, divorce ought, as of course, to follow her crimes. [Captain Osborne would be left free, after the divorce, to offer re-marriage if he chose. It would not constrain him.] This is the least that humane sentiment prescribes as his right.
     (3) The bench of Bishops, as a collective body in the Lords, will reply, “Nay, but Christianity forbids divorce, except for adultery. This is only their blindness, in following a blind tradition. The Gospels do not so state the matter. Under Mosesism the Jewish husband held a barbarous power to divorce his wife. No Divorce Court was dreamt of. The religion of the Jews most justly limits this arbitrary power of the husband, but suggests no thought that should limit or direct a national court, if such an institution were to arise.
     Do we begin to learn how real an infliction on our nation is the permitting of ecclesiastics to dictate our law?—Yours, &c.,                   F. W. NEWMAN.
     Weston-super-Mare, Dec. 25.

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TO THE EDITOR OF THE ECHO.

     SIR,—In connection with what has been called “The Great Pearl Mystery,” there is one point on which I wish to say a few words. With the legal question I have nothing to do; and it is no part of my business to defend Mrs. Osborne against the laws which she has broken. But I protest, with the fullest strength of conviction, against the illogical, unreasonable, virulent, and absolutely brutal tone of the English Press on what may be termed the “moral” issues of the case. In every newspaper I have taken up there is but one expression of opinion—detestation of the criminal, and pity for her husband; and in most newspapers a savage cry that “this man” should be torn from “this woman.” Captain Osborne is a “noble gentleman”; his wife is utterly ignoble. Why, then, should our wicked “marriage laws” link these two together any longer?
     Now, après?
    
Again and again, in these columns, I have pointed out the enormity of our posing and posturing as a nation, of “Christians.” This new development of pagan folly, raging in the hearts of pious or super-moral editors, is another proof of the national ignorance or hypocrisy. Writing neither as a sentimentalist, nor as a nebulous optimist, I will seek to detach the moral from the legal question, and regard the case from the simple and logical standpoint of human ethics.
     The outcry to which I have alluded is, in the first place, a rabid attack on the liberty of the chief individual concerned, who, in so far as he is “noble,” will resent and despise it. I attach little or no importance to the fact that Captain Osborne, in the face of a charge which seemed calumnious, married the lady he had chosen. What amazes me is that personal independence should be so uncommon that so very natural an act of manliness has awakened ecstasies of admiration! To my mind, the claim of Captain Osborne to moral superiority had to be decided after, not before, the proof of his wife’s guilt. Now, up to the moment of writing, this gentleman has made no sign. He has not voiced his sorrow to the public; he has not shrieked out against the “wicked marriage laws”; he has not turned upon the woman who is still, in the eyes of the law, his wife. Possibly, if he had done so, he would have been within his rights; but certainly, as he has not done so, no other living creature has any right to speak on his behalf. So far from “pitying” him, then, I begin to realise, for the first time, that he is a Christian in the best sense, and a Christian logician. For outside the law and its just exactions this man and this woman stand still together. Their moral relation to each other can be determined by no outside influence, not even by that of the law. The whole assumption of popular criticism is that the marriage contract can be broken by a public act of crime on the part of one of the contractors. The whole assumption of human ethics is that a public act of crime has everything to do with the social laws, and nothing to do with the laws which govern the conscience of the individual.
     Put the case, or a case. I love a woman of doubtful reputation, I marry her, and I find after marriage that she has been a criminal. Her guilt is proved, and, possibly, she has to pay the penalty. Just in so far as I love that woman, or have loved her, do I help her or stand apart from her. More than any creature living, by the very touchstone of my love, do I know that woman. Whatever she is to the world, she is something very different to me. In all the world only one hand now can help her, and that hand is mine. I know, if I am a consistent “Christian,” that the God in whom I believe will succour her, and remain with her. Just in so far as I follow that God, who is Love, do I act in the emergency. If I turn from my wife, the World, the Flesh, and the Newspaper will approve me. But my God being neither the World, nor the Flesh, nor the Newspaper, I do not ask for their approval.
     Never, so long as Englishmen profess a religion which they daily disregard in practice, will the ethical right of individuals be understood. The journalistic clamour that the husband of Mrs. Osborne should occupy a public standpoint of vulgar retribution is an insult to moral freedom, and an outrage on common sense. The legal relation between a man and a woman is one thing, their moral relation is another. It is precisely because our Marriage Laws deal only with legal relations, and obscure or ignore those relations which are inscrutable to all save the two persons concerned, that they are so often, in their practical results, detestable.
     As I write, a dear friend of mine looks over my shoulder, and exclaims, “Idealism again! defending a wicked woman! making a martyr of a criminal! The saints in your calendar are Mrs. Maybrick the poisoner, Grande the blackmailer, and Mrs. Osborne the thief!” Hardly so, I think. I cannot pretend even to the idealism of Christianity, for my faith is pinned to no God and no system. But I plead, as a thinking being, for logic and for consistency. It is not for me, as an individual, to do the Law’s business. It is not for me, as an individual, to protect Society. It is my business, however, and it is the business of every thinking man, to protect the individual conscience against the tyranny, the cruelty, and the violence of public opinion. What I demand for Captain and Mrs. Osborne I demand for all men and women, and that is, liberty to the full in the sphere of spiritualities, which no legality can affect one way or the other, and in which Man comes face to face with conscience, the only voice of the only living God.—Yours, &c.,
     Hampstead, Dec. 27.                   ROBERT BUCHANAN.

