ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)
3. Buchanan Day
Robert Buchanan was buried alongside his wife, Mary, and his mother, Margaret Buchanan, in the churchyard of St. John the Baptist in Southend-on-Sea. Harriett Jay is also buried in the same plot.
To begin at the beginning. Mary Buchanan died on November 7th, 1881 at 2, Devereux Terrace, Southend. The following notice was printed in The Times on November 14th, 1881:
Mary Buchanan was buried in the churchyard of St. John the Baptist on November 13th, 1881. Buchanan’s mother, Margaret Williams Buchanan, died on November 5th, 1894. The following notice was printed in The Times on November 8th, 1894:
On November 8th, 1894 Buchanan wrote in his diary: “To-day I took my darling to Southend and laid her in her grave beside poor Polly.”
“As we stated in the heading, Mrs. Buchanan was buried in St. John’s Churchyard, Southend, and a representative was despatched to ascertain particulars of the little known event. After a long search, with the aid of the sexton, the grave was discovered in the north-east corner, near the wall, and close by the Rumble enclosure. It is a brick grave and was covered with long grass, and the low head-stone was nearly hidden from view. The inscription thereon is: “Sacred to the memory of Mary Buchanan, who fell asleep at Southend-on-Sea, November 7th, 1881 aged 36 years.” We understand that another interment—that of a sister—was made in the grave about seven years ago, but no record is given on the headstone. The sexton states that up to a few years ago he was paid to keep the grave in repair, but since then it has not been attended to. A few weeks since, however, some ladies made enquires and diligent search in the churchyard for the resting place, but were then unable to find it.”
The mention of a ‘sister’ being buried ‘about seven years ago’ (i.e. 1894) probably refers to Buchanan’s mother and the fact that she is not mentioned might indicate that Buchanan never got round to adding her name to his wife’s gravestone. Given Buchanan’s financial problems at the time of his mother’s death this is quite feasible and might also explain why the date of his mother’s death on the current memorial is incorrect.
Buchanan was buried in St. John’s churchyard on June 14th, 1901.
Harriett Jay died on 21st December, 1932 and was buried alongside Buchanan, his mother and her sister, Mary on Christmas Eve. I have only found one brief account of her funeral.
The Observer (25 December, 1932 - p.13)
FUNERAL OF HARRIET JAY.
Miss Harriet Jay, who wrote the popular farce, “When Knights Were Bold,” over twenty-five years ago, and who died in seclusion at Ilford, at the age of seventy-nine, was buried yesterday in the family grave at St. John’s Church, Southend-on-Sea.
In August 1901 an appeal was launched to fund a public memorial to Robert Buchanan in Southend. Letters were sent to the newspapers signed by the Rev. Thomas Varney of St. John’s Parish Church, and the writer (and Southend resident) Mr. Coulson Kernahan. The Mayor of Southend, Mr. J. Francis, was to act as treasurer for the fund and the American representative was the Rev. Walter E. Bentley.
The Echo (14 August, 1901)
The Late Robert Buchanan.
Sir,—It will be within the memory of many of your readers that the late Mr. Robert Buchanan lies buried in Southend- on-Sea, where for several years he made his home.
The Dundee Evening Telegraph (14 August, 1901 - p.3)
A ROBERT BUCHANAN MEMORIAL.
The Rev. Thomas Varney, St John’s Parish Church, Southend-on-Sea, and Mr Coulson Kernahan, “Thrums,” West Cliff-on-Sea, near Southend, write to the “Westminster Gazette,” saying that it has been suggested to them that steps be taken to raise a memorial to the late Mr Robert Buchanan at Southend, where Mr Buchanan was buried. The Mayor of Southend-on-Sea (J. Francis, Esq., J.P., Wilson Road, Southend-on-Sea) has consented to act as Treasurer, and any contributions forwarded to him will be duly acknowledged in the public press. The appeal has the approval of Mr Buchanan’s relatives, who hope, however, that the response will be marked not only by the extent of the amount subscribed, but by the number of subscribers. They suggest, therefore, that subscriptions be limited to a comparatively small sum, so that Mr Buchanan’s humble admirers (of whom there are many) may not hesitate to contribute their mite.
The Southend Standard (15 August, 1901 - p.3)
PROPOSED MEMORIAL TO THE LATE
The following circular has been issued:—
to so distinguished a man, and we have good reason to believe that such a movement would meet with a generous response. But it seems to us that in the case of a poet of such eminence as Robert Buchanan a memorial of this sort should not be confined to any particular town.
The idea has been entertained for some time, but the relatives had first to be consulted. It is suggested that in the first place a memorial stone should be erected over the grave in the parish churchyard and, if funds allow, an additional memorial will be placed in the church. Miss Jay, the sister-in-law of Robert Buchanan, herself an authoress of some repute, is at present engaged in writing his life, and it is hinted that she may shortly take up her residence permanently in Southend.
The Yorkshire Telegraph and Star (15 August, 1901 - p.2)
Proposed Buchanan Memorial.
The many friends of the late Robert Buchanan in London have received with favour the suggestion that a memorial should be erected to him in Southend, where he lived for some years, and where he is buried. It is perfectly well known that the appeal will be responded to by a limited class for Mr. Buchanan though his name was well enough known, has not left any mark upon the sentiment of the nation that makes more than an interesting figure in the literary history of the closing quarter of the 19th century.
Black and White (24 August, 1901)
Criticism as ’tis Writ
One of the most absurd pieces of literary criticism that I have ever come across appeared in the Daily News one day last week. Some sage youth had evidently been given Mr. Coulson Kernahan’s latest book, Wise Men and a Fool, to review. Now, to those who know anything of belles lettres, I need scarcely say that the book in question is one in which Mr. Kernahan has gathered together some of his charming literary essays, nor need I remind my readers that it is as a critic we have Mr. Kernahan at his best. Indeed, apart altogether from the popular success of A Dead Man’s Diary, he might well allow his reputation to rest on his admirable essays in criticism.
A Memorial to Buchanan
Mr. Kernahan, by the way, is interesting himself just now in the movement to erect a memorial to Robert Buchanan over his grave at Southend-on-Sea. Buchanan lived there during the last years of his life, and there is quite a little colony of literary men who make their home in that breezy seaside resort. Mr. Kernahan is one of these, and, as an admirer of Mr. J. M. Barrie, he has christened his house “Thrums.” It is to be hoped that there will be wide response to the appeal for subscriptions in aid of the Buchanan Memorial. Some of Buchanan’s poetry deserves to rank with the best; it is a contribution of enduring value to our national literature.
The New York Times (31 August, 1901)
For a Memorial to Robert Buchanan.
The following speaks for itself. It is signed by the Rev. Thomas Varney of Southend, where Robert Buchanan spent several years of his life, and Mr. Coulson Kernahan, author of “The Child, the Wise Man and the Devil”:
The Southend Standard (12 December, 1901 - p.5)
THE ATHENÆUM.—The members of this flourishing Society were well repaid for their visit to Clarence Hall last Saturday by hearing an essay on Robert Buchanan, by Mr. Reveirs-Hopkins: who was assisted in the renderings of illustrations by Mrs. Reveirs-Hopkins and Mr. Blake; and Miss Edith Hudson supplying two excellently played selections on the pianoforte. The mortal remains of the late Robert Buchanan rest in St. John’s Churchyard and for years the deceased poet lived with his wife, who predeceased him, in the house now known as “Byculla,” and for these reasons the theme selected for the essay excited keen interest: which was sustained and deepened by able and painstaking treatment. For the essayist the late Mr. Buchanan is last century’s “Poet of Humanity,” in addition to being an eminent man of letters and dramatist, and his earthly tabernacle “our most illustrious dead.” The early struggles of the deceased for livelihood rather than recognition, his great and, though short, unceasingly mourned friendship, his varied efforts, and almost continuous belligerency were each detailed and then came illustrations: from which the audience understood how great an author Buchanan undoubtedly was. As the Irish revolutionist toasted the soul’s health of the comrade who had been executed, there responded a deep thrill of sympathy, and as Mrs. Reveirs-Hopkins was intently followed, who could but sympathise with the sad exposition of a murderer’s wife’s vigil on the night preceding his execution and by which she was robbed of both husband and expected child?
The Southend Standard (2 January, 1902 - p.4)
The “Robert Buchanan Memorial Fund” is looking up. The Rev. T. Varney, one of the originators of the fund, suggested the idea that Southend’s new Dramatic Society should present one of the late Mr Buchanan’s plays in aid of the fund. The idea “caught on” with the Dramatic Committee. Miss Harriett Jay, the talented lady who, under the pseudonym of Charles Marlowe so often collaborated with Buchanan, was impressed into the service. Miss Jay succeeded in obtaining Mr Edmund Maurice’s permission for the Society to play “Sweet Nancy,” and our playgoing friends will have an early opportunity of seeing a delightful comedy which has hitherto been exclusively reserved by Mr. Maurice for Miss Annie Hughes, who has charmed all London as “Nancy.” All the ladies, at least, will have read Miss Rhoda Broughton’s novel on which the play is founded and will be anxious to see it in dramatic form.
The Referee (26 January, 1902 - p.3)
Mr. Beerbohm Tree has sent a contribution of ten guineas to the Robert Buchanan Memorial Fund.
The Southend Standard (27 February, 1902 - p.2)
The members of the Unitarian Social Union had the pleasure on Wednesday evening of listening to a lecture on Robert Buchanan, poet, novelist, dramatist and critic, by Mr. A. E. Reveirs-Hopkins, illustrated by readings and recitations by the lecturer and Mrs. Reveirs-Hopkins.
A CHAT WITH MISS HARRIETT JAY.
Hearing that the late Robert Buchanan’s sister-in-law, Miss Harriett Jay, the famous novelist and dramatist, is making a temporary stay in the town, the “Standard” man called a few days since at Royal Terrace and found her, pen in hand, with an expression on her face that said “too busy to answer gossipy questions.” But when the S.M. explained that he wanted to know something about the forthcoming performance of “Sweet Nancy,” for the Buchanan Memorial Fund, at the Empire Theatre, the sky seemed to clear as if by magic and he settled himself comfortably in an armchair opposite one of the most brilliant conversationalists he has ever had the good fortune to meet and by a few leading questions elicited all the needed information, to say nothing of a few other interesting items not bargained for—albeit germane to the subject.
[From The Southend Strandard (3 April, 1902 - p.1).]
The Stage (10 April, 1902 - p.10)
SOUTHEND—EMPIRE.—The Southend Dramatic Society on Tuesday night gave a performance in aid of the Fund to provide a Permanent Memorial to the late Robert Buchanan, who had resided at Southend for a long period, and now rests in “God’s little acre by the sea,” beneath the sheltering wall of the Church of St. John. The local society decided to give performances on two nights—Tuesday and Wednesday—in aid of the Memorial Fund, and for such an occasion could not have presented a more attractive programme. Indeed, the curtain raiser was produced for the first time by permission of the author’s sister-in-law, Miss Harriett Jay. This was a poetical drama in one act, by Robert Buchanan, entitled:—
The Night Watch.
Heinrich von Auerbach . . . . Mr. Reginald Sewell
This drama was admirably acted by a quintet of well-known amateurs; but it was not a cheerful opening for an evening’s entertainment. It was tragedy, as a contrast to the comedy to follow. Mrs. Reveirs-Hopkins cleverly interpreted the character of Irene de Grandfief, and Mr. Reginald Sewell appeared as Heinrich von Auerbach, who is supposed to have witnessed the death of the Vicomte de Lisle, to whom Irene is betrothed, and who, by a freak of fortune, is brought wounded to the chateau of which Irene is mistress. The participation of Heinrich in the events which led to the supposed death of her lover leads Irene to be tempted to allow Heinrich to die by neglect, but her better feelings hold sway, and as the curtain falls her lover returns well, and the scene closes with the usual conquest of meaner feelings with virtue triumphant. Buchanan’s Sweet Nancy was the chief feature of the programme. Mrs. Reveirs-Hopkins decidedly scored a success as an amateur in the part of Nancy; Mrs. Cardy Bluck made a charming Barbara, and the other sister, Teresa, became an admirable juvenile part in the hands of Miss Dora Seal. Mr. William Gray looked the character as Sir Roger Tempest, and acted admirably. Mr. Donald Gray was a very fair Frank Musgrave.
SOUTHEND DRAMATIC SOCIETY.
“SWEET NANCY” AND “THE NIGHT WATCH.”
A FINE PERFORMANCE.
Southend Dramatic Society did honour to the memory of a great playwright and, indeed, honoured itself when on Tuesday evening its members realistically pourtrayed at the Empire Theatre Robert Buchanan’s well-known work “Sweet Nancy,” and had the added privilege of placing before the public for the first time a poetical drama by the same writer, entitled “The Night Watch.”
“THE NIGHT WATCH.”
“The Night Watch,” which began to the tune of the “Marseillaise”—a play in one act—was suggested to Buchanan from a poem by François Coppée. The scene is laid at the Chateau of Grandfief, in Normandy and the time is put at the German Invasion of France in 1870. There are five characters: Irene de Grandfief (Mrs. Reveirs Hopkins); Vicomte de Lisle, a volunteer in the French Army (Mr. Picken); Heinrich von Auerbach, a German Officer (Mr. Sewell); Hubert, a servant (Mr. G. Taylor) and Doctor Marton, a surgeon (Mr. Reveirs Hopkins). Shortly described, this new and powerful play opens with an interior view of the Antique Chamber in the Chateau Grandfief, with Hubert, a clownish servant, looking out of the window, joyfully welcoming the fall of snow; which he wishes would fall quickly enough to swallow up the Germans. His soliloquy is broken by the sound of gun shots and Irene (the heroine) enters. She bids the servant discover the cause of the firing. While he is gone the lady’s thoughts dwell on the whereabouts of her soldier lover, the Vicomte, who is serving as a volunteer with the French Army. His expected letter has not arrived and in the passion of her love she kneels before the oratory praying “Spirit of Heaven spare him! Restore him in the blessed light of peace and bring him soon!” Hubert hastily enters and brings the news that a skirmish near by had ended in a victory for the French and the capture of a German Uhlan officer. Dr. Marton dresses the wound and is afforded opportunity of declaring the Vicomte to be “he who yielded rank, wealth, and privilege and seized a sword in France’s hour of danger”—an act which would peculiarly appeal to Buchanan’s instincts. Irene nurses the Uhlan through the night and a phial of medicine is given her in order that she may serve him with ten drops four times an hour, so to keep him alive. The officer rouses from unconsciousness ad tells Irene how “yonder in Germany there is one who waits like her; a little maid with sunny, golden hair.” The climax is reached when he tells her that a month ago at Metz he killed a Frenchman: “We saw one standing as a sentinel. On hands and knees I crept unto him. Then, up-springing, stabbed him. He fell with scarce a groan.” The dying Frenchman implored his assailant to forward to the one he left behind a medallion which he wore. This Auerbach swore to do and he now hands it over to the girl to fulfil the mission. She examines it and finds it to be her lover’s. Then through the long night hours she struggles with her frenzied desire to kill the sick man, but a low voice points her to her “Duty!” and she administers the saving draught. As he recovers, Raoul, the missing lover, pale but eager, enters and clasps the girl in his arms and peace is made ’twixt Gaul and Teuton.
“Sweet Nancy” runs to a livelier, merrier measure and the audience were at once in good humour with the first scene, wherein are found the sons and daughter of Mr. Gray (Mr. Reveirs-Hopkins) playing in approved tom-boyish fashion in a garden, until disturbed by their father. The sons were: Algernon Gray, Mr. Felis Seel; Bobby Gray, Mr. Fred Whisstock; James Gray, called “The Brat,” Master A. E. Lockington and the daughter, Teresa Gray, called “Tow, Tow,” Miss Dora Seel. Sir Roger Tempest (Mr. William Gray) quells a stormy scene between father and children and Mrs. Gray (Mrs. Read) also appears. “Nancy” (Mrs. Reveirs Hopkins) was greeted with cheers and she was pretty and girlish with her match-making father when he wanted her to lunch with him and Sir Roger “dressed in her best.” The obvious object of the ruse was quickly penetrated when she was chaffed by her brothers and sisters, who, with a keen eye to the main chance, bargained for shooting and hunting as their share of the spoil from the prospective union. The situation was, indeed charmingly amusing when Sir Roger discovered “Sweet Nancy” left stranded on a high wall by her mischievous brothers, but where, however, she progresses extremely well in her determination to marry a man with money and she and Sir Roger go in the fashion of “Darby and Joan” to lunch, preceded by Barbara (Mrs. W. Cardy Bluck) and Frank Musgrave, Sir Roger’s ward, (Mr. Donald Gray). The courtships cause great dismay among the children and Algernon gives his emphatic opinion upon the subject, preluded by the dramatic “Friends, Romans, countrymen—stand to attention!” In due time Sir Roger sues for Nancy’s hand and if the latter is seemingly coy, her secret intention is realised and she gives her promise. With seductive guile she gains the boys over to the alliance by promises of hunters and shooting galore. Scene 1 was most effective and the curtain descended to the hearty cheers of the audience.
The New York Times (26 April, 1902)
Memorial to Robert Buchanan.
A notice signed by the Rev. Thomas Varney, St. John’s Parish Church, Southend-on-Sea, and Coulson Kernahan, from the same neighborhood, representing England, and by the Rev. Walter E. Bentley, for America, invites the public to subscribe to the memorial to the late poet and dramatist, Robert Buchanan, who is buried in Southend-on-Sea, England, where for several years he had made his home. The Mayor of the town, Mr. J. Francis, is acting as Treasurer, and contributions from Americans may be sent to the editor of THE NEW YORK TIMES SATURDAY REVIEW OF BOOKS. The relatives of Mr. Buchanan suggest that individual subscriptions be limited to a small sum, so that the poet’s humble admirers, of whom there are many, may not hesitate to contribute the small amounts they can spare. Mr. Bentley has been giving a course of sermons at All Souls’ Church, on “Our Life After Death.” Last October, while he was General Secretary of the Actors’ Church Alliance, he preached on “My Summer’s Tour in behalf of the Actors’ Church Union of England and Its Results.”
The Stage (22 May, 1902 - p.13)
Miss Harriett Jay’s life of Robert Buchanan will not be published until after the Coronation. Miss Jay, who has just written a play with Mdme. Sarah Grand, has been staying at Southend while completing the work. Among the contributors to the Buchanan Memorial Fund are many eminent names, notably that of Mr. Herbert Spencer. It is understood that many of the dramatist’s admirers incline towards the erection of a drinking fountain in Southend, opposite Buchanan’s former residence, as the most suitable form for the memorial.
The Echo (7 June, 1902)
THE LATE ROBERT BUCHANAN.
We are asked to state that the subscription list of the proposed memorial to the late Mr. Robert Buchanan will shortly be closed. The movement has, we learn, received the support of many distinguished men and women connected with the literary and dramatic professions; and a committee will shortly be appointed to consider what form the memorial shall take.
The Southend Standard (26 March, 1903 - p.8)
We understand that the main purpose of the lecture on Robert Buchanan, which takes place to-night, is to enable Southend people to gain a more extended knowledge of Buchanan’s works, more especially of his poetry. For a town to be honoured as the burial place of a great man, and its citizens to be in ignorance of his greatness, must be a reproach until removed. Those who attend the lecture may expect a literary treat, as the Rev. Conrad Noel is a very clever critic and is on the staff of the “Daily News.” He inherits great poetical gifts from his father, the Hon. Roden Noel, brother of the late Earl of Gainsborough. The lecturer has consented to give the lecture out of respect of his father’s memory, as the latter was a personal friend of Robert Buchanan, and also from a desire to aid the Memorial Fund. The proceeds of the lecture are to be devoted to that purpose. Nearly £50 more will be required to meet the expenses, we learn from the Treasurer, Mr. Alderman Francis. A sketch of the Memorial appears in the recently published biography of Robert Buchanan. The successful authoress of this work, Miss Harriett Jay, hopes to be present at the lecture.
The Oban Times (11 July, 1903 - p.5)
I am asked to state that the subscription list for the memorial to be erected at Southend-on-Sea over the grave of the late distinguished novelist, playwright, and poet, Robert Buchanan, is still open, and a sum of £50 is required to complete the scheme. The memorial to this, one of Scotland’s most distinguished sons, will be unveiled by Mr. T. P. O’Connor, M.P., at the end of July. Subscriptions should be sent to the Rev. Thomas Varney, late of Southend, now vicar of the New Parish at Beckton Road, Canning Town, London, E., who was, I believe, the originator of the movement. Mr Varney, it may be said, is an Englishman, and the memorial has practically been paid for by Englishmen. It would, therefore, be a gracious act if Scotsmen now came forward and showed their appreciation of what has been done.
The monument has been designed by Mr Morley Horder, of New Bond Street, and the bust, which forms the central feature of the memorial, is by Mr Egan. All Mr Buchanan’s work is of interest, not only to Scotsmen, but to all who love good verse or good novels, or who admire a life spent largely in protesting against the shallow conventions and the cruel social wrongs that have taken the reality, the sincerity, from our national life, and which threaten to rob it of its splendid possibilities. Of particular interest to Scotsmen, perhaps, is his “Hebrid Isles,” in which he speaks with so much enthusiasm of his Keltic antecedents, and of the sad fate which had driven the Highlander from his home.
Not only Buchanan himself, but his father and mother, were interesting personalities. His father was the editor of the “Glasgow Sentinel,” then partly owned b y William Love, whose office was the gathering place for all sturdy fighters for liberty of thought and speech. He later owned and edited the “Glasgow Penny Post,” and “Glasgow Times,” and had, as his chief assistant, Hugh MacDonald, who was also a disciple of the famous Robert Owen.
The Oban Times (18 July, 1903 - p.5)
THE ROBERT BUCHANAN MEMORIAL.
Apropos of the notice in last week’s “Oban Times” regarding the Robert Buchanan Memorial at Southend, a writer in a city contemporary, remarking on the same subject, thinks the £50 required to complete the memorial might well be raised amongst the Highlanders of Glasgow. Doubtless it could, if gone about in the right way, but, and with due reverence be it spoken, Buchanan is not a much-talked-of man amongst the Celts in the city, and to raise £50 amongst them may not be the easiest of things. Our contemporary scribe, however, evidently knows his Buchanan well, and in appealing for the required sum he asks—“What of the city Highlanders, whose wrongs as a race stirred the fiery soul of the poet? Cairns, crosses, pyramids ad other monumental piles Highlanders have erected in plenty to the memory of their own particular bards, and they might now add a stone to Buchanan’s cairn, as it were.” That they could certainly do.
The Southend Standard (23 July, 1903 - p.2)
THE BUCHANAN MEMORIAL.
Sir.—Will you kindly make it known that, as the space in St. John’s Churchyard is limited, admission to the unveiling of the Robert Buchanan Memorial on Saturday, 25th inst., will be by ticket only?
SOUTHEND COLLEGE FOR GIRLS.
PRIZES DISTRIBUTED BY MISS HARRIETT JAY.
In spite of Saturday’s wet weather, Miss O’Meara, the headmistress of Southend College for Girls, held her “At Home” to parents and friends in the grounds of the College on that day. Her guests were received in a large marquee, and were there entertained by the pupils with music, drama, and gymnastics—to say nothing of refreshments, in “circulating” which among the various tables they proved themselves dainty and efficient waitresses. The selections from Shakesperian plays were most successfully presented, the impersonations showing that the pupils include some promising amateur actors and actresses. A French version of “Cinderella” was quite a novelty, and was thoroughly enjoyed even by those not conversant with that tongue, for with such clever little impersonators, who could fail to recognise the charming little “Cinders,” her two ugly sisters, the gallant prince, and other characters in the evergreen nursery tale?
[And there I’ll leave it, although I must note that in the ‘Prizes for Sports’, the ‘Stilt race’ was won by D. Brown, and the ‘Bicycle Tortoise’ by M. Milton.]
I also came across the following letter for sale on the David J. Holmes Autographs site:
KERNAHAN, COULSON. ALS, 2pp (grey paper), 8vo, on printed letterhead of “Thrums,” Westcliff-On-Sea, Essex, 16 August, n.y. To an unidentified woman, thanking her for a subscription to the Robert Buchanan Memorial, and writing: “I have sent your letter to the Mayor. . . . Your estimate of Buchanan the man is I think very true. . . . I only wish that in the case of men like Mr. Buchanan others would follow your example & say the appreciative and helpful word while the ears to which it is addressed are open to hear. Why should we wait till the man has passed when he no longer needs human sympathy & appreciation?. . .”
The memorial to Buchanan was unveiled on Saturday, 25th July, 1903.
The Observer (26 July, 1903 - p.7)
MEMORIAL TO ROBERT BUCHANAN.—Yesterday afternoon, in the presence of a large congregation, a memorial to the late Robert Buchanan, which has been erected in St. John’s Churchyard, Southend, was unveiled. Mr. T. P. O’Connor, M.P., and Miss Harriet Jay (the deceased poet’s sister-in-law) approached the monument together, and as Miss Jay removed the covering, Mr. O’Connor declared the bust unveiled, and handed it over to the custody of the vicar and churchwardens. He afterwards gave an address.
The Referee (26 July, 1903 - p.4)
MEMORIAL TO ROBERT BUCHANAN.
YESTERDAY afternoon, in the presence of a distinguished gathering, Mr. T. P. O’Connor, M.P., unveiled a memorial to the late Mr. Robert Buchanan in St. John’s Churchyard, Southend. The brightest of summer weather prevailed, and the company included the Mayor and Mayoress of Southend, Colonel Tufnell, M.P., and Mrs. Tufnell, Sir F. C. Rasch, M.P., and Lady Rasch, the Aldermen and Councillors, Mr. George R. Sims, and many well-known authors and journalists. The monument is rigidly simple and dignified in design, and consists of a stone screen fronted by a black marble pedestal on which is a bronze bust of the deceased author. The inscription states that it is erected to the memory of “Robert Buchanan, poet, novelist, and dramatist,” and the following lines from one of his poems, “The City of Dreams,” are added:
In dark and troubled dreams of thee;
Mr. O’Connor, in a eulogistic address, spoke of Mr. Buchanan’s life, and pathetically alluded to the tragic side of that author’s experiences. He mentioned that twenty-two years ago Mr. Buchanan laid his young and beautiful wife in St. John’s Churchyard, Southend. More recently Mr. Buchanan’s mother was buried in the same grave.
The Times (27 July, 1903 - p.9)
A memorial to Robert Buchanan, the poet and dramatist, consisting of a bust, was unveiled on Saturday by Mr. T. P. O’Connor, M.P., in St. John’s Churchyard, Southend-on-Sea, where Buchanan and his wife and mother were buried. The bust stands on a granite pedestal, and at the back is a stone screen, while yew trees protect the sides. Mr. George R. Sims was present at the unveiling, in addition to the poet’s sister-in-law, Miss Harriet Jay, the Mayor and Mayoress of Southend, Sir F. C. Rusch, M.P., Colonel Tufnell, M.P., and Mrs. Tufnell. After the gift had been formally handed over to the vicar and churchwardens on behalf of the subscribers, Mr. O’Connor gave an address in the schoolroom descriptive of the lives of Buchanan and his wife and mother. He observed that Buchanan had parents who devoted themselves to what they considered to be right opinions and the benefiting of their fellow men and women. They evidently, however, belonged to that great and imperishable race of dreamers who in the pursuit of the welfare of others forgot their own. Like his father, Buchanan never learned the art of compound addition. Whatever money he made disappeared quickly. Mr. O’Connor pointed out in reference to Buchanan’s attitude that there were always a number of false reputations. It required some clear voice to remind the public that the number of copies sold must not always be taken as the eternal verdict of literature on the quality of the writer. A vote of thanks to Mr. O’Connor was passed at the close.
The Standard (27 July, 1903 - p.3)
MEMORIAL TO ROBERT BUCHANAN.
Mr. T. P. O’Connor, M.P., on Saturday, unveiled, Southend-on-Sea, a memorial to Robert Buchanan, the poet and dramatist, who was buried in St. John’s Churchyard in the grave containing the remains of his wife and mother. A bust, modelled by Mr. Egan, of London, forms a striking likeness of the poet. It stands on a granite pedestal, and has a back screen of stone, and is inscribed with a verse from Buchanan’s “City of Dreams.” Among those who attended the ceremony were Miss Harriet Jay, the Mayor and Mayoress of Southend, Colonel Edward Tufnell, M.P., and Mrs. Tufnell, Sir F. Rasch, M.P., Mr. George R. Sims, the Rev. Conrad Noel, Mr. P. McDermott, Mr. Alderman J. Francis, Treasurer of the Memorial Fund, Mr. A. E. Reveirs-Hopkins, hon. sec. Mr. O’Connor, on behalf of the subscribers, formally handed over the gift to the Vicar and Churchwardens, and afterwards, in the school-room, delivered an address on the poet and his wife and mother. There seemed to have been a general impression, he said, that because Buchanan had some very hard days in his early youth he was a man who, so to speak, came from the gutter. That was not correct: the parentage of Robert Buchanan was one of which any man might have been proud, and he had the best of all heritages—fine health, a soft and refined character, and love of the noble and the ideal. Buchanan, like his father, never learned the art of compound addition; he was chronically, hopelessly, eternally hard up. Whatever money he made disappeared quickly, and the result was that painful combination of the drudge and the spendthrift. He was too busy and too much of a drudge ever to be at his best, or to achieve that greater and higher fame he ought to have reached. There were authors who sold by hundreds of thousands who were really not fit to write for kitchen maids, and it required some clear voice to remind the public that the number of copies sold must not always be taken as the eternal verdict of literature on the quality of the writer. Sometimes Buchanan was wrong —perhaps usually he was wrong—but very frequently he was right, and in days when literary criticism was so ready to accept the idols of the literary mob, it was well that some such voice as his should be raised in protestation and in protection of true literary value. Mr. