Play List:

1. The Rath Boys

2. The Witchfinder

3. A Madcap Prince

4. Corinne

5. The Queen of Connaught

6. The Nine Days’ Queen

7. The Mormons

8. The Shadow of the Sword

9. Lucy Brandon

10. Storm-Beaten

11. Lady Clare

[Flowers of the Forest]

12. A Sailor and His Lass

13. Bachelors

14. Constance

15. Lottie

16. Agnes

17. Alone in London

18. Sophia

19. Fascination

20. The Blue Bells of Scotland

21. Partners

22. Joseph’s Sweetheart

23. That Doctor Cupid

24. Angelina!

25. The Old Home

26. A Man’s Shadow

27. Theodora

28. Man and the Woman

29. Clarissa

30. Miss Tomboy

31. The Bride of Love

32. Sweet Nancy

33. The English Rose

34. The Struggle for Life

35. The Sixth Commandment

36. Marmion

37. The Gifted Lady

38. The Trumpet Call

39. Squire Kate

40. The White Rose

41. The Lights of Home

42. The Black Domino

43. The Piper of Hamelin

44. The Charlatan

45. Dick Sheridan

46. A Society Butterfly

47. Lady Gladys

48. The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown

49. The Romance of the Shopwalker

50. The Wanderer from Venus

51. The Mariners of England

52. Two Little Maids from School

53. When Knights Were Bold


Short Plays

Other Plays

Buchanan’s Theatrical Ventures in America

Poetry Readings





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

The Critical Response
Harriett Jay

Site Diary
Site Search



Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper (8 November, 1885)



     A series of telling incidents have been ingeniously woven together in the new drama, Alone in London; there is a sensational rescue magnificently worked out in three revolving scenes; and a story at times deeply pathetic. The simile of a bird’s nest would, however, best describe the play as a whole—a collection of trifles from far and near, from old plays and new plays, all twisted together, neatly joined, and lined with some dialogue which might be called good if it only had more respect for the seventh commandment. In four acts and a prologue, and ten tableaux, is worked out the story of an unfortunate marriage. A country lassie, Annie Meadows, accepts the villainous Richard Redcliffe in place of her yeoman lover, John Biddlecomb. Redcliffe brings his wife and little boy down to starvation, whilst he is well clothed and fed on the proceeds of some forgeries. At one time he finds it convenient to attempt to dispose of her altogether. He and some accomplices are planning a burglary, and he wishes to take his child to act like a second Oliver Twist in opening the door to him. The distracted mother begs him not to, and as, overcome by her intense emotion she falls senseless, the thought of her murder enters his head. He lifts the senseless woman in his arms, and by the dim light of a lantern picks his way to some old sluice gate at Rotherhithe. But the lantern is the unconscious means of frustrating his villainy. Sturdy John Biddlecomb has made a compact previously with Annie that the lantern shall be a signal to him if she requires his aid, and Redcliffe unwittingly gives the signal. When, therefore, he has tied his victim to a post, opened the sluice gates, and the water is fast rising round the woman, Biddlecomb appears in a boat to save her. Three massive built scenes pass in succession across the stage to illustrate the attempted murder. The rising of the water is most realistically shown, and it is as fine a stage rescue as we have seen. The villain Redcliffe is finally killed, in the burglary we have mentioned, so there is no lack of excitement. Miss Amy Roselle gives a touching womanly interest to the part of Annie, and John Biddlecomb, in the few scenes he appears—as played by Mr. Leonard Boyne, a capable, ready actor—quite wins his audience. Mr. Herbert Standing is all smiles and villainy, as Redcliffe; and Miss Harriet Jay contents herself with playing a poor Jo-like waif, which she does with much graphic power. Mr. Percy Bell as a philosophical old thief, and Mrs. Juliet Anderson as a good-natured Irishwoman, afford capital comic relief; the pointed witticisms of the lady, delivered in a strong brogue, being abundantly relished by the first night audience—an audience too quick to resent such extraneous aid as negro minstrelsy being at one point introduced into the play. The authors, Mr. Robert Buchanan, and Miss Harriet Jay were called before the curtain on Monday.



The Referee (8 November, 1885 - p.2)


CONCERNING the titles of plays, as concerning the tastes of people, I presume there is no disputing: otherwise I should be very much induced to call in question the appropriateness of “Alone in London” as the name for Mr. Buchanan and Miss Harriett Jay’s melodramatic jumble, with which the Olympic was reopened on Monday last. The words can be intended to apply only to the unfortunate heroine, Annie Meadows, “the keeper’s daughter.” She falls into the toils of a swell-mobsman, who marries her, brings her to London, and turns her into the gutter to get her living and his. It certainly cannot be said of Annie Meadows, after she has become Mrs. Richard Redcliffe, that she is alone in London. Indeed, it would be a good thing for her if she were. But the villains of the play won’t leave her “alone,” and altogether, between the rising of the curtain and the fall thereof, she has a very bad time.

     In the prologue we meet her down at Uppington, in Suffolk. She may have a father and she may have a mother; but I don’t know anything certain about that. I do know, though, that she has a couple of lovers, one being the swell ruffian who gets her, and the other a good-looking and generous-souled young miller—John Biddlecomb. She has been giving shelter to a London waif, called Gipsy Tom, who has “fallen by the way,” but it is noticeable as an instance of forgetfulness, and nothing more, that she has neglected to mend his ragged clothes and to find him a pair of boots for his naked feet. Gipsy Tom warns Annie against Redcliffe, who has done him some personal injury; but Annie heeds him not, and so marries in haste to repent at leisure.

     In London she has to undergo all sorts of horrors, and she is in the first act found selling “sweet violets—penny a bunch!” by Westminster Bridge. She has a rare slice of luck, though, for a benevolent old banker passing by is so touched by her pretty face that he at once presents her with five pounds, and promises to provide her with a nice situation. Of course she tells her husband, and equally of course the five pounds speedily passes into his possession, and is partly melted for drink at the nearest pub. Gipsy Tom, who is here, there, and everywhere, overhears Annie talking about ending her troubles in the adjacent river, and, resolving to end them, at least for a time, in another way, he fetches the policeman from his “point” and gives Richard Redcliffe into custody upon some charge which is not very clearly made out. Richard is presently “secluded,” but evidently not for more than eighteen months; for, that period having elapsed, we come across him enjoying his boating and his fishing up Thames Ditton way, and a welcome guest in the house of Burnaby, the banker, who has kept his promise to Annie and has taken her into his own service. How it is that Annie and Richard have not met before the Olympic audience is introduced to the up-river party not even Mr. Buchanan could explain, and he would find it more difficult still to tell us how it is that the benevolent old banker believes Redcliffe rather than Annie when she denounces her husband. Burnaby does not believe Annie, however, and she at once receives what is called in the classics “the dirty kick out.”

     Having been thus disgracefully dismissed from her situation, Annie goes back to the old squalor and the old misery. In real life such a scoundrel as is Richard Redcliffe would be glad to be rid of her; but although “Alone in London” is a realistic drama, the realism extends no further than the scenery and the props.

     Richard Redcliffe visits his wife at her humble abode at Rotherhithe. He and his colleagues have planned a robbery at Burnaby’s bank at Croydon. He means to use his little son in this work, and when the youngster’s mother objects and faints, he thinks that the time has come when he may conveniently murder her. And very clumsily and stupidly Mr. Redcliffe goes about it. The river is close by, and you could understand it if he took her and flung her into the muddy waters. His soul, however, pants after a bit of fancy work in the murdering line, and so be carries the lady, all uninterrupted by the police or the passers-by, and ties her to a post by “the Old Sluice House.” The machinery which regulates the flood-gates being very naturally left to be used as a plaything for all comers, Redcliffe gives it a turn, lets in the waters—real and imitation—and goes on his way rejoicing while Big Ben strikes the midnight hour. Kindly remember the time!

     Does Annie drown? Not bit of it. Who should come along but honest John Biddlecomb. He, having seen the light disappear from Annie’s window, knows exactly what has been done to her, and so arrives at the right moment to loosen her bonds and to hold her up above the flood à la Myles-na-Coppaleen and the Colleen Bawn.

     Now, see why I asked you to remember the time. A few hours elapse, and the scene changes to a room in Burnaby’s bank at Croydon. Richard Redcliffe and his gang are outside, and inside are John Biddlecomb, Annie the Betrayed, and Burnaby the banker and his son, who seem to have given up their residence at Thames Ditton, and to have taken up their lodgings in the bank. Old Burnaby looks at his watch. And what do you think he says? “My boy, it is nearly twelve o’clock, and I shall go to bed.” The burglary is attempted, but the little boy, being put through the window, is received in his mother’s arms. This is good business. But bad business follows a little later, when Gipsy Tom, who must be in every scene, picks up a knife and ends Richard Redcliffe’s career by sticking it into his stomach.

     I have called “Alone in London” an extraordinary jumble, and so indeed it is. The authors seem to have borrowed ideas right and left, but have used them so badly that almost every incident outrages probability. I should not mind this so much if there were any real interest in the story; but there is not, and so for entertainment one is compelled to fall back upon the scene-painters and the carpenters. These have done their work remarkably well. A great deal of money must have been spent on the mounting and on the mechanical appliances, which bring about some really remarkable transformations—remarkable enough even to fill Wilson Barrett and Augustus Harris with envy. Certainly, in the process on Monday night we saw a lamp-post that seemed inclined to dance a hornpipe, and chairs and tables that tried their hardest to walk up stairs; but there was genuine and well-deserved applause when a low lodging-house in Drury-lane moved off and made way for Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament, and when a dingy cellar at Rotherhithe was changed as though by magic to the Old Sluice House and Flood Gates, specially designed for the great sensation and the attempted murder of the unfortunate heroine. With all these wonderful scenes and revolutions deeply impressed upon the tablets of my memory, I take off my hat to Perkins and Bruce Smith, and I offer my warmest compliments to Mrs. Conover for her enterprise and liberality.

     Mr. Leonard Boyne, capitally made up, represented John Biddlecomb. This character is well drawn so far as the prologue is concerned, and I was somewhat surprised and disgusted when I discovered that the authors had put it on the shelf for two whole acts. John Biddlecomb bashfully making love to Annie was natural and amusing, and I confess that it did me good to see bow, with his one clenched fist, this handsome young miller frightened about a dozen angry rustics armed with sticks and pitchforks. Miss Amy Roselle played grandly throughout, as the hapless heroine, and Mr. Herbert Standing’s swagger and cool impudence exactly fitted the part of the rascally Richard Redcliffe. Mr. Percy Bell began by being funny as Redcliffe’s prime accomplice in crime, Jenkinson—pnblican, thief, philosopher, tract distributor, and burglar. He ended by being a bore. There is too much Jenkinson, and about the stupidest and clumsiest scene of the play is that in the second act where this scoundrel, in the garb of piety, walks into Burnaby’s house, declares that Annie Meadows is his runaway daughter, and is believed. Mr. Gilbert Farquhar’s ability or supposed ability has been insisted on times without number in puff paragraphs in fashionable newspapers, but his skill did not shine out very clearly in his impersonation of Burnaby the banker. Miss Harriett Jay, as Gipsy Tom, like Mr. Percy Bell, was too much in evidence, but Mrs. Juliet Anderson gave general satisfaction with her Mrs. Moloney, an elderly Irishwoman, who spends her time between selling oranges and referring her friends to “one above.” A very nice and pious old lady is Mrs. Moloney. A word of praise for good work in connection with this production may be given to Mr. Dalton Somers, Mr. Tresahar, Mr. C. J. Hague, Miss Grace Marsden, and Miss Nellie Palmer.

     There is one mighty joke in “Alone is London.” Mr. Percy Bell, speaking to Mr. Tresahar, talks about somebody doing something under his own vine and fig-tree. “Don’t see any fig-tree,” answers Tresahar. Whereupon Bell comes down upon him with the announcement that it is a fig-ure of speech.

     The introduction of some foolish nigger business in the Drury-lane lodging-house scene on Monday night provoked a storm of opposition, and there were cries of “Go outside!” “Take it away!” “Give us the play!” &c., &c. And now Mr. Robert Buchanan has followed the bad example set by James Albery, and has begun to whine about “organised opposition.” Now, just to show what I think of this, I may tell you that, so great was the applause attending the excellent business of the prologue, that I suggested to my neighbour the presence of an organised claque. This notion, of course, Buchanan would be ready to pooh-pooh! But ’twas ever thus. Praise is always honest; but there can be no condemnation that does not spring from mean motives.

     Who, I wonder, was entrusted with the task of garbling the Press notices, and turning doubtful praise into enthusiastic laudation? How mean a fellow must feel while engaged in work of this sort! Mrs. Conover declares that she is not to blame. She has written to my editor, saying “I have never altered the sense of a criticism for the sake of advertisement during my managerial career.”



The People (8 November, 1885 - p.6)


     If honest and earnest endeavour deserves success, no manager in London is worthier of it than Mr. Conover; and it may be fairly hoped that the indefatigable lady has at last achieved what she has so long striven for by the production of “Alone in London,” the new and realistic drama by Mr. Robert Buchanan and Miss Harriett Jay, with which the Olympic was re-opened for the season on Monday night. That the play as produced, notwithstanding the evident pains taken over it, was without faults, and obvious ones, cannot be denied; but there is enough stirring stuff contained in it, especially in the last act, fully to enchain the attention and arouse the sympathy of a pit and gallery audience—the two sections of playgoers for whose robust appetites such solid and highly-seasoned fare is specially prepared. In portraying the personages animating the five acts of “Alone in London,” the playwrights, keeping shrewdly safe within the familiar lines of stage convention, have used no half tints, their characters being uncompromisingly drawn in black and white—the bad black, the good white; thereby combining the characteristics of the child in the nursery rhyme, who—

“When she was good she was very, very good,
And when she was bad she was horrid.”

That safest of all cards in melodrama as a lover of popular sympathy, an ill-used wife, having an interesting child, also much put upon, is vividly contrasted with a brute of a husband, who, to make way for a better man seen in the rejected lover of the first act, is killed off in the last. The action of the piece presents in effect the pains and perils of the mother and child imposed upon them by their torturer and his myrmidons. From the direst of these dangers—death by drowning in a river lock—the wife is saved in Myles na Coppaleen fashion by the heroic young farmer who stands between her and her marital monster. In the fifth act, which is the most ingenious in its constructive compilation, the nefarious husband, thinking he has disposed of his wife by drowning, brings her boy down to a country banking-house which he has laid his plans to rob. Taking a hint from Bill Sykes, the polisher burglar is seen to put his own child—like Oliver Twist—between the iron window bars, with directions to unbolt the street door. The mother, previously made cognisant, by the good old-fashioned method of eavesdropping, of her wicked husband’s purpose, receives the child in her arms as it is forced in at the window, at the same time that the young farmer opens the door and confronts his rival, who, needless to say, gets the worst of it, dying by the knife of a second victim he has betrayed at the moment he seeks to bury the weapon in the heart of his wife. The piece was well acted all round. It is a pity to see a comedienne so accomplished as Miss Amy Roselle playing in mere melodrama, but in this respect it must be admitted that the public loss is the author’s gain, inasmuch as the actress imparts extra sympathy by her unaffected grace and naturalness to the character, elevated by her impersonation. As the heartless husband, the handsome, vulgar music-hall masher, without one redeeming virtue, Mr. Herbert Standing acted and looked the part to the very life. Mr. Leonard Boyne gave a bluff, hearty rendering of the simple countryman, ever ready to defend virtue in distress and lend a twenty-pound note for the asking to the firstcomer. It is well this virtuous type of rustic manhood should be so jealously preserved on the stage, for assuredly he has long since ceased to exist off it. Miss Harriett Jay plays intelligently enough a waif and stray, twin brother to Smike. A respectable middle-aged country banker, is played by Mr. Gilbert Farquhar in a genuine comedy spirit, and admirably made up to look, no doubt unconsciously, like Mr. John bright. Other parts are presented effectively by Miss Grace Marsden, Mr. Percy Bell, Miss Nellie Palmer, and Mrs. Juliet Anderson. The piece is put upon the stage with lavish effects, which, at times, in the strain after realism, become unreal by their too obviously obtruded mechanical ingenuity. Managers should bear in mind that what the audience want is illusion, shown in the ability of the dramatist and actors rather than the mechanist and stage carpenter. “Alone in London” was, in the main, received with applause slightly qualified by dissent from a small minority.



The Glasgow Herald (9 November, 1885 - p.7)

     The production of Mr Robert Buchanan’s drama, “Alone in London,” has resulted in a charge made by the authors than an organised conspiracy had been formed by blackmailers to condemn the play, and in a disclaimer by the lessee, Mrs Conover, of any responsibility for this misquotation of certain newspaper criticism in advertisements. Mr Buchanan himself has now assumed responsibility for this misquotation which he explains was chiefly for the sake of brevity. Mr Buchanan likewise states that he has taken the direction of the Olympic for six months. “Alone in London,” however, hardly merits the fuss that has been made about it. It is a strong melodrama. The plot turns on the adventures of a young village beauty, who, discarding her lover, marries a fashionable gentleman from town. This worthy proves to be a burglar. The heroine’s career of hardship and persecution is set forth in many sensational and realistic scenes, laid in the London slums, at the Inventions Exhibition, and elsewhere. The villain even attempts to drown his wife by tying her to a post in a London dock and opening the sluice gates. But the modern Colleen Bawn is duly rescued and the villain meets with his deserts after an exciting scene of a bank burglary. Miss Roselle is the heroine, Mr Standing the husband, and Miss Harriet Jay a waif. One of the ladies playing in this company is said to be a daughter of the Tichborne Claimant.



Truth (12 November, 1885 - p.6)

     Mr. Robert Buchanan’s views of commercial morality will certainly not be endorsed y the public. He justifies, “chiefly for the sake of brevity,” a system of misquoting, as an advertisement, criticisms that have appeared in various journals, and of thus deliberately misrepresenting what the critic said. Thus, when a writer says that “New York and Brooklyn consider that his play is vigorous, spirited, and never dull,” he cuts out all about New York and Brooklyn, and ascribes this opinion to the critic of the Daily Telegraph. When the public is informed that “Alone in London” is full of clever ideas, but, as a rule, they are wasted, Mr. Buchanan, for the sake of brevity, leaves out the sting of the sentence. Again, he placards London with the words that all his ideas are good, whereas the critic said that certain incidents were good, but that as a rule his excellent ideas are curiously misapplied or are feebly utilised. He declares that Mrs. Conover has an Olympic success, whereas the critic said “meanwhile Mrs. Conover has a chance of an Olympic success if a few judicious alterations are speedily made.” It is quite true that other managers do this, but two wrongs do not make a right, and there is something entirely wrong in the habit.

     An author who would condescend to such tricks as these may freely be looked upon with suspicion when he gets another cheap advertisement for an indifferent play by crying “wolf” again, apropos of “organised opposition” and “theatrical blackmailers.” This nonsense has been exploded long ago. Why an audience should not be permitted to hiss Mr. Robert Buchanan and his plays I cannot for the life of me see. He has brought the major part of the difficulty on his own shoulders by abusing the pit in an unwarrantable fashion, and by writing offensive letters abusing his critics, for which his collaborateur had to apologize, in company with the editor of the paper who published them. Mr. Robert Buchanan is habitually inaccurate. In supporting his charge of blackmailing, he states, “On being spoken to by the police, their leader said that they might be quiet that night, but that if they were not liberally paid they would return next night and prevent the peaceful representation of the play.” “It’s to be peace or war,” they said (we give his very words), “and if we’re not squared, look out again  to-morrow.” Now, the police authorities indignantly deny that any such conspiracy as Mr. Buchanan points out was condoned by any member of the police force, and Mrs. Conover has publicly declared that she gave no money whatever under threat, but divided a sovereign amongst a few dripping men who came to offer their services in consequence of Mr. Buchanan’s over-audacious advertisement, stating, on no authority or evidence whatever, that there had been on the first night “a deliberately organised opposition.” So the truth comes out that the blackmailing gang is as fictitious as the organised opposition, and the opposition as false as the flattering advertisement.




THERE may be some faint and lingering doubt concerning the capacity of Robert Buchanan to write plays, but there surely cannot exist, even in the author’s enthusiastic brain, a hope that ever again will comely Miss Harriett Jay be enabled to enact “a waif.” A more substantial, portly, and apparently well-fed beggar was surely never put forward to enlist our sympathies. Anything more unlike a starving boy, anything less resembling a ragged outcast than this handsome, shapely lady never occurred to any one but the manufacturer of realistic drama. There is not a trace of the characteristics of a boy about this pseudo-pathetic chickweed-and-groundsel seller, with his well-favoured limbs and shambling gait. His attempted snivel and continual crawl have apparently been introduced for the mere purpose of showing how utterly unlike life are the stock characters in modern realistic drama. As a clever writer has already pointed out, the much-persecuted but equally well-favoured Miss Amy Roselle is not “Alone in London” at all, for she is perpetually followed by the epicene vendor of chickweed, who crawls about the floor of the stage, and spoils every situation in what—but for the wearisome boy—might have been made an effective drama. But the truth should be told about realism as applied to modern art on the stage. The well-nurtured and bright-eyed waif is not the only blot on a series of characters and pictures that are about as unlike life in the East-end, or the West-end, as any that could be possibly conceived. The old-fashioned stage directions, pinned to a curtain or a cloth, “this is a wood,” “this is a street,” “this is a palace,” and so on, gave some scope to the imagination, and did not hinder the acting. At any rate, they were not misleading. But what are we to say of a cellar in St. Giles’s, in which the tag-rag and bobtail of London Bohemianism are huddled together in an incongruous and impossible manner, talk unknown tongues and “patter” from the latest music-hall drivel; of a picture of the Thames Embankment that might be Venice, or the Mersey, or the Regent’s Canal, for any resemblance it possesses to any corner in Westminster; of a representation of some al-fresco garden, stated to be at South Kensington, but which would do just as well for the Alexandra Palace or the Battersea exhibition; of crowds and supers, who walk as no human beings ever did or could walk, and misrepresent life in every detail; of a harrowing scene in a sluice-house at Rotherhithe, where the lock-gates open exactly the wrong way, and water is represented by palpable gauze; of Irishwomen who deliver themselves of a Cork brogue with a Semitic accent; of Suffolk farmers who interlard their rural dialect with a true Irish brogue that you could cut with a knife; and of the whole tissue of absurdities and improbabilities that for weary weeks tax the patience of the stage manager and exhaust the resources of the theatrical treasury? If these things in any faint way resembled real life, there would be some excuse for them; but it is a puzzle almost incapable of solution that the inhabitants of London who can see the Thames Embankment any night for nothing, with its true river, its real crowds, and its incomparable drama, should be asked to see this burlesque of it on the stage. Realism, as suggested by the scene-painter and the mechanical trick-maker, is ruining the more popular form of drama. When tables and chairs dance about, and lighted candles waltz round the stage; when lock-gates fold up and develop into furnished rooms; when under-ground cellars collapse and change into illuminated fountains in the Exhibition-road, all the imaginative element required for the consideration of a drama is arrested, and we require the harlequin’s bat and the necessary ingredients of a Christmas pantomime. There is a point at which stage realism should be arrested, and that time has come. Authors, actors, and managers have stood aside and allowed the stage mechanic to have his wicked way. Has he not done mischief enough, and is it not high time to relieve the stage from the thraldom of the stage carpenter, who cannot even “jine his flats” or hold them up, the consequence being that these pasteboard absurdities come crashing down on the footlights, putting out the gas, and causing a panic amongst the audience? When an actor has been murdered with a ton of bric-à-brac, or an occupant of the stalls has been pulverised by an old castle crashing down on his skull, there will probably be an outcry against realistic scenery that makes all its surroundings absolutely unreal. Apart form Miss Amy Roselle, who never does anything badly, but who cannot physically express the woes of a pinched and starving woman, the best acting is shown by Mr. Leonard Boyne and Mr. Herbert Standing, though two small parts are played exceedingly well by Mr. Gilbert Farquhar and Miss Grace Marsden. In all these performances there is nature. The good-hearted miller, with a keen and ready sense of humour; the impudently vicious adventurer, with not a particle of sentiment in his composition; the white-haired philanthropist, who talks to pretty girls in the street, and presents them with bank-notes for purely benevolent purposes; and the pretty girl with a kind heart, are worth all the Embankments, Exhibitions, sluice-gates, and realistic pictures put together. They are as natural as the rest of the show is improbable, vulgar, and inartistic.



The Western Times (14 November, 1885 - p.2)

     Mr Robert Buchanan does not get on. He has brought out a play, “Alone in London,” which both the critics and the public have with singular and significant unanimity combined to condemn. The piece is, indeed, absolutely worthless both in respect of construction and writing. It failed as it deserved, whereupon Mr Buchanan wrote an angry letter addressed to all the morning papers putting the failure down to the work of what he called “an organised conspiracy.” It is a pity to see a man of Mr Buchanan’s undoubted talent thus at war with mankind. He seems to be under a spell, having convinced himself that Miss J., who once wrote a third rate novel that happened to catch the public eye, is not only a literary genius but a born actress. This has led him into the writing of plays which, as far as they have gone, have represented a descent down an inclined plane till the hopeless worthlessness of “Alone in London” has been reached.



Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle (14 November, 1885)

     “Alone in London” cannot be called a costume piece. The carpenter has had much to do, but the costumier’s bill was not large. The scenes are all laid in low life, and there is not a showy gown in it. Miss Harriett Jay is in tatters from first to last, and Miss Roselle sorrows through the four acts and the dozen tableaux in stuff dresses; while Mrs. Juliet Anderson, the new stage beauty, wears a print frock and a clay pipe. It is the smokiest play ever seen. Mrs. Anderson, as I have said, pulls at a short clay, and the comic Archbishop of Canterbury smokes a churchwarden all through the prologue. And the villain from the beginning to the end of the drama has either a pipe or a cigar or a cigarette between his lips.



The Entr’acte (14 November, 1885 - p.4)

     There has been a great deal of chatter over the bad behaviour of a section of the Olympic audience on the first night of “Alone in London.” I am not in a position to say that the management of this theatre placed a certain number of persons in the pit and gallery with the object of applauding the piece, but I do say that if the management practised such a device, and filled, say, three-parts of the gallery with a friendly audience, it must have annoyed them very much to hear anything but applause coming from that faction which they had not “squared.”

     I saw a bit of Mr. Buchanan’s piece the other night, and thought it a very capital drama for a house like the Surrey. It would be certainly difficult to mention any modern popular piece to which it does not bear some resemblance, but for all that, it is so chock-full of incident and situation that there are no slow uninteresting moments in it.

     “Alone in London” is capitally played, too. Miss Amy Roselle makes an excellent heroine, Standing never acted better, Mr. Leonard Boyne is earnest and effective, Mr. Gillie Farquhar is the benevolent old gentleman to the life, Mr. Dalton Somers makes a genial “pro,” and Mr. Percy Bill’s Jenkins is by far the best thing this gentleman has done. Miss Jay is too healthy a woman for the “Poor Jo” part she plays.

     Were the critics invited to chicken and champagne on the night of the 4th inst. at the Olympic?

     Mrs. Conover writes to the daily newspapers repudiating responsibility in the managerial arrangements of the first night of “Alone in London.” I hope that this lady will eventually secure a prize in that theatrical lottery which as yet has not been eminently kind to her. I don’t like to see ladies embark in theatrical management, especially when they have nobody by them to protect them from those vultures who, when there is a pigeon to be plucked, are always ready to whet their beaks and have a “go in.”

     Mrs. Conover, as I have always been given to understand, embarked as the manageress of a London theatre without specially preparing herself for the difficult part she cast herself in. That she imagined she could, without training, do that which, in my humble opinion, a woman of inexperience should never attempt, is most likely, or it would be impossible to account for the course she took. Verily, all is vanity!

     I don’t care to reproach her, though; for if she has been indiscreet, I fancy she has paid very dearly for her whistle. I wish her better fortune than she has yet experienced.

     That gallant fraternity known as the “profession”—I include authors as well as actors—are wonderfully generous, we know; but I am of opinion that when they deal with a lady who is reputed to have plenty of money and no experience, they make her pay through the nose for any experiments she may make.



The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (14 November, 1885 - p.8)



The Graphic (14 November, 1885)

     The statement that Mrs. Conover of the OLYMPIC Theatre had been induced to silence an organised conspiracy to interrupt her performances by giving the ringleaders a bribe, has been followed by a complaint on the part of a neighbouring house of being threatened with similar annoyances. In these days, when the art of advertising assumes so many subtle disguises, it would be well not to attach too much importance to stories of this kind. It is worth observing, however, that if Mrs. Conover did behave in the way which is alleged, nothing could be more likely to encourage similar attempts in other quarters. To yield to an impudent extortion for the sake of a temporary personal convenience is a grave moral offence, of which we hesitate to believe that Mrs. Conover would be guilty.



The Putney and Wandsworth Borough News (14 November, 1885 - p.7)

     What does Mr. Robert Buchanan mean? He declares that an “organised opposition” was set on foot to crush “Alone in London” on the first and second nights of its representation. He says that the “cabal” had instructions first to “guy” a particular actor, and, secondly, to attack the authors and the play. Who was the actor, and what part of the play was aimed at? The prologue, which was good, was listened to with unbroken attention, and was greeted with applause when the curtain fell. The first act, which was most undeniably bad, was mildly objected to, and the appearance of the Christy Minstrels was greeted with some cries of “Go on with the play!” After this the audience were, in my opinion, too kind rather than too cruel. For half-a-dozen people who hooted unfairly, there were scores who listened in silence to dialogue which, for all the point it contained, might have been extemporised “gag” by the actors. As for talk about a “handful of roughs,” “represntatives of rowdyism and blackmailing,” that is Mr. Buchanan’s way. He admits that both on the first and second nights the play went on amid “enthusiastic demonstrations.” What more does he want? He might fairly have expected much less.



The Theatre (1 December, 1885)

     “Alone in London,” the drama by Mr. Robert Buchanan and Miss Harriet Jay, brought out at the Olympic Theatre on November 2, is a drama of an old-fashioned type, loosely put together. Some of the incidents are admirable, but the good ideas in the play are swamped by the lack of stage-knowledge displayed throughout. And something too much has been attempted in the matter of revolving scenery, although no one will deny the stirring effect of the scene in which the villain opens a Thames sluice-gate on his wife. Mr. Leonard Boyne has made a hit as the good-hearted, honest mill- owner, who is rejected by the heroine, and Mr. Herbert Standing is excellent as the easy-going, smiling villain. Miss Amy Roselle, it need hardly be said, is intelligent, interesting, and pathetic as the heroine.



The Freemason (5 December, 1885 - p.11)

     Mrs. Conover would seem at last to have met with fortune at the Olympic. She has long courted it, but until she was tempted to produce the new drama by Mr. Robert Buchanan and Miss Harriet Jay, “Alone in London,” she had not been successful. The theatre would seem in a fair way of reviving its old days. It has been made comfortable and cheerful looking. The terrible draughts and horrible smells which held sway there for so long with ill luck, have been banished. “Alone in London” will suit the tastes of those who like the uncompromising blood and thunder type of melodrama, and for others who do not enjoy such realistic scenes there is much to attract. It gives an old story in a not very new form. But how is it possible for every author to devise something which no one has ever done before? A drama to be a reflection on the stage of real life must be like those which have been played before in style, until real life entirely changes. As an eminent actor remarked to us the other day, “Some people continually cry out for something quite original, and are not satisfied unless each new play eclipses all its predecessors.” The scenes in the Olympic play are those so dear to a large section of playgoers, introducing modern London in every act. We have a common lodging-house in Drury-lane faithfully portrayed, a burglary in a bank, a representation of Westminster Bridge, showing the Houses of Parliament from the south side, and a sluice gate at Rotherhithe, the latter the most touching of all. We shall not now go into the details, horribly and comically depicted in “Alone in London;” we shall content ourselves with merely remarking that Annie Meadows, played by Miss Amy Roselle with her usual power and depth of expression, is the heroine. She is linked to a swell mobsman. Her husband—not worthy of the name—tries many devices to rid himself of her when he finds he cannot live on her; and last of all, Richard Redcliffe, splendidly played by—as witness the hisses and groans of the audience—Mr. Herbert Standing, takes his wife—who has fainted in his arms because he is trying to take from her her only comfort in life, her child—to a dock at Rotherhithe, ties her to a post, and turns the handle to let the water in; but when the dock gates open, and the water has almost risen to her face, the inevitable hero is close at hand and rescues her. The last act is not less interesting than the former ones. It is a good idea of pushing the little son through the bars of a window that he may open the doors of the bank to admit his burglar father, but who is received in his mother’s arms and hushed, while the door is opened by the hero, who has heard of the plot to rob the bank. The wind up may appear a little strange. A waif, who has been injured by the villain Redcliffe, dogs him everywhere, and apprises his wife and the hero, John Tiddlecomb, of all that he is doing, is the means of his being imprisoned, and at last shoots him dead. But this is introduced that the course may be clear for the hero to marry his old lover Annie. Miss Harriet Jay plays the street boy admirably. Mr. Leonard Boyne is the honest countryman, and adds considerably to the interest in the piece. There can be small doubt that “Alone in London” will draw for some time to come, and will be sent through the provinces. The audience seemed to be intensely taken up with the scenes—none more so than the Duke of Beaufort—an authority on plays—the Duchess, and his family, who were in close proximity to us. We congratulate Mrs. Conover on the turn of the tide. She deserves it, for she has tried to please the public, and is imbued strongly with that virtue which is denominated the chief characteristic of a Freemason’s heart—we mean Charity. Her name frequently appears in the subscription lists of dramatic charities and benefits. We do not know if any of our three great Institutions have ever been brought under her notice.



The Era (5 December, 1885)

     ON Thursday evening last visitors to the Olympic were disappointed on meeting with a managerial announcement to the effect that the part of Annie Meadows in Alone in London would for the future be played by Miss Harriet Jay, whose place as Gipsy Tom was to be filled by Miss Louise Gourlay. No reason whatever was assigned for the withdrawal of Miss Amy Roselle, to whose efforts any success the piece has met with is mainly attributable. Alone in London will certainly not be improved by the secession of this accomplished actress.


 [Advert from The Times (10 December, 1885 - p.8).
Notice no mention of Amy Roselle. (Nice to see that bonnets are allowed.)]


[Advert from The Times (19 December, 1885 - p.10).]


The Star (Christchurch, New Zealand) (11 December, 1885 - p.3)


(From the “Star’s” London Correspondent.)
. . .


                                                                                                                                       LONDON, Oct. 23.

. . .

     Mr Robert Buchanan is truly a most surprising person. Nothing discourages or disheartens him. As a theatrical manager few men have met with more “knock-down” blows, yet year after year he comes up again smiling and hopeful always, with “a new and original melodrama,” written by himself, and always with buxom Harriet Jay as his leading lady. This autumn the energetic dramatist has thrown in his lot with Mrs Conover and the unlucky Olympic Theatre. Mrs C. announces that the mouldy old house has been redecorated (which, I suppose, means brightened up a bit), and puts forward Buchanan’s “Alone in London,” a melodrama “in a prologue, four acts, and ten tableaux,” as the supreme attraction of her coming season. “Alone in London” had, I believe, a succes d’estimé in New York last winter. Since then it has been specially tinkered, with a view to the idiosyncracies of metropolitan audiences, and as there are said to be a couple of sensations in the third act, may do. Buchanan’s plays are, as a rule, however, deadly dull. “Stormbeaten” is, perhaps, the best of them, and even it only conveys a shadowy notion of that splendid romance, “God and the Man.” I remember when “The Shadow of the Sword” appeared, a great future was prophesied for Buchanan. he has written, on the average, a novel a year since, but (save “God and the Man”) they have none of them attracted much notice. “The Master of the Mine,” his latest fiction, is just about to be published by Bentley.



The Globe (29 December, 1885 - p.3)


     Having passed through some vicissitudes since its first not too friendly reception, “Alone in London,” by Mr. Robert Buchanan and Miss Harriet Jay, has developed into a great melodramatic success. That few alterations would suffice to obtain this result was seen from the first. The piece, when once its action was simplified and condensed, had from the first every element of popular favour, a sympathetic story, characterisation, and striking situations. With the alterations that have been made the acting of Miss Jay, who now plays Annie Meadows; of Mr. Standing as Richard Meadows; Mr. Leonard Boyne as the hero; Mr. Gilbert Farquhar, Mr. Tresahar, Mr. Philip Beck, and Mr. Percy Bell, tells with full effect, stirring the public nightly to strongest demonstrations of approval. The popular comedietta, “The Bonnie Fishwife,” is now the opening piece. In this Miss Louisa Gourlay sings and acts effectively, assigning the character a very attractive Scotch Doric. Mr. Gilbert Farquhar, as Sir Hiccory Heartycheer, adds one more to his rapidly increasing gallery of comic old gentlemen. Mr. Tresahar is Wildoats Heartycheer, and Mr. Dalton Somers is the comic servant, Gaiters.



News of the World (3 January 1886 - p.2)

     OLYMPIC.—Alone in London still forms the great attraction at this house, Mr. Philip Beck now playing the part of Tom Chickweed, and Miss Harriett Jay that of Nan. The drama is preceded by the farce, The Bonnie Fishwife.—On Thursday evening Mrs. Conover, the manageress, was requested to meet the company, and on her appearance Mr. Buchanan, in a brief speech, presented her with a stirrup cup in solid silver, inscribed “A gift to Mrs. Anna Conover, as a souvenir of the 50th performance of Alone in London.” Mrs. Conover briefly responded. The 50th representation of the play, which now runs merrily, was honoured with the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, and a large party.



The Edinburgh Evening News (11 January, 1886 - p.4)

     A DISASTROUS THEATRICAL VENTURE.—Mrs Conover will this week relinquish the direction of the Olympic to Mr Robert Buchanan. The Irish lady is said to have lost a fortune of £15,000 by the theatre, which, since the days of “The Ticket-of-Leave Man,” has had a chequered career. Mrs Conover, who is very much respected, proposes to earn her livelihood as an actress.



The Referee (17 January, 1886 - pp.2-3)

     I dropped into the Olympic the other night and saw some of “Alone in London,” which is now announced as “by Robert Buchanan and Harriett Jay.” I gave my opinion of this piece on its first production, and am not going to give it all over again. All I purpose saying now is that I found “Alone in London” going remarkably well. The Thames Embankment scene and the episodes occurring therein were received with considerable enthusiasm. As a long-suffering lady who is slung into a sluice, Miss Harriett Jay shows to much more advantage than as the Waif upon whom she originally wasted her sweetness. She is very earnest all through, and especially so in her agonised appeals to her brute of a husband. The brute in question (Mr. Herbert Standing) maintains the excellent form with which he started. By which I mean to convey that not only is he no thinner, but he still deserves the high praise originally accorded to his impersonation. Mr. Philip Beck, who has taken up the part laid down by Miss Jay, makes a somewhat mature Waif, but plays with a rugged intensity that fetches the house, more particularly when he denounces the burglar Standing, and causes that cracksman to be arrested on the Embankment. Mr. Leonard Boyne is still to the fore as the faithful Biddlecombe.

     When Mrs. Conover settled her last treasury at the Olympic on Friday night she gave yet another proof of her kindly nature by presenting to every member of the company, without exception, some tasteful souvenir in token of farewell. Mrs. C. has now let the theatre to Mr. Robert Buchanan for one month certain, but will herself remain the responsible lessee of the Olympic until Michaelmas next.



The Morning Post (18 January 1886 - p.2)

     It is said that from first to last Mrs. Conover has spent no less a sum than £20,000 on her attempt to restore the drooping fortunes of the Olympic. Mr. Robert Buchanan, whose play, written in conjunction with Miss H. Jay, entitled “Alone in London,” continues to draw good houses, has taken the theatre for a month certain. Meanwhile Mrs. Conover has retired from management, but her lesseeship will not terminate until the 29th of September.



The Penny Illustrated Paper (23 January 1886)

     MRS. CONOVER is reported to have lost £20,000 in the vain endeavour to make the Olympic Theatre pay. Mr. Robert Buchanan is now running the Olympic with the brisk drama of “Alone in London,” written by himself and Miss Harriett Jay.



The Daily News (25 January, 1886 - p.3)

     We learn from a note from Mr. Robert Buchanan that a contract has been signed by M. Roger on the one hand, representing the French Dramatic Authors’ Society, and the English authors on the other, for the immediate production of “Alone in London” in Paris. The adaptation has been made by M. Pierre Decourcelle. This, following upon the recent successful reproduction of “The Silver King”—a far better play, by the way—on the Parisian stage, affords another significant token that in the matter of international adaptation “the old order changeth, yielding place to new.”



The Era (30 January, 1886)

     MISS E. BRUNTON played the part of Bridget Maloney, in Alone in London, at the Olympic Theatre on Monday evening last, at a few hours’ notice, and has been retained for the remainder of the run of the play.



The Graphic (30 January 1886 - p.12)

     It was but the other day that French dramatists were astonished by the news that English playwrights, long accustomed to be helplessly dependent on the French stage, were about, in their turn, to furnish employment for French adaptors. We refer to Messrs. Jones and Herman’s powerful romantic drama, The Silver King, which, in its French guise, has enjoyed considerable success in Paris. It now appears that Alone in London, by Mr. Robert Buchanan and Miss Harriett Jay, is being adapted by M. Pierre Decourcelle, by arrangement with the authors, for immediate preparation on the Parisian stage.


[Advert for 100th performance in The Times (12 February, 1886 - p.8).]


[Advert for final performance in The Times (Saturday, 20 February, 1886 - p.8).]


The Era (20 February, 1886)

     MISS HARRIET JAY on Wednesday met with a injury to her ankle, which prevented her appearance in Alone in London, at the Olympic, and in Sappho, at the Opera Comique matinée, on Thursday. On Thursday Miss Jay’s place at the Olympic was taken by Miss Adah Cox.


[Mrs. Anna Conover on the cover of The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News (25 April, 1885).]


[Mrs. Anna Conover on the cover of The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News (11 February, 1888).]


Further information about Alone in London at the Olympic is available in the letters to the Press from Robert Buchanan, Mrs. Conover and others on the various problems which beset the production. One of which, the dismissal of Amy Roselle, resulted in a court case in January 1887, the accounts of which give a fascinating insight into life backstage at the Olympic Theatre.

Alone in London - Letters to the Press

Alone in London - the Court Case


The final performance of Alone in London took place at the Olympic Theatre on 20 February, 1886, after which the company began a tour of the provinces.


Alone in London after the Olympic

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


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


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