ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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RANDOM LETTERS - continued

Barrettletter02

To Lawrence Barrett - 30th April [1884].

11a Park Road
Regents Park
N.W.
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.]

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To James Kennedy (New York) - June 1885.

[A copy of this letter was kindly sent to me by James Kennedy’s great-granddaughter, Judy Denison. More  information about James Kennedy is available here.]

Westward Ho
Southend on Sea
Essex
England
June 1885

My dear Kennedy,

                   I should indeed be churlish if I did not appreciate your fine lines on the unworthy theme of myself; they are as clever as they are complimentary, & you manage the Doric like a master. What specially endears them to me is the pleasure they gave to my dear mother, whose only fault is loving her son too much. I write this by the sickbed; for though she was well on my arrival & very happy in our re-union, she was yesterday taken suddenly ill with pneumonia, & for twenty four hours seemed at Death’s door. She is a little better now, & my poor heart is somewhat lighter. Unless God spares to me, I shall be a broken man; for since the earliest period of my remembrance, she has been the one sacred affection of my life. My days have been stormy & sad enough, & my fortunes often dire, but this one comfort has been left to me, & now it is all I ask.

         You may believe how cordially my heart goes to you, when I open it thus on a theme so sacred. I am grateful to you, my dear Kennedy, for your breezy sympathy & honest, simple, kindness, and shall ever be glad to hear from or of you. With even your reverence for literature & literary men I can sympathize, tho’ I cannot feel it; for in my eyes there is no thing under the sun worthy reverence save goodness & love – intellect is nothing – literature is nothing – save as they adumbrate what is diviner, & what the simplest nature may share with the highest. Intellect is like money – a minted coinage very useful for the affairs of this world – but compared with human sympathy, it is dirt & dross. But I need not say this to you, who have learned it long ago.

         When my mind is easier, & my heart less burthened, I will try to send you some books of mine which you may care to keep for my sake. I am glad you have been enjoying yourself with Charley Coote. He is a frank openhearted loveable fellow, honest to the core, with the rare quality of never pretending to any sentiment he does not feel; and he is clever, apt, & with insight, though not after the literary fashion. After all, is not the literary fashion a very poor one, compared with all the vital & strenuous fashions of life in general?

         But poetry in its essence is, as you rightly believe, the salt of the earth; not because of its literary quality, but because it sanctifies & spiritualizes the common dish of experience, & makes men love one another & believe in something higher than themselves. So highly does Providence value the mere gift of poetry, that she seldom supplements it with any other gifts; and indeed, it is all sufficient. Strife for Fame is another thing: an ignoble strife generally or very often. The poets God loves best are those man never crowns.

         Write to me as often you care to write; I shall always hear from you with pleasure, for believe me I am

                   Always yours
                   Robert Buchanan

I am glad to hear that you were amused at Brooklyn. Of course the play is poor enough, but it serves its simple purpose. I think Coote’s performance most remarkable, & quite agree with you that he will make a great comedian if he perseveres. It was a good thing to have your kind face among the crowd, I am sure it brought us luck!

baldlet

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

11a Park Road
Regents Park
London
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.]

heineman

To William Heinemann - [1892].

25 Maresfield Gardens
South Hampstead
N.W.
Sunday

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.]

madgelet

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

TELEPHONE No 7442

MERKLAND,
25, MARESFIELD GARDENS,
SOUTH HAMPSTEAD
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.]

_____

 

DESCRIPTIONS OF OTHER LETTERS

The following are descriptions of letters from various sites - autograph dealers, abebooks.com 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:

langfordletterp2

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 (‘...you 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'.
£56.00

*

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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