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From time to time Buchanan’s letters turn up on ebay and other sites. They tend to be single sheets - brief notes with incomplete dates and no clue given as to the source - although the most infuriating examples are those where the signature alone is offered for sale, ripped from the bottom of the letter. This page is reserved for these randomly acquired letters. Where possible I have added additional information after the transcript. Since I’m working off the photos supplied by ebay, etc., it’s sometimes difficult to make out every word - my ‘best guesses’ are in italics and when I am completely at a loss there is a ? .



This first letter is not from ebay, it’s a transcription of a letter from Buchanan to William Hepworth Dixon (editor of The Athenæum) which I came across in the James Macfarlan section of the Gerald Massey site. Presumably it accompanied Buchanan’s piece on Macfarlan which was published in The Athenæum on 22nd November, 1862, which I have placed in the Letters to the Press section. I have to thank Ian Petticrew (webmaster of the Gerald Massey site) for letting me include the letter here:


Nov. 14, 1862.

Dear Mr. Dixon,

To procure insertion of the enclosed in the Athenæum, I think that it will only be necessary to point out two or three facts. Macfarlan’s little books have received highly favourable notice in your columns; Macfarlan himself was an object of interest to very many discerning men, including Mr. Dickens; and the poor fellow’s widow & child are nearly, if not absolutely, starving! It is important that the case should be noticed at once.

                   Very faithfully
                   Williams Buchanan.

Hepworth Dixon Esq. ]


To W. C. Bennett - 19th January 1866.

Seine Inferieure
Janry 19th 1866

Dear Sir,

                   Your volume reached me in a roundabout way, but I have been unable to thank you for your kindness until now. I have read a portion of the poems, & with much pleasure, and I thank you heartily for affording me the opportunity.

                   Faithfully yours
                   R. Buchanan.

W. C. Bennett Esq.


[This letter, from the David J. Holmes Autographs site, was listed on ebay in December, 2010 (with accompanying photo).
According to his listing in Mid-Victorian Poetry, 1860-1879 by Catherine W. Reilly, William Cox Bennett (1820-95) was born in “Greenwich, London, son of a watchmaker. He carried on his father’s business but also wrote for newspapers and became famous as a songwriter. On staff of the Weekly Dispatch, 1869-70. Member of the London council of the Education League. Lived at Hyde Cottage, Greenwich. Died at Blackheath.”]


To the Brothers Dalziel - 16th April 1866.

Belle Hill
April 16th 1866


                   I accept your terms contained in yours of the 14th. You are to pay me £150 for the set of poems illustrated by Pinwell & North—£50 on Wednesday the 18th April & the other £100 on the finish of the M.S.S. I reserve the right of incorporating the poems in my collected works, but not within three years.
         Will you kindly let me know how many more photographs there will be, that I may not exceed the No. of cuts to any poem?—With regards

                   Faithfully yours
                   Robert Buchanan.

[Another letter from the David J. Holmes Autographs site. The description mentions the letter is written “on pale blue mourning paper” (hence the black border) - Buchanan’s father died the previous month on 4th March.]


To Gerald Massey - 14 June 1871.

14 June 1871.

Dear Mr Massey

                   Would you kindly allow me to print in a selection I am making from English poets your beautiful “Winters Tale for the Little Ones”?
With kind regards

                   I am
                   Yours faithfully
                   Robert Buchanan.

Gerald Massey Esq.


[Buchanan wrote a similar letter on the same date to Robert Browning asking for permission to include “in a selection of poems from Homer downwards” several poems by Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I’ve not come across any other mention of this proposed anthology. Judging by the poems he was considering, it would seem that it was to be aimed at younger readers.

More information about Gerald Massey is available here, including his poem ‘A Winter’s Tale for the Little Ones’.]


To J. Campbell Clark - 1st September 1871.

Soroba Lodge
Sept 1. 1871

My dear Sir,

                   I regret that I did not see you to-day when you called. Shall you be staying over Sunday? and if so, will you take lunch with us at 2½ p.m. on that day? I should be very glad also to see Mr Macdonnell if you can persuade him to accompany you.

                   Yours faithfully
                   Robert Buchanan.

J. Campbell Clark Esq.


To William Davenport Adams - 18th February [1878].

51 Upper Glo’ster Place
Dorset Sq
18th Feb.

Dear Sir,

                   Use the poems by all means; I am honoured by your wish to do so.

         In great haste
                   Yours sincerely
                   Robert Buchanan.