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Aberdeen Evening Express (31 December, 1891 - p.4)

THE CAPTAIN AND HIS WIFE.

     Two remarkable letters on the subject of the relations between Captain Osborne and his wife have been addressed to a London contemporary. The venerable Professor F. W. Newman (brother of the great Cardinal) argues that Captain Osborne ought to have a divorce. He says that, if the crime occurred beyond Christendom, it is all but certain Mrs Osborne would be judged to have obtained her position as a wife by “false pretences,” with a cruel wrong to her husband. Whatever else her punishment, divorce ought, in his opinion, to follow her crime. He knows, however, that the law forbids divorce except for adultery, and so he concludes with a fling at the infliction imposed on the nation by the permitting of ecclesiastics to dictate our law. The other letter is from Mr Robert Buchanan, who, like Professor Newman, has ceased to call himself a Christian in the current sense of the term. Mr Buchanan protests against the hypocritical clamour of the public with regard to Mrs Osborne. He attaches little or no importance to the fact that Captain Osborne, in the face of a charge which seemed calumnious, married the lady he had chosen. What amazes him is that personal independence should be so uncommon that so very natural an act of manliness has awakened ecstasies of admiration. Seeing that Captain Osborne has not turned upon the woman who is still in the eyes of the law his wife, Mr Buchanan contends that no other living creature has any right to speak on his behalf. So far from pitying him, Mr Buchanan begins to realise that Captain Osborne “is a Christian in the best sense, and a Christian logician.” He says that only one hand can help the woman, and that hand is her husband’s.

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The Echo (4 January, 1892 - p.4)

THE PEARL CASE.

