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

The Critical Response
Harriett Jay

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9. 1894 - 1895







1 January 1894

Death of Henry Vizetelly.
Buchanan writes to The Daily Chronicle pointing out the hypocrisy of the journalists who failed to support Vizetelly when he was arrested and imprisoned for publishing English translations of the novels of Emile Zola in 1889, but then welcomed the novelist when he visited London in 1893. He writes another letter to the Chronicle on the subject, referring to the memorial to James Russell Lowell in Westminster Abbey (unveiled on 28th November, 1893), comparing the meagre reaction of the Press to the death of Whitman “but when the literary men of England erect in Westminster Abbey a tablet to the memory of an American flâneur and diner-out, the newspapers flow over with enthusiasm.” The Chronicle adds the following statement: “It is hardly necessary for us to add that we dissociate ourselves entirely from Mr. Buchanan’s characterization of the late James Russell Lowell.” Buchanan then writes another letter to The Daily Telegraph in which he clarifies his position regarding Zola:
     “I have advocated again and again the right of perfect freedom of speech in literature. I hope that does not commit me to any sympathy with the gospel according to the Yahoos. I have admitted the genius of M. Zola and have approved its full and free manifestation, but that does not prevent me from believing and saying that Zolaism is an ugly, a corrupt, and an evil influence on literature generally.”

Since the letters appeared in the Chronicle and the Telegraph (no online archives) I have had to rely on extracts and other comments in the Press and since I don’t have the publication dates, I’ve added them here in a single block. The mention of Lowell caused some comment in the American papers, and the London correspondent of the New-York Daily Tribune ended his piece (published on 24th January) with this:
     ‘The same reason leads me to add that Mr. Buchanan has made something which he seems to intend as an apology for his impertinence to the memory of Mr. Lowell. “I am assured,” he says, “that the writer in question was a great poet and critic. I should rather describe him as a cultivated English gentleman who happened to be born in America.” Still he “declines to accept him as representing in any sense the country which has produced Whitman, Thoreau, Herman Melville, Whittier, and Mark Twain.” There are apologies which are more offensive than the offence for which they profess to atone. But good feeling and delicacy are qualities which it were vain to expect from Mr. Buchanan.’

6 January 1894

The Derby Daily Telegraph reports that:
The last act of Mr. Robert Buchanan’s new play, “The Charlatan,” has not been put in rehearsal at the Haymarket yet, and I am told it has cost him more work than the others combined.

Several reviewers found fault with the rather equivocal ending of The Charlatan. In the novelisation, which was published a year later, a definite final act had been added to the story.

15 January 1894

Item in The Yorkshire Evening Post:
                             “THE NEW WOMANHOOD.
     Says Mr. Robert Buchanan:—The secret of modern literary decadence and gloom is the New Womanhood Invading—the half-emancipated but still inept and ignorant Femininity venturing into the regions of thought once occupied and held by mighty Men. The New Womanhood would fain be very wise, but it only succeeds in being very foolish. The old leaven sticks to it. It is morbidly curious, eagerly sympathetic, pertly intelligent, temperamentally hysterical, and incapable of humour. It fidgets over petty moral problems, and fumbles about intellectual trifles, and calls this fidgetting and fumbling by the blessed word Mesopotamia, or Emancipation. It repeats the old fallacy that Woman is the Slave of Man, although it knows right well that Man has been, ever since civilization began, the Slave of Woman.”

I’m not sure where this originated, but I assume it was part of the sequence of letters in the Chronicle and the Telegraph. It was the subject of an article in the feminist journal, Shafts: ‘Mr Buchanan’s appeals for “Literary Freedom”’. More information here.

18 January 1894

The Charlatan is produced at the Haymarket Theatre, starring Herbert Beerbohm Tree.


20 January 1894

‘Players of the Period’ in The Era features a brief history of Buchanan’s theatrical career.


23 January 1894

The Pall Mall Gazette publishes a letter from Stuart Cumberland claiming that he had submitted a play, ‘An Adept’, to Herbert Beerbohm Tree two years ago which bore a “curious resemblance” to The Charlatan.


24 January 1894

Buchanan writes to the Pall Mall Gazette denying he knew anything about Cumberland’s play and claiming that The Charlatan was written two years ago and submitted to George Alexander of the St. James’s Theatre. There is also a letter from Charles Dickinson, saying he wrote a similar play three years ago called ‘An Unpaid Debt’.

Cumberland’s play, now retitled The Wonder-Worker was given a copyright performance at the Royal theatre in Margate on 1st June, 1894. There is a review, and more information about Cumberland, here.

26 January 1894

Item from The Derby Daily Telegraph:
     ‘The £40,000 left by Mr. Henry Pettitt is not quite an index to his success as a dramatist. The time for big prices came to him late in his career, but among melo-dramatists he was in the end among the highest paid. Probably, Mr. George R. Sims is the richest of all our theatrical money-makers, but he shines in many directions besides melo-drama, and, apart from the stage, his pen is always in active employment. Mr. Robert Buchanan, for a time, shared in the golden stream that melo-dramatic successes brought, but we are either getting over-cultured, or are sick of “blood-and-thunder.” It does not pay so handsomely as a few years back.’


27 January 1894

Black & White publishes an interview with Robert Buchanan, illustrated with photographs taken at 25, Maresfield Gardens. The issue also contains a review of The Charlatan, a scene from which occupies the cover.


1 February 1894

The Freeman’s Journal prints an extract from another of Buchanan’s letters to The Daily Chronicle, this one published under the heading, ‘Men and Books and Critics’ and dealing with Buchanan’s scheme to fool the critics by issuing St. Abe and his Seven Wives anonymously.

Again, I only have extracts from the letter and don’t know the date when it was published in The Daily Chronicle.

3 February 1894

Dick Sheridan is produced at the Comedy Theatre.

The play had originally been written for the American theatre manager, Daniel Frohman, who had rejected it. Buchanan’s failure to sell the play in America was mentioned in the reports of his bankruptcy proceedings later in the year as one of the causes of his financial difficulties.

9 February 1894

Final Christmas matinée performance of The Piper of Hamelin at the Comedy Theatre.


23 February 1894

Item in The Lichfield Mercury:
     ‘THE IMPOLITE LETTER WRITER.—A young lady went into a bookseller’s shop the other day, and inquired for the latest edition of the “Polite Letter Writer.” The shopman, who was a humorous wight, and cynical withal, supplied her with a collection of the letters which Mr. Robert Buchanan has lately been in the habit of sending to the Press. The young lady followed the models set therein so closely that she has now no friends to write to.’


2 March 1894

Item in The Nottingham Evening Post:
     ‘Mr. Robert Buchanan has written a new novel and given it the name “Rachel Dene.” It is a story of Yorkshire working-class life.’


5 March 1894

Buchanan writes a letter to Chatto & Windus complaining about their intention to publish Rachel Dene. Buchanan has seen the notices in the papers and objects to ”an old and inferior book of mine, printed in a penny newspaper 10 years ago, is being foisted on the public as a mature & recent work.” He also mentions having a “strong and mature 3 vol. story” almost ready, but if they persist in issuing Rachel Dene he will “never write another story, & I will say so to the public, when I explain, as I shall do, all the facts of the case.” Buchanan explains that he never wanted Rachel Dene to be published in novel form and had handed it over as security for a loan. He complains of being too ill to get out and pay back the money and says he does not have “the amount at my banker’s.”

Rachel Dene is included in the agreement of the sale of copyrights drawn up in October, 1889, but it is then mentioned in a letter of 13th November, 1890, Chatto & Windus making a first attempt to publish it and Buchanan complaining that he has already paid them for it and stating that he does not ”want to reprint Rachel Dene at all.” The process of buying back his copyrights was not finished until November 1892, so it seems from this letter that at some point Buchanan used it again as collateral for a loan. The fact that he is so adamant that the book not be published is perhaps simply because he knows it is an inferior work, or it may have been written by someone else, possibly an adaptation of one of his unproduced plays.

8 March 1894

Beerbohm Tree and the Haymarket company give an afternoon performance of The Charlatan at the Theatre Royal in Birmingham, then return to London in time for the evening performance. According to a report in The Gloucester Citizen:
“The company returned to Euston by special train, accomplishing the journey in two hours and eighteen minutes, which is the shortest time in which the distance has ever been covered.


9 March 1894

Item in The Bedfordshire Advertiser:

Before His Honour JUDGE HOLL, Q.C.

     Mr. Henry Pettit applied for leave to serve an order out of the district upon Mr. Robert Buchanan, the eminent dramatic artist. He said that two years ago he employed a tradesman to repaint a house he had taken in the district, the cost amounting to £6 3s. A bill was sent in from time to time, but he never made any attempt at payment, and eventually execution was put into his house, but the sheriff being in possession it was withdrawn. Then he wired in January this year, “Have mislaid papers, kindly wire amount payable and will remit.” The information was sent, but nothing had since been heard from him.
     His Honour granted the order.’

Another indication of Buchanan’s attitude to financial matters. I would suggest that the repainted house is somehow connected to Buchanan’s sojourn in Leighton Buzzard (Bedfordshire) with George Sims, reported in The Yorkshire Evening Post of 17th October, 1892.

17 March 1894

Final performance of The Charlatan at the Haymarket Theatre.


28 March 1894

Item in The Leeds Mercury:
     ‘The “Daily Chronicle” says—Mr. Robert Buchanan is to issue, through Messrs. Chatto, a volume of “North Country Tales and Ballads.” Some have appeared in magazines, some are new. Mr. Buchanan originally christened the volume “A Highland Princess,” after the first story. He changed his mind, however, in favour of “Red and White Heather.” Besides “A Highland Princess,” the tales, and ballads, are the ballad of Lord Langshaw, “The Legend of the Piper,” “The Broken Tryst,” “Miss Jean’s Love Story,” “The Dumb Bairn,” and “Sandie Macpherson.” The new novel by Mr. Buchanan, which has been announced, will not be out for some little time.’


30 March 1894

Final performance of Dick Sheridan at the Comedy Theatre.


2 April 1894

Item in The Glasgow Herald:
     “Mr Robert Buchanan has now signed the lease of the Opera Comique, where, as soon as possible after next Saturday, when his tenancy begins, he will produce a play of his own, which in due course will be followed by one from the pen of Mr Christie Murray. In Mr Buchanan’s piece Mrs Langtry will take the principal part. It is said that she will be paid the very high salary of £100 a week, £800 being deposited in advance.”

The unusual genesis of A Society Butterfly and the resulting disaster is dealt with in some detail in Henry Murray’s 1909 autobiography, A Stepson of Fortune. According to Murray the prospect of seeing Lillie Langtry dance on stage for the first time would prove a definite money-spinner. However, Buchanan’s earlier experiences as a theatre manager had not worked out well and, following the failure of his last two plays (both The Charlatan and Dick Sheridan had only lasted a couple of months), this attempt to claw his way out of debt has a whiff of desperation. The initial outlay of £1000 (some newspaper reports reduced Mrs. Langtry’s salary to £80 and pointed out that she would supply her own dresses) was Buchanan’s gamble, and he lost, ending up in the bankruptcy court.

7 April 1894

Buchanan’s tenancy of the Opera Comique begins, at a cost of £260 per month.


25 April 1894

Writes to Andrew Chatto refusing permission to include his contribution to the planned publication of the ‘My First Book’ articles. He also says he is reading the proofs of Red and White Heather.

Item in The Dundee Evening Telegraph:
     ‘Robert Buchanan prefers verse-making to any other literary work. “I have never given up poetry, even for a moment,” he said, in a recent letter to a friend, “though of late years I have been obliged to turn myself in other directions. The gods have not granted me freedom of action unfortunately; but though I have published little of late, verse is my constant consolation. I shall never abandon it till health abandons me.”’

On the reverse of the letter Andrew Chatto has written a note explaining that Buchanan had already accepted £25 from J. K. Jerome (editor of The Idler where the articles appeared) for the right to reprint his article in book form.

2 May 1894

Miss Stubington, whom Buchanan employed to type his plays, takes him to court over the non-payment of a bill for £3. The case is heard at the Bloomsbury County Court, Buchanan does not attend and judgment is given against him.


7 May 1894

A copyright performance of Lady Gladys was given at the Opera Comique in the afternoon since Minnie Seligman was supposed to perform the play that night at Miner’s Theatre, Newark. However, due to a dispute with the management of that theatre, the first American performance of Lady Gladys was cancelled.

The proposed first night of A Society Butterfly was postponed until Thursday, 10th May, so as not to clash with the opening night of the Italian actress, Eleanor Duse’s engagement at Daly’s Theatre, which was expected to draw the ‘fashionable crowd’.


10 May 1894

A Society Butterfly (written in collaboration with Henry Murray) is produced at the Opéra Comique, starring Lillie Langtry.

On the way to the theatre Mrs. Langtry’s carriage was involved in a collision with a van, but she was unharmed.


11 May 1894

After Friday’s performance of A Society Butterfly, Buchanan addresses the audience, attacking Clement Scott’s criticism of the play in The Daily Telegraph and explaining the problems of the opening night:
“A cabal was there to insult and terrify a helpless woman. Throughout the play an attempt was made to twist every inherent reference into a personal imputation, and when the third act terminated weakly and feebly through a mishap, the cabal howled and hooted at the leading actress, who was in no way responsible for what had occurred.”

The dispute between Buchanan and Scott continues for the rest of the month, both men threatening legal action and causing a lot of comment in the Press (some of which is available here).

12 May 1894

Clement Scott gives an interview to The Westminster Gazette, saying:
“Mr Buchanan has done it before, and I have no doubt he will do it again; but we have managed to remain good friends in spite of it all, and I daresay we shall continue to remain so. It pleases him and doesn’t hurt me. No, I don’t suppose I shall take any further notice of it unless my solicitors advise me otherwise, which is not very likely. Of course, what Mr Buchanan says is preposterously untrue, but that is really one reason why it is not necessary to take serious notice of it. Talk of that sort carries with it its own refutation.”
In the evening Scott is applauded when he attends a performance of The Two Orphans at the Adelphi Theatre.

Meanwhile, according to a letter to Chatto & Windus, Buchanan is in Southend (staying at ‘Parade House’). He asks them to send him the proofs of Rachel Dene.


14 May 1894

The Pall Mall Gazette reports that letters have been received from both Buchanan and Scott, but because Scott has mentioned taking legal action, neither will be published.


16 May 1894

Item in The Sheffield Evening Telegraph:
     ‘Mr. Robert Buchanan is endeavouring to force Mr. Clement Scott to “show his hand,” by taking an action for libel against his dramatic assailant. Buchanan has addressed a violent letter to one of the evening newspapers. His tone is as uncompromising as its object is patent. “Shuffler,” “coward,” with open imputations upon Mr. Scott’s “honour” and “veracity,” are among Mr. Buchanan’s choicer temptations to an action for slander. It will be difficult for Mr. Scott to avoid accepting the challenge.’


18 May 1894

Buchanan is served with a writ for libel. According to The Freeman’s Journal:
“It appears that in the present case the proprietor of the Daily Telegraph, in which paper the criticism appeared, has undertaken the proceedings on Mr. Clement Scott’s behalf.”

Buchanan sends a note to Andrew Chatto from the Prince of Wales Club in London saying the last proof of Red and White Heather will be posted that night.

Item in The Edinburgh Evening News:
     ‘Apropos of Mr Robert Buchanan’s latest indiscretion, I have just been told a story never yet given to the public. At the time Dr Norman Macleod was editor of Good Words and Mr Buchanan was connected with it, the office of the magazine was on Ludgate Hill. There the privileged gathered one day to view some street spectacle, and among them were the minister of the Barony and our bellicose London Scot. Mr Buchanan left before some of the others, and the conversation having somehow drifted on to the subject of the departed poet, shrewd and pawky Dr Macleod remarked, “Aye, Buchanan is clever, undoubtedly clever, but somehow,” with a twinkle in his eyes, “he always reminds me of a great overgrown boy.”’


20 May 1894

Death of Edmund Yates.


26 May 1894

Death of Buchanan’s friend, Roden Noel, in Mainz, Germany. He was buried in the Mainz cemetery but no trace of the grave remains.

Obituary from the Brighton Gazette.

27 May 1894

According to the Jay biography, Buchanan writes the following in his diary:
     “If I survive beyond this lingering cloud of Time, those whom I have loved will survive with me, and not least of these is the beloved friend who was taken from me yesterday. He has been writing verses and publishing them for nearly half a century, yet few readers even know his name. A noble-hearted man, he has dwelt upon the skirts of life and literature, independent of all necessity to work for bread, and yet eager and willing to take his part in the great strife of modern thought. If any writer of verse possessed the deep poetic heart, it was certainly Roden Noel.”


28 May 1894

Lady Gladys is produced at the Madison Square Theatre, New York, with Minnie Seligman in the title role.
This was the play originally written for Lillie Langtry in 1888, which she rejected, resulting in the court case of November, 1890


7 June 1894

Red and White Heather: North Country tales and ballads published by Chatto & Windus.
Reviewed in The Dundee Evening Telegraph (13 June).

The critical reaction to the book is particularly harsh in the Scottish papers and according to The Glasgow Herald:
“Coming as it does from a man who has done some really good work in his time, this book will strike a heavier blow at his literary fame than a score of critical diatribes could do.”
The main cause for this seems to be Buchanan’s treatment of the poet Alexander Smith and his veiled attacks on George Gilfillan and Thomas Carlyle.


The longest story in the collection is ‘Miss Jean’s Love Story’ which is actually one of Buchanan’s earliest stories, having been published in Temple Bar in December, 1861 under the title, ‘A Heart Struggle’.

9 June 1894

Item in The Dundee Evening Telegraph:
     The Artist says:—Information reaches us that Mr Robert Buchanan has served Mr C. K. Shorter, editor of the Sketch, with a writ for libel, said to be contained in a criticism of “A Society Butterfly,” in which Mr Buchanan’s action in answering his critics was commented upon.

I have found no evidence that this action, or Clement Scott’s against Buchanan, ever came to court. I assume because of Buchanan’s bankruptcy.

12 June 1894

A receiving order is made against Buchanan at the London Bankruptcy Court. Over the next few months the true state of Buchanan’s financial affairs are revealed in the newspapers as he is declared bankrupt.

Newspaper reports of Buchanan’s bankruptcy are available here.

14 June 1894

Mrs. Langtry misses the performance of A Society Butterfly and leaves the production on the advice of her lawyer. Her place is taken by Miss Ethel Herbert.

According to an Associated Press report dated 30th June:
     “The reason of her withdrawal is said to be that she received a check which differed from Caesar’s wife in its essential property. She recently went to the management informing them that if this were not remedied by 4 o’clock on the following day she would not appear at the theater. The protest was disregarded and she fulfilled her threat. Before the play commenced the manager came before the curtain and announced without further explanation that he had just heard from Mrs. Langtry; that she declined to fulfill her engagement.”
Buchanan was rumoured to be considering suing Mrs Langtry for breach of contract.

15 June 1894

According to a report in The Times:
     “A receiving order having been made on the 12th inst. against Mr. Robert Buchanan, described as an author, and residing in Maresfield-gardens, South Hampstead, the debtor has since attended the Court for preliminary examination, and has given some details with reference to the position of his affairs. He estimates his liabilities at from £14,000 to £15,000. His residence is rented at £195 per year, and in consequence of the payments having fallen into arrear the landlord has entered into possession. The furniture had been assigned, and the debtor states that he has no available assets except some copyrights, his banking account being overdrawn.”


22 June 1894

Final performance of A Society Butterfly at the Opéra Comique.


29 June 1894

The Westminster Budget has a page of responses to Hall Caine’s speech on ‘The Moral Effect of the Drama’ at a dinner at the Royal Theatrical Fund. Buchanan’s letter includes the following:
The drama exists because it amuses, not because it does good; and Mr. Hall Caine exists as an author for the same reason. If, in addition to amusement there comes a little edification, so much the better; but let it always be understood that the edification is secondary, not primary. There will soon be no Art at all, and less Drama, if authors, instead of sticking to their profession, which is to write books which will be read or plays which will be seen, delude themselves into the belief that they are social benefactors.”


5 July 1894

First statutory meeting for the examination of Robert Buchanan in the Bankruptcy Court.

According to newspaper reports of the meeting, Buchanan “ascribes his present insolvency to losses and liabilities incurred in connexion with theatrical speculations, to heavy payments of interest on borrowed money, and to the non-production in America of the play Dick Sheridan, and to damaging newspaper attacks on his dramatic works, also to losses by betting.” (The Times, 6th July). Buchanan had expected to receive £1000 for the American rights of Dick Sheridan. In June 1890 he had lost £5000 on The Bride of Love and Sweet Nancy. He had also lost £600 on A Society Butterfly. His income averaged £1500 per year and he was in receipt of a Civil List pension of £100. He has unsecured liabilities of £5,980 and partly secured liabilities of £8,750. His £120 debt to Chatto & Windus is fully secured by Rachel Dene. Among his creditors is G. R. Sims, to whom he owes £782. He has no assets apart from bad debts. A statement of affairs had been rendered, but it was in a very incomplete and imperfect form. The deficiency account showed £1229 household expenditure, but over what period did not appear. Buchanan had also submitted a proposal to set aside one third of his future income to pay creditors, but there was no security. The meeting was adjourned for three weeks to enable Buchanan to formulate a proposal with security and present an amended statement of affairs.

The Times also reports that 10 years ago Buchanan had made a private arrangement with his creditors to pay 10s. in the pound. However, The Standard gives the previous failure as 25 years ago (1869), which is more likely as this ties in with Buchanan’s financial problems during his London readings.

In the account in the Aberdeen Evening Express the debts include ‘charges held upon “Light of Home,” “The Pied Piper,” “Lady Gladys,” and “A Woman’s World.” Creditors also held charges upon “Dick Sheridan,” and a Mr Moore held a charge upon “A Society Butterfly,” in the shape of a one-eighth share of the profits.’
This is the only mention I’ve come across of a play called ‘A Woman’s World’ - it could, of course, be a mistake.

7 July 1894

Lady Madge, a revised version of Fascination, with Harriett Jay reprising her dual role, opens at Opéra Comique.

I have found no evidence that this actually happened, although there are several announcements in the Press shortly before this date.

9 July 1894

Buchanan writes, what is essentially a begging letter, to the Prime Minister, Lord Rosebery.


18 July 1894

Second meeting to examine Buchanan, who does not attend due to illness.

Buchanan submits an amended statement of affairs, revealing liabilities of £15,672 and no assets. Buchanan will be asked to send a medical certificate and the meeting is adjourned till 8th August.


25 July 1894

The Official Receiver reports upon the affairs of Robert Buchanan, amended accounts having been submitted. Buchanan does not attend due to illness.

The Pall Mall Gazette reports:
“The debtor states that he has kept no record of his financial transactions, but he approximately accounts for the deficiency of £15,672 shown on the statement of affairs as follows: Losses incurred in the Lyric and Royalty Theatres in 1890, £5,000; loss at the Opera Comique in 1894, £600; loss by purchase and sale of copyrights, £500; interest on borrowed money, £1,500; excess of household and other expenditure over income, apparently, £4,229; losses by betting, £1,200; money lent and given away, £1,000; loans through acceptances, about £674; loss by debts, £584; other small losses, to balance, £385.”
The Times adds:
‘The Official Receiver states that the unsecured liabilities (£6,380) include upwards of £4,200 in respect of borrowed money and legal expenses. The creditors appearing as “fully and partly secured” (£8,970) are stated to hold charges on copyrights and royalties in various plays, &c.; the debtor states it is impossible to estimate the precise value of any of these securities. The amount appearing to be owing to “creditors for rent, &c.” (£541) includes £360 for six weeks’ rent of the Opera Comique Theatre.”’


26 July 1894

Second meeting of creditors (adjourned from 5th July). Buchanan does not attend due to illness.

From The Standard (27 July):
“On the former occasion the matter stood over to enable the Debtor to provide security for the payment of the minimum statutory composition of 7s. 6d. in the pound, but he had written to the Official Receiver pointing out that it was more difficult for a man who obtained his living by his pen to find security than an ordinary tradesman.—A Creditor submitted that the proper course would be to adjudge the Debtor a bankrupt, and then there would be a chance of the creditors getting something (laughter).—The Chairman observed that they appeared to be no nearer a secured 7s. 6d. in the pound than they were before. There would be no further adjournment, and he should apply for an adjudication in the usual course.”


3 August 1894

According to a memorandum in the Chatto & Windus correspondence, Buchanan agrees to sell the novelisation of The Charlatan for £120 “payable by bill for £100 due, and the balance in cash”. Buchanan reserves dramatic rights and serial rights until 1st January, 1895, after which time Chatto & Windus can publish the book. It is also agreed that Rachel Dene can now be published.


8 August 1894

Examination of Robert Buchanan in the Bankruptcy Court.

As well as the debts previously mentioned in the preliminary hearings, Buchanan admits “He had accommodated a friend by purchasing the picture called “The World’s Desire,” but it had never actually come into his possession. He paid for the picture by means of bills, upon which he was still liable. He did not know where the picture was at the present time. It was valued at £1,500, but he gave £450 only for it.” He also reveals that he’s sold his horse and returned his hired carriage. He had instituted a libel action against The Sketch and the matter was still pending. “He considered that the libel was an attempt to sweep him from the earth of created beings altogether. (Laughter.) He had never kept any books in connexion with his theatrical ventures except a diary.” Asked about his income Buchanan said “it was difficult to state any particular amount, because it all depended on ‘luck.’ His profession was a gambling one, and if he produced a book which was a success, he would reap considerable benefit, but if it proved a failure he would lose. His average annual expenditure did not exceed £1,500 per annum. He did not consider that he was insolvent, but had been driven into a corner, and he thought he had a reasonable probability of paying his creditors out of his future earnings.” “His house was rented at £200 per annum, but he did not consider that this sum was too large considering the amount of his income. For several years past he had experienced ‘bad luck,’ but was certain that he had not lived extravagantly.” (Quotes from The Times, 9 August).

The report in The Standard adds that Buchanan lost £3000 on The Bride of Love and £2000 on Sweet Nancy. and for A Society Butterfly
“A syndicate was formed, and they were to have a fourth of the profits which might accrue after satisfying the syndicate. He had assigned his share of the profits as security for £200.”

Amongst Buchanan’s creditors were: G. R. Sims (£805), Albert Chevalier (£150), Passmore Edwards (£250), Messrs. L. and H. Nathan (£200 for dresses for A Society Butterfly) and Mr. J. Willing Jr. (£200 for advertising the Opera Comique).

‘The World’s Desire’ was painted by Rudolf Blind, who had provided the frontispiece for The Outcast. More information here.

In the report in The Times, Buchanan mentions having written a book called Nerissa. This is the only time I’ve come across this title.

In the reports in The Morning Post and the Aberdeen Weekly Journal he mentions having an unfinished opera called Adam and Eve. This was referred to in The Era on 12th December, 1893.

9 August 1894

Buchanan writes a letter to Andrew Chatto (from 11 Park Road, Regents Park) complaining that Rachel Dene has been announced for publication in September. He feels that Chatto forced him to sign the agreement of 3rd August because of his financial difficulties, selling The Charlatan for the “same miserable amount” as Rachel Dene, and being “compelled to sign the rider” allowing them to publish Rachel Dene. The letter ends with the following:
     “A publisher is a man of business, but he should also be capable of good feeling towards an author’s reputation. Your attitude appears to be one of complete indifference, I regret to say. Instead of trying to help an author out of a temporary difficulty, you hardly give him breathing-space, before you fling his least-considered work at the public. It is right that the public should be made aware of the scant consideration authors receive from those who traffic in their ‘brains’.”


11 August 1894

Buchanan writes to Chatto & Windus again saying that when he signed the agreement of 3rd August they agreed that they would give him a month to buy Rachel Dene back. He repeats his warning that “the public shall know my own opinion of the book in question & my anxiety to withdraw it from publication.”


20 August 1894

First provincial performance of Dick Sheridan at the Theatre Royal, Bath.


September 1894

The Charlatan commences serialisation in Bow Bells Weekly.


1 September 1894

Item in The Leeds Mercury:
     ‘The “Chronicle” publishes a letter from Mr. Robert Buchanan, who says—I have been frequently informed that publishers are entitled to large pecuniary gains because they risk their capital in a very precarious business. In my experience this is altogether untrue. As a rule, a publisher risks nothing. He gives the very lowest price possible for a certain marketable commodity, and he is utterly indifferent to its quality as long as it sells. The Society of Authors has done the State good service by issuing statistics of the bare-faced robberies daily and hourly practised by Barrabas and his kin, and though I personally decline to have my private transactions regulated by any society or Trades Union whatever, I am fully alive to the importance of the facts so issued. Publishers, like lawyers, are thieves within the shadow of the law. They toil not, neither do they spin, yet Solomon, in his glory, was not attired like one of them.’

Another Chronicle letter so I don’t have the full text or the date it was published. It does seem though that Buchanan’s attitude to publishers has hardened (presumably because of his problems with Chatto & Windus over Rachel Dene) - a year before in his ‘Literature and Lucre’ letter he had claimed that publishers have “helped the struggler, boiled the pot, guided the improvident, and sympathised with the deserving. There may be rascally Publishers; there are also rascally Authors. It is quite a mistake, at any rate, to regard the Writer of Books as a benignly innocent creature, absolutely at the mercy of Book-dealers and other Birds of Prey.”

27 September 1894

Rachel Dene published by Chatto & Windus.
Reviewed in The Glasgow Herald (4 October).


To give some idea of where Buchanan stood in the ranks of novelists, in terms of popularity, at this time, there is an item from The Birmingham Daily Post of 11th September, 1894, taken from London, which gives a report by the librarian of the Hammersmith Free Library. It’s available here.

10 October 1894

The St. James’s Gazette refers to a letter from Buchanan to The Daily Chronicle objecting to their review of Rachel Dene, including the following extract:
     “I am at a loss to know whether the statement in question is inspired by malice or by mere stupidity. The stupidity I always take for granted when I read newspaper criticisms; the malice, in most instances, is equally obvious. But I think the manufacturers of cheap criticism for the Christian masses should be corrected when they travel out of their own region of uninstructed impudence into that of lying and spiteful imputation.”


11 October 1894

According to a report in The Western Daily Press, Buchanan signed a petition against cruel sports which was presented to the Prime Minister.