W. Davenport Adams Esq.


[This letter is from the Historical Autographs site. A search for William Davenport Adams (1851-1904) led to Princeton University Library which has a collection of similar letters to Adams and the following information:

The collection “Consists of 71 letters from several well-known British authors and poets addressed to William Davenport Adams and to his wife. They are mainly responses to requests made by Adams to grant him permission to either publish some of their works or to quote them in his various dictionaries of English literature and authors. Some of the prominent correspondents names include Aubrey De Vere, Francis Hastings Doyle, Emily Faithfull, Norman Gale, Joseph Hatton, Lucas Malet, William Hurrell Mallock, Charles Marriott, Robert Bright Marston, Gerald Massey, Sir Lewis Morris, Sir Walter Alexander Raleigh, Sir George Otto Trevelyan, William Watson, and William Aldis Wright.”

“William Davenport Adams was a British journalist and author, son of William Henry Davenport Adams. He was an editor of provincial papers, and a dramatic critic from 1878 to 1904. He compiled an unfinished Dictionary of the Drama (1904) and other literary works, such as Dictionary of English Literature: Being a Comprehensive Guide to English Authors and Their Works, With Poet and Player: Essays on Literature and the Stage, and Latter Day Lyrics: Being Poems of Sentiment and Reflection by Living Writers.”

It would appear that this letter relates to Latter Day Lyrics: Being Poems of Sentiment and Reflection by Living Writers (available at the Internet Archive), which was published by Chatto and Windus in 1878, since it contains three poems by Buchanan: ‘Charmian’, ‘"O bairn, when I am dead"’ and ‘The Footprints’. After Buchanan had moved to Ireland in the autumn of 1873, he seems to have used rooms in Gloucester Place for his visits to London and there are letters to Browning from this address from 1874 to 1878. So it is most likely that this letter was written in 1878.]


To Stephen Massett - 5th May, 1879.

14 Balham Grove
May 5.

Dear Sir,

                   Thanks for your letter. I assure you we were all charmed with your admirable recitations.
         I shall be removed to Town in a few days, & we may then have the pleasure of meeting again.

                   Sincerely yours
                   Robert Buchanan

Stephen Massett Esq.


[‘/79.’ is added to the date on the letter, but appears to be in another hand. The year is confirmed on the envelope and by the fact that Stephen Massett was in England at this time and was giving public performances. Below is a review of his performance at the Literary Institute of Wellingborough from The Northampton Mercury (5 April, 1879 - p.8).


He was also on the bill of a charity concert at the St. George’s Hall, Langham Place, held on 3rd June, 1879, according to an advert in The Morning Post of 22nd May. Stephen Massett (also known as ‘Jeems Pipes of Pipesville’) was an English entertainer who made his name in America. More information is available at The Maritime Heritage Project.]


To George Canninge - 8th December [1880].

5 Larkhall Rise
Dec. 8.

Dear Sir,

                   Can you play at a Gaiety matinée on Dec. 22, in a new play of mine? If so, please send a line by bearer stating lowest terms, & let me know where I can telegraph to you in the morning. We commence rehearsing at Gaiety at two to-morrow.

                   Truly yours
                   R. Buchanan.

G. Canninge Esq.


[This letter to George Canninge, the actor, is almost certainly regarding Buchanan’s production of his play, The Nine Days’ Queen, which was premiered at a matinée at the Gaiety Theatre on December 22nd, 1880. There is a review of the performance (with Harriett Jay in the role of Lady Jane Grey) in the Theatre Reviews section.]


To Letty Lind - 26th April [1881].

3 Guildford Place
Russell Sq.
April 26.

Dear Miss Lind,

                   I am afraid I cant exceed £2, as our cost is very heavy — but I will promise to make an increase if the piece is a success — which I expect.

                   Yours in haste
                   R. Buchanan.

Miss Letty Lind.


[I originally thought this was connected to Letty Lind’s appearance in The Bride of Love in 1890, however I now believe it is earlier, and refers to Miss Lind’s appearance as Anna Maria Clewson in The Mormons, which played at the Olympic Theatre from 7th May to 2nd June, 1881. According to the 1881 census, held on 3rd April, Buchanan and Harriett Jay were living at the lodging house of George Remnant at 3 Guildford Place, St. Pancras.]


To Theophilus Marzials - 3rd January [1883].