     SIR,Through The Echo—“our Echo,” I might truly say, for to its constant and faithful readers it is a gem of comfort, light, and knowledge at the end of many a weary day—may I follow up the noble and kind rendering of Robert Buchanan’s summing-up of the conduct of Captain Osborne in the Pearl Case.
     While in no wise wishing to revert to another criticism of that special case in point, I would like to note emphatically one or two sentences of our friend Mr. Buchanan; firstly, “again and again in these columns I have pointed out the enormity of our posing and posturing as a nation of Christians,” “and in every newspaper I take up there is but one expression of opinion, detestation of the criminal, pity for the    husband.” The latter is no doubt from a worldly point of view an extremely just opinion, because it was a heinously deceitful crime, and the husband utterly crushed by the astounding and sad revelation, but it is the sequel of his conduct that is the turning point to my mind, and thereby hangs Mr. Buchanan’s strongest point, and as a body of professing Christians our greatest condemnation. What would we have had Captain Osborne to do? “Why, leave her at once,” “get a divorce directly.” These two opinions were breathlessly uttered by my dearest friend. Yet I went to the house of God on the next day, and heard my friend in rhapsodies over the sermon, its idealism, and the exquisite beauty of the Lord’s Prayer. I turned it all over in my mind, and then The Echo came with this exquisitely beautiful letter, and my mind again and again recurred to the profession of the Christian body, and the actual daily carrying out of the spirit of it, and it seems to me that more and more is the spirit of Christ sinking into obscurity, or rather, mere “theorising.” The very essence of His divine teaching was forgiveness first of all and end of all. Where, Oh where is the spirit to be found such as He inspired in these never to be forgotten words—“Let him that is without sin amongst you first cast a stone.” Is it all forgotten now at this time, when the season is emblematical of Him in all directions. There is the Pagan, Robert Buchanan, shaming us, and well, if we can be shamed, let us hate the sin of this fair sinner with all our hearts, but, in the name of the Prince of Peace, let us not go so far as to denounce her beyond her husband’s love; let us never carry cruelty of condemnation so far as to say she (like many others) must be cut off from the being to whom alone she can look at such an awful moment. Next to her God comes her husband, he is her earth god, “her own familiar friend.” No one has a right in private, or public, to go behind that scene between those two souls; according to his depth of love will be his forgiveness, I think, and in our case as Christians, in so far as we really love Christ, will be our forgiveness one to another. In fact, I do not believe in anyone’s Christianity unless there is the corresponding balance of that spirit, and may I doubt myself much if I ever allow that cruel censoriousness to find a resting- place in me. “Who art thou that judgest another?” Let us take and turn that little text over, my fellow Christians, who are so fond of judging these sad cases which every now and then crop up; indeed, it seems to me that it is the Christians who are hardest on everyone. Just put it to yourself. If such a sinner came to you in a similar sad and desperate plight, would you not be bound, as a Christian (if you wish to be one), to take her or him in, and do what you think your Saviour would approve of? Well, then, why should not her husband, to whom she belongs, do the same? She is his for time and eternity; till “death them do part.” Therefore, I am glad that he has so far done his duty, and I strongly condemn the un-Christian judgment against his acting so that went forth ruthlessly and uncalled for, and evoked Robert Buchanan’s indignation. He is the Christian, not we.—Yours, &c.,
                                                                                                           CONSTANT READER.
    
London, Dec. 31st.

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The Echo (6 January, 1892 - p.1)

     We have received several letters on the Pearl Case, but as no practical good is likely to arise from a continuance of the discussion, we have not inserted them. Mr. Robert Buchanan struck a lofty note of a lofty gospel when he courageously vindicated in our columns the conduct of Captain Osborne in protecting his erring wife. If he, knowing all the circumstances, continues to love and cherish a woman whatever misfortune may have overtaken her, what is it to busybodies who might be better employed than in poking their noses into other people’s business.

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The Dundee Evening Telegraph (9 February, 1892 - p.2)

     Writing in yesterday’s Echo with reference to the case of Mrs Osborne, Robert Buchanan says:—I hear “Hosannahs!” round the grave of a great preacher who is said, after a life of faith in eternal punishment and hell-fire, to have tranquilly “entered Heaven.” I hear no voice raised in any pulpit demanding that there should be equal justice for rich and poor, and that the rich and honoured, when they fall, should not bear punishment ten-fold greater than that meted to the poor, when they wander astray.