Item in the Aberdeen Evening Express:
     Mr Robert Buchanan is about to issue a new weekly journal. “It will be strictly non-political,” we are told, “in the sense that it will be run on no party lines, and that it will deal with politicians, when it deals with them at all, from an independent standpoint. There will be two editions, one for London, one for the country, and the former will appear every Sunday morning. The articles, without exception, will be signed, either in full or with the initials of the writers.”’



Given his financial position, it seems odd that Buchanan would be contemplating another attempt to produce a weekly magazine. However, these notices of new journals crop up from time to time, and eight months later he is reported to be contemplating a monthly magazine about literature and the theatre. Apart from Light in 1878, none of these ventures ever made it into print.

29 October 1894

Buchanan writes to Dr. Stodart Walker:
     “I am very anxious about my mother. For a fortnight past she has been very ill ... Her present condition is much as when you saw her, only that since the dropsy supervened the asthmatical symptoms have disappeared, and such difficulty as she has in breathing clearly comes from heart debility. She has very little appetite, and can take no solids.”

The letter is quoted in Chapter 28: ‘The Last Shadow’ of the Jay biography.

November 1894

The Christmas number of The Graphic (reviewed in The Essex County Standard on 3rd November) contains Buchanan’s short story, ‘The Heir’.


5 November 1894

Death of Buchanan’s mother, Margaret Williams Buchanan, at the age of 78.


6 November 1894

From The Times:

“BUCHANAN.—On Monday, the 5th Nov., at 11, Park-road, Regent’s-park, N.W., MARGARET, widow of the late ROBERT BUCHANAN, and revered and beloved mother of her only child, Robert Buchanan, in whose arms she died, aged 78.”

Buchanan had rented furnished rooms at 11, Park Road, Regents Park, at various times, but it would appear that he and his mother had moved there after leaving 25, Maresfield Gardens.

8 November 1894

Funeral of Margaret Williams Buchanan. She is buried beside her daughter-in-law in the churchyard of St. John the Baptist in Southend-on-Sea.

Jay quotes the following entry in Buchanan’s diary:
“To-day I took my darling to Southend and laid her in her grave beside poor Polly.”

The date of death on Margaret Williams Buchanan’s gravestone is given as 24th November, 1894. This is incorrect.

10 November 1894

In a letter to Dr. Stodart Walker (also quoted in Jay) Buchanan writes the following:
     ‘I would give everything now for such faith as I once felt. I have none. Christianity especially repels me more than ever. Some time before she died my mother said: “What kind of a God can it be, who permits such suffering all over the earth. Strange, the ideas people have of Providence!” And I feel more & more that the ordinary religious ideas are hateful. A man must accept Christianity all along the line—ie. miracles and all—or reject it altogether. And then, what is left, if we abandon the idea of eternal life, as reason teaches us to do? Only a horrible nightmare, a devil’s dream.’

Although Jay quotes the letter, after “I thought on Sunday last that my own last hour was come” she omits the following:
“—I was so worn out with watching & sorrowing. I absolutely think my reason was saved by a large dose of a homeopathic drug, ignatia amara, which turned my anguish into a sort of horrid apathy, but saved my nervous system from total collapse. You, as a doctor, should note this—it may enable you to allay mental suffering.”

28 November 1894

Buchanan writes a letter to The Daily Chronicle in support of James Canham Read, ‘The Southend Murderer’, currently awaiting execution.

The letter was reprinted in various provincial papers.

29 November 1894

Buchanan applies for an order of discharge in the Bankruptcy court. The Times repeats the financial details of Buchanan’s case, although now the debts arising from his production of A Society Butterfly have risen to £1,500. In his report the Official Receiver stated that Buchanan should not have embarked upon A Society Butterfly since he was already insolvent at the time and being pressed by creditors, and the report concluded:
“The Official Receiver opposed the application on account of the absence of available assets, and on the ground that the debtor had brought on or contributed to his bankruptcy by rash and hazardous speculations and unjustifiable extravagance in living, and by gambling.”
“Mr. Registrar Giffard, in giving judgment, said it appeared that the debtor had been able to earn £1,500 a year in the past by his writings, and there was no reason why he should not do so in the future. He was a man of great ability and versatility, and his works were very popular, and it was only reasonable that some provision should be made for the creditors. The offences alleged by the Official Receiver had not been displaced, and the order of the Court would be that the debtor be discharged subject to his setting aside one half of his income over and above £900 per annum until the unsecured creditors had received dividends amounting to 7s. 6d. in the pound, the debtor to file accounts annually of his receipts.”

Another court case, French v. Martyn, which did not concern Buchanan directly but of which he was the cause, was heard the same day. It related to the financing of Dick Sheridan and the assignment of royalties, revealing a little more about Buchanan’s dubious financial practices.

My knowledge of bankruptcy law is, thankfully, minimal, but it would appear that ‘an order of discharge’ is a:
“Court order given at the end of bankruptcy proceeding, either automatically or (depending on the circumstances of the case) upon application by the bankrupt or the official receiver. It generally releases the bankrupt from all current and provable debts, and frees him or her from the legal constraints imposed on an undischarged bankrupt.”

Buchanan’s story for the Christmas number of The Graphic was mentioned during the hearing, but it appears he had been paid for it two years ago.

4 December 1894

James Canham Read is executed.


7 December 1894

Buchanan writes to Chatto & Windus, returning the proofs for The Charlatan and requesting them to put Henry Murray’s name as co-author on the title page, since he “has been of large assistance to me, both on the play & story”.


12 December 1894

According to an item in The Echo, Buchanan has completed The Devil’s Case and it “will be published very shortly”.

The Devil’s Case was not published until March 1896.




15 January 1895

The Charlatan by Robert Buchanan and Henry Murray published by Chatto & Windus.
Reviewed in The Glasgow Herald (24 January).

Buchanan writes to Chatto & Windus from 24 Margaret Street, Cavendish Square, asking them to send copies of The Charlatan to his new address. He is also considering writing an article on Mark Twain and asks them to send him several of Twain’s books.



According to the Chatto correspondence he is still living at this address in September 1895.
The article on Twain never materialised, but one of the books which Buchanan requested was A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, which is the obvious source for When Knights were Bold.

8 February 1895

Buchanan writes the first in a series of letters to Chatto & Windus concerning Lady Kilpatrick. He has seen an announcement in The Daily Chronicle that the publishers are intending to publish the novel and objects to them issuing another example of his “inferior work”. He offers to buy back the rights, or replace it with another novel which he is writing and also says:
I may as well inform you at once that scarcely a line of it is really from my pen, tho’ it is founded on a play of mine & contains large quantities of the dialogue. It was finished at a time of great anxiety, some years ago.”

After presumably receiving a reply from Chatto & Windus, Buchanan writes a second letter. The publishers seem to have acquired the novel from the Tillotson company (which purchased the rights to serial stories, then leased them to various provincial newspapers) and have already “put the book into type” without informing Buchanan or giving him the chance to make revisions. Buchanan admits that “in a time of great distress I had to seek assistance in my work”.

This is Rachel Dene all over again. Buchanan seems to admit that, although it was a novelisation of a play (possibly The Squireen), he was not responsible for the adaptation.

9 February 1895

An advert in The Times states that the first edition of The Charlatan has sold out,


14 February 1895

Buchanan writes to Chatto & Windus. He has received the proofs of Lady Kilpatrick but objects that he needs more time to do the necessary revisions. He also says that he has “been laid up for the last week, and am still almost prostrate with severe neuralgia.” Buchanan repeats his complaints:
     “This story, and several others, were produced at a time when I was driven to despair by pecuniary troubles, which culminated in my bankruptcy. To avoid ruin if possible, I wrote (for miserable sums) work in which I had to have assistance. The whole of that period is a nightmare to me, and closely following upon it has come the greatest grief and sorrow of my life. It is doubly hard and cruel, that any person should endeavour, at such a time, to ruin me with the novel-reading public. ...
     However, if you are determined, so am I. I shall publish the whole facts to the public with this letter, of which I keep a copy, and the world shall know how and why, at a time of personal calamity, these inferior works appear under my name. I am quite prepared to be told that I have been to blame, that I should have been more careful of my own reputation, but I shall at least show that I am not quite so foolish as to think the work done in desperation and despair is worthy of me.”
Buchanan suggests that since “
the subject of Lady Kilpartick is really excellent. and that a certain amount of fresh labour, which I am only too eager to give, would make it a really good story” they should delay publication till the autumn to give him the time to make the necessary revisions.

Lady Kilpatrick was serialised in The English Illustrated Magazine from April to September, 1893, which does correspond with the period following the end of his collaboration with G. R. Sims on plays for the Adelphi, when Buchanan did seem to sink into depression. However, given Buchanan’s belief that newspaper serials were somehow inferior to novels published in book form, and his admission that it was not just Lady Kilpatrick but ‘several others’ ‘in which I had to have assistance’, does raise the question of which of his other serials were adapted from his plays by other writers. Also, whether this only occurred when circumstances demanded it, or whether Buchanan saw it as a legitimate practice.  

16 February 1895

Item in the Pall Mall Gazette:
     ‘A new novel by Mr. Robert Buchanan, entitled “Lady Kilpatrick,” will be published by Messrs. Chatto and Windus. The story appeared serially in the pages of the English Illustrated Magazine. A new and cheaper edition of Mr. Buchanan’s “The Wandering Jew,” with a new preface and notes, is also about to appear. “The Devil’s Case: a Bank Holiday Interlude,” is to be the title of the same author’s new poem.’

I thought this worth mentioning since it appears to take its information from two sources. The intention of Chatto & Windus to publish Lady Kilpatrick, and what would seem to indicate Buchanan’s intention, despite his financial problems, to become his own publisher and reprint The Wandering Jew and his new poem, The Devil’s Case.

25 February 1895

An item in The Belfast News-Letter announces a new series of novels to be published by Fisher Unwin, the first of which is Diana’s Hunting by Robert Buchanan.


1 March 1895

The French v. Martyn case, regarding Buchanan’s assignment of the royalties of Dick Sheridan, goes to the Court of Appeal. The judge finds that the £260 royalties should be split equally between the two parties.


2 March 1895

The Whitstable Times repeats the item about Fisher Unwin’s new series of novels:
‘It will be inaugurated by a new work of fiction from the pen of Mr. Robert Buchanan, who, with his “Bank Holiday Interlude,” in verse, and his new romance of Irish life (both in the press), is very busy just now.’

Death of Professor John Stuart Blackie in Edinburgh.

Both Diana’s Hunting and Lady Kilpatrick (the ‘new romance of Irish life’) would not appear until September, and the “Bank Holiday Interlude” (The Devil’s Case) would be published in March, 1896.

4 March 1895

Buchanan writes a letter to Mrs. Blackie expressing his condolences.


15 March 1895

The Dundee Evening Telegraph prints an extract from Buchanan’s letter to The Daily Chronicle, criticising Arthur Wing Pinero’s new play, The Notorious Mrs. Ebbsmith.


26 March 1895

A Marriage by Capture commences serialisation in The Evening Herald (Syracuse, N.Y.).


28 March 1895

Another letter to Chatto & Windus about Lady Kilpatrick. Buchanan has written to Tillotson’s and they support his wish to have the publication date delayed till the autumn. However, Chatto & Windus still want to publish immediately. Buchanan repeats his threat to inform the public of the situation. He also says this about the serial version:
     “The proofs as they lie before me are a simple nightmare—I can hardly believe that I ever passed them in their present state. Even the dialects are all wrong, and read more like Choctaw & pigeon-English than Irish or Scotch. But as I told you before, the period when this work was produced & published is almost a blank to me—so overwhelmed was I with every sort of disaster.”

Buchanan also writes to Messrs. Tillotson telling them that Chatto & Windus were ignoring his request to leave the publication of Lady Kilpatrick until the auutmn.

It is obvious that Buchanan did not produce the serial version of Lady Kilpatrick, although it was based on one of his plays, so the plot, characters and most of the dialogue would have been his (although, if it is a version of The Squireen, as seems likely, then that was a collaboration between Buchanan and Aubrey Boucicault). As to who did the adaptation, the obvious candidates would be Harriett Jay or Henry Murray. Since Buchanan complains about the dialects I would suggest it is more likely to be Henry Murray.

29 March 1895

Messrs. Tillotson write to Chatto & Windus, enclosing Buchanan’s letter and their reply. They suggest it would be best to postpone the publication of Lady Kilpatrick until the autumn, but it is entirely in the hands of Chatto & Windus. In their letter to Buchanan they say they have no objection to the publication date being delayed.

Chatto & Windus accede to Buchanan’s wishes; the next item in the Chatto correspondence is dated 1st August and Buchanan is working on the proofs of Lady Kilpatrick.

6 April 1895

Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel.


16 April 1895

Buchanan writes the first of a series of letters to The Star in support of Oscar Wilde:
“I for one wish to put on record my protest against the cowardice and cruelty of Englishmen towards one who was, until recently, recognised as a legitimate contributor to our amusement, and who is, when all is said and done, a scholar and a man of letters.”

As with The Daily Chronicle, so with The Star - no online archives. Extracts from Buchanan’s letters are available in the Letters to the Press section.

18 April 1895

An item in the ‘Chit Chat’ column of The Stage states:
Miss Brown is the striking title of a new farcical comedy by Robert Buchanan and Henry Murray. The intention of the authors is to exploit it themselves in London.”

Henry Murray was not the co-author of The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown - it was the first collaboration between Buchanan and ‘Charles Marlowe’, or, to put it another way, the continuation of his playwriting partnership with Harriett Jay, which resumed after his bankruptcy.

19 April 1895

Lord Queensberry writes to The Star replying to Buchanan’s letter.


20 April 1895

Lord Alfred Douglas writes to The Star. He ends by thanking Buchanan “in the name of justice, of sanity, and of Christian charity, for his noble letter.”

Buchanan writes a second letter to The Star in response to Lord Queensberry, in the course of which, complaining about Wilde’s incarceration, he writes the following:
“Why should he be denied the sedative of the harmless cigarette, more than ever necessary to a smoker in times of great mental anxiety?”


23 April 1895

Buchanan writes a third letter in defence of Wilde.
“Whatever he is, whatever he may be assumed to be, he is a man of letters, a brother artist, and no criminal prosecution whatever will be able to erase his name from the records of English literature. That I say advisedly, though we are far as the poles asunder in every artistic instinct of our lives, and though on more than one occasion I have ridiculed some of his opinions.”


24 April 1895

Buchanan’s final letter in defence of Wilde.
“While we have a whole mob of savages clamoring ... for lynch-law and retribution, we have not one Christian clergyman to utter a sound. Be the victim either Jean Valjean or Oscar Wilde, “Bill Sikes” or the Marquess of Queensberry, no Bishop Miguel appears (save in romantic fiction), to preach and to practise forgiveness.”


27 April 1895

A receiving order is made against Harriett Jay at the London Bankruptcy Court. According to the report in The Morning Post (29 April):
A receiving order was recently made against this debtor, the well-known actress, she being described as of 25, Maresfield-gardens, South Hampstead, spinster, present address unknown. She now states that she left Maresfield-gardens in June last, when her brother-in-law, Mr. Robert Buchanan, who rented the house, was made a bankrupt. The furniture, which was hers, was all sold under a distress for rent. She now resides with her sister, and has no assets whatever.”

Reports of the case are available in the Buchanan and the Law section.

Although Harriett Jay had four elder sisters, Eliza, Mary Ann (deceased), Hannah and Elizabeth, going by the census returns she seems to have had more to do with the eldest, Eliza, whose married name was Dear, so it’s ;possible that she was the sister she was living with at this time.

May 1895

Buchanan joins Sydney Grundy, Dorothy Leighton, Louis N. Parker, George Bernard Shaw, Malcolm Watson, Arthur Shirley and C. E. D. Ward in a discussion of ‘The Problem Play’ in the May issue of The Humanitarian.


14 May 1895

Harriett Jay is declared bankrupt. The report in The Scotsman (15 May) reads as follows:
“A summary was issued in London yesterday under the failure of Harriet Jay, the actress, whose present address is unknown. She returns her debts at £385, and attributes her insolvency entirely to her liability in respect of a bill accepted for the accommodation of her brother-in-law, Mr Robert Buchanan, that representing her only stated debt. The debtor further asserts she has no property or assets, and that her income since 1890 has been very small.”


20 May 1895

Harriett Jay attends the meeting of her creditors at the Bankruptcy Court.


8 June 1895

Buchanan writes a letter to Shaw telling him that he has based a character in his forthcoming novel (Diana’s Hunting) on him.


10 June 1895

Item in The Glasgow Herald:
     “Mr Robert Buchanan is about to start a new monthly review “for men, women, and critics,” the dramatist apparently thinking that critics are neither men nor women, but a race apart. The new review, of course, will be largely devoted to theatrical matters.”

A similar notice appeared in The Dundee Evening Telegraph on 13th June, in which the new magazine was described as being “devoted largely to literature and the stage.”

13 June 1895

Harriett Jay attends the Bankruptcy Court for her public examination. According to the report in The Times:
“Her insolvency was attributable to a liability of £380 on a bill which she accepted about four years ago for the accommodation of her brother-in-law, Mr. Robert Buchanan. She never expected to be asked to meet the bill. Some furniture of which she was possessed had been sold by the landlord in respect of rent due from Mr. Buchanan.” She also states “that she became obliged to discontinue acting owing to an accident.”


20 June 1895

The opening of Buchanan’s new play, The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown, has to be postponed for a week due to Frederick Kerr losing his voice on account of a severe cold.


26 June 1895

The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown (written in collaboration with ‘Charles Marlowe’) produced at the Vaudeville Theatre by Frederick Kerr, who also starred as ‘Miss Brown’.

This is the first of Harriett Jay’s collaborations with Buchanan where she uses the ‘Charles Marlowe’ pseudonym. The name is taken from the male guise she adopted on stage in her last collaboration with Buchanan, Fascination.

The play was a popular success both in Britain and America. Obviously inspired by Brandon Thomas’ Charley’s Aunt (first produced in 1892), it includes characters (Miss Romney and Miss Schwartz) from Buchanan’s 1884 play, A Hero In Spite Of Himself.

From this point, all of Buchanan’s plays (both produced and not) until his death, were collaborations between himself and Harriett Jay.


In an interview with Jay (following her success with When Knights were Bold) published in various American papers in 1909 as part of an article on women writers using male pseudonyms, she said that she wanted to keep her work as a novelist and a dramatist separate. However, in 1895, she had not published a novel for ten years, and her final novel, an adaptation of The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown, appeared under both names. A more likely explanation of the nom de plume is another attempt by Buchanan to wring a bit of publicity out of the eventual revelation of a pseudonym. Or, perhaps even more likely, Harriett Jay not wanting to be revealed as the co-writer of a successful comedy while she was still an undischarged bankrupt. Whatever the reason, Charles Marlowe managed to conceal her identity throughout the seven month London run of The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown.

29 June 1895

The Era hints that ‘Charles Marlowe’ is a pseudonym:
Mr Charles Marlow—or Mrs or Miss Charles Marlow, for sexes are not always what they seem, and to the public “Charles Marlow” is but the shadow of a name.’


3 July 1895

Buchanan writes a letter to Shaw saying that the novel in which he appears has been delayed. He also says that:
“... In my youth, I had intimate acquaintance with Socialists of all kinds, my dear father being one of them and my beloved mother (whom I lost last year, losing with her the better half of my own heart & soul) the daughter of another. But I have ceased to believe in Progress & social developement, & I dont care a damn for Demos, now. Life altogether seems a sorry business, if what we know & see is the beginning & end of knowledge. I would rather have the dingiest of my old gods than all your precious progressionists & saviours of Society.”


25 July 1895

Harriett Jay applies for an order of discharge at the Bankruptcy Court. According to the report in The Era (27 July):
“It appeared that the bankrupt, owing to an accident, had been unable for several years to follow her profession as an actress, and had been dependent upon small earnings from literary work and gifts from friends. The discharge was granted, subject to a judgment for £75 being, with the consent of the bankrupt, entered up against her.”


1 August 1895

Buchanan writes to Chatto & Windus saying he has “been very unwell for the last 10 days.” He asks for a few more days to finish the proofs of Lady Kilpatrick.


6 August 1895

Buchanan writes to Chatto & Windus, sending the first sheets of Lady Kilpatrick but saying that he is “still of the opinion that the tale should not be published in its present shape.”


17 August 1895

Buchanan is on holiday in Scotland, staying at Muirhead House, Craigengelt, near Denny, Stirlingshire. He is still working on the Lady Kilpatrick revisions according to a letter to Chatto & Windus.

I thought I should mention this here, since I don’t have any firm information concerning dates, but in his pamphlet, Is Barabbas a Necessity?, published in March, 1896, Buchanan writes:
“Let me return to myself, and the ideas I have in becoming my own Publisher.
     The notion, long nebulous in my mind, first became substantial to me last summer at Trouville.”
In an interview in The Echo of 17th March, 1896, Buchanan again mentions his visit to Trouville:
I had thought over this matter long, but it was only last summer, at Trouville, that I determined to publish my own books.”
So, presumably, Buchanan visited Trouville at some time during the summer of 1895.
The only mention of Trouville in the Jay biography is this, from Chapter 24:
I have known him go to Trouville with two hundred pounds in his pocket and return at the end of a week without a penny of it, even although that two hundred pounds happened to be his last, and the spending of it meant that he had to shut himself up in his study and work incessantly till the deficiency could be made good.”

26 August 1895

Item in The Derby Daily Telegraph:
     ‘Mr. Robert Buchanan is largely re-writing his novel “Lady Kilpatrick” for its appearance shortly in book form.’

Buchanan writes to Chatto & Windus (from Muirhead House) with more revisions of Lady Kilpatrick.


2 September 1895

Buchanan writes a letter to Dr. Archibald Stodart Walker. He has invited him to stay at Muirhead House, but he says he is thinking of leaving soon. Expects him to come on Wednesday (4th September):
You can then sleep here & shoot next day—I cant promise much sport, but there is something, & tho’ the diggings are rough, you will have a hearty welcome & plenty to drink.
     You might bring your bloody Stethoscope with you—& take another sounding.”


4 September 1895

Buchanan sends a telegram from Denny to Chatto & Windus saying he will post the proofs (of Lady Kilpatrick) today.


8 September 1895

Buchanan writes a letter to Shaw saying he has returned from Scotland “this morning”. He will send him a copy of Diana’s Hunting tomorrow, as well as the proofsheets of The Devil’s Case, which he intends to publish himself:
This publishing for myself is a step I am taking with good reason, & it involves a challenge to the usual publishing Jonathan Wilds of Paternoster Row.”


10 September 1895

Buchanan writes to Chatto & Windus to tell them he is back in London (at the Margaret Street address).


22 September 1895

Buchanan writes to Chatto & Windus asking them not to send review copies of Lady Kilpatrick to the Athenæum or the Daily Chronicle.


23 September 1895

Diana’s Hunting published by T. Fisher Unwin.
Reviewed in The Glasgow Herald (3 October).


24 September 1895

Item in The Dundee Courier:
     “There is an extensive piracy of English plays for the purpose of production in India, Colonial shorthand writers being frequently employed to take down the dialogue of new London productions verbatim in order that the ‘copy’ may be sent abroad. In consequence of this, Messrs G. R. Sims, H. A. Jones, Cecil Raleigh, Robert Buchanan, and other playwrights have by power of attorney placed the exclusive rights of performance of their pieces in India and the East, with the exception of Australasia, in the hands of Mr T. V. Twinning, the lessee of the Corinthian Theatre, Calcutta, with authority to prosecute on their behalf any pirates within the regions indicated.”


28 September 1895

Lady Kilpatrick published by Chatto & Windus.
Reviewed in The Glasgow Herald (3 October).


5 October 1895

Death of Ada Cavendish.
She had appeared in three Buchanan plays, The Queen of Connaught (1877), Lady Clare (1883) and The Bride of Love (1890).


7 October 1895

The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown transfers from the Vaudeville to Terry’s Theatre.


10 October 1895

Funeral of Ada Cavendish. The message on the wreath from Harriett Jay and Robert Buchanan read, “A token of love, respect, and admiration.”


30 October 1895

Buchanan writes a letter to Shaw thanking him for the return of The Devil’s Case, which (judging by the context) Shaw had not had time to comment upon.


17 November 1895

Buchanan writes to the Edinburgh printing firm of T. & A. Constable.


21 November 1895

T. & A. Constable write to Buchanan saying they are too busy to take his order. Buchanan’s address is given as ‘The Cottage, 4 Streatham Hill, London, S. E.’

This correspondence with a printing firm seems to indicate that Buchanan has begun the process of becoming his own publisher.

There is a letter to The Era of 11th January, 1896 which gives a slightly different address: ‘The Cottage, 44, Streatham-hill, S.W.’ The ‘S.W.’ is correct.

23 November 1895

Buchanan writes a letter to Shaw, mainly on the subject of the importance of Art:
For myself, I know my stake in God’s lottery is my love for the dear & holy dead, and that twenty ‘masterpieces’ would not bring me one hairsbreadth nearer to my ideal. Our ‘work’, forsooth! Our miserable, feeble, foolish manufacture of toys & playing cards! One warm touch of a living hand, one soft blessing from lips that love us, is worth all the Art that ever was or ever will be.”
In a postscript Buchanan reveals the personal motive underlying The Ballad of Mary the Mother:
“... to me the most pathetic figure in the Gospels is the poor old bewildered Mother, who looked on in despair while the ‘crank’ her Son was muddling & droning over his mad ‘work’, turning his back on her & his brethren, & raging because he discovered flaws in his imaginary world—in your parlance, ‘misprints in his article’!”

This letter is Buchanan’s reply to one of Shaw’s, part of which has survived, since Buchanan quoted it in his pamphlet, Is Barabbas a Necessity?

2 December 1895

The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown is produced at the Standard Theatre, New York.


7 December 1895

Item in The Aberdeen Journal:
     “Mr Robert Buchanan is at work on two plays. One of these is intended for the Royalty Theatre, London, and the other, a farcical comedy, for Mr Weedon Grossmith and Miss May Palfrey, will be produced at the Vaudeville after the New Year.”

The play for the Royalty was The New Don Quixote, the one for the Vaudeville, The Romance of the Shopwalker.

15 December 1895

Buchanan writes to The Observer complaining that The New Don Quixote has been refused a license by Lord Chamberlain.
“I have no intention of resting quiescent under the imputations of the Lord Chamberlain, and I shall join issue with that functionary in the manner best fitted to justify me in the eyes of the public. Having been chosen as the scapegoat of my class, I accept the position, not altogether without satisfaction; for the time has come, I believe, when one man’s martyrdom may become the salvation of the English drama.”
The play was due to be produced by Arthur Bourchier at the Royalty Theatre.

More information about The New Don Quixote is available in the Other Plays section.

23 December 1895

Item in the Edinburgh Evening News:
     ‘The brother of Dante Gabriel Rossetti has just issued a biography of the poet, and the book is noticed in the Saturday Review. The writer of the article admits himself to have been a personal friend of Rossetti. That is sufficiently evident from the effort which is made to disguise the truth of Rossetti’s life tragedy. It is an old story that Mr Robert Buchanan killed Rossetti by a merciless attack on the “fleshly school” of poetry. Keats and the Quarterly, “so savage and tartarly,” supplied an interesting literary parallel. Rossetti’s disciples set it abroad with all the vehemence of a persecuted set. They were the apostles of high art and high culture, despised and reviled by a malignant world of Philistines. It is natural to expect, under the circumstances, that the well-worn story should be revived. The Saturday reviewer accuses Robert Buchanan of murder. It is humiliating, he says, that such an insect should have stung to death so great a king of men. “The fact is,” he goes on, “that the health of Rossetti was deeply undermined long before this trifle threw it finally off its balance.” This is Keats and the Quarterly all over again. In point of fact, it may be doubted whether there is even much basis for the doleful legends of rising genius slain by anonymous or pseudonymous criticism. The Hill Difficulty of fame is depicted as strewn with the mangled remains of these massacred innocents. After all, there is little vitality in the genius which is slain by a newspaper criticism. It was not Robert Buchanan who killed Rossetti. It was chloral. For years before his death Rossetti gave himself up to the vice. For years he never stepped beyond the doors of his Chelsea house except to his back garden. The Saturday reviewer refers in vague and general terms to “maladies which were probably hereditary.” Rossetti’s own besetting weakness was at the bottom of the collapse. At this time of day, to garble a biography as Rossetti’s friends have done, to cast mud at another to cover his own frailties, is as absurd as it is wicked.’

This is the relevant passage in the Saturday Review’s review of William Michael Rossetti’s Dante Gabriel Rossetti: His Family-Letters:

‘What caused the tragic downfall of Rossetti’s mind and temperament? His brother conclusively proves, what other writers have surmised, that the signal for it was given by the attacks made upon him in 1871 and 1872 by a malignant and pseudonymous poetaster. How deeply those attacks were felt by Rossetti, more deeply, perhaps, than the reader of his brother’s studiously moderate narrative would suppose, is within the personal recollection of many, and among them the writer of this review. That he became for a while insane under the wicked insinuations of “Thomas Maitland” is not to be questioned, and equally little that his mind never recovered a perfect equilibrium. But why did such results follow such trifling cause? Rossetti’s fame was never lessened, even for a moment, by the insinuations of his “scrofulous Scotch” critic; he was surrounded by a bodyguard of ardent and effective friends; he was, or should have been, conscious of his own rich and elastic genius. It has always seemed to us highly humiliating that such an insect could have stung to death so great a king of men. The fact is that “Thomas Maitland,” though his murder of Rossetti is his chief claim to human recollection, need boast of it but little. The health of Rossetti was deeply undermined long before this trifle threw it finally off its balance.’

Extracts from William Michael Rossetti’s Dante Gabriel Rossetti: His Family-Letters relating to Buchanan are available here.

25 December 1895

The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown is produced at the Tivoli Theatre, Rotterdam, under the title, De lotgevallen van Juffrouw Trilbie.


28 December 1895

After Buchanan makes some changes to The New Don Quixote a licence is granted.


31 December 1895

The Pall Mall Gazette publishes an interview with Arthur Bourchier concerning the problems with The New Don Quixote.


Robert Buchanan Timeline - continued

10. 1896 - 1898



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


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