ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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RANDOM CUTTINGS

 

The Cornhill Magazine (August, 1868 Vol. 18, pp.244-248) 

From ‘Anarchy and Authority’ by Matthew Arnold.

     But if we still at all doubt whether the indefinite multiplication of manufactories and small houses can be such an absolute good in itself as to counterbalance the indefinite multiplication of poor people, we shall learn that this multiplication of poor people, too, is an absolute good in itself, and the result of divine and beautiful laws. This is indeed a favourite thesis with our Philistine friends, and I have already noticed the pride and gratitude with which they receive certain articles in The Times, dilating in thankful and solemn language on the majestic growth of our population. But I prefer to quote now, on this topic, the words of an ingenious young Scotch writer, Mr. Robert Buchanan, because he invests with so much imagination and poetry this current idea of the blessed and even divine character which the multiplying of population is supposed in itself to have. “We move to multiplicity,” says Mr. Robert Buchanan. “If there is one quality which seems God’s, and His exclusively, it seems that divine philoprogenitiveness, that passionate love of distribution and expansion into living forms. Every animal added seems a new ecstasy to the Maker; every life added, a new embodiment of His love. He would swarm the earth with beings. There are never enough. Life, life, life,—faces gleaming, hearts beating, must fill every cranny. Not a corner is suffered to remain empty. The whole earth breeds, and God glories.”
     It is a little unjust, perhaps, to attribute to the Divinity exclusively this philoprogenitiveness, which the British Philistine and the poorer class of Irish may certainly claim to share with him; yet how inspiriting is here the whole strain of thought! and the beautiful words, too, I carry about with me in the East of London, and often read them there. They are quite in agreement with the popular language one is accustomed to hear about children and large families, which describes children as sent. 245 And a line of poetry, which Mr. Robert Buchanan throws in presently after the poetical prose I have quoted—

’Tis the old story of the fig-leaf time—

this fine line, too, naturally connects itself, when one is in the East of London, with the idea of God’s desire to swarm the earth with beings; because the swarming of the earth with beings does indeed, in the East of London, so seem to revive—

. . . the old story of the fig-leaf time—

such a number of the people one meets there having hardly a rag to cover them; and the more the swarming goes on, the more it promises to revive this old story. And when the story is perfectly revived, the swarming quite completed, and every cranny choke-full, then, too, no doubt, the faces in the East of London will be gleaming faces, which Mr. Robert Buchanan says it is God’s desire they should be, and which every one must perceive they are not at present, but, on the contrary, very miserable.
     But to prevent all this philosophy and poetry from quite running away with us, and making us think with The Times, and our Liberal free-trading friends, and the British Philistines generally, that the increase of small houses and manufactories, or the increase of population, are absolute goods in themselves, to be mechanically pursued, and to be worshipped like fetishes—to prevent this, we have got that notion of ours immovably fixed, of which I have long ago spoken, that culture or the study of perfection leads us to conceive of no perfection as real which is not a general perfection, embracing all our fellow-men with whom we have to do. Such is the sympathy which binds humanity together, that we are indeed, as our religion says, members of one body, and if one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; individual perfection is impossible so long as the rest of mankind are not perfected along with us. “The multitude of the wise is the welfare of the world,” says the wise man. And to this effect that excellent and often quoted guide of ours, Bishop Wilson, has some striking words:—“It is not,” says he, “so much our neighbour’s interest as our own that we love him.” And again he says: “Our salvation does in some measure depend upon that of others.” And the author of the Imitation puts the same thing admirably when he says:— “Obscurior etiam via ad cœlum videbatur quando tam pauci regnum cœlorum quærere curabant—the fewer there are who follow the way to perfection, the harder that way is to find.” So all our fellow-men, in the East of London and elsewhere, we must take along with us in the progress towards perfection, if we ourselves really, as we profess, want to be perfect; and we must not let the worship of any fetish, any machinery, such as manufactures or population, which are not, like perfection, absolute goods in themselves though we think them so, create for us such a multitude of miserable, sunken, and ignorant human beings, that to carry them all along with us 246 is impossible, and perforce they must for the most part be left by us in their degradation and wretchedness. But evidently the conception of free-trade, on which our Liberal friends vaunt themselves, and in which they think they have found the secret of national prosperity—evidently, I say, the mere unfettered pursuit of the production of wealth, and the mere mechanical multiplying, for this end, of manufactures and population, threatens to create for us, if it has not created already, those vast, miserable, unmanageable masses of sunken people—one pauper, at the present moment, for every nineteen of us—to the existence of which we are, as we have seen, absolutely forbidden to reconcile ourselves, in spite of all that the philosophy of The Times and the poetry of Mr. Robert Buchanan may say to persuade us.
     And though Hebraism, following its best and highest instinct, identical, as we have seen, with that of Hellenism in its final aim, the aim of perfection, teaches us this very clearly; and though from Hebraising counsellors—the Bible, Bishop Wilson, the author of the Imitation—I have preferred (as well I may, for from this rock of Hebraism we are all hewn!) to draw the texts which we use to bring home to our minds this teaching; yet Hebraism seems powerless, almost as powerless as our free-trading Liberal friends, to deal efficaciously with our ever-accumulating masses of pauperism, and to prevent their accumulating still more. Hebraism builds churches, indeed, for these masses, and sends missionaries among them; above all, it sets itself against the social necessitarianism of the Times, and refuses to accept their degradation as inevitable; but with regard to their ever-increasing accumulation, it seems to be led to the very same conclusions, though from a point of view of its own, as our free-trading Liberal friends. Hebraism, with that mechanical and misleading use of the letter of Scripture on which we have already commented, is governed by such texts as, Be fruitful and multiply, the edict of God’s law, as Mr. Chambers would say; or by the declaration of what he would call God’s word in the Psalms, that the man who has a great number of children is thereby made happy. Thus Hebraism is conducted to nearly the same notion as the popular mind and as Mr. Robert Buchanan, that children are sent, and that the divine nature takes a delight in swarming the East End of London with paupers; only, when they are perishing in their helplessness and wretchedness it asserts the Christian duty of succouring them, instead of saying, like The Times: “Now their brief spring is over; there is nobody to blame for this; it is the result of Nature’s simplest laws!” But, like The Times, Hebraism despairs of any help from knowledge and says that “what is wanted is not the light of speculation.” I remember that the other day a good man, looking with me upon a multitude of children who were gathered before us in one of the most miserable regions of London—children eaten up with disease, half-sized, half-fed, half-clothed, neglected by their parents, without health, without home, without hope, said to me: “The 247 one thing really needful is to teach these little ones to succour one another, if only with a cup of cold water; but now, from one end of the country to the other, one hears nothing but the cry for knowledge, knowledge, knowledge!” And yet surely, so long as these children are there in these festering masses, without health, without home, without hope, and so long as their multitude is perpetually swelling, charged with misery they must still be for themselves, charged with misery they must still be for us, whether they help one another with a cup of cold water or no! and the knowledge how to prevent their accumulating is necessary, even to give their moral life and growth a fair chance.
     May we not, therefore, say, that neither the true Hebraism of this good man, willing to spend and be spent for these sunken multitudes, nor what I may call the spurious Hebraism of our free-trading Liberal friends, mechanically worshipping their fetish of the production of wealth and of the increase of manufactures and population, and looking neither to the right or left so long as this increase goes on, avail us much here; and that here again what we want is Hellenism, the letting our consciousness play freely and simply upon the facts before us, and listening to what it tells us of the intelligible law of things as concerns them? And surely what it tells us is, that a man’s children are not really sent, any more than the pictures upon his wall, or the horses in his stable are sent; and that to bring people into the world, when one cannot afford to keep them and oneself decently and not too precariously, or to bring more of them into the world than one can afford to keep thus, is, whatever The Times and Mr. Robert Buchanan may say, by no means an accomplishment of the Divine will or a fulfilment of Nature’s simplest laws, but is just as wrong, just as contrary to reason and the will of God, as for a man to have horses, or carriages, or pictures, when he cannot afford them, or to have more of them than he can afford; and that, in the one case as in the other, the greater the scale on which the violation of reason’s laws is practised, and the longer it is persisted in, the greater must be the confusion and final trouble. Surely no laudations of free-trade, no meetings of bishops and clergy in the East End of London, no reading of papers and reports, can tell us anything about our social condition which it more concerns us to know than that! and not only to know, but habitually to have the knowledge present, and to act upon it as one acts upon the knowledge that water wets and fire burns! And not only the sunken populace of our great cities are concerned to know it, and the pauper twentieth of our population; we Philistines of the middle class, too, are concerned to know it, and all who have to set themselves to make progress in perfection! But we all know it already! some one will say; it is the simplest law of prudence. But how little reality must there be in our knowledge of it; how little can we put it in practice; how little is it likely to penetrate among the poor and struggling masses of our population, and to better our condition, so long as an 248 unintelligent Hebraism of one sort keeps repeating as an absolute eternal word of God the psalm-verse which says that the man who has a great many children is happy; or an unintelligent Hebraism of another sort keeps assigning as an absolute proof of national prosperity the multiplying of manufactures and population. Surely, the one set of Hebraisers have to learn that their psalm-verse was composed at the resettlement of Jerusalem after the Captivity, when the Jews of Jerusalem were a handful, an undermanned garrison, and every child was a blessing, and that the word of God, or the voice of the Divine order of things, declares the possession of a great many children to be a blessing only when it really is so. And the other set of Hebraisers, have they not to learn that if they call their private acquaintances imprudent and unlucky when, with no means of support for them or with precarious means, they have a large family of children, then they ought not to call the State well managed and prosperous merely because its manufactures and its citizens multiply, if the manufactures, which bring new citizens into existence just as much as if they had actually begotten them, bring more of them into existence than they can maintain, or are too precarious to go on maintaining those whom for a while they maintained? Hellenism, surely, or the habit of fixing our mind upon the intelligible law of things, is most salutary if it makes us see that the only absolute good, the only absolute and eternal object prescribed to us by God’s law, or the Divine order of things, is the progress towards perfection, our own progress towards it and the progress of humanity; and that for every individual man and every society of men the possession and multiplication of children, like the possession and multiplication of horses and pictures, is to be accounted good or bad, not in itself, but with reference to this object and the progress towards it. And as no man is to be excused in having horses or pictures, if his having them hinders his own or others’ progress towards perfection and makes them lead a servile and ignoble life, so is no man to be excused for having children if his having them makes him or others lead this. Plain thoughts of this kind are surely the spontaneous product of our consciousness when allowed to play freely and disinterestedly upon the actual facts of our social condition and upon our stock notions and stock habits concerning it; and firmly grasped and simply uttered they are more likely, one cannot but think, to better that condition and to diminish our formidable rate of one pauper to every nineteen of us than is the Hebraising and mechanical pursuit of free-trade by our Liberal friends.

[Note:
A slightly amended version of this extract appeared the following year in Chapter VI, ‘Our Liberal Practitioners’ of Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy.]

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The Edinburgh Evening Courant (22 November, 1869 - p.5)

     MR ROBERT BUCHANAN, the poet, according to the Sunday Times, is completely incapacitated for his literary avocations by a brain affection, entirely the result of over-exertion.—[It will be observed that a contradictory account of Mr Buchanan’s health is given by the Daily Mail.]

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The Edinburgh Evening Courant (23 November, 1869 - p.2)

     THE Mail denies that Robert Buchanan, the poet, is so ill as has been represented. Mr Buchanan is never idle in his professional work, “which” says our contemporary, “he varies by shooting daily over his moors.”

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The Aberdeen Journal (14 February, 1872 - p.6)

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The Standard (29 December, 1873 - p.5)

THE LITERATURE OF THE YEAR.

. . .

... The Laureate has been silent during the year, if we except a graceful appendage to the “Idylls of the King,” in the shape of an address to her Majesty; but his precise merits have been more than ever a subject of contention among the critics. A tendency has been manifested excessively to decry a poet who was at one time perhaps excessively extolled; but calm judges will not allow themselves to be swayed, by a not altogether unnatural reaction, into denying or doubting Mr. Tennyson’s rare gifts and graces, or the valuable and permanent addition his works are to English poetry. We think, too, that along with the reaction alluded to, a taste is springing up again for verse of a more objective sort than that which has been exclusively in favour for the last thirty or forty years. It may be that emotional analysis is exhausted, or that the human heart is getting weary of being dissected so perseveringly; but a growing disposition to hail poetry which is narrative rather than reflective is apparent. Mr. Robert Buchanan’s “Red Rose and White” has met with a warm reception, whilst the public has turned coldly from Mr. Browning’s “Red-Cotton-Night-Cap-Country,” of which his keenest admirers could say little by way of praise. ...

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The Leicester Chronicle and Leicestershire Mercury (7 March, 1874 - p.5)

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The York Herald (8 April, 1874 - p.3)

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The York Herald (11 June, 1874 - p.7)

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The Hastings and St. Leonards Observer (8 August, 1874 - p.7)

     The Gentleman’s Magazine contains in a poem, entitled “Love in Winter,” as exquisite a piece of poetry as its gifted author, Mr. Robert Buchanan, ever wrote, and we shall be greatly mistaken if this be not the opinion of the critics generally.

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The Era (23 August, 1874 - p.3)

     THE GENTLEMAN’S MAGAZINE FOR AUGUST falls a little below the usual mark; but there are, nevertheless, several good papers. ... Mr. Robert Buchanan used to be a decent poet, but his flirtation with the Muses this month leads but to indifferent results.

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The Greenock Advertiser (29 July, 1878 - p.3)

MAN OF THE WORLD NOTES.

     A distant contemporary of ours remarks pathetically:—“With the exception of delinquent subscribers everything is about a fortnight earlier than usual this year.”

     The three tailors of Tooley Street have left some sturdy and remarkable successors behind them. The petition ever praying for the arrest of Lord Beaconsfield emanates from an inspired coterie in a village called Keighley.

     The insect-destroying advertisers now invite attention to their wares by publishing four lines of poetry descriptive of the virtues of their mixture. The poetry is said to be the work of that estimable Scotch bard, Mr Robert Williams Buchanan.

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The Referee (13 January, 1884 - p.3)

     Mr. Robert Buchanan is ill, and somebody says he is quite delirious. I am by no means surprised to hear it.

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Edinburgh Evening News (20 January, 1887 - p.3)

ACTORS’ HOBBIES.

     Most actors have hobbies. Mr Irving’s is to preserve all the dresses he has appeared in, Mr Wilson Barrett’s is to be photographed continually “life-size,” Mrs Langtry’s is fencing, Sarah Bernhardt’s is to sleep in a coffin (provided there are people to look on), Miss Harriet Jay, the novelist-actress’s, is to wear boys’ clothes at home, Miss Minnie Palmer’s is to collect stockings, of which she carries about with her several hundred pairs; Miss Maude Branscombe’s is to run races. Once Miss Branscombe was out walking in the country, when she heard shouting behind, and turning round saw a number of schoolgirls racing down the road. They were part of a Sunday school picnic engaged in a race, and it was more than Miss Branscombe could do not to join in. She came in first, and was presented with the prize, a gold-headed pencil case, before it was discovered that she was an interloper. Mr Penley’s hobby is to kill insects. He has prepared for this on the most extensive scale by building a greenhouse, in which he has placed a number of fine plants, on the supposition that where there are plants insects are sure to gather. Then Mr Penley sits in his greenhouse in an armchair smoking, on the supposition, again, that tobacco smoke kills insects.

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Buxton Herald and Gazette of Fashion (9 February, 1887 - p.2)

LONDON LETTER.

ruddigore

Aberdeen Evening Express (17 May, 1887 - p.2)

ROBERT BUCHANAN AS A CRITIC.

     A sharp American critic in the latest number of “Book Chat,” describes Robert Buchanan, in his critical writing, as “a man who cries aloud for freedom of thought, and then attacks everyone who thinks differently from himself.” The same writer adds:—“He is the sort of man who would walk down the halls of the ages, stand before Shakespeare, bend down to him as would be necessitated by his own superior height, pat him in a friendly way on the head, and say, ‘Fear not, William; I will take care of you.’”

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Aberdeen Evening Express (16 October, 1888 - p.2)

     Mr Robert Buchanan, poet, novelist, essayist and dramatist, contributed recently to the “Academy” a glowing panegyric on Lester Wallack. At one period of his career Buchanan sought protection from a clique of hostile critics by publishing his productions anonymously in America and elsewhere, a course which provided the following amusing story:—
One of his bitterest critical opponents chose to review together in the same article, by way of contrast, Buchanan’s poem, the “Drama of Kings,” with two other poems which appeared in America about the same date, entitled “St Abe and his Seven Wives” and “White Rose and Red.” The American pieces were hailed by the critic with acclamation, as full of pathos, descriptive power, and true poetic tone. On the other hand, the “Drama of Kings” was held up to ridicule, and it was pointed out that Buchanan showed he was not a poet and would never rise to the level of the unknown bard, from whom quotations were given as patterns on which Buchanan might study his craft. Soon after Buchanan announced his authorship of all three poems, and had complete revenge on his critic.

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Aberdeen Evening Express (11 September, 1890 - p.2)

ROBERT BUCHANAN’S NAMES.

     Mr Robert Buchanan keeps a record of the ill-names that have been given to him. He says that he has been called a pretentious poetaster, a costermonger, an idyllist of the gutter and the gallows, a viper, a village donkey, a scrofulous Scotch poet, an enemy to decency, a Chadband, a moral person, an immoral person, a fraud, a dirty Jacobin, a defender of vicious literature, a Bowdleriser, a worm, a thing that eats dust, a green-eyed monster, a failure, a successful imposture, a slave of convention, an enemy of society, a prig, a learned pig, a critic with a wooden head, a thief, a plagiarist, a reptile, an ignoramus, a crawling cur, a liar, a botcher and a tinker, and so on ad infinitum.”

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The Era (13 September, 1890)

wallingford02

The Referee (28 September, 1890 - p.3)

empire

[Note:
Edmund Tearle’s theatre in Longton was the Queen’s Theatre in Commerce Street, which burned down in 1893 and was replaced by the Empire Theatre which later became a cinema (which was one of my favourites in ‘the Potteries’) until 1966 when it was replaced by bingo. The Empire burned down on 31st December, 1992. Information from Arthur Lloyd co.uk.]

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Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday (25 October, 1890 - p. 4)

allyinterviewthmb

Blackburn Standard (1 November, 1890 - p.2)

LADY SMOKERS.

     Another masculine advancement on the part of ladies is smoking; and not only amongst those who are, or wish to be thought, fast—but with a number of Royal, and highly born ladies. We remember our ideas of women-smokers as a child being that they consisted only of terribly coarse old Irish women with a clay pipe—being familiar with a spectacle of an old dame of this description who used to solicit alms at one of the West-end crossings, the pipe being enjoyed when she thought herself unobserved, and concealed under her plaid shawl, from which a mysterious (to the uninitiated) wreath of smoke curled; when any likely bestower of charity appeared approaching—but this primitive idea has long evaporated like the smoke itself. “The Cigar and Tobacco World” states that the several Queens of Portugal, Greece, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Wurtumberg, all smoke cigarette and mild cigars, and nearer home the Marchioness of Lorne, and the Princess of Wales and her daughters also indulge in cigarette in the seclusion of their morning rooms, though the Queen hates smoking in any form. Many literary ladies smoke, Miss Harriet Jay and Miss Emily Faithful to wit. Perhaps for brain work the soothing weed may be excused to some extent; but though, without any logic, possibly, it seems right enough for a man, and we always feel there is something dubious somehow about a man who does not smoke, or drink in moderation—we cannot quite reconcile the idea of a cigar or cigarette between the lips of our English girls and women without feeling that the poetry and refinement associated with our ideal of womanhood, is getting unpleasantly jostled.

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The Manchester Weekly Times (19 December, 1890 - p.6)

AFTERNOON CHAT.

(BY OUR LADY CONTRIBUTORS.]

. . .

     The most charitable and good natured amongst women are certainly actresses: perhaps their methods of giving are not always wise, or such as would receive the approbation of the Charity Organisation Society, or our Puritan forefathers; still, the spirit of true generosity is there.

     Thus Letty Lind, Harriett Jay, and little Minnie Terry have been lending their services this week at a private bazaar, in aid of the Middlesex Hospital. No one could say it was a dull bazaar, and it must have been successful, for the money was simply charmed out of your pockets in the most irresistible way.

     All the stallholders were got up in pretty fancy costumes, and there was no shyness about them or lack of “go.” If there came a pause they would start a sweepstake for a recitation, and then the refreshment room was thoroughly well furnished, and smoking was permitted. To contrast this bazaar with one opened at Richmond last week by the Duchess of Teck is to prove conclusively that no one ought to be allowed to hold a stall, or to try to sell, at these functions unless she is self-possessed, and has a little verve and fun in her composition. It is not the prettiest woman who becomes a society beauty; it is the pretty woman with a talent for chatter and a certain savoir faire. So it is no use to put a beautiful but stupid girl in charge of a stall at a bazaar: in these cases wits count for more than they are usually considered worth.

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The Referee (28 December, 1890 - p.2)

refwanderer

[Note: No mention of Buchanan, but Zæo’s in there.]

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Aberdeen Evening Express (8 August, 1891 - p.2)

[An item on a proposed Victorian Exhibition with Robert Buchanan mentioned among the “conflicting mediocrities”.]

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Pick-Me-Up (10 October, 1891 - Vol. VII, No. 158, p.18)

     The two best advertised things in the country appear to be Pears’ Soap and Mr. Robert Buchanan. While the soap is justly celebrated for imparting a good complexion to the general countenance, Mr. Buchanan is best known by his perennial and heroic efforts to whitewash his own works and to tar and feather—in a nauseous tissue of Buchananese abuse—all those who may not have happened to like the looks of ’em. The aspiration of the hypertrophied infant for the familiar 3½d. tablet is as nothing to the strength and speed of Mr. Buchanan’s desire for notoriety. He rose to a certain flashy fame by the method (better known in science than in literature) of attacking bigger men than himself; that is to say, men of at least average mental stature. The position thus gained was only a spring-board, a point de départ, for further wild leaps into the hysterical inane, for further instances of the audacity which is not a virtue. But as Mr. Buchanan’s egotism has become more pronounced, he naturally finds his stock of “bigger men” fail him. And so he can devote more attention to the lapses of little men, of critics, for instance, who have read his books without being overwhelmed by the resemblance in them to Goethe, Dante, Virgil, Molière, Swedenborg, Plato, Shakespeare, and the Holy Scriptures. The resemblance—he is always ready to assure them—is there; and were they not purblind creatures at best, they would see it and worship accordingly. All which is very strange and wonderful; almost as strange and wonderful as it is to find a respectable paper like the Echo lending itself to the advertising purposes of such a well-known practitioner as Mr. Buchanan.

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Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday (17 October, 1891 - p. 6)

     THE Mildewed and Moth Eaten Edifice has been pleased to confer the “Sloper Award of Merit” upon MR. ROBERT BUCHANAN, because he’s done so much to elevate the British Drama. “In my humble opinion, feyther,” commenced the Blue Eyed Pigeon, “Robert is a Big Chief, and I’m positively amazed that you have not spotted him for an F.O.S. long ere this. It only shows how thoroughly hignorant——” But at this point the peroration was cut short and the rolling-pin séance commenced.

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The Dundee Evening Telegraph (11 November, 1892 - p.2)

[Extracts from a letter of Buchanan’s on the subject of Alexander Smith, from an unnamed paper.]

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The Glasgow Herald (11 November, 1892 - p.11)

[A letter from William Hodgson on the same subject, which mentions Robert Buchanan Snr. and Jun.]

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The Glasgow Herald (16 December, 1892 - p.7)

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The Dover Express (28 April, 1893 - p.6)

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So far, no more information about Kate Lloyd-Jones, although I did come across this in The Co-operative News of 4th February, 1888 and I should imagine that this Lloyd Jones is the old newspaper business partner of Robert Buchanan Snr.

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The Glasgow Herald (28 September, 1893 - p.7)

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The Edinburgh Evening News (21 November, 1893 - p.3)

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Random Cuttings continued

 

Home
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Poetry
Plays
Fiction

 

Essays
Reviews
Letters

 

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

 

The Critical Response
Harriett Jay
Miscellanea

 

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