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Harriett Jay

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7. 1888 - 1890







January 1888

The Heir of Linne published by Chatto & Windus.
Reviewed in The Morning Post, 21 January, 1888.

In The Era Almanack for 1888, Harriett Jay contributes a piece to the ‘What is the most striking incident in your professional experience?’ section.


5 January 1888

Partners (an adaptation of Alphonse Daudet’s Fromont Jeune et Risler Ainé) is produced at the Haymarket Theatre by Herbert Beerbohm Tree.

This was the first of Buchanan’s three plays for Herbert Beerbohm Tree’s Haymarket company.

7 January 1888

The following item from Truth was reprinted in The Northampton Mercury and several other provincial newspapers:
     “There are certain items in the pension list which demand the early attention and correction of Parliament. It is simply scandalous that a wealthy man like Lord Tennyson should have been drawing £200 a year from the country for 42 years, and considering the success (according to himself) of Mr. Robert Buchanan’s recent plays, he surely cannot now be in need of public assistance.”

Henry Labouchere (editor of Truth) was also an M.P. and, according to the following item from The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser of 17th January 1888, seems to have been intent on doing more than simply raising the question of Buchanan’s pension in his paper:
     “The Radicals intend to attack one or two of the civil list pensions during the session. Mr. Labouchere, who does not love Mr. Robert Buchanan, will, it is said, oppose the grant of £100 a year, which he has received for some time. This pension was awarded to Mr. Buchanan when he was a struggling poet, and Mr. Labouchere will contend that now that he is one of our most successful dramatists the allowance should be discontinued.”

8 January 1888

Writes to Andrew Chatto enclosing the “last proofs of City of Dream”.


19 January 1888

Fascination is produced at the Vaudeville Theatre, London with Harriett Jay reprising her dual role.

The review in The Times (20 January, 1888) had this to say about Harriett Jay:
“On the other hand, it may be observed that a more plausible representative of the heroine in her dual capacity could hardly be found than Miss Harriett Jay. In her most feminine moments this versatile actress is never quite free from a suspicion of mannishness, and she wears a coat and trousers as though to the manner born. The piece owes much, therefore, to the presence of Miss Harriett Jay in the cast.”

6 February 1888

According to reports in various newspapers Buchanan has begun legal proceedings against The Evening News for remarks made about him and Sophia in the articles by George Moore.


25 February 1888

50th performance of Partners at the Haymarket Theatre.


29 February 1888

Final performance of Fascination at the Vaudeville Theatre.

Despite the fact that Fascination was listed in a Miller and Elliston advert in The Era of 19th November, 1887, inviting bookings from theatre managers, I have found no evidence of a touring production, and it does not appear to have been performed in the provinces.

March 1888

The City of Dream published by Chatto & Windus.
Advertised in
The Morning Post 12 March, 1888.
Reviewed in
The Morning Post 28 March, 1888.


8 March 1888

Joseph’s Sweetheart (an adaptation of Fielding’s Joseph Andrews) produced at the Vaudeville Theatre.


10 March 1888

 Writes to Andrew Chatto asking him to send complimentary copies of The City of Dream to various people including Herbert Spencer, Alfred Austin, Hall Caine and W. E. Lecky.


17 March 1888

Item in The York Herald:
“Dr. A. C. Mackenzie, the new Principal of the Royal Academy of Music, has in hand his first orchestral symphony, an oratorio, “Moses,” intended for the Birmingham Festival, but now to be postponed till Leeds, or later, and a new and original English opera, to be written to a libretto by Mr. Robert Buchanan.”

The Mackenzie/Buchanan opera never materialised, although it was occasionally mentioned in the Press. However, Mackenzie did provide some music for The Bride of Love, which Buchanan was working on at this time (although it was not performed until May, 1890) so this could possibly be the origin of the ‘opera story’.

24 March 1888

Final (81st) performance of Partners at the Haymarket Theatre.


April 1888

A photograph and accompanying article about Harriett Jay is published in The Theatre.


2 April 1888

Partners is produced at A. M. Palmer’s Madison Square Theatre, New York, starring Alexander Salvini.


6 April 1888

Buchanan’s ode for the opening ceremony of the Glasgow Exhibition is published in The Scotsman.
It is also revealed in other papers that Buchanan received £50 for the ode, which leads to some criticism and a response from the Glasgow comic paper, The Bailie.


7 April 1888

Robert Buchanan and Harriett Jay attend the Saturday afternoon performance of The Loadstone by T. Edgar Pemberton and W. H. Vernon at the Lyceum Theatre, London.

Reported in The Birmingham Daily Post (9/4/1888).

10 April 1888

Writes to Andrew Chatto asking him to send “any critiques on the City of Dream that come in your way. I have seen only the Academy & the Glasgow Herald.”


21 April 1888

A letter from Buchanan (dated Southend, 12th April) is published in The Academy, responding to their review of The City of Dream.


5 May 1888

At the annual banquet of the Royal Academy of Arts, held at Burlington House, Mr. W. E. H. Lecky praises Buchanan’s A City of Dream.
“I would venture to point to a poem which has been but a few weeks in the world, but which is destined, if I am not much mistaken, to take a prominent place in the literature of its time ... I refer to “The City of Dream,” by Robert Buchanan. (Hear, hear.) While such works are produced in England, it cannot, I think, be said that the artistic spirit in English literature has very seriously decayed. (Cheers.)”
The Times -7 May, 1888.)

This was the speech which caused Browning to remark “Of whom is he speaking? Of Buchanan, the writer of plays?”
In Chapter X of Jay, Buchanan’s response to this is quoted as follows:
“I was just then collaborating with Sims on a melodrama for the Adelphi, and the question was construed by those who heard it, as an expression of ironical contempt.
     Naturally enough Browning may have fancied that in writing plays for the market I was selling my birthright for a mess of pottage, but he knew better than most men that I had no option—it was either that or practical starvation.”

Lecky’s praise for The City of Dream, which had had a rather lukewarm reception from the critics, led to Chatto & Windus printing a second edition.




G. R. Sims, in his autobiography, inserts himself into Browning’s comment:
“Buchanan! Buchanan! Is he talking about the man who writes plays with Sims at the Adelphi?”
However, Sims’ first collaboration with Buchanan, The English Rose, was not produced until August 1890, so it would appear that both Buchanan and Sims are mistaken on this point.

8 May 1888

Opening Ceremony of the Glasgow International Exhibition which includes the performance of Buchanan’s ode, “The New Covenant”, conducted by Dr. A. C. Mackenzie.

Buchanan responds to the critics of his Glasgow Ode with a letter to The Glasgow Herald.

Writes to Andrew Chatto enclosing a cutting from The Times of the report of the Royal Academy Banquet with W. E. Lecky’s praise of The City of Dream, asking him to add this to a new advert for the book. Buchanan offers to pay for the additional adverts himself.


14 May 1888

Buchanan writes a letter to Andrew Chatto expressing his wish to buy back his poetical copyrights from Chatto & Windus.

Buchanan’s wish to retrieve his poetical copyrights was obviously inspired by Lecky’s praise of The City of Dream. The process was not concluded until March, 1892, during which time Buchanan made an abortive effort to publish his next poetry book, The Outcast, himself.

26 May 1888

According to The Era, a new play by Robert Buchanan, “the subject of which is pure Greek”, will be produced by Harriett Jay at a matinée at the Prince of Wales’s Theatre, on June 21st:
The performance will be under the immediate patronage of the Right Hon. the Countess of Dudley and other distinguished ladies, and the proceeds will be given to Dr. Eldridge Spratt’s Sanatorium for Diseases of the Heart at Brighton.”
A “fashionable concert for the same charitable purpose” is also announced for June 6th.

This early production of The Bride of Love never materialised and the play did not reach the stage until May, 1890.

1 June 1888

An item in the ‘Chit Chat’ column of The Stage gives the title of Buchanan’s new “poetical” play, The Bride of Love, and says that it will include a song composed by Dr. A. C. Mackenzie.


6 June 1888

Harriett Jay gives a recitation at Dudley House , Park Lane, London, at a concert arranged by the Countess of Dudley in aid of Dr. Spratt’s Sanatorium.
From the review in The Era - 16 June, 1888:
“Miss Harriett Jay, arrayed in classic costume of a very artistic kind, recited “The Stowaway” with remarkable vigour and expression, and succeeded completely in interesting her auditors.”
And her performance was also described in the diary of Joseph Holloway:
“Miss Harriett Jay's recitation of ‘The Stowaway’ made an agreeable break in the programme, & she looked most picturesque as she stood on the platform in her white statue gown, with a silver band round the waist, harmonizing perfectly with the classic surroundings.”