36 Craven Street
Jan. 3

My Dear Sir,

                   Of course my letter was misdated, & I cant think how the mistake occurred. Thanks for your kind reply. I will endeavour to call upon you some time before one o'clock to-morrow, but pray dont remain at home on that account —if you have other arrangements—I will take my chance.

                   Truly yours
                   Robert Buchanan.

Theo. Marzials Esq.


[I couldn’t add much information to this letter, and was not even sure of the year in which it was written, until Helen Assaf sent me the item below which she found in an old (very old considering it went for ten bob) Sotheby’s catalogue:


Sent from Westward Ho, Southend on February 28th, including the text:
     “Would you care to do a little music for my new Adelphi play? There is a part song, and some other pieces; and I should be very proud of your co-operation . . . We want simple, telling, music—old English fashion.”

Although Buchanan’s main association with the Adelphi came later in his career with the successful run of plays written with G. R. Sims, at that time he was settled at Maresfield Gardens. However, an earlier play, Storm-Beaten, was produced at the Adelphi on 14th March, 1883, and at that time, Buchanan’s mother was a resident at the Westward Ho boarding house in Southend. Therefore, I would suggest that these two letters are from 1883, as well as one of the letters to Andrew Chatto - the only other letter I’ve come across with the Craven Street address (which, by the way, is just off the Strand, around the corner from the Adelphi).

According to reviews, the music for Storm-Beaten was written by Henry Sprake, with a ‘pastoral ballet’ by Henri Dewinne. However, an advert for the play in Reynolds’s Newspaper of 4th March mentions a “part song by Margials” (sic) and the review in The Stage concludes with the following:
A capital song is given in the third act of the play by Mr. Harry Proctor.”
Helen Assaf also tracked down Marzial’s song, ‘May Music’, on amazon. It was published in 1883 by Boosey & Co.

And, a final bit of speculation: in the Craven Street letter to Marzials too much seems to be made of Buchanan’s misdating of an earlier letter (too much for a simple mistake in the day) so I’m wondering whether the ‘Sotheby’s fragment’ actually precedes the letter from Craven Street and Buchanan got the month wrong. It makes sense according to what we have of the text but there’s no way to confirm it.

Further information about Theophilus Marzials (1850-1920) is available on wikipedia.]


To Edmund Clarence Stedman - 22nd September [1884].

42 East 23rd Street
Madison Square
Sept 22.

My Dear Mr Stedman,

                   I ought perhaps to have replied before this to your most genial letter. Need I say that its frank friendliness was very delightful to me? or how much I should have relished a visit to you in the ocean-wilds? Since my arrival here, however, I have been up to the neck in business, & I had to postpone our meeting.
         I hope you will let me know when you set foot again in this city. I am located here in a flat with my sister-in-law, who will very likely act in New York this season.
         Did you see my little allusion to you in the Tribune? I shall be very interested, by the way, to get your book on American poets - which is announced, I see. Are you writing more poetry? One of my favourites is that delightfully naïve & pathetic poem about “Bohemia.” Alas, where is Bohemia now? I am afraid it perished with George Warrington & Pendennis; yet I remember it vividly. Et ego fui in Bohemia.
         Hoping to hear from, or still better, to see, you, I am

                   Faithfully yours
                   Robert Buchanan

E. C. Stedman Esq.


[This letter to the American writer Edmund Clarence Stedman was offered for sale on ebay in October, 2014 (for $299.99) with a first edition of The Martyrdom of Madeline which had been given to Stedman by Robert Buchanan. There is an inscription on the title-page of Volume 1 which reads:

To E. C. Stedman,
In memory of our first meeting,
from Robert Buchanan

Paris, June 2. 1882.

The description of the item was as follows:
Up for sale is a hardcover, 3-volume, first edition, inscribed set of 'The Martyrdom of Madeline' by Robert Buchanan. The set was published by Chatto & Windus in 1882 and is a first edition. There is an inscription by the author to the American literary figure E.C. Stedman on the half-title of Volume One. Stedman's bookplate (see picture) is on the pastedowns of all three volumes. The bookplate of noted book collector John Quinn (see picture) is on a preliminary blank of volumes One and Two. Laid in is a signed 3-page letter from the author to E. C. Stedman. The set is in Very Good condition with wear to the covers (particularly the heads and heels of the spines) and darkened spines (see pictures). Slight spine lean to all three volumes. Half titles to all three volumes and 32-page book catalog at the end of volume 3. The books measure 7 and 1/2 by 5 and 1/4 inches and have 252, 255, and 215 (plus 32) pages (respectively). Scarce.”
As well as the photographs of the letter, there were also these of the books, bookplates and the inscription:

3volmadthmb 3volmad2thmb 3volmad3thmb
3volmad4thmb 3volmad5thmb

E. C. Stedman refers to his meeting with Buchanan in Paris in a letter to Hall Caine, which is included in Life and Letters of Edmund Clarence Stedman Vol. 2 by Laura Stedman and George M. Gould, M.D. (New York: Moffat, Yard and Company, 1910):

(pp. 38-40)

     To T. Hall Caine.
                                                                                                                                 December 20, 1882.
     I am under three distinct and unmistakable debts of gratitude to you: First, for your collection of English Sonnets—a kind of “bookmaking” of which I wish we had more; second, for the essay on “The Supernatural Element in Poetry”—which I found on my table when I returned from Italy, and am glad to have received from the hands of its author; third, for the early copy of your “most musical, most melancholy” “Recollections of Dante Gabriel Rossetti,” the receipt of which gives me a chance to write this letter, returning you my most cordial thanks, and expressing my sense of the tact and timeliness with which you have executed your latest and most delicate task. There doubtless will be many a book written upon this “sleepless man who perished in his pride”—this full-veined scion of Italy who drew his sap from English soil and I shall look with profound interest for the volume which, soon or late, our heroic friend Watts surely will give us; but no work can render void your own offering,—none can be invested with so immediate a pathos and with such a lingering halo or aureole of the painter-poet himself. Your tale is naturally, frankly told, and with modesty withal. It is a dramatic monologue; the facts are like the unveiling of some mystical picture, for the first time, to most of us: and the criticism is usually that with which I am in sympathetic agreement.
     I am struck by the propriety and delicacy with which you enlarge upon the unhappy feud between Mr. Buchanan and the Rossetti group of poets. This reminds me that Rossetti was annoyed that Buchanan was grouped, under the caption “Latter- Day Poets,” with Swinburne, Morris and himself; and indeed in the same chapter with himself. But this was a mere exigency of my book (“Victorian Poets”), of which but two chapters were devoted to the four most prominent “Latter-Day” singers—of whom Buchanan certainly then was one. Besides, I drew the sharpest possible contrast between his genius and method and those of the other three, and disposed of his case first—so that he might in no wise be thought of in my discussion of Rossetti, Swinburne and Morris. A glance at the volume will explain the whole situation. I tried to do full justice to Buchanan’s genuine quality as an idyllic poet of Nature, but deprecated his “poetry with a mission,” and intimated that his controversies and preachments had done him poor service. At all this he took some umbrage, but we met by chance in Paris last June, and parted good friends. Until recently, I had drawn the inference, from Swinburne’s “Under the Microscope,” etc., that the feud was rather between Messrs. Swinburne and Buchanan, than with Rossetti. And, with the exception of my slight reference to Mr. Buchanan’s controversies, I chose to ignore altogether your local strifes, and to treat each poet solely upon the merits of his actual work. The chapter on Rossetti was long ago written, but I think it shows how profoundly I felt the unique and imaginative quality of his genius. When criticising an author I try to dwell in his body and soul for the moment, to see what he felt and meant, and to ask how far he has succeeded in experiencing his feeling and meanings. I am impressed by Rossetti’s statement to you with respect to “Ulalume” and “The Blessed Damozel,” having myself felt that the latter in some way (in a higher and purer key) restrict the chords that tremble in the former.
     When in Liverpool, last May, I came suddenly upon “Dante’s Dream,” at the Art Exhibition there—and Father Hennepin could not have been more astonished when he first came upon Niagara in the primeval forest! It is the only large picture of Rossetti’s that I have seen—I first knew him, when myself a youth, through his drawings for the illustrated Tennyson.
     You have quite a field of your own, in your paper on the Supernatural in Poetry. I have read it with great interest, and value it for its subtle and original treatment of a fascinating subject.



There is another mention of Buchanan in the same book, in a letter to Lilian Whiting, which I thought I might as well add here:

(pp. 348-349)

To Lilian Whiting.
                                                                                                                                   December 31, 1882.
     Every writer should have a dear and conscientious piece of “masterwork” on hand—so as to feel the chance of ultimately achieving an ideal, the consciousness that all one’s work is not ephemeral. Pick out some rare and famous personage, to whom you are most attached, and undertake a sympathetic and critical biography: some woman like Miss Fuller, some man like ???—at all events some poetic and well-known soul that has passed away. And don’t write with fluency, but architecturally,—as the French write at their best.
     Curiously, I wrote a long letter to Caine (who sent me his Rossetti) about the Buchanan-Swinburne-Rossetti feud. I allude to it, merely, in “Victorian Poets.” Have you seen Swinburne’s “Under the Microscope,” his terrible withering onslaught on Buchanan. It is rare. I have a cherished copy.    ]


To Lawrence Barrett - 30th April [1884].