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Mr. Heggie

 

The Standard (11 January, 1892 - p.2)

     An inquest was held on Saturday at the Local Board offices, Wimbledon, by Mr. Braxton Hicks, concerning the death of David Birrell Heggie, 27, a commercial traveller, of 3, Dryden-road, Wimbledon, who was found dead on the 6th inst. His wife had left him about a month ago owing to his drinking habits.— William Page, a machinist, lodging with the deceased, stated that the latter had been the worse for drink several times lately. Witness was called by the deceased, who slept on the floor, about two a.m. on the 6th inst., when he asked for a seidlitz powder, complaining of feeling queer. Witness advised him to go to bed, and about eight o’clock found him lying dead in the kitchen behind the door. The following letter was found on the deceased:—“6-1-92.—3, Dryden-road, Wimbledon.—Good-bye, my mistaken, darling wife. I leave you now to meet again in Heaven soon. Good-bye, Robert Buchanan, dramatic author. Remember my ‘Religion of Science,’ and your neglect of me. No money, no home, ill awfully for last two years. No sleep for days upon days. Good-bye all, D. B. Heggie.” His brain and stomach were congested, and there was found, extending into the nostril, a diphtheritic membrane which had partly caught in the larynx and produced suffocaion, causing death.—A verdict in accordance with the medical evidence was returned.

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The Yorkshire Evening Post (11 January, 1892 - p.4)

heggieinquest

The Pall Mall Gazette (12 January, 1892)

“THE WRETCHEDEST OF ALL PROFESSIONS.”
MR. ROBERT BUCHANAN AND MR. HEGGIE.

     An inquest was recorded in yesterday’s papers on the death of a commercial traveller named Heggie, who left a written statement in which he said: “Goodbye, Robert Buchanan, dramatic author. Remember my ‘Religion of Science’ and your neglect of me.” Mr. Buchanan writes to the Telegraph in explanation this morning as follows:

     Several years ago Mr. Heggie called at my country house in Essex and introduced himself to me as a young Scotchman ambitious to enter the profession of literature. It appeared to me, at our first interview, that he possessed little or no capacity for a literary life, and that his mind, moreover, was affected by hereditary physical infirmities. I assisted him to the best of my power with both advice and money. Shortly afterwards his hallucinations became so troublesome that I had to ask him not to intrude further upon me personally. He wrote to me subsequently expressing deep regret for what had occurred, saying that in accordance with my advice he had sought and found non literary occupation, and adding that he had made a happy marriage. I heard no more of him until last year, when he sent me several pamphlets which he had written and published, including one on the “Religion of Science.” A few days before his death he sent a messenger to my house with a letter stating that the writer was in urgent need of pecuniary assistance. I was away from home, but the messenger was seen by my sister-in-law, Miss Harriett Jay, who immediately sent Mr. Heggie a small sum of money, and promised on my behalf further help when necessary. This was the last occasion on which I heard from  him, or of him, until this morning, when I read the account of his pitiable end. I owe it to myself to state that, so far from neglecting a fellow-creature in trouble, I again and again gave him practical proof of my sympathy. Possibly the expression “neglect of me” refers to the fact that I could not encourage this unfortunate young man, mentally and physically unfit for literary pursuits, to follow the wretchedest of all professions. Not a day of my life passes but I receive communications from other aspirants who see in literature a royal road to prosperity, and out of all these not one in twenty has the most rudimentary qualifications for the literary profession. There is not in this country a single professional author, however distinguished, who does not know, by sad experience, that to live by literature alone means infinite disappointment and proportionate suffering. Only the strongest and hardiest survive in an occupation which, in England at least, has few legitimate rewards and little social honour.

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The Dundee Evening Telegraph (12 January, 1892 - p.3)

MR ROBERT BUCHANAN AND AN
UNFORTUNATE LITTERATEUR.

     Mr Robert Buchanan writes to the Daily Telegraph:—In the daily newspapers I perceive an account of Mr D. B. Heggie, a “commercial traveller,” aged 27, on whose person after death was found a paper containing these words, among others — “Goodbye, Robert Buchanan, dramatic author. Remember my ‘Religion of Science’ and your neglect of me.” As the words may be misinterpreted, I must ask you to insert a few lines of explanation.
     Several years ago Mr Heggie called at my country house in Essex, and introduced himself to me as a young Scotchman ambitious to enter the profession of literature. It appeared to me at our first interview that he possessed little or no capacity for a literary life, and that his mind, moreover, was affected by hereditary physical infirmities. I assisted him to the best of my power with both advice and money. Shortly afterwards his hallucinations became so troublesome that I had to ask him not to intrude further upon me personally. He wrote to me subsequently expressing deep regret for what had occurred, saying that, in accordance with my advice, he had sought and found non-literary occupation, and adding that he had made a happy marriage. I heard no more of him until last year, when he sent me several pamphlets which he had written and published, including one on “The Religion of Science.” A few days before his death he sent a messenger to my house with a letter stating that the writer was in urgent need of pecuniary assistance. I was away from home, but the messenger was seen by my sister-in-law, who immediately sent Mr Heggie a small sum of money, and promised on my behalf further help when necessary. This was the last occasion on which I heard from  him, or of him until I read the account of his pitiable end. I owe it to myself to state that, so far from neglecting a fellow creature in trouble, I again and again gave him practical proof of my sympathy. Possibly the expression “neglect of me,” refers to the fact that I could not encourage this unfortunate young man, mentally and physically unfit for literary pursuits, to follow the wretchedest of all professions.

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The Yorkshire Evening Post (12 January, 1892 - p.2)

     Of all the evils which attend the success of authors, the least to be endured is the pestering of those aspirants for literary work, who are not mentally fitted to the pursuit. In most cases vanity prompts the essay. But, as LYLY says, “He that commeth in print because he woulde be knowen, is like the foole that commeth into the market because he woulde be seen.” The other day died one D. B. HEGGIE, a young commercial traveller, on whose body was found a paper containing these words—“Good-bye, ROBERT BUCHANAN, dramatic author. Remember my ‘Religion of Science’ and your neglect of me.” Naturally enough, such an imputation as this enforces an explanation from Mr. BUCHANAN—an explanation which plainly shows that this poor fellow was one who “commeth in print” without the requisite capacities. He was one of the thousands whom Mr. BUCHANAN, in common with every other author of repute, has had to discourage from an ambition wholly without warrant. Perhaps because he was a brother Scotsman Mr. BUCHANAN helped him with both advice and money, but succeeded in making him relinquish a profession for which he not only showed no native fitness but from which he was mentally incapacitated by infirmities. HEGGIE made “a happy marriage,” and went into a non-literary pursuit. But the hankering after the flesh-pots of the profession led him to write several pamphlets, and he appears to have become destitute, as a few days before his pitiable death he sent to Mr. BUCHANAN for money, which was given in the absence from home of the author. For this man to die with such an implied slur upon the generosity of an author who is known as a sympathiser with the struggling author, is much too bad. Mr. BUCHANAN has told us how he started his literary life in much the same way as the young Scotsman whose dead hand so unwarrantably reproaches him; but he always had the feeling of power which leads to success, and his struggles have carved out a name which will live long. He still thinks that “life by literature alone means infinite disappointment and proportionate suffering,” and after his recent experience will probably discourage yet more positively the applicants for his advice and guidance.

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The Leeds Mercury (16 January, 1892 - p.12)

ECHOES OF THE WEEK.
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                                                                           Friday, January 15th, 1892.

. . .

     What on earth can have prompted clever Mr. Robert Buchanan, in a letter to the “D.T.” touching a recent melancholy case of suicide, to remark incidentally that “literature is the wretchedest of all professions.” Mr. Buchanan was not, I should say, himself in very good trim when, about 1860, he contributed to a magazine which I founded, called “Temple Bar,” one of the most vigorous and the most pathetic poems that I ever read; still it appears to me that he has done very well in the profession of literature for at least a quarter of a century. He has achieved brilliant and well-deserved successes as a poet, a novelist, a dramatist, and an essayist; and he enjoys moreover, unless I am mistaken, a Civil List pension. Since when, I ask myself, with some dubiety, has he discovered that the craft of letters is a “wretched one?” I wish that I had half his complaint.

                                                                                                           George Augustus Sala.

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