The source for this is an entry in the National Archives of Ireland (Record 8968 from ‘Directory of Sources for Women’s History in Ireland’). Ms14993: Diary entries in 2 notebooks relating to public and private theatrical events in Dublin, 1888-1889 compiled by Joseph Holloway.

12 June 1888

Item in The Bristol Mercury:
     “Miss Harriett Jay’s production of a new play by Mr Robert Buchanan is postponed till the autumn.”


11 July 1888

Buchanan’s action against the Evening News for libel, contained in articles written by George Moore, is heard in the Queen’s Bench Division. A full apology is given and the action is withdrawn.

Robert Buchanan and Harriett Jay attend the Royal Academy Conversazione at Burlington House, Piccadilly. The London correspondent of the Glasgow Herald (13/7/1888) described them thus:
“I noticed Mr Robert Buchanan perambulating gloomily with his sister-in-law, Miss Harriet Jay, all the more noticeable because the poet-novelist-dramatist has grown stout and comfortable-looking, if not poetic, but I suddenly remembered how his libel action against an evening paper had just been concluded—satisfactorily to his credit—hardly remuneratively to his pocket.”


14 July 1888

A letter from Buchanan (dated Hamlet Court, Southend, 7th July) is published in The Academy, responding to a letter from Hall Caine on the subject of ‘What is a Tragedy?’ and the substitution of a ‘happy ending’ to Caine’s play, Ben-my-Chree.

Buchanan’s original letter has survived and is in the collection of the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington.

28 July 1888

Item in The Academy:
     “Mr. Robert Buchanan will shortly publish a new poem, in rhymed verse, of a partly humorous character, founded on a well-known legend. It will be issued in the first place with illustrations. The second edition of the ‘City of Dream’ is already almost exhausted—a result due in no little measure to Mr. Lecky’s panegyric at the Royal Academy banquet.”

The ‘new poem’ is presumably The Outcast.

15 August 1888

The Pall Mall Gazette prints a list of birthplaces of ‘Men of the Time’ “extracted from Dr. A. Conan Doyle’s paper in the Nineteenth Century for August. The shortcomings of “Men of the Time” have often been complained of. The present table will enable residents in every county to see how incomplete is the list of notables in that standard work of reference. The allocation of notables to counties is governed in every case by the accident of birthplace.”
According to the list, Robert Buchanan was born in the Lowlands of Scotland.


17 August 1888

Final performance of Joseph’s Sweetheart at the Vaudeville Theatre prior to a provincial tour.


10 September 1888

Fascination is produced, by Col. Sinn, at the Fourteenth Street Theatre, New York. It stars Cora Tanner, who had been touring America with Alone in London from September 1885 to March 1888.

Reviews of the play in the American Press make no mention of Buchanan’s co-author, Harriett Jay.
On 14th February, 1886, Cora Tanner and Col. Sinn had been married in Cleveland.

13 September 1888

Buchanan meets Lillie Langtry at the Pulteney Hotel in London to discuss writing a play for her.


14 September 1888

Buchanan’s second meeting with Mrs. Langtry at which the contract is agreed for the play (Lady Gladys) which she will produce in New York in January 1889.


24 September 1888

Joseph’s Sweetheart returns to the Vaudeville Theatre, London.


29 September 1888

Item in The Era:
     “Mrs Langtry’s short swallow flight to Europe terminates this day (Saturday), when she sails for New York, having completed the twofold object of her journey by settling with Mr Robert Buchanan in the details of the new play from his pen, which she is to produce next January, and arranging with M. Worth for the new and elaborate costumes to be worn in the production. Besides the drama for Mrs Langtry, Mr Buchanan has also in hand the dramatised version of Scott’s ‘Marmion,’ commissioned by Messrs Howard and Wyndham; a new play commissioned by Mr A. M. Palmer, for Palmer’s Theatre, New York; and the new comedy for the Vaudeville, to be produced whenever the popularity of Joseph’s Sweetheart, now in the seventh month of its run, may be exhausted.”

Lady Gladys was ultimately rejected by Mrs. Langtry, resulting in a court case in 1890 - it was eventually produced in New York in 1894. Marmion would be produced in April, 1891. That Doctor Cupid would replace Joseph’s Sweetheart at the Vaudeville in January, 1889. I have not found any evidence for the “new play commissioned by Mr A. M. Palmer”.

5 October 1888

Rachel Dene: a tale of the Deepdale Mills commences serialisation in Bow Bells Weekly.


8 October 1888

Alone in London at the Windsor Theatre, New York. Col. Sinn’s original production continues, with Ada Dwyer promoted from ‘Tom Chickweed’ to ‘Annie Meadows’.


23 October1888

50th performance of Fascination at the Fourteenth Street Theatre, New York.


27 October 1888

Final performance of Fascination at the Fourteenth Street Theatre, New York. The play is then taken on tour.


November 1888

Buchanan delivers his play, Lady Gladys, to Lillie Langtry.


13 November 1888

Harriett Jay appears at a benefit concert in aid of Dr. Eldridge Spratt’s Sanatorium for Diseases of the Heart and Nervous System at the Steinway Hall, Seymour Street, London.


19 November 1888

Item in The Morning Post:
     “‘Roger la Honte,’ the new old-fashioned melodrama now so popular at the Ambigue, Paris, has been purchased for England by three actors, Messrs. Terriss, Cartwright, and Overton, who have commissioned Mr. Robert Buchanan to write the adaptation for probable production in London.”


29 November 1888

A Man’s Shadow, produced for copyright purposes at the Elephant and Castle Theatre, London under the title of “Roger la Honte, or Jean the Disgraced.”


December 1888

In the ‘Dramatic Directory’ of the December issue of The Theatre, Harriett Jay’s address is given as “Hamlet Court, Southend-on-Sea”.
According to Chapter XXIII of the biography:
“After a residence at Hamlet Court which lasted two or three years, the poet removed to a house on the Cliff, which is now known as Byculla House; then, finding that he was plunging deeper and deeper into stage work, he settled down in Maresfield Gardens, South Hampstead, where he lived for many years.”
Presumably they moved to Byculla House, Cliff Town Parade, Southend some time after December 1888.


1 December 1888

Buchanan writes to Mrs. Langtry expressing concern about newspaper articles stating that she intends to open her New York season with Macbeth and not Lady Gladys.


2 December 1888

According to Mrs. Langtry she receives the manuscript of Lady Gladys on this date while she is in Toronto.


7 December 1888

Writes to Andrew Chatto concerning his plan to retrieve his poetical copyrights, suggesting that he pay a “substantial deposit” then the remainder in a year’s time. Buchanan arranges to see Chatto on Monday, 10th December.

Buchanan’s London base is still 9, Gower Street.

12 December 1888

Mrs. Langtry returns the manuscript of Lady Gladys expressing her deep dissatisfaction with it.





January 1889

‘Poor Bonnithorne!’ (story) published in The Era Almanack.


3 January 1889

Messrs. Shook and Collier are awarded $945 in their court case to recover the £150 advance paid to Buchanan for A Hero In Spite Of Himself.


4 January 1889

250th performance of Joseph’s Sweetheart at the Vaudeville Theatre.


14 January 1889

That Doctor Cupid is produced at a matinee at the Vaudeville Theatre.


16 January 1889

Final performance of Joseph’s Sweetheart at the Vaudeville Theatre.


17 January 1889

That Doctor Cupid replaces Joseph’s Sweetheart at the Vaudeville Theatre.


13 February 1889

Writes to Andrew Chatto saying he will call on him tomorrow concerning “the business of my books & to make you a definite offer.”
The address on the letter is “Leyland,” Arkwright Road, Hampstead.

“Leyland” was actually the house of the writer, Mona Caird. According to an item in The Globe of 2nd February, 1889:
“Mr. Buchanan has taken a rather pretty house for the season in Arkwright’s-road, Fitzjohn’s-avenue, Hampstead; but his home is Hamlet Court, Southend-on-Sea, the house in which Sir Edwin Arnold once lived.”

18 February 1889

William Terriss in a letter to Buchanan says that his adaptation of Roger la Honte has been sold to Augustin Daly for the sum of £250 for production in America. Buchanan is entitled to half this amount which will be paid when he provides a “completed copy of the work and on the signing of the contract at the Haymarket Theatre for its production in the autumn.”


March 1889

The Modern Young Man as Critic’ published in the Universal Review.

According to Henry Murray (in his Robert Buchanan: A Critical Appreciation And Other Essays), he first met Buchanan after the publication of ‘The Modern Young Man as Critic’, which he reviewed. In Murray’s account he mistakenly gives the date of this first meeting as the summer of 1885, but it should be placed here.

This essay, reprinted in The Coming Terror (1891), caused some comment in the Press (including an attack on Buchanan in the Aberdeen Evening Express). It was also the springboard for Buchanan’s next controversial topic: ‘Is Chivalry Still Possible?’

2 March 1889

Item in The Era from their American correspondent:
     “Some time since Messrs Shook and Collier recovered $1,135.13 from Mr Robert Buchanan in their suit against him for the advance payment to him on account of the American society play he was to furnish them for the Union-square Theatre, and which they refused to accept on the ground that it was not an American society play. Hitherto, efforts to recover any of the amount have been vain. Recently, however, it was discovered that the production of Partners was under a contract by which Mr Buchanan received five per cent. of the gross receipts, and that $588 was here belonging to him. On Saturday an order was procured from Judge O’Brien requiring Mr Buchanan to show cause why a receiver of his property should not be appointed. In this order the playwright is referred to as an insolvent debtor.”


22 March 1889

A letter from Buchanan under the heading, ‘Is Chivalry Still Possible?’, is printed in The Daily Telegraph.
The letter caused more comment in the Press and sparked a debate in the Telegraph between Buchanan and Mrs. Lynn Lynton. Buchanan wrote two more letters and the debate concluded on 4th April with a final letter from Mrs. Lynn Lynton.


26 March 1889

Writes a fan letter to the actor, Richard Mansfield, complimenting him on his performance as Richard III.
The letter is reprinted in The New-York Daily Tribune on 9th April.


27 March 1889

Writes a second letter to Mansfield inviting him to call on him at “Leyland,” Arkwright Road, Hampstead.
     “Pray believe me when I say that I seldom go out of my way to write letters of compliment, and that my message to you was a most unusual one, for me. I at the same time sent a line of congratulation to the sweet child who played the Prince. I mention this as there are some idiots who are always writing letters, and you might fancy me a ‘gusher.’”


3 April 1889

An article entitled “Is Buchanan Still Possible?” is printed in Truth. It is a savage attack on Buchanan in answer to his essay, ‘The Modern Young Man as Critic’:
“... Two generations have turned from him; two generations have passed him by. The triumphant microbe has eaten through all his fine gifts, and the enthusiastic versifier is now the discontented scribbler of all work, who goes about the world raving and raging that God did not create him a genius. ... In the meanwhile drink the wormwood and gall of failure. Remember that each of the five men whom you spit at has a literary public that follows him. Meditate on the fact that your poems are forgotten, that your novels are read by servant girls, that your plays are only heard by the patrons of the Vaudeville Theatre ...”
George Moore is later revealed as the author of the article.

An extract from the article is available here.

23 April 1889

Writes a letter to James S. Cotton, editor of The Academy, (from the Arkwright Road address) enclosing a poem for publication.


May 1889

Imperial Cockneydom’ published in the Universal Review.

The original version of ‘Imperial Cockneydom’ contained a passage attacking Andrew Lang. Buchanan omitted this passage when the essay was reprinted in The Coming Terror. However, the original passage and the  letter of protest from Andrew Lang, published in the St. James’s Gazette of 16th May, 1889, are available here.

4 May 1889

Buchanan attends the Royal Academy Banquet.


9 May 1889

Angelina! by ‘Mr. W. Cooper’ (an adaptation of the play, Une Mission Délicate by Alexandre Bisson) has the first of a series of matinée performances at the Vaudeville Theatre.
Several provincial newspapers attribute the play to Robert Buchanan.
Although the play is fairly well received by critics and public, it is not transferred to the evening bill.


17 May 1889

Item in The Sheffield Daily Telegraph:
     “The new piece at the Olympic, by the way, has been postponed till Saturday, when it will clash with the premiere at Covent Garden. Mr. Coleman has now altered the title of his play from “The Dead Witness” to “The Silent Witness”—a suggestion of Mr. Robert Buchanan’s.”


23 May 1889

Item in the Pall Mall Gazette:
     “Mr. Robert Buchanan has taken a furnished flat in Cavendish-place for the season, and is busy superintending the rehearsals of ‘Roger La Honte’ at the Haymarket.”


27 May 1889

Item in The Derby Daily Telegraph:
     “Mr. Robert Buchanan justifies the claim recently put forward by one of his admirers that he is an exceedingly busy man. Yet another comedy from his pen has been read to the Vaudeville Company, and will be produced by Thomas Thorne at no distant date. A correspondent tells us that the story of the play turns on the marriage of the daughter of a rich but eccentric Australian to a spendthrift English baronet, and the interest is entirely domestic. The scene is laid in England—during the first act, in the county of Essex; during the second and third, in London.

     Mr. Richard Mansfield, too, has made a call upon the services of this prolific playwright, who, we are informed, has been commissioned to write a drama of strong historic interest. By the way, Mr. Mansfield’s representations of “Richard III,” which have been remarkably successful, are to be brought to a termination at the end of the present week.”

The next play for the Vaudeville was The Old Home.

There is no record that the play commissioned by Richard Mansfield was ever produced (or, for that matter, written) despite a report in The York Herald (and elsewhere) of 11th June that “Mr Mansfield has agreed to pay him [Buchanan] £2,000 for another piece which will be produced in London later in the year.” The Brighton Gazette also threw in a trip to Norway:
     “ROBERT BUCHANAN, poet and chevalier, seems at last to be making a respectable livelihood as a playwright. He has just accepted two thousand pounds from Mr Mansfield for a play which he, Mansfield, intends to produce next season in England. In the meanwhile Buchanan contemplates a holiday with Mansfield in Norway, where, it is hoped, chivalry will be found still possible.”

30 May 1889

Henry Vizetelly sentenced to three months imprisonment for publishing English translations of novels by Emile Zola.


31 May 1889

Harriett Jay attends the first ‘Literary Ladies’ Dinner’ at the Criterion Restaurant, London. The event is widely reported in the Press. Harriett Jay responded to the toast to the Drama:
     ‘Miss Harriet Jay, who looked like a Greek goddess, gave, in a low, sympathetic, voice, “The ladies of the drama,” concluding, with excellent effect, “and I am to-night as proud of being an actress as I am of being an authoress.”’ (Pall Mall Gazette.)
     “Massive Miss Harriet Jay (gorgeously arrayed in pink liberty silk) replied to the toast of the drama.” (Te Aroha News - New Zealand.)


1 June 1889

A letter from Buchanan is printed in the Pall Mall Gazette protesting at the prison sentence imposed on Henry Vizetelly. It concludes:
     “I know little or nothing of Mr. Vizetelly personally; but I am aware that he has been honourably connected with literature for many years. Among the publications recently issued by him are many works which are impeccable, even from the most narrow point of view. To class him with the traders in mere filth is to class Emile Zola with the producers of mere garbage. We have a right to proclaim (as I have proclaimed) that certain books are offensive, unpleasant to read, and written in bad taste—in other words, we have all a right to criticize them as literature. But criticism and free discussion are quite sufficient. The moment we go further and summon the policeman we attack the privileges of private judgment, and imperil the freedom of all literature.”


11 June 1889

A letter from Buchanan (from 17, Cavendish-place) is printed in the Pall Mall Gazette concerning his first visit to see an Ibsen play (A Doll’s House at the Novelty Theatre, which opened on 7th June):
“Up to last night, however, I had never seen one of Ibsen’s plays acted, and certainly nothing could be more admirable, more thoroughgoing, and more completely representative of the dramatist’s conception, than the performance of ‘A Doll’s House’ at the Novelty Theatre. The result was most interesting, and to me, at least, satisfactory, in so far as I had never been so fully convinced of the truth of my own criticism, and the crude unintelligence of Ibsen’s dramatic method.”
The letter is headlined: ‘Is Ibsen “A Zola with a Wooden Leg”?’

An interview with Robert Buchanan is published in The Echo. Among other subjects he gives his opinion on women:
I am a strong believer in their political emancipation. I think they would vote just as well as men.”


13 June 1889

George Bernard Shaw replies to Buchanan’s criticism of Ibsen in the Pall Mall Gazette with “Is Mr. Buchanan a Critic with a Wooden Head?”.


14 June 1889

Buchanan responds to Shaw with ‘The “Top Hat” Dramatic Heresy’ which begins:
     ‘I have not the pleasure of knowing Mr. G. Bernard Shaw, but I have been much interested in his insinuation that I have a Wooden Head. It appears that my plays “bore” him, and that he is not bored by “A Doll’s House,” or any other of the rival dramas of Ibsen. He is surely wrong, however, in suggesting that there is no via media between the Scandanavian Mount Pisgah and the dire Abyss, Buchanan?’


19 June 1889

The Old Home is produced at a matinée at the Vaudeville Theatre.


20 June 1889

Final performance (151st) of That Doctor Cupid at the Vaudeville Theatre.


21 June 1889

The Old Home opens at the Vaudeville Theatre.

Buchanan writes to Bram Stoker enclosing a circular for a benefit for Edwin Danvers. He has taken Henry Irving’s advice and made the benefit private, and asks for the subscriptions of Henry Irving and Ellen Terry.


Bram Stoker (Irving’s business manager) added a note to this letter saying a cheque for £15 was sent on 24th June. Edwin Danvers was an actor who, according to Chapter 8 of the Jay biography was a good friend to Buchanan during his early years in London:
     “For several Sundays following this first meeting he went by invitation to join the Danvers family at their midday meal, but after a time the two drifted apart, yet the memory of this little gleam of friendship, coming as it did at a time when it meant so much to him, was never erased from his mind. Many years later the two heard of each other again, and now it was the poet who held forth a succouring hand, while the poor old actor, who had fallen upon evil days, had every reason to bless the name of Robert Buchanan.”

22 June 1889

The Era prints a long extract of another letter in “a daily contemporary” from Buchanan attacking Ibsen.

The “daily contemporary” is probably the Chronicle or the Telegraph.

July 1889

Buchanan’s 40 page pamphlet in support of Henry Vizetelly, On Descending into Hell: a letter addressed to the Right Hon. Henry Matthews, Q.C., Home Secretary, concerning the proposed suppression of literature, is published by George Redway.

‘On Descending into Hell’ was reprinted in The Coming Terror.

6 July 1889

Final performance of The Old Home at the Vaudeville Theatre.
A provincial tour of the play, under the direction of the actress, Florence Wade, commences at Halifax on 19th August.


22 July 1889

The Dundee Evening Telegraph prints an extract from another letter of Buchanan’s attacking Ibsen in The Daily Telegraph. Although an item in the next day’s Pall Mall Gazette cites The Daily Chronicle.

Sorry for the confusion, but the archives of the Telegraph and the Chronicle are not available online.

11 August 1889

Item in Reynolds’s Newspaper:
     “An interesting action affecting dramatic rights will probably come before the courts. Messrs. Kaye and Guedalla, solicitors to Mr. Robert Buchanan, the well-known novelist and playwright, have issued a writ against Mrs. Langtry to recover £2,000 damages for the non-production by her of a play written by Mr. Buchanan for that lady’s last New York season. Mr. George Lewis, on the other hand, on behalf of Mrs. Langtry, has set up a counter-claim against Mr. Buchanan for the return of the amount paid by Mrs. Langtry on the signing of the contract. The action will probably turn upon the point as to whether or not the parts in the play were written as stipulated.”


16 August 1889

‘The Good Judge’s Soliloquy’ and ‘The Ballad of Resurrection’, two poems by Buchanan protesting at the verdict in the Maybrick Murder case, are published in the London edition of The New York Herald. ‘The Good Judge’s Soliloquy’ is also reprinted in The Echo.

Florence Maybrick was accused of murdering her husband, James Maybrick, on 11th May, 1889. She was brought to trial in Liverpool on 31st July, and was convicted and sentenced to death on 7th August. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment on 22nd August. She served 15 years and was released on 25th January, 1904.
Buchanan later reworked ‘The Ballad of Resurrection’ and included it in The New Rome as ‘The Jew Passes’.

12 September 1889

A Man’s Shadow (an adaptation of Jules Mary’s Roger-la-Honte) is produced at the Haymarket Theatre, starring Herbert Beerbohm Tree.


Following the failure of The Old Home, A Man’s Shadow is a resounding critical and popular success. However, the rights to the English adaptation of the French play belonged to the three actors, William Terriss, Charles Cartwright and C. Overton, so they received the royalties. Buchanan was just paid a lump sum for his adaptation.

19 September 1889

There is a Memorandum in the Chatto Letters which roughly sets out the costs of Buchanan’s acquisition of his copyrights etc. The total amount is £567.


20 September 1889

Writes to Andrew Chatto (from 17, Cavendish Place) saying he has given instructions to his solicitor to draw up a formal agreement and asking Chatto to draw up “a formal schedule of the books, stereos & stock, exactly as they stand now to be appended to the agreement.” The letter concludes with “You may consider the affair over, & we will complete finally on my return to Town on Monday.”


24 September 1889

Another letter to Andrew Chatto apologising for disappointing him, but he “failed to get a settlement of certain accounts to-day.” Assures him that the money is waiting for him.


October 1889

There is a Memorandum of the Agreement between Buchanan and Chatto & Windus in the Chatto Letters which lays out formally the list of works, stereos and stock, with the costs for the transfer to Buchanan. The agreement also covers the copyright and publication of Rachel Dene. The £567 total remains the same: £100 paid 4th October, £50 to be paid on the signing of the agreement, £150 in thirty days, £133/10s. in six months and a final £133/10s. in nine months.


7 October 1889

Fascination, still starring Cora Tanner, returns to the Fourteenth Street Theatre, New York.


8 October 1889

Roger la Honte; or, A Man’s Shadow - adapted by Augustin Daly from Buchanan’s version of the French original - opens in New York at Niblo’s Garden, starring William Terriss.


9 October 1889

Writes to Andrew Chatto (from Cavendish Place):
     “Could you send me up the draft of agreement by hand early tomorrow? I could read it quietly, & then come down & conclude in the afternoon.”


26 October 1889

Item in The Manchester Weekly Times:
     “The centenary of Samuel Richardson is not to pass away without an attempt on the part of English dramatists to adapt for the modern stage the story of his masterpiece, ‘Clarissa Harlowe.’ Mr. W. G. Wills has written a play on the subject for Miss Isabel Bateman, and Mr. Robert Buchanan has had for some time in preparation a drama called ‘Clarissa,’ commissioned expressly by Mr. Thomas Thorne. It is now probable that the reproduction of the ‘Old Home’ at the Vaudeville will be postponed, and that the Richardsonian drama will re-open the regular Vaudeville season next month.


November 1889

‘Our Dramatists and Their Literature’, an essay by George Moore, is published in The Fortnightly Review. It contains two paragraphs about Buchanan, who is described as “a minor poet and a tenth-rate novelist”.


9 November 1889

The Era prints a letter from Buchanan responding to George Moore’s comments in The Fortnightly Review.


18 November 1889

Theodora (an adaptation of Victorien Sardou’s Théodora) is produced at the Theatre Royal, Brighton, starring Grace Hawthorne. Buchanan attends the first performance and, according to the review in The Era:
On the fall of the curtain Mr Robert Buchanan, in response to calls for the “author,” came before the footlights and briefly said, “I have merely adapted the work to the English stage, but I shall at once acquaint M. Sardou with the generous recognition which you have given his play.”’


21 November 1889

Item in The Echo:
     “Mr. Robert Buchanan has just bought a house in Mansfield-gardens, South Hampstead, a delightful road of artistically-built villas, running parallel with Fitzjohn’s-avenue. Mr. Buchanan’s house is close to that which Mr. Wilson Barrett recently purchased.”

Buchanan’s move from Byculla House, Southend to 25 Maresfield (not ‘Mansfield’) Gardens, South Hampstead is confirmed by this announcement. However, according to the later bankruptcy statements, Buchanan did not buy the house, but rented it at £200 a year.

23 November 1889

A second letter from Buchanan on the subject of George Moore is printed in The Era. Moore had replied to Buchanan’s first letter in Hawk, a weekly paper edited by his brother, Augustus M. Moore.
The letter is addressed from the “Queen’s Hotel, Brighton, Nov. 19th.”


25 November 1889

Buchanan reads Clarissa to the Vaudeville Theatre company and rehearsals commence.


26 November 1889

An item in the Pall Mall Gazette claims that Buchanan completed his version of Theodora in five days. A letter from Buchanan is printed on 28th November describing the circumstances in which he adapted the French play, which took him eight days.


28 November 1889

Joseph’s Sweetheart revived at the Vaudeville Theatre.


December 1889

The Modern Drama and Its Minor Critics’ published in The Contemporary Review.

A brief article about Buchanan, with a photograph, is published in The Theatre.


4 December 1889

The Pall Mall Gazette prints a letter from William Archer correcting an error in Buchanan’s article in the Contemporary. It concludes:
     “I have no wish to enter into a dispute on matters of opinion with such a cuttle-fish controversialist as Mr. Robert Buchanan. least of all am I inclined to wrangle with him over the respective merits of his plays and my criticism. But, as he has been guilty of a palpable error of fact, it may perhaps be worth while to make this correction.”


5 December 1889

According to a report in The Lancashire Evening Post Buchanan has organised a fund for the relief of Henry Vizetelly, whose publishing business has been almost entirely ruined.


12 December 1889

Death of Robert Browning in Venice.


13 December 1889

Item from The Scotsman:
     “The next comic opera at the Prince of Wales’ Theatre was to have been written by Mr Burnand, with music by Planquette, but it is now decided that ‘Marjorie,’ the book by Messrs Dilley and Lyne, with music by Mr Walter Slaughter, shall be produced on January 11th. A melancholy interest attaches to the libretto, as Mr Lyne, a well-known dramatic critic, the author of several plays, and associated with Mr Charles Dickens in the editorship of Household Words, died only ten days ago. The book will now, I understand, be edited and in some measure rewritten by Mr Robert Buchanan.”


14 December 1889

‘How Plays Are Made’, an essay by Robert Buchanan, is published in The Dundee Evening Telegraph. It is also published in The Newcastle Courant on 21st December and The Yorkshire Weekly Post on 28th December.

The Daily Telegraph prints Buchanan’s reminiscences of Robert Browning.

The Academy announces the immediate publication of Buchanan’s new poem, The Outcast, the hero of which is the Flying Dutchman. It also reveals that Buchanan intends to issue a new monthly review:
“It will be eclectic in character, but among its objects will be the promotion of the editor’s views on social and religious questions. Unusual prominence will be given to the discussion of current literature.”

This piece does give a useful insight into Buchanan’s attitude to his own dramatic work. It also contains another swipe at William Archer, more praise for Richard Mansfield and Buchanan’s rather low opinion of Sarah Bernhardt.

I think it is also worth speculating that since the theme of Man and the Woman was a ‘bad marriage’, Buchanan’s letters could have been an effort to generate some publicity for his play.

16 December 1889

Buchanan writes a letter to The Daily Telegraph, printed under the heading ‘Is the Marriage Contract Eternal?’ in reply to Gladstone’s piece about divorce in the December issue of The North American Review.

100th performance of A Man’s Shadow at the Haymarket Theatre.

Since the theme of Man and the Woman was a ‘bad marriage’, Buchanan’s letters on the subject of the ‘Marriage Contract’ could have been an effort to generate some publicity for his play.

19 December 1889

Man and the Woman is produced at a matinée at the Criterion Theatre. It stars the Australian actress, Miss Myra Kemble.

This seems to be the only performance of this play, although Buchanan later adapted it as the novel, The Wedding Ring (U.S. title) and Woman and the Man. It was also filmed by Amleto Palermi in 1923 as La Donna E L’Uomo.

24 December 1889

Buchanan’s second letter on the subject of the ‘Marriage Contract’ is printed The Daily Telegraph, concluding the debate.


31 December 1889

Item in the Pall Mall Gazette:
     “This pleasant balmy climate of ours has been doing its deadliest in theatrical circles during the last few days. Mr. Tom Thorne has been the victim of a severe cold and Mr. Robert Buchanan has also been laid up with some bronchial trouble. “Clarissa” is consequently shelved for the moment, though I doubt not that when author and actor are themselves again a very few days will suffice to complete the preparations for the young lady’s appearance.”





10 January 1890

Final performance of Joseph’s Sweetheart at the Vaudeville Theatre.


11 January 1890

Buchanan replies to William Archer’s letter of 4th December in the Pall Mall Gazette concerning the article in The Contemporary Review. Buchanan says he is writing from “a sick room” and is dated 5th January. It also bears the Cavendish Place address.


18 January 1890

The revised version of Marjorie is produced at the Prince of Wales’ Theatre by the Carl Rosa Light Opera Company. It runs for 193 performances.

There is a review of the revised version of Marjorie on the Buchanan’s Music page.

20 January 1890

Item from The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent:
     “Mr. Kendal has lost no time in answering Robert Buchanan’s recent attack on Mrs. Kendal. On being shown a copy of Buchanan’s onslaught, he sat down and wrote him the following stinging letter:—“A cutting from the St. James’s Gazette sent me is the first intimation I have had of the good taste you have been displaying during our absence in trying to attack Mrs. Kendal behind her back, your motive for which is so transparent and so adequately dealt with by the enclosed, that I cannot refrain from sending it to you with the united compliments of Mrs. Kendal and myself. I have only to add our surprise as well as regret that in a weak moment of chagrin at the phenomenal success of the authorised and acknowledged adaptation of ‘Le Maitre de Forge,’ both in England and America, you should have exposed yourself to such ridicule and contempt.
                                           W. H. KENDAL.”

This item also appeared in The Glasgow Herald on the same day, and the Pall Mall Gazette also added a brief comment on the 21st. However, I’m not sure where Mr. Kendal’s letter originally appeared. It was mentioned in the Chicago Daily Tribune on the 18th. The “cutting from the St. James’s Gazette” is presumably this one which was published on 6th December, 1889 and referred to Buchanan’s remarks about Mrs. Kendal in his essay, ‘The Modern Drama and Its Minor Critics’, published in the December 1889 issue of The Contemporary Review:
A critic, nevertheless, writes that “we have one great actress, Mrs. Kendal, and one distinguished actor, Mr. Irving,” meaning, as we all know, that Mr. Irving is distinguished, but not great. Now, I do not care to say anything in deprecation of the judgment which selects for the epithet “great” an actress whose cleverness is undeniable, but whose coarseness and commonness of method (as seen in such performances as that of Suzanne in “A Scrap of Paper,” and Claire in “The Ironmaster”) are worthy of a stage chambermaid.’

23 January 1890

A letter from Buchanan on the subject of ‘Are Men Born Free and Equal?’ is printed in The Daily Telegraph. It is a response to Professor T. H. Huxley’s article, ‘The Natural Inequality of Men’ in the January 1890 issue of the Nineteenth Century. Buchanan and Huxley exchange letters (four each) until the debate is concluded by a letter from Herbert Spencer, printed on 8th February.


25 January 1890

A letter from Buchanan in The Era corrects some newspaper reports that he was largely responsible for the revisions of the libretto of Marjorie. He states that “I was requested to revise the libretto, and that I did so to the best of my ability; but only a very small portion of my work was utilised.”


6 February 1890

Clarissa is performed at a matinée at the Vaudeville Theatre.


8 February 1890

Item in The Era:
     “Miss Genevieve Ward and Mr George Alexander, having accepted the adaptation of La Lutte pour la vie, by Mr Robert Buchanan and Mr Fred. Horner, have purchased all rights of the English version from Mr Horner, and will produce it at the Avenue Theatre, themselves appearing in the principal parts.”

Clarissa opens at the Vaudeville Theatre.
A letter from Buchanan is printed in The Daily Telegraph, thanking their critic for a complimentary review of Clarissa but raising a couple of objections.

The Struggle for Life (Buchanan and Horner’s adaptation of Alphonse Daudet’s La Lutte pour la Vie) was not produced until 25th September.

20 February 1890

A letter from Buchanan under the heading. ‘What Is Sentiment?’ is printed in The Daily Telegraph. There are no replies.


3 March 1890

Item in The Derby Daily Telegraph:
     “Mr. Robert Buchanan has signed a contract with Messrs. Gatti to collaborate with Mr. G. R. Sims in the new play for the Adelphi, which will be a departure from the pieces familiar at that home of successful melodrama. In the meantime, Mr. Buchanan is preparing for immediate production a romantic Greek drama, in which Miss Harriette Jay is to make her reappearance. The scenery is well advanced, and the play may be looked for about Easter.”

Another item in the same paper reveals that Buchanan is planning to revise Sir John Vanbrugh’s play, The Relapse, to be performed at a series of matinées at the Vaudeville Theatre.

The Adelphi play is The English Rose, the first of Buchanan’s collaborations with George R. Sims. The Greek drama is The Bride of Love, first mentioned in May, 1888.

Buchanan’s version of The Relapse is renamed Miss Tomboy.

4 March 1890

Item in The Yorkshire Herald:
     “If the Albany Club could have been ready for the reception of members by the Boat Race day it would have been an advantage, for the clubhouse is not far from Mortlake. Some curiosity is felt about the future of this club. It is non-political, and is intended solely for social purposes. There are some well-known names on the committee, which includes Sir Frederick Milner, Lord Louth, Mr. Robert Buchanan, and Mr. H. Labouchere, M.P. The grounds surrounding the mansion, which was formerly called Bank Grove, are three acres in extent, and are finely timbered. Afternoon garden parties will be a feature of the entertainments, and among the amusements will be boating and tennis.”

I thought this worth a mention since it gives an indication of Buchanan’s social status at this time. It is also odd to find him on the same committee as one of his great opponents, Henry Labouchere. The Albany Club, at Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey, opened in April, 1890. Here’s a drawing of it from around that time by E. K. Johnson.

20 March 1890

Miss Tomboy (an adaptation of Vanbrugh’s The Relapse) is produced at the Vaudeville Theatre in the first of a series of matinée performances.


25 March 1890

Writes a brief letter to Marie Corelli including tickets for Clarissa, and this postscript:
‘Never become a dramatic author! “That way madness lies!”’


26 March 1890

200th performance of A Man’s Shadow at the Haymarket Theatre.


29 March 1890

Final performance of A Man’s Shadow at the Haymarket Theatre.
Mr. Gladstone and his wife were in the audience and their visit is mentioned in Max Beerbohm’s Herbert Beerbohm Tree: Some Memories of Him and of His Art, including a sketch. On Monday 31st March, the London correspondent of The Derby Daily Telegraph reported:
     “Mr. Robert Buchanan’s powerful play ‘A Man’s Shadow’ was cut short in its successful career at the Haymarket, on Saturday night. Mr. Gladstone and his wife were in a box, and were recognised immediately on their entry, a cheer full of enthusiasm rising from nearly every throat. This reception told its hopeful tale of the spread of Liberalism in Conservative London.”


31 March 1890

Item in The Glasgow Herald:
     ‘Mr Robert Buchanan has written an open letter explaining the reason why he is now able to bring out so many new plays in rapid succession. For nearly fifteen years he was in the ranks of the “great unacted,” and during that period he was by no means idle. “Sophia” was refused by many managers before an accident secured its acceptance at the Vaudeville, “Miss Tomboy” was also written a long time ago, and, moreover, Mr Buchanan significantly adds, “I have still by me plays which were pronounced (as ‘Sophia’ was pronounced) unlikely to succeed at representation.” These facts, Mr Buchanan thinks, may encourage aspiring dramatists not to despair of ultimately overcoming the prejudices of many managers against any kind of dramatic experiment.’

I have not yet found where Buchanan’s letter was originally published.

18 April 1890

Final performance of Clarissa at the Vaudeville Theatre.


22 April 1890

Item in The Bristol Mercury (also The Birmingham Daily Post):
     “Mr Robert Buchanan and Mr Walter Slaughter are collaborating on a new comic opera. Mr Savile Clarke also is thinking over a libretto for the composer of “Marjorie.”


28 April 1890

The 100th performance of Marjorie at the Prince of Wales’s Theatre is followed by a celebration ball at the Criterion Restaurant, which is attended by Buchanan. According to the report in The Era of 3rd May:
“... The large ballroom of the establishment was requisitioned, and here assembled about two hundred guests to enjoy a capitally arranged dance programme to the exhilarating music of Coote and Tinney’s band. At one o’clock the company adjourned to supper in an adjoining room, where there was plenty of seating accommodation for all, and where all the delicacies of the season were supplied in profusion. The whole of the arrangements were most admirably carried out under the personal supervision of Mr Horace Sedger, and when the guests departed in the early hours of Tuesday morning it was unanimously agreed that the ‘Marjorie’ Ball had been a great success. It should be added that while the ball was in progress a supper was given to the whole of the orchestra, the gentlemen of the chorus, and the heads of the staff of the theatre, while to each of the working staff a money present was made; so that all employed in the theatre were enabled to participate in the celebration.”


May 1890

The Art of Authorship edited by George Bainton, is published. The chapter on ‘The Influence of Reading on Literary Style’ contains the following from Buchanan:
     “If my style has any merit it is due to the early study of English dramatic poetry, particularly that of the Elizabethan period. Up to the age of twenty, a man thinks of style alone, having as yet nothing to say, and such was my case. But when I found I possessed some thoughts to utter, I discovered that the English poets were my best and only guides as to how to utter them.”


5 May 1890

Buchanan attends the first London performance of Theodora at the Princess’s Theatre.

Theodora remains at the Princess’s Theatre until 21st June, then resumes touring the provinces.

6 May 1890

Miss Tomboy moves to the evening bill of the Vaudeville Theatre.


21 May 1890

The Bride of Love is produced at a matinée at the Adelphi Theatre. Harriett Jay and Ada Cavendish are in the cast.
The music for the play is provided by Walter Slaughter and Dr. A. C. Mackenzie.
Among the audience were Buchanan and his mother, Clement Scott and Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Wilde.


22 May 1890

At the Bow Street Police court, the National Vigilance Association attempts to ban the advertisements of the National Aquarium featuring the aerialist, Zæo.


28 May 1890

A letter from Buchanan is printed in The Daily Telegraph under the heading ‘“Beneficent” Legislation’, on the subject of the Zæo poster.
We have all seen the poster complained of. Many of us also have seen the lady herself, who, with exquisite grace and charm, wears the light yet modest costume of the picture. Every sane and right-thinking man who has seen either the picture or the original knows that the complaints so loudly heard can only have emanated from Little Bethel or Colney Hatch.”
Buchanan then extrapolates from this a society which will legislate everything by plebiscite and which will lead to the destruction of all art.

Buchanan seems to have used this letter as the basis for the first of his essays in The Coming Terror. Although the poster of a scantily-clad trapeze artist may have been the ‘springboard’ for the original letter, Buchanan is really wrestling with the problem which afflicts many longtime socialists when they come to realise that the will of the people conflicts with the freedom of the individual.

9 June 1890

Buchanan produces The Bride of Love at the Lyric Theatre. It is not a success and, according to Jay: “This experiment cost him some thousands of pounds”.

In the accounts of Buchanan’s bankruptcy in 1894, his losses at the Lyric and Royalty theatres in 1890 were given as £5000.

10 June 1890

There is an afternoon performance of The Bride of Love at the Crystal Palace.


12 June 1890

A second matinée of The Bride of Love at the Crystal Palace.


25 June 1890

Buchanan attends a reception given by Mrs. Lancaster-Wallis at Lancaster Gate.


11 July 1890

Final performance of The Bride of Love at the Lyric Theatre.


12 July 1890

Sweet Nancy (an adaptation of Rhoda Broughton’s Nancy) produced at the Lyric Theatre. It stars Annie Hughes as Nancy and Harriett Jay as her sister, Barbara.


26 July 1890

Item in The Manchester Weekly Times:
     ‘Mrs. Lancaster Wallis has decided to resume the management of her own theatre—the Shaftesbury—early in the autumn, and will accordingly appear on October 9 in a new play written by Mr. Robert Buchanan, about which some strange and inaccurate statements have been made. In the first place, the subject of the drama is not a Russian one at all, nor are the characters Russian. The scene happens to be laid in Paris. Nor is it true to say that Mr. Buchanan has written for Miss Wallis what is known as a “one-part play.” On the contrary, the Daily Telegraph is credibly informed that the female interest is divided almost equally between two characters, to be personated by Miss Wallis and Miss Elizabeth Robins, who has distinguished herself of late as an emotional actress.’

Final (101st) performance of Miss Tomboy at the Vaudeville Theatre.

This refers to Buchanan’s adaptation of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, retitled, The Sixth Commandment.

1 August 1890

Final peformance of Sweet Nancy at the Lyric Theatre, due to the expiration of Buchanan’s lease.

The first part of a short story by Harriett Jay, ‘My Luggage’ is published in The Theatre. The story concludes in the September issue.


2 August 1890

The English Rose (written in collaboration with G. R. Sims) is produced at the Adelphi Theatre. It is a great success, The Era reporting:
The English Rose was received with one of those long-lasting storms of thunderous applause which are rarely heard within the walls of a theatre.”


According to G. R. Sims in his autobiography, it was on the strength of the success of A Man’s Shadow that the Brothers Gatti (of the Adelphi Theatre) suggested Buchanan as a possible collaborator for Sims. In a letter to Sims, Buchanan expressed his initial wish to use a pseudonym: “after all it is your name, not mine, which attracts to the Adelphi, for you are a popular writer, and I a d—d unpopular one.” Sims also reveals that as soon as the success of The English Rose was established, Buchanan asked if he could sell his share in the rights - presumably to settle the debts incurred from The Bride of Love. Sims and the Brothers Gatti agreed and Buchanan was paid £2500 for his share.

During their collaboration on the five plays for the Adelphi, G. R. Sims introduced Buchanan to the joys of gambling at the racetrack.

9 August 1890

John Coleman writes to The Era saying that eleven years before he had given a French play, The Priest’s Oath to Buchanan to turn into an Irish drama. Buchanan never delivered his adaptation of the play, nor returned Coleman’s original. However, at the first night of The English Rose, Coleman recognised “faithful transcripts of my version of The Priest’s Oath.”


16 August 1890

Buchanan replies to Coleman’s accusation in The Era denying that The English Rose had anything to do with Coleman’s version of The Priest’s Oath. This dispute between Coleman and Buchanan continues in the pages of The Era until a final letter from Buchanan on 13th September.

Arthur Goodrich (author of The Calthorpe Case) also contributes two letters to the debate, attacking Buchanan.


18 August 1890

Death of Charles Gibbon (Buchanan’s collaborator during his early years in London) at the age of 48.

A brief obituary from The Aberdeen Weekly Journal of 20th August is available here.

19 August 1890

The Daily Telegraph publishes a letter from Buchanan under the heading ‘Beneficent Murder’, continuing his argument about society and the individual which began with the Zæo letter. This time the starting point is the execution of William Kemmler in the electric chair in New York (the first time this method was used) combined with the suppression of Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata in America in the interests of morality. This debate attracted far more interest than ‘What is Sentiment?’ and ran until 28th August, Buchanan contributing a total of five letters.


September 1890

The Moment After: a Tale of the Unseen is published by William Heinemann.
Advertised in The Standard, 17 September, 1890
Reviewed in The Scotsman, 22 September, 1890.


3 September 1890

Item in The Falkirk Herald and Linlithgow Journal:
     ‘Mr. Robert Buchanan’s new monthly review, announced some time ago, will make its appearance very shortly. Almost simultaneously Mr. Buchanan will issue his new poem, “The Outcast: a Rhyme for the Time.”’

Several newspapers carried the announcement of the imminent arrival of Buchanan’s new magazine around this time.

11 September 1890

Item in the Aberdeen Evening Express:


     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.”


13 September 1890

A letter from Frank Egerton to The Era reveals that Buchanan donated £5 to the appeal on behalf of Fred Wallingford:
“I would ask you to allow me here to thank most heartily all who have subscribed, and more particularly Robert Buchanan, Esq., and Dr. Howard, of Oldham, for the sympathetic letters accompanying their contributions. I would still further appeal to the many kindhearted who have not yet given, for it is really the most deserving case I can remember during my long career. Poor Wallingford has already had part of his cancerous tongue removed, and the most dreadful episode in his affliction is the knowledge that after the next and final operation his days will be numbered.”


25 September 1890

The Struggle for Life (an adaptation of Daudet’s La Lutte pour la Vie, written in collaboration with Frederick Horner) is produced at the Avenue Theatre.


29 September 1890

First production of The English Rose in the provinces at the Court Theatre, Liverpool.

First provincial tour of Sweet Nancy begins at the Northampton Opera House under the direction of Horace Sedger, with Emilie Calhaem in the title role.


4 October 1890

The Dundee Evening Telegraph reprints the following extract from a letter which Buchanan had sent to The Globe:
     “Again (I see by the newspapers) has the fiat gone forth that ‘the Lord must not be named in the Devil’s Documents!’ No sooner have I christened a forthcoming drama ‘The Sixth Commandment’ than I am told that the merest allusion to the Decalogue on a playbill savours of sacrilege; and this in the very year when hundreds of clergymen have been enjoying at Ober-Ammergau as good and noble a melodrama as ever delighted saint or sinner. It is useless, I suppose, to protest, when Boanerges at Kennington and St Simeon at Westminster have simultaneously summoned their congregations to curse the dramatist and all his works. When will the sects recover their senses, and recognise that the very last place the Prince of Darkness cares to patronise is a playhouse, because he is held there in the lowest estimation, and is certain to be execrated by pit and gallery?”

The archives of The Globe are not online, so I have no further information about this letter.

6 October 1890

Sweet Nancy produced at the Royalty Theatre, London under the management of Harriett Jay, who remains in the cast, along with Annie Hughes.


8 October 1890

The Sixth Commandment (an adaptation of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment) is produced at the Shaftesbury Theatre.

Item in The Dundee Advertiser:
     ‘Mr Robert Buchanan is certainly one of the most prolific playwrights in London. Messrs Pinero, Grundy, Sims, and Pettitt work very hard in the same branch of business, but they cannot compete with the industrious Caledonian. I do not know how many plays he has written and that have been played during the past four or five years, but at this moment he is keeping three theatres running. He has “The English Rose” at the Adelphi, “The Struggle for Life” at the Avenue, and “Sweet Nancy” at the Royalty; and to-morrow his “Sixth Commandment” appears at the Shaftesbury. No other playwright can show such a record.’



An advert from Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper of 5th October for Buchanan’s four plays is available here.

10 October 1890

A review of The Sixth Commandment in The Jewish Chronicle criticises Buchanan for the character of Abramoff, who is murdered in the play:
Modern playwrights seem to find it difficult to keep Jewish money lenders out of their dramas. These creations, while generally obnoxious, are obviously such gross caricatures that while they make us angry we can still afford to laugh. It has been reserved for Mr. Buchanan to give us in Abramoff, a St. Petersburg usurer, a creature of so despicable a character that much harm would be done to the Jewish cause in Russia were he to be accepted as a type of the Jews in that country.”


16 October 1890

Buchanan writes to the Daily Chronicle concerning the criticism of The Sixth Commandment:
‘My withers are quite unwrung, my pulse is not the least stirred, by the assertion that it is a deep descent from the heights of “Judah” to the depths of the “Sixth Commandment.” That is a mere matter of opinion. I am quite sure that I shall never climb those heights or attempt to climb them. I have seen them from the dress circle of the theatre, I have watched the clerical audience as it gazed upon them from the stalls, and where others caught celestial glimpses I perceived only vistas of Clapham and its Agapemones, of Brixton and its little Bethels. Whatever fate befalls my play I shall never ask Mr Supple, the curate, or the Rev. Boanerges Bellowing-Bothways to ask a blessing on it; nor shall I cease to picture suffering as it is and libertinage as it ever must be, because I am assured that the representation of terrible things is “melodramatic,” unpleasant, tiresome, vulgar, and inexpedient. I shall never be converted by criticism, be it friendly or adverse, to the opinion that authors when the world is burning should imitate the Roman Antichrist and play upon the fiddle.’

The St. James’s Gazette publishes what amounts to Buchanan’s manifesto for his new magazine, the Modern Review. One of many pledges is the following:
“More particularly, we shall speak the needful word on behalf of Woman, advocating her freedom and equality, and denouncing those who countenance her moral slavery.”

The Daily Chronicle is another paper with no online archive. This extract is taken from The Dundee Evening Telegraph of 16th October.

17 October 1890

The Jewish Chronicle prints a statement from Buchanan in which he claims Abramoff in The Sixth Commandment is not Jewish. He concludes:
“... those who know me and my opinions need scarcely be assured that I hold the Hebrew race and the Hebrew religion in the highest honour: that I prefer a good Jew to a bad Christian; and that I reverence and love the Jewish character as typified in the great leaders of human thought, from Moses down to Heine.”

Item in The Dundee Advertiser:
     ‘Mr Robert Buchanan once more falls foul of his critics in the columns of a morning paper. His play, “The Sixth Commandment,” brought out at the Shaftesbury Theatre last week, was pretty severely handled all round, and it unquestionably cannot add to the dramatic reputation of the author, and will probably soon be withdrawn. It is a pity that Mr Buchanan, who can afford a failure now and again, is so thin-skinned. But perhaps the dubious success of his adaptation of Daudet’s play at the Avenue Theatre has something to do with this last outbreak. I hear, indeed, that Mr George Alexander will soon have it replaced at the Avenue. Mr Buchanan’s “Sweet Nancy,” a by no means bad piece of work, is also hanging fire at the Royalty.’


18 October 1890

Buchanan attends the performance of The Sixth Commandment at which, following bad reviews from the critics, the manageress of the Shaftesbury Theatre, Mrs Lancaster-Wallis, addresses the audience after the performance and asks whether the play should continue to be performed. This is considered ‘very bad form’ and causes a minor controversy in the pages of The Era and other papers.

During the performance of Theodora at the Sheffield Theatre Royal, two lion cubs (recently born at Wombwell’s Menagerie) were christened onstage by Grace Hawthorne. One was named “Theodora, Empress of Sheffield” and the other, “Robert Buchanan, poet laureate of all the lions in England.”


20 October 1890

Item in The Glasgow Herald:
     “Mr Robert Buchanan is, we understand, engaged upon a new Irish drama, written in collaboration with Mr Aubrey Boucicault.”

The Echo publishes an article about Robert Buchanan.

Letters to Living Authors by John A Steuart is published by Sampson Low, including one to Robert Buchanan.

This was The Squireen which was completed (and copyrighted in America on 5th February, 1892) but which does not appear to have been performed. Buchanan’s novel, Lady Kilpatrick, is assumed to be based on the play.

22 October 1890

The Echo prints a letter from Buchanan about their article about him:
“I have only one fault to find with the very good-natured picture of myself in your Portrait Gallery, and the fault is that your contributor makes me far too virtuous.
The writer of the article responds with a letter printed on the 27th.


25 October 1890

Final performance of The Struggle for Life at the Avenue Theatre.


26 October 1890

A letter from Buchanan, on the subject of The Sixth Commandment and Mrs Lancaster-Wallis’ action in asking the audience whether the play should be continued, is published in The Observer.

The letter is reprinted in The Era of 1st November along with a reply from Mrs. Lancaster-Wallis.

1 November 1890

A public meeting to protest the cruel treatment of Jews in Russia is held outside the Assembly Hall in the Mile End Road, attracting a crowd of 5000. Buchanan sends a letter regretting his inability to attend the meeting.

Robert Buchanan (with the Walery photograph) appears in the November issue (No. 29) of Our Celebrities, alongside the Archbishop of York and Lady Monckton.



3 November 1890

Item in The Daily News:
     ‘“Sweet Nancy,” at the Royalty, will give place on Saturday next to a revival of Mr. Robert Buchanan’s play, “A Madcap Prince,” originally produced at the Haymarket about sixteen years ago. Miss Harriett Jay will succeed to the part formerly played by Mrs. Kendal.’

The same announcement appears in The Era of November 8th, but A Madcap Prince is not produced at the Royalty.

10 November 1890

Item in The Glasgow Herald:
     ‘Mr Robert Buchanan is writing, in collaboration with Mr Walter Slaughter, a new comic opera, bearing the curious title of “The Rev. Miss Amabel Lee.”’

This also appeared in The Echo the following day. I would suggest that ‘Amabel’ is a misprint and that this does not refer to an early version of Buchanan’s novel The Rev. Annabel Lee, which is hardly a subject for a comic opera, but probably refers to The Maiden Queen.

13 November 1890

Writes to Andrew Chatto concerning the purchase of his poems and, in particular, the novel, Rachel Dene. Buchanan states that the £100 he paid on 4th October, 1889 was to buy back the rights to the novel which he does not want published. It appears that Buchanan had not continued with the process of buying back his copyrights “owing to the rush of work” but the letter concludes:
     “With regard to the whole arrangement as previously mapped out, I should very much like to complete it as soon as possible—and I will call upon you with that view early next week.”


14 November 1890

Final performance of The Sixth Commandment at the Shaftesbury Theatre.

In the Court of Queen’s Bench, the case of Buchanan v. Langtry (concerning the play Lady Gladys) is postponed for a week.


15 November 1890

Arthur Goodrich writes to The Era in reponse to a letter from J. T. Grein under the heading of ‘Play-writer’s Qualities’ in the previous issue. Goodrich’s letter is another attack on Buchanan.

Goodrich’s letter is available here. I have not found any reply to the attack from Buchanan.

17 November 1890

Final performance of Sweet Nancy at the Royalty Theatre.

Although Sweet Nancy was a failure for Buchanan and caused some of the problems which led to his bankruptcy, due to his management of the Lyric and Royalty Theatres, it was a success for Annie Hughes, who was still touring the provinces with the play as late as 1907.

20 November 1890

Buchanan takes Lillie Langtry to court (Queen’s Bench Division) alleging breach of contract over the play Lady Gladys, which Buchanan had written for Lillie Langtry to open her New York season in January 1889. Buchanan claims damages of £2000. Lillie Langtry counter-claims the original £150 she paid Buchanan for the play and says she was not liable to accept the play if it proved unsuitable.
Both Buchanan and Lillie Langtry are called to the stand.

Press accounts of the court case are available here.

21 November 1890

Second day of the Buchanan v. Langtry court case. The jury find for Buchanan and award damages of £150.
Buchanan and Jay attend the court on both days.


26 November 1890

100th performance of The English Rose at the Adelphi Theatre.


28 November 1890

A draft letter from Chatto & Windus dated 18th March, 1892 refers to their agreement of 28th November, 1890, concerning Buchanan’s purchase of his poetry copyrights, suggesting that Buchanan met with Andrew Chatto on this date.


29 November 1890

Writes to Andrew Chatto enclosing a post-dated (7th December) cheque as his account “for the next few days will be overdrawn, & Miss Jay wont pay in certain monies till the end of this week.” He also encloses the “Bills & the Agreement”.

The process of buying back the rights to his poetry began in May, 1888. A formal Agreement was prepared in October, 1889 and Buchanan made an initial payment of £100 on 4th October, 1889. There is then a gap in the Chatto correspondence until November 1890 when it appears that the process is revived because Chatto intends to publish Rachel Dene, which was included in the original agreement. Buchanan has spent the intervening year on his plays, but his next book of poetry, The Outcast, has been mentioned in the Press, along with his intention to publish a new magazine, The Modern Review. It would seem that Buchanan at this point wants to become his own publisher, however, following the recent failure of three plays and the financial disaster of his management of the Lyric and Royalty theatres, the fact that he has to send Chatto a post-dated cheque (presumably for the first payment of £50 mentioned in the original Agreement) would indicate that Buchanan’s finances are not that healthy.

1 December 1890

The Echo publishes a letter from Buchanan under the heading ‘The Journalist in Absolution’ defending Charles Stewart Parnell and attacking his treatment in the Press.

A letter from Professor Huxley criticising General Booth and the Salvation Army is published in The Times.

The letter is included in The Coming Terror.

8 December 1890

Buchanan writes to The Daily Chronicle responding to Huxley’s attack on General Booth.


9 December 1890

 The Times reprints Buchanan’s letter under a second one from Huxley, prompting Buchanan to write another letter to The Daily Chronicle.

The sequence of these letters is a little confusing since the archives of The Daily Chronicle are not online. Buchanan published both of his letters in The Coming Terror and they are available in the Letters to the Press section along with Huxley’s letters to The Times.

11 December 1890

Another letter from Huxley in The Times contains this postscript:
     “P.S.—I have just read Mr. Buchanan’s letter in The Times of to-day. Mr. Buchanan is, I believe, an imaginative writer. I am not acquainted with his works; but nothing in the way of fiction he has yet achieved can well surpass his account of my opinions and of the purport of my writings.”


20 December 1890

Item in The Yorkshire Evening Post:
     “Mr. Robert Buchanan, whose Modern Review is due in a day or two, now lives at South Hampstead. His house in Maresfield Gardens is semi--detached and red-bricked, picturesquely designed, but ill-provided in the matter of garden ground. The dramatist’s workroom is at the top of the house, and is so spacious that big bookcases and a extensive desk leave him plenty of room to peregrinate, pen in hand, when some passage needs pondering over. Although so busy a man, Mr. Buchanan is not an early riser, and the morning is often well advanced before he has breakfasted.


25 December 1890

Item in The Dundee Evening Telegraph:
     “Everybody interested in literary matters is looking forward with some eagerness to Mr Robert Buchanan’s new magazine, The Modern Review, which is to be as outspoken and fearless as its editor. A good many of Mr Buchanan’s opponents on paper are quaking in their shoes and awaiting their punishment with some anxiety.”


Robert Buchanan Timeline - continued

8. 1891 - 1893



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