11a Park Road
Regents Park
April 30.

Dear Mr Barrett,

                   I hope to have the pleasure of bringing you the M.S. of Doctor Dee very speedily. As the scrip is somewhat rough, perhaps you would permit me to read it to you; but that must be according to your wish & leisure.
         I hope you are thinking seriously of ‘Hamlet.’

                   Faithfully yours
                   Robert Buchanan.

Lawrence Barrett Esq


[Another letter from the David J. Holmes Autographs site, which suggests 1884 as the possible date. Lawrence Barrett was an American actor and according to the description of the letter:
“This letter probably dates from the spring of 1884 when Barrett took over the management of the Lyceum Theatre in London, during its owner, Henry Irving’s first visit to the United States. DAB notes that although Barrett’s ‘engagement there was productive of no financial success, he was received cordially in professional and artistic circles, and was the recipient of many social attentions, including a banquet given in his honor.’”
This is the only mention of a play called ‘Doctor Dee’ I’ve come across and I would suggest it is an alternate title for That Doctor Cupid which was first performed in 1889. The ‘Dr. Cupid’ character is from the Elizabethan period and according to the review in The Morning Post he was “shut up in the bottle by Dr. Dee”. I admit this is rather speculative, but it is the only connection I’ve found. And to continue with the speculation: if the 1884 date is correct, then a possible reason for Buchanan’s changing the title of the play has been suggested by Helen Assaf, who let me know that in 1885 there was a comic opera by Cotsford Dick and C P Colnaghi produced at the Royalty Theatre, entitled Dr. D.]


To Mr. Baldwin (New York) - 22nd October [?].

11a Park Road
Regents Park
Oct 22

Dear Sir –

                   The poem to which you drew my attention is certainly not mine, tho’ it is quite bad enough to have come even from the pen of

                   Yours truly
                   Robert Buchanan.

— Baldwin Esq.
New York


[Another letter from the ‘11a Park Road’ address, so I’ve placed it here although I have no idea of the year it was written. Buchanan used rooms at 10a Park Road in 1872 (according to letters to Browning) and there are letters from 11a to Augustin Daly in July 1886 and to Edmund Gosse and Marie Corelli in February 1887.]


To William Heinemann - [1892].

25 Maresfield Gardens
South Hampstead

Dear Heineman,

                   Only just got your letter on returning to Town. Quote from Marlowe by all means. Instead of Shakspere, on title-page—”Come, live with me, & be my Love”—I used the Shakespere version as being the most familiar.

                   Yours truly
                   Robt Buchanan.

W. Heineman Esq.


[This could be from 1891. There is some confusion about when Heinemann published Buchanan’s novel, Come Live with Me and Be My Love. The British Library lists a 2 volume edition as published in 1891, but the only reviews I’ve found are for the one volume edition published in the summer of 1892.]


To Mr. Madge - 8th January [1893].


Jan. 8.

Dear Mr Madge,

                   Accept from me as a New Year’s gift a copy of my Wandering Jew, pubd this day, & believe me

                   Yours truly
                   Robert Buchanan.

W T Madge Esq.


[W. T. Madge was the manager of The Globe, the London evening nespaper.]




The following are descriptions of letters from various sites - autograph dealers, etc. Without seeing scans of the letters one has to take the descriptions at face value and assume that the attribution to Robert Buchanan is correct.

David J. Holmes Autographs

1. ALS, 2pp, 8vo, 102 Prince of Wales Road, Haverstock[?] Hill, N.W., date unclear. To editor [William] Hepworth Dixon, hoping to arrange a time to meet, acknowledging receipt of a letter, and remarking: “I did not guess that you wrote the notice, but I am much pleased to hear that you did so. . . .” Some soiling and toning; center fold just barely starting; else good. Item # 20048 $75.00.

2. ALS, 2pp, 8vo, Grove Cottage, Haverstock Grove, 9 February 1864. To J.A. Langford, the Birmingham antiquary and journalist: "Pray do not put yourself to any inconvenience concerning the Lecture. I have by no means decided to read in Birmingham, tho' I thought such a contingency was possible.'' Buchanan says that he won't be able to do anything until next winter, and thanks Langford for his recent book of poems ("I shall read them leisurely.''). A little soiled and worn; traces of paper tape on verso, but in good condition. In 1864, as in 1859, Langford published a volume of commemorative poems on Shakespeare. Item # 2255 $135.00.

In December 2010 this letter was offered for sale on ebay accompanied by a photograph of the second page:


3. ALS, one page, 8vo, Etretat, Seine Inferenie, France, 19 January 1866. To W.C. Bennett, writing: "Your volume reached me in a roundabout way, but I have been unable to thank you for your kindness. I have read a portion of the poems, & with much pleasure, & I thank you heartily.....'' A little worn, but in good condition. W.C. Bennett is William Cox Bennett, a minor poet who published several volumes of verse [see NCBEL III, 507-8]. Item # 4160 $125.00. [see above]

4. ALS, one page, 8vo, on pale blue mourning paper, Belle Hill, Bexhill[?], 16 April 1866. To the Dalziel Brothers, accepting their terms for "the set of poems illustrated by Pinwell. . . . I reserve the right of incorporating the poems in my collected works, but not within three years. Will you kindly let me know how many more photographs there will be. . . ." Rather foxed, with a red, crested six pence postal stamp embossed at top; else good. Annotated in red in beneath the return address: "Wayside Posies [date crossed through]." Item # 17903 $175.00. [see above]

5. ALS, one page, 8vo, 11a Park Road, Regents Park N.W., April 30, n.y. To the American actor, Lawrence Barrett: "I hope to have the pleasure of bringing you the M.S. of Doctor Dee very speedily. As the scrip is somewhat rough, perhaps you would permit me to read it to you, but that must be according to your wish & leisure. I hope you are thinking seriously of Hamlet.'' Verso of integral leaf slightly torn (removed from an album); slightly soiled, but in very good condition. This letter probably dates from the spring of 1884 when Barrett took over the management of the Lyceum Theatre in London, during its owner, Henry Irving's first visit to the United States. DAB notes that although Barrett's "engagement there was productive of no financial success, he was received cordially in professional and artistic circles, and was the recipient of many social attentions, including a banquet given in his honor.'' Item # 6187 $125.00. [see above]

6. ALS, 2pp, small 4to, St. Germains, 88 South Side, Clapham Park, 11 December, n.y. To Alfred E. Knight, Esq., thanking him for his kind letter of support, and writing: "Pray, pray, don't fancy that I pose as a badly used & misunderstood person. A man cannot take the losing side in most questions . . . nor can he criticize men & things honestly without paying the piper. . . . I get as good as I give, and if I am boycotted (which is true enough) what does it matter?. . . . As to the financial question, that's different. I have always warned young men . . . as I was warned many years ago by dear old Barry Cornwall. If I had started out with the most modest independence . . . from other sources than literature, all my life would have been different. . . . I have had to part with my work for a beggar's wage. On the other hand, I have been both careless & extravagent, & much of my worry has been of my own making. . . ." Small staple or pin hole at upper left; some light foxing and soiling (mostly stains from prior mounting); else good. Item # 17724 $350.00.

7. ALS (with an additionally initialled post script), 2 1/4pp, 8vo, 17 Cavendish Place, W., 25 May, n.y. To Evelyn Ballantyne, apparently in defense of literary criticism attributed to Buchanan: "I am very sorry if I have been unjust to Mr. James, though I cannot honestly say that I feel myself to have been so. . . . I do not . . . feel so bitterly towards [Mr. Moore] as you do, for he has amused me very much. . . . Whether or not I am a successful writer, is really of no consequence to any one but myself, -- and 'success' is a word which needs definition. . . . If it means 'to be praised and belauded,' I am the . . . failure of my generation. If it means to make those who hate me listen to me, & perhaps be a little afraid of me, I have been being successful. . . . I have some Irish blood in my veins, & rather like a shindy . . . for the love of the thing, but as for hating any one, even the man who hits me on the head from behind, why, that's beyond me!" Lightly foxed and soiled; starting at folds; good. Item # 17896 $225.00.


Ximenes Rare Books, Inc.

‘Autograph letter signed, 4 pp., 8vo; undated, but marked “rec’d Feb. 7, 1860,” to William Makepeace Thackeray. Preserved in the original orange printed filing folder of the Cornhill Magazine (“Publication Department”). A charming and quintessentially youthful appeal from Buchanan, then an aspiring young writer of 18, to Thackeray, the great man of letters aged 48. No doubt this letter, or some version of it, has been written many times, in many places, by many aspiring writers of tender years:

“Sir, Do not throw this letter aside; but take it up, think over it, and read it thro’ — as a man, not an editor. I demand this in the first place; because, if you only glance over it, the suit it propounds is hopeless. — I shall be as brief as possible, for both our sakes. I am led to hope that your new periodical is not exclusively devoted to papers by men of established reputation — that, on the contrary, merit coming from any quarter may seek & find a place in it. Your Prospectus, your general works, and your latest papers, endorsed this hope. Was it a correct one? If so, you will read my poor little M.S. Some time ago I forwarded to Mr. G. H. Lewes a portion of a contemplated work, poetical of course, but of a peculiar character. His reply came thus: “Publish a volume of such poems, & you will make a position for yourself.” He advised me, however, to wait for a short space of time, in order to perfect my materials &c. and, of course, I determined to follow his advice — wise advice. Now, my object in writing to you must be plainly stated — I shall not aid my cause by rigmarole. I say plainly, then, that the publication of either of the two enclosed poems in your Magazine would do my projected adventure more good than you can ever be aware of. I am a very young man (not quite nineteen) and ask you to give me a chance of making a respectable appearance. I need not appeal to your generosity — I believe that it is too well tested. If you regard the poems as worthy, print them; if they [are] not up to the mark, burn them. But do me justice, in spite of established reputation. Excuse my freedom in addressing you so familiarly. Believe me, you have not a warmer admirer in all Britain than the poor devil of a poet who subscribes himself, Sir, yours most respectfully, Robt. W. Buchanan.”

In fact Thackeray seems to have taken no notice; a note on the front of the Cornhill Magazine folder here seems to indicate that Buchanan’s letter was answered only after more than three months, and then by a “Mr. Williams.” But Buchanan was not deterred, and later in the year he came to London to launch his “brilliant career.” He sought out G. H. Lewes in person, and George Eliot as well, along with Browning, Peacock, and Dickens (who accepted several contributions for All the Year Round). In time Buchanan successfully established himself as a poet, though unhappily his reputation now rests mainly upon his controversial attack on the pre-Raphaelites, The Fleshly School of Poetry, first published in 1871. It is perhaps worth adding that Buchanan did not in fact follow the suggestion of Lewes which he reports to Thackeray, but went ahead and impatiently published a first book in Glasgow, entitled Poems and Love  Lyrics. This volume is undated, but clearly pre-dates Buchanan’s departure for London in 1860; curiously, the book is not listed by either the DNB or CBEL, and is wrongly described in the NUC (IU, CSmH) as having been published in the 1870's. Price: £900.’


On 29th March, 2011, this letter was sold for £600 at an auction at Bonhams of New Bond Street, London. Their description of the letter is as follows:

Lot No: 29

BUCHANAN, ROBERT WILLIAMS (1841-1901, poet and novelist)

EARLY AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED (‘Robt. W Buchanan’), to W.M. THACKERAY, writing when eighteen years of age, forthrightly urging Thackeray to read and then publish two poems in The Cornhill Magazine (‘Do not throw this letter aside; but take it up, think over it, and read it thro’ - as a man, not an editor. I demand this in the first place: because, if you only glance over it, the suit it propounds is hopeless...’), expressing the hope that The Cornhill is not devoted only to the work of those of established reputation (‘...if so, you will read my poor little M.S....’), telling him about the opinion and advice he received from G.H. Lewis after he had forwarded a portion of a contemplated work (“Publish a volume of such poems, & you will make a position for yourself”), stating his present purpose plainly and without ‘rigmarole’ (‘...the publication of either of the two enclosed poems in your Magazine would do my projected adventure more good than you can ever be aware...’), appealing to his generosity, asking pardon for his own familiarity, stating his admiration for Thackeray (‘ have not a warmer admirer in Britain...’), and suggesting that he burn the poems if they are not up to the mark, 4 pages, octavo, tipped onto a Cornhill Magazine publication department filing orange paper folder with the Magazine number CCCCXXIV, receipt note at head (7 February 1860), 9 Oakfield Terrace, Hillhead, Glasgow, undated but noted on the folder that the letter was answered on 17 May 1860.

Sold for £600 inclusive of Buyer’s Premium.

Footnote: Thackeray did not answer the letter himself; that was left to Mr Williams, and he took three months to do so.


And I then came across another mention of the letter in the British Library manuscripts catalogue, where a copy of the letter has been deposited in the ‘Copies of Exported Manuscripts Deposited under Government Export Regulations’ section, indicating that the original has been bought by a foreign buyer.


Richard Ford Manuscripts

1. Autograph Letter Signed to “J. Maclehose”, publisher.
Chatsworth House, Great Malvern, 30 March ., 1874. Robert Williams Buchanan, Author (see Dictionary of National Biography). One page, 8vo, good condition, thanking his correspondent for a letter and a book (to come) which he will check, adding "Macmillan's edition was full of atrocious 'misprints', but I presume Mr Bell and Mr Nichol had read the proofs this time carefully?" In the Postscript he asks for "local help" for an edition of his collected poems just issued by King & Co. Bookseller Inventory # 3121 £60.

2. Autograph Letter Signed (‘Robt Buchanan) to George Manville Fenn (1831-1909).
18 December [no year]; 5 Larkhill Rise, Clapham.
12mo, 1 p. Text clear and entire, on lightly creased blue paper, with a thin docketed strip neatly cut away at the foot of the letter. Traces of cream paper mount adhering to the blank reverse. Presumably refers to the play 'Alone in London', which debuted at the Olympic Theatre in 1885. Buchanan trusts that Fenn 'will be present in production of my new play & Miss Jay's debut on Wednesday next'. He asks whether to send the stalls, 'or do you get them from the Office? It will be indeed disappointing if you do not come, this time.'. Bookseller Inventory # 6808. £45.

[Since the letter shares the ‘Larkhill’ Rise address with the George Canninge letter above, I should think the play referred to is The Nine Days’ Queen, which was premiered at a matinée at the Gaiety Theatre on Wednesday, December 22nd, 1880, starring Harriett Jay. George Manville Fenn was a prolific writer of adventure stories for boys, but was also the editor of Once A Week from 1873 to 1879.]

3. Autograph Letter Signed (‘Robt Buchanan’) to Harold Kyrle Bellew (1855-1911)
10 October [1897]; Ridgebourne, 55 Christchurch Road, Streatham Hill, London S.W.
12mo, 3 pp. Text clear and entire, but on aged, lightly-stained paper, with a central tear (dividing the two halves of the letter horizontally) neatly repaired with archival tape. The blank reverse of the second leaf of the bifolium with traces of black paper from previous mounting. Asks to be sent 'the 3 acts of Judith [.] at once'. Also asks to 'hear about Marion de Lorne': ' 'Tis a big play, the last, & would go great guns if well done.' Praises Bellew's and 'Mrs Potter's' performances in Dumas' 'Francillon' (which debuted September 1897). 'I never thought F. a good piece - the subject, it seems to me, is far better treated in Divorcens; but you certainly get the most out of it.' Ends 'Surely Mrs Potter is a tragedienne, & wants a big serious role?' Postscript in large letters: 'P.S. Dont forget to return Judith!! [last word underlined three times]'. Bookseller Inventory # 6809. £40.

4. Autograph Letter Signed ('Robt Buchanan') from the poet and novelist Robert Buchanan to the autograph hunter John T. Baron of Blackburn, discussing the publication of his work.
16 Langham Street, W., London. Undated; postmarked 13 March 1882.
1p., 12mo. Good, on lightly-aged paper. In worn envelope, with stamp and postmark, addressed by Buchanan to 'J. T. Baron Esq | 18 Griffin Street | Witton | Blackburn | Lancashire'. Both letter and envelope have thick mourning borders, Buchanan's wife having died the previous November. The letter reads: 'Dear Sir, | The works you mention, with the exception of "Idyls of Invention," are just now out of print. The plays have never been pubd. | Thanking you for your kind expressions I am | Yrs truly | Robt Buchanan'.


David Mason Books (ABAC)

Lists a third edition of Saint Abe and His Seven Wives (1872): “Tipped in is an ALS from Buchanan to Hepworth Dixon, 2pp. "Belle Hill, Bexhill near Hasting, Aug. 9th, " asking him to review a new edition of "Undertones" requesting "could you give it a line or two? or quote some of the new matter—say verses 19-20-21-22 of the Prologue". $137.35.


John Wilson Manuscripts

Autograph Letter Signed to P.W. Bunting, sending him a book, 1 page 8vo on black-edged stationery, Cavendish Square, 10 Dec no year. [No: 3174] £32.



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The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


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