The Fleshly School Controversy
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The Critical Response
Harriett Jay

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11. 1899 - 1901








Thomas B. Mosher of Portland, Maine, reprints Swinburne’s 1872 attack on Buchanan, Under the Microscope. The edition also includes Buchanan’s ‘The Session of the Poets’, ‘The Monkey and the Microscope’ and a section entitled ‘Buchanan’s Apologia.’

I’ve not found the month Mosher’s version of Under the Microscope was published. The book, with the additions from Buchanan, is available on this site.

3 January 1899

Item in The Western Times; Exeter:
                           ‘MR. R. BUCHANAN’S IDEA.
     The open letter Mr Robert Buchanan has addressed to Mr John Morley has the vice of nearly all the political manifestoes of purely literary men, though it will attract attention. It is a kind of protest against hysterical politics though it is itself hysterical. The crowning shame and dishallucination of the new Liberalism came, in Mr Buchanan’s idea, when “Mr John Stewart Parnell” was sacrificed. To forget the Irish leader’s right Christian name was a blunder second only to forgetting that three-fourths of the Irish members gave Mr Parnell up, and that one-third had been in revolt for a long time before. Mr Buchanan’s statements will make no impression on anybody.’

I have no idea where, or when, this ‘open letter’ was originally published. I did find another extract in The Dundee Evening Telegraph of 7th January:
     There is a certain touch of pathos in a reference to their early association which Mr Robert Buchanan makes in an open letter he had addressed to Mr John Morley. “I have before me,” writes Mr Buchanan to Mr Morley, “a letter of yours, recalling to my mind the time when I, a boy, came to you, a boy, in the little editorial room over the offices of the Literary Gazette in Catherine Street, Strand. You, fresh from college, were already a full-blown editor; I, not long arrived from Scotland, was already a full-blown critic, receiving for my contributions to your journal the princely remuneration of (if I remember rightly) 7s 6d per column, quotations carefully deducted. That, sir, is a long time ago. The dog who used to accompany you to the office is long since dead, and buried with him, I fear, lies much else in your life that was faithful, frisky, and supremely happy.”’

5 January 1899

Buchanan suffers an angina attack.
According to Jay:
“The illness which followed this attack lasted several weeks, and though at the end of that time the patient seemed to get better, he could not get well. He was subject to intermittent attacks of pain which were more or less severe, and which were only alleviated by injections of morphia. The doctors advised a change and we went to Brighton.”

Jay’s account of this period (Chapter XXIX) includes this extract from a letter Buchanan sent to Dr. Harry Campbell from Brighton:
     ‘“Thanks for your kind letter. The day after being weighed at the chemist’s and scaling 16st. 8lbs., I went on the pier and weighed myself on one of the automatic things, scaling exactly 15st. 8lbs., so that I am losing a stone a day, and at the end of a week shall weigh about 8st. odd and be able to ride in flat races! Are you satisfied? I still keep very seedy and shan’t stay here long if I don’t improve.
     “Your remarks about the ‘New Rome’ are very kind. The book has been more or less boycotted, owing to its non-patriotic character. Depend upon it, it is a mistake to have any ideas of one’s own on any possible subject. The only way to thrive is to shout with the crowd, and alas! I can’t do it. I maun ‘gang my ain gait,’ and be content with the esteem of the fit and few.”’

14 January 1899

Item in the Exeter Flying Post:
     “Mr. Robert Buchanan is seriously ill with an attack of influenza.”

According to Jay, they spent a fortnight in Brighton, before returning home:
We arrived at Clapham on a bitterly cold day at the end of February, and found the air thick with fog and the Common covered with snow. A few days later he was stricken with influenza, which was quickly followed by double pneumonia.”
‘Clapham’ indicates that they have now moved from the ‘55 Christchurch Road, Streatham Hill’ address, presumably to the ‘St Germains, 88 South Side, Clapham Common’ address which occurs in letters to Alfred Russel Wallace in June and July, 1899. The initial angina attack was not diagnosed as such until much later and according to a letter to W. E. H. Lecky (quoted in Jay) Buchanan believed it was influenza. This does tie in with the newspaper reports of the time, although it may cast doubts on her timeline.

16 January 1899

Item in The Western Daily Press, Bristol:
     “Mr Robert Buchanan, who has been suffering from a severe attack of congestion of the lungs, is now recovering.


21 January 1899

Item in The Era:
     “Mr Robert Buchanan, we are glad to hear, is recovering from the severe illness which seized him about a fortnight ago. He is still invalided, but is now out of all danger.”


31 January 1899

Item in The Dundee Evening Telegraph:
THE VICISSITUDES OF THE “SOULS”’ from Hearth and Home.

I have to place this here since it is the only reference I’ve come across to a Society formed by Buchanan and Jay “more than ten years ago”. The entrance fee and subscription to the Society “were paid in cigarettes, and the essential qualifications of a member were ‘a sense of humour and an absence of morals.’”
Although it’s pure speculation on my part, and although the dates don’t match exactly, I would like to think the Society was formed after Harriett Jay failed to receive an invitation to the second Literary Ladies’ Dinner in 1890.

6 March 1899

Buchanan applies to the Royal Literary Fund and receives a grant of £150. The application is supported by W.E.H. Lecky.


13 March 1899

Item in The Dundee Evening Telegraph:
     “It is stated that Mr Robert Buchanan has had such a serious relapse that on Thursday last Sir William Broadbent had to be summoned in consultation.”

Item in The Glasgow Herald:
     “Mr Robert Buchanan has had a rather serious relapse. He is confined in his room, though fortunately he is in no real danger.”


18 April 1899

Item in The Dundee Evening Telegraph:
     “Mr Robert Buchanan has almost completely recovered from his recent serious illness, and has this week resumed his literary work.”


29 April 1899

‘In the Days of My Youth: Chapters of Autobiography’ published in M.A.P.

An edited version of Buchanan’s reminiscences of the start of his literary career in London was published in an Australian newspaper, which is available here.

June 1899

According to Jay:
     “About the beginning of June we again left town, going this time to a small furnished house in Pevensey Bay. The house was not very comfortable, and it was, moreover, somewhat depressing, but the quiet and perfect unconventionality of the little spot suited him so well that he resolved to remain.”
At some point Buchanan returns to the Clapham Common address (judging by his first two letters to Alfred Russel Wallace) before going back to a second house in Pevensey Bay.

Jay also says it is around this time that he discovers that his illness was caused by an angina attack, and quotes part of a letter to Dr. Harry Campbell.

1 June 1899

‘A Dream; and a Deduction’ published in The Zoophilist.


10 June 1899

Item in The Era:
     ‘Mrs Langtry will make her reappearance on the stage in a version by Messrs Robert Buchanan and “Charles Marlowe” of Dumas’s Collier de la Reine. The version is founded on historical documents and on the famous trial for conspiracy already familiarised to English readers by the brilliant essays of Carlyle. Mrs Langtry will produce the play as soon as possible in London, and will afterwards tour with it in America and the Colonies, creating the leading female rôle of Marie Antoinette. Another piece by the same authors, also to be produced shortly, is the comedy founded by special arrangement with Sarah Grand, on her famous story, “The Heavenly Twins.”’

Neither of these plays was ever produced. The Diamond Necklace does appear to have been written and was copyrighted at the Library of Congress in March 1900. Howver, Lillie Langtry substituted another version of the same story by French playwrights, Pierre and Claude Berton, entitled A Royal Necklace, which was produced at the Imperial Theatre on 22nd April, 1901.
A stage version of The Heavenly Twins is mentioned in a couple of papers in 1896, although no playwright is named. The Buchanan and Marlowe version is mentioned sporadically in the Press until 1902.

17 June 1899

‘A Queer Theatrical Engagement’ is published in the Birthday Number of M.A.P. along with stories by Bret Harte, Max Pemberton, Morley Roberts, Coulson Kernahan, F. T. Bullen, Frankfort Moore, Edwin Pugh, W. L. Alden and Louis Becke.

The British Medical Journal attacks Buchanan’s anti-vivisection story in The Zoophilist, ‘A Dream; and a Deduction’.

The story, which is set in New York and takes a satirical swipe at American journalists and the American Theatre, was reprinted in several Australasian newspapers later in the year and is available here.

19 June 1899

The Star publishes a letter from Buchanan replying to The British Medical Journal. It concludes:
“Your vivisector, your cheap scientist, like your military mercenary, is always pious; so that to mow down dervishes at Omdurman and to torment our dumb brethren in Edinburgh and London seem to him equally worthy of beings who aspire to find favour in the eyes of the Almighty. I, sir, am not so constituted. I refuse to worship in the blood-stained temples where the butchers and savages of this latterday Rome set up their Holy of Holies. I reserve my reverence for gods whom I can respect; and I believe that such gods are still at work purifying the human heart and elevating the human conscience in spite of the ugly blots which still blacken our boasted civilisation.”
The letter was reprinted in the July edition of The Zoophilist.


29 June 1899

Buchanan writes a letter to the naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace (from the St. Germains, Clapham Common address), complimenting him on his book, The Wonderful Century.


1 July 1899

Buchanan writes to Alfred Russel Wallace again, sending him a copy of The New Rome. He says he is recovering from a long illness and is “about to set out for the seaside”.


3 July 1899

The New York Journal publishes messages of sympathy and congratulation for Captain Dreyfus on his return to France.  Robert Buchanan writes:
     “My warmest good wishes and prayers for your complete reinstatement. You are both a hero and a martyr, and deserve the sympathy of all true men.”


8 July 1899

The Era reports that the American theatrical rights of Father Anthony have been acquired by Mr. Jacob Litt.

The British Medical Journal replies to Buchanan’s letter, calling him an “excitable poetaster.”


10 July 1899

Buchanan writes to Alfred Russel Wallace from 16 Fielding Terrace, Pevensey Bay, Sussex. He confesses that the loss of his mother “broke the last thread of my belief in immortality.”

This is the address of the second house in Pevensey Bay. Jay writes the following about this period:
“We remained at Pevensey Bay till the second week in October, and had a very happy time there. The roads were good, and he took up his cycling with relish, and he equally enjoyed his dips in the sea. We made one or two excursions to Bexhill, visiting together the places which we had known so many years before; we put up a tent on the shore and spent most of our time in the open air, taking our meals in the tent even on wet days. We had a succession of visitors, and only a few hundred yards from our front door stood the house occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Walter Slaughter, both jovial and most delightful companions. They, too, had their visitors, and we formed a little colony in ourselves. We all cycled, we all played cricket, we all enjoyed to the full the sunny blue skies and the rippling waves of the sea, and it seemed to me that Mr. Buchanan was laying in a stock of health which would last him for many years.”


4 August 1899

A final letter from Buchanan to Alfred Russel Wallace from Pevensey Bay. Buchanan has sent him copies of The Devil’s Case and The Ballad of Mary the Mother. Wallace seems to be trying to convert Buchanan to Spiritualism:
“What you say abt Spiritualism interests me deeply, coming from such a quarter; but all my personal experience is opposed to it, in every way. I would cut off my right hand to feel as you do on the subject. My whole life has been darkened and frustrated by the growing belief that there is no solution to the great problem. I am not a pessimist, but my optimism has no power to cheer my advancing age.”


6 September 1899

Andromeda: a Tale of the Great River begins serialisation in The Derby Mercury.

Also serialised in The Leeds Times, commencing 11th November.

10 September 1899

Buchanan publishes ‘An open letter to Earl De La Warr and Buckhurst’ in The Sunday Special, concerning the changes which the town of Bexhill-on-Sea had undergone since the 1860s when he had lived there. This attracts criticism in the local Press.

I’ve not seen the original in The Sunday Special, so the date is speculative, however the criticism in the Bexhill-on-Sea Observer was published on 16th September, so I’ve assumed Buchanan’s ‘open letter’ appeared on the previous Sunday. After Buchanan’s death the Bexhill-on-Sea Observer reprinted the letter, which is in the Letters to the Press section, with that paper’s comments from September, 1899.

30 September 1899

Alone in London is revived at the Princess’s Theatre.


14 October 1899

Buchanan joins the discussion in The Era about Hermann Vezin’s luck.


11 November 1899

Item in The Edinburgh Evening News:
     “Mr Robert Buchanan, whose recovery from his severe illness has been very slow, has returned to his home on Clapham Common, after a prolonged holiday on the South Coast. He has almost completely recovered his health.”

Jay places the return from Pevensey Bay during the second week in October.

22 November 1899

Buchanan writes (from the St Germains, Clapham Common address) to Chatto & Windus saying he has received the proofs of Andromeda from Messrs Tillotson and would like a few days to make corrections.

Tillotson’s is the company which placed serial stories in various newspapers. This is the first of a group of four letters relating to Andromeda, which conclude the Chatto collection.

27 November 1899

Buchanan writes to Chatto & Windus saying he will send the rest of Andromeda by the 30th November. He also suggests they could publish “my new book of stories, consisting of one longish tale giving the title to the book & one or two others—“A Good Fairy,” “Miss Birchington’s Love Story” &c.”


28 November 1899

Buchanan writes to Chatto & Windus. They have made an offer for his book of short stories, which he will consider, but he makes a counter offer, “£60 cash, or £50 and the Stereos of my Wandering Jew, which are now of course useless to you.” He adds that he is also due some royalties on The Wandering Jew.

Chatto & Windus published The Wandering Jew after Buchanan had bought back the copyrights on his other books of poetry. And although it is listed as ‘In the Press’ in the advert in the edition of The Outcast published by Buchanan himself, it seems from this that he had not purchased the stereos from Chatto & Windus during his short-lived self-publishing venture.

30 November 1899

Buchanan writes to Chatto & Windus saying he will post the proofs of Andromeda tomorrow. He also says:
     “I am quite disposed to accept your offer, but before finally deciding I want to consider another offer concerning my poems, and I shall be clear about that very shortly. I have been so seedy lately that I think of living permanently out of town, & in that case I shall be unable to publish anything myself. In the meantime, quite understand that I shall not offer the stories elsewhere, before you hear from me again.
Thanks for the small cheque for royalties on Wandering Jew.”

This is the last letter in the Chatto collection. Presumably the first offer is for the book of short stories, but the other offer concerning his poems is a mystery. It does seem odd that two days before he was asking for the stereos of The Wandering Jew, presumably to publish himself, whereas now he is rejecting that possibility. Buchanan’s finances at this point can’t have been that healthy, and since Chatto & Windus published the two volume Complete Poetical Works in October 1901 (and it was mentioned as being prepared for publication in The Academy in May of that year, while Buchanan was still alive) the obvious supposition is that Buchanan was contemplating selling his poetical copyrights back to Chatto & Windus.

December 1899

‘The Voice of “The Hooligan”’, Buchanan’s attack on Kipling, is published in the December issue of The Contemporary Review.

According to Jay, Buchanan was investigating a potential cure of heart disease by means of the baths at Bad Nauheim in Germany. He discovers the same treatment can be administered in Hastings:
“We arrived at Hastings during the first week in December, and a few days after our arrival the first bath was taken; after the second bath the patient was prostrated by a severe stomach attack, and so for a time they were discontinued, and he took to his bed, passing his Christmas Day in the endurance of much pain.”

The (Second) Boer War had officially begun in October and on 31st October the Daily Mail had printed Kipling’s poem, ‘The Absent-Minded Beggar’. According to Kipling (in Something of Myself, p.150):
Money was wanted for small comforts for the troops at the Front, and to this end the Daily Mail started what must have been a very early ‘stunt’. It was agreed that I should ask the public for subscriptions. That paper charged itself with the rest. My verses (‘The Absent-Minded Beggar’) had some elements of direct appeal but, as was pointed out, lacked ‘poetry’. Sir Arthur Sullivan wedded the words to a tune guaranteed to pull the teeth out of barrel-organs. Anybody could do what they chose with the result, recite, sing, intone or reprint, etc., on condition that they turned in all fees and profits to the main account – ‘The Absent-Minded Beggar Fund’ – which closed at about a quarter of a million. Some of this was spent in tobacco.”
Buchanan’s attack on Kipling, totally at odds with the mood of the nation, drew a lot of criticism in the Press, some of which is available here.
More information about ‘The Absent-Minded Beggar’ is available on the Kipling Society site.

31 December 1899

The Sunday Special publishes Latter-Day Leaves. No. 9—The Last Year of the Century’.

 Jay quotes this in its entirety, under the title, ‘The End of the Century’.




January 1900

Sir Walter Besant’s reply to Buchanan’s attack on Kipling, ‘Is It the Voice of the Hooligan?’, is published in the January issue of The Contemporary Review.

Buchanan continues with the Nauheim treatment, which does not work and his health steadily declines. At some point between January and March he returns to London.


14 January 1900

Buchanan writes to Dr. Stodart-Walker from 7 Grand Parade, St Leonards-on-Sea:
Since I came down here I have been exceedingly unwell, but tho’ I should like to leave the place I’m afraid of London this influenza-ish weather.”
He also asks Dr. Stodart-Walker whether he has done anything more about “the opus” (his book about Buchanan’s poetry) and adds, “of course the times are dreadfully inauspicious.”


February 1900

Buchanan’s response to Sir Walter Besant, ‘The Ethics of Criticism’, is published in the February issue of The Contemporary Review.

“But when, with the finger of blood on every door, and the cry of the Hooligan in every street, and the mad cry of Cain in the market-place, and the shadow of death passing from land to land, this shallowest of literary knights non-combatant assures me that there are ‘‘worse things than war,” I answer him again from the bottom of my heart that there is only one thing worse—that thing being the cultivated stupidity, the hopeless, senseless folly and obtusity, against which even the very gods still strive in vain.”

1 March 1900

Andromeda: An Idyll of the Great River is published by Chatto & Windus.
Reviewed in The Glasgiow Herald (8 March).


2 March 1900

Lillie Langtry copyrights The Diamond Necklace, by Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe, at the Library of Congress, Washingon.

This indicates that the play was finished and delivered by this date. According to Dramatic Compositions Copyrighted in the United States 1870 to 1916 (Library of Congress Copyright Office) a second copy was registered on 4th May.

16 March 1900

Writes to Dr. Stodart-Walker:
“Since I wrote to you I have been suffering infinite torments. I went to Hastings to try some Nauheim baths, and they did me more harm than good, and since then I have had a series of illnesses with much pain. I had to use morphia and it upset my nervous system terribly. Just now I am trying vainly to conquer the nightly pain without resorting again to the infernal drug.
     My only prayer is that I may live for a year or two and complete certain work. I am miserable too, because if I go
now my dear and only companion will be left penniless, at the mercy of the world. With a very little more time I can alter that.”
(Jay, Chapter XXX.)


2 April 1900

Item in The Edinburgh Evening News:
     ‘Mr Robert Buchanan has had a long illness, but is now reported a little better—well enough, in fact, to put the finishing touches to a new four-act play he has been for some time past writing on his book “Father Anthony.”’


21 May 1900

A second edition of Andromeda is adverrtised in The Standard.


25 May 1900

‘The Peacocks’ Feathers’ published in The Sphere.


27 May 1900

The Reynolds’s Newspaper Jubilee Supplement includes a poem by Buchanan, ‘The Fisher Boy’.


Spring/Summer 1900

Buchanan’s mood improves (after changing doctors and cutting down on the morphine) and he takes a house in Deal, Kent.

Chapter XXX of the Jay biography gives a fairly detailed account of Buchanan’s movements during the months prior to his stroke, with several quotes from Buchanan’s letters to Dr. Gorham.

22 June 1900

‘Berinthia’ published in The Manchester Weekly Times (Literary Supplement).

It also appears in The Newcastle Weekly Courant and The Nottinghamshire Guardian the following day.

July 1900

Buchanan returns to London for a fortnight, then rents a house at Cap Gris-nez in northern France for a month. According to Jay:
“Mr. Buchanan elected to live the life of a recluse, his sole recreation being short cycle rides which we took together, while in the evenings he would sit in the flower garden in front of the villa and smoke his cigarette and chat with Monsieur Ducloy or play a game of chess with Monsieur Paul. He had brought with him boxes full of books and papers, but he could not settle his thoughts sufficiently to be able either to read or write. Our occupation of the villa lasted only four weeks, and during that time we had a visit from Dr. Gorham, who was so alarmed at the state of mind in which he found his patient that he urged him at once to take up his work again.”


18 August 1900

Robert Buchanan is 59 years old.


25 August 1900

Buchanan and Jay return to England. On his arrival in London, Buchanan writes to Dr. Gorham:
“We stopped last night at Folkestone, and I hate, HATE, HATE everything English after the earwigs and Rosalie! I don’t purpose remaining here many days, but I shall look you up and curse you for luring me from France.”

Item in The Era:
     “Mrs Langtry, when she brings out Mr Robert Buchanan’s play, The Queen’s Necklace, in the country, will play a dual rôle, and she has just been to Paris to arrange with M. Pierre Berton to produce the piece for her.”

Rosalie was the cook at the Villa Gris-nez.

September 1900

Early in September they move to Boscombe, near Bournemouth.
Buchanan continues cycling and also, according to Jay:
“he returned to his work, writing chiefly at his poetry.”
Buchanan’s health and his mood improves.

Buchanan was not impressed by Bournemouth:
“I don’t think I shall ever care for Bournemouth, it is too noisy and suburban, full of fly-blown lodging-houses and streets disinfected by the water-cart. No, it won’t do—and I wonder what led people to recommend it.”
(Letter to Dr. Gorham, quoted in Jay.)

8 October 1900

Moves back to London and takes rooms at 9, Duchess Street Portland Place.


11 October 1900

Item in The Stage:
     “Mr. Edward Michael, business manager for Mrs. Langtry, tells me that that lady has secured the Imperial, Westminster, for a long term. She will alter and redecorate it at an expense of between £4,000 and £5,000, and will open there in the spring with A Queen’s Heart, the new play by MM. Pierre and Claude Berton which she acquired during her recent visit to Paris. The Imperial during the last few years has not competed very successfully with the other West End houses, but there is no reason why, under an able and generous management, its popularity should not return with added force.
     A play which Mrs. Langtry may present during her tenancy of the Imperial is Robert Buchanan’s The Queen’s Necklace.”

According to the Daily Express in a piece about Lillie Langtry from 23rd October:
     “Meanwhile, it looks as though she would play her first serious drama in the Law Courts. It will be remembered that Mr. Robert Buchanan wrote her a Marie Antoinette play. This Mrs. Langtry bought outright, for which she paid Mr. Buchanan a sum down. She then, holding this to be her absolute property, commissioned M. Paul Berton, the French dramatist, to write her another on this very subject, which she intends to open with at Westminster. Mr. Buchanan contends that he has not been fairly treated, and some litigation seems probable. Will matters be arranged? We shall see.”
A further item written by the London correspondent of The New York Clipper on 14th November (published 1st December) stated:
     “Mrs. Langtry hopes to have her new theatre, the Imperial, Westminster, ready for her by May 1, and, as the work is to be pushed, this date shows that the old and very shabby house is to be very thoroughly rebuilt. Her business misunderstanding with Robert Buchanan over the “Marie Antoinette” play he wrote for her has been settled, and it has been said by her that it is a capital play, but had not enough Marie Antoinette in it to suit her. The one on the same subject which she is having written in Paris by M. Pierre and Claude Berton may therefore be looked forward to as being well furnished with Marie Antoinette from start to finish.”

Since both of these items were written after Buchanan had been rendered virtually comatose by his stroke I thought it best to add them here to avoid confusion. It would appear that Buchanan did know about the French replacement for his (and Jay’s) play.

17 October 1900

Buchanan goes to the Avenue Theatre for a performance of A Messenger from Mars.


18 October 1900

Buchanan complains of a problem with his vision while reading the evening paper, but passes it off as unimportant.


19 October 1900

“The next morning, Friday, October 19th, his high spirits had not deserted him, for I heard him whistling merrily before he came in to breakfast. I asked him if the muddled vision had troubled him again, and he replied in the negative, assuring me that he felt particularly well in every way. Breakfast over and the morning papers read, we set off on our bicycles together.
     After a ride in Regent’s Park, which lasted close upon two hours, we returned home. He partook of a hearty lunch, and then fell asleep in an easy chair beside the fire. He awoke refreshed, and after he had drunk a cup of tea and had written some half-dozen letters, proposed that we should cycle again. “I should like to have a good spin down Regent Street,” he said. Those were the last words he ever spoke, for five minutes later the cruel stroke had descended upon him which rendered him helpless as a little child.”
(Jay, Chapter XXX.)


21 October 1900

Item in The Observer:
     “We regret to hear that Mr. Robert Buchanan, the well-known poet, novelist, and dramatist, is seriously ill. He was seized with apoplexy at his London residence at five o’clock on Friday afternoon, which has resulted in paralysis of the right side and complete loss of speech. Under the care of Sir William Broadbent, Mr. Buchanan was last night reported to be holding his own as well as could possibly be expected under the sad circumstances. He is fifty-nine years of age.”

More newspaper reports of Buchanan’s illness are available here.

23 October 1900

According to the Daily Express in a piece about Lillie Langtry:
     “Meanwhile, it looks as though she would play her first serious drama in the Law Courts. It will be remembered that Mr. Robert Buchanan wrote her a Marie Antoinette play. This Mrs. Langtry bought outright, for which she paid Mr. Buchanan a sum down. She then, holding this to be her absolute property, commissioned M. Paul Berton, the French dramatist, to write her another on this very subject, which she intends to open with at Westminster. Mr. Buchanan contends that he has not been fairly treated, and some litigation seems probable. Will matters be arranged? We shall see.”


30 October 1900

Item in The Times:
‘The subjoined bulletin was issued yesterday with reference to the serious illness of Mr. Robert Buchanan:—“Mr. Robert Buchanan’s condition still remains critical. The paralysis shows no sign of abatement, and there is no improvement towards a return to consciousness. He is unable to utter more than ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’”’


1 November 1900

Buchanan is moved by ambulance to Streatham.

Presumably 90 Lewin Road, Buchanan’s address in the 1901 census return.

3 November 1900

Item in The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser:
     “Mr. Robert Buchanan has been a hard fighter in his time, and it is extremely gratifying to note that men to whom he had been antagonistic are joining his friends in helping him in his hour of need. Old enmities are forgotten around the sick bed of a distinguished writer who, because he had the courage of his convictions and feared not to wound susceptibilities when he had anything to say, made foes or friends. Behind his impetuosity is, however, a generous nature, and he is as quick to forgive and forget as he is to attack.”


7 November 1900

Item in The Scotsman:
‘The following bulletin was issued last evening regarding the condition of Mr Robert Buchanan:—“Mr Buchanan had a good night, and has taken nourishment, but the paralytic symptoms still remain. There is little hope that he will ever recover his speech.—Harry Campbell, J. J. Gorham.”’


12 November 1900

Item in The Glasgow Herald:
     “I understand that a proposal was yesterday made to more than one London manager, and was very favourably considered, to organise a huge benefit for Robert Buchanan. That gentleman is still alive, and his physical strength is indeed said to be increasing, although he is still speechless from paralysis, and it will be a very long time indeed before he is able to work again. Now, therefore, is the proper time to organise a benefit, which is sure to be very influentially supported.”


17 November 1900

Item in The Echo:
     Some friends of Mr. Robert Buchanan have formed themselves into a committee with the object of raising a fund for the maintenance of the author and dramatist, whose work, it is feared, is finally interrupted. Subscriptions should be sent to Mr. Frederic Harrison, Haymarket Theatre.”


19 November 1900

‘Robert Buchanan: Poet, Novelist, and Dramatist’, a biographical article by J. Cuthbert Hadden is published in The People’s Friend.


21 November 1900

Another application is made to the Royal Literary Fund on Buchanan’s behalf. His application is supported by John Coleman and J. M. Barrie and he receives a grant of £150.


22 November 1900

Item in The Gloucester Citizen:
     “The appeal for Mr. Robert Buchanan has so far resulted in a sum of £850 being subscribed. Mr. Buchanan’s old friend, Mr. John Coleman, is looking after him. I am afraid there is very little prospect that this gifted author will be able to resume his work, and most careful and expensive nursing is necessary to restore him to any measure of comfort.”

A review of The Oxford Book of English Verse (edited by A. F. Quiller-Couch) in The Glasgow Herald, includes the following:
“Burns, Wordsworth, Scott, Byron, Keats, Shelley, the two Brownings, Tennyson, and Mr Swinburne are generously quoted, and their poetry lends power and charm to the anthology. Towards the close of the volume we find the names of William Watson, John Davidson, Rudyard Kipling, Richard Le Gallienne, W. E. Henley, W. B. Yeats, and others. One name we miss—that of Robert Buchanan, from whose numerous poetical works Mr Quiller-Couch could have found many lyrics of more exquisite finish and flavour than some of his modern quotations. That is one of his mistakes, if nothing worse. To ignore such a poet in making an anthology of English verse of such dimensions is well nigh insufferable, and is certainly enough to qualify applause.”


24 November 1900

Item in The Era:
     “There is, we are sorry to hear, little or no change in the condition of Mr Robert Buchanan, and Mr Beerbohm Tree, with that generosity for which he is always noted, has proposed to get up a big benefit on behalf of the suffering dramatist at Her Majesty’s Theatre. The programme will be announced shortly.”


29 December 1900

Item in The New York Times from William L. Alden’s ‘London Literary Letter’:
     “Mr. Robert Buchanan is still alive, and at times he is said to be somewhat better. There is, however, no longer the slightest ground for hope that he will recover. How long he may linger in the state of living death in which he lies no one can foretell, but even his most sanguine friends now admit that he is little more than a living corpse. It is a sad fate to overtake a man who was so full of life. He had made mistakes like all the rest of us, but they will be forgotten, and men will remember only the noble qualities which were incontestibly his.”





7 January 1901

Item in The Dundee Evening Post:
     “A London correspondent writes to-day:—I learn from an old friend of Mr Robert Buchanan, who has recently seen him, that little, if any, improvement has taken place in the condition of the afflicted poet. He is absolutely helpless, and quite incapable of mental effort. There is not the smallest chance that he will write another line.”


15 February 1901

Item in The Dundee Evening Telegraph:
Mr Robert Buchanan, I regret to say, writes “A Man of Kent” in the “British Weekly,” lies in a very miserable condition. He has shrunk to a shadow, is half paralysed, and his memory is very nearly gone. He cannot call to mind that he ever wrote anything. Steps have been taken to help him, and I am sure that Scotsmen in London and elsewhere will see to it that so gifted a man does not end his days in destitution.’


27 March 1901

Item in The Aberdeen Weekly Journal:
     ‘I am glad to see that we are shortly to have a volume on “Robert Buchanan: the Poet of Modern Revolt.” As a poet Mr Buchanan has never yet come to his own; and now that his literary faculty has been entirely crippled, it would be a graceful and a fitting thing to try to rouse some real interest in his verse. Of course Mr Buchanan has had himself largely to blame for his comparative non-success, not only as a poet, but as a novelist and dramatist. The militant man of letters must always count on a small following, and Mr Buchanan has been a “braw fechter” from the first. Like the bold Macpherson, his literary life has been one of “sturt and strife.” As someone has said, the thistle might well be engraven on his shield, and “ready, aye ready” would not be an inappropriate motto. Nevertheless, Mr Buchanan has done some splendid work, and it would be well to remember it now and forget the episodes of sword and rapier.’


31 March 1901

The date of the 1901 census. Buchanan is living at 90, Lewin Road, Streatham, London. The only indication of his medical condition is the presence of Eliza Dear (Harriett Jay’s older sister) whose profession is given as Sick Nurse. Harriett Jay gives her own age as 38, whereas in fact she is now 47. (In the 1891 census she gave her age as 36.) Another mistake is Buchanan’s birthplace which is given as Caverswall, Lancashire (which Jay repeats in her biography).

1901 census.

April 1901

Robert Buchanan. The Poet of Modern Revolt. An Introduction to His Poetry by Archibald Stodart-Walker, is published by Grant Richards.
Reviewed in The Scotsman (1 April).


16 April 1901

Item in The Guardian:
     ‘Mr. Robert Buchanan, whose illness a few months back aroused widespread interest, is still lying in a half-helpless condition; and it is now announced (says the “Westminster Gazette”) that his devoted attendant, his sister-in-law, Miss Harriet Jay, the well-known authoress and actress, is confined to bed with an attack of pneumonia supervening on influenza.’


22 April 1901

A Royal Necklace by Pierre and Claude Berton is produced at the Imperial Theatre, London by Lillie Langtry.


27 April 1901

Prompted by the publication of Archibald Stodart-Walker’s book, The Echo publishes a short article about Robert Buchanan.


9 May 1901

Item in The Arbroath Herald:
     ‘“We are glad to hear,” the Bookman says, “that Messrs Chatto and Windus have in preparation a collected edition of the whole of Robert Buchanan’s poems. They are to be published in two six-shilling volumes, each containing a portrait of the author.”’


9 June 1901

Death of Sir Walter Besant.


10 June 1901

Robert Buchanan dies on the morning of Monday, 10 June, 1901, at 90, Lewin Road, Streatham. The immediate cause of death is congestion of the lungs. He was 59 years old.


The length and nature of Buchanan’s illness coloured some of the obituaries in the Press. To some extent he had been forgotten, and there had also been time to assess his reputation. The coincidence of Sir Walter Besant’s death the previous day also did not help. Besant was a popular figure and some obituaries linked the two writers, contrasting their careers and their characters, largely to Buchanan’s detriment.

14 June 1901

Robert Buchanan is buried beside his wife and his mother in the churchyard of St. John the Baptist in Southend-on-Sea. On the following day, The Times carried this brief report of the funeral:
     “The funeral of Mr. Robert Buchanan took place yesterday at Southend-on-Sea, and by the expressed desire of the family it was strictly private. Among those present were Mrs. Bassett, Miss Harriett Jay, Miss Bernardi, Mr. Henry Murray, Mr. Pelham Walmsley, Dr. Stoddard Walker, Mr. Beerbohm Tree, Mr. Kenneth Campbell, and Dr. Gorham. Mr. J. L. Toole, among others, sent a wreath.”

More newspaper reports of the funeral are available here. Harriett Jay closes her biography with a drawing of Buchanan’s grave and Henry Murray’s account of the funeral.

18 June 1901

A receiving order is made against the estate of the late Robert Buchanan in the London Bankruptcy Court.

According to a report of the first meeting of creditors in The Edinburgh Evening News of 6th July:
The proceedings were instituted prior to the debtor’s death, which took place before the making of the receiving order.”

29 June 1901

Item in The Gloucester Journal:
     “In October last, when Robert Buchanan was suddenly stricken down by a paralysis from which he never recovered, his personal friends and admirers subscribed a fund for his relief. It served an admirable purpose, making comfortable the last hours of the novelist. The end came so quickly that the money was not fully expended. After paying all expenses, including the cost of the funeral, there remains a balance of over £150. It is intended, in pursuance of what is recognised as conformable with Buchanan’s wishes in the matter, that this shall be handed over to his adopted daughter, Miss Harriett Jay, who nursed him through his long illness.”

This report, from a London Correspondent, was printed in several other papers including The Scotsman and The Dundee Evening Telegraph. It could also be the earliest description of Harriett Jay as Buchanan’s ‘adopted daughter’.

July 1901

Robert Buchanan: A Critical Appreciation And Other Essays by Henry Murray is published by Philip Wellby.
Reviewed in The Aberdeen Journal (15 July).


5 July 1901

The first meeting of creditors in Buchanan’s bankruptcy case is held. The following day, The Times prints this report:
     “This was the first meeting of creditors under a receiving order made on June 18 against Robert Buchanan, deceased, the well-known author and dramatist. The proceedings were founded on a petition presented by a creditor, who claimed £65 8s. 5d. in respect of moneys advanced.
     The Chairman said he was informed that the debtor possessed no assets, and it was probably within the knowledge of the creditors that he was adjudged bankrupt some years ago. In the course of those proceedings an order was made that he should set aside any income in excess of £900, but the order was unproductive.
     No resolution being passed, the matter remained in the hands of the Official Receiver.”


30 July 1901

Item in The Gloucester Citizen:
     “I am informed that Miss Harriett Jay now finds herself able to resume her work on the Life of Mr. Robert Buchanan, and bespeaks the offices of people who may be in possession of letters that may be of public interest from the late poet. That reminds me that a well-known play, the first production of Miss Jay and Mr. Buchanan, will be put on at the Grand Theatre, Fulham, on Bank Holiday afternoon, when the theatre will be re-opened after repairs and cleaning.”


4 August 1901

‘An Old Reckoning’ published in The St. Paul Globe (Minnesota).


14 August 1901

A letter from Rev. Thomas Varney, of St. John’s, Southend, and Coulson Kernahan is published in various newspapers, including The Echo and The Westminster Gazette, asking for donations for a public memorial to Robert Buchanan. The letter concludes:
     “We should like to add that this letter has the approval of Mr. Buchanan’s relatives, who hope, however, that the response will be marked not by the extent of the amount subscribed, but by the number of subscribers. They venture to suggest, therefore, that subscriptions be limited to a comparatively small sum so that Mr. Buchanan’s humble admirers (of whom there are many) may not hesitate to contribute their mite.”
A brief report on the appeal in The Yorkshire Telegraph and Star of 15th August ends with this:
It is perfectly well known that the appeal will be responded to by a limited class for Mr. Buchanan though his name was well enough known, has not left any mark upon the sentiment of the nation that makes more than an interesting figure in the literary history of the closing quarter of the 19th century.”

More information about the Memorial appeal is available here.

October 1901

The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan (in 2 volumes) published by Chatto & Windus.
Advertised in The Times (18 October).
Reviewed in The Echo (6 November).

Volume 1 is identical to the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan. Volume 2 includes The Earthquake, The City of Dream, The Outcast, The Wandering Jew, The Devil’s Case, The Ballad of Mary the Mother and The New Rome.

Robert Buchanan Timeline - continued



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The Fleshly School Controversy
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Buchanan and the Law


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Harriett Jay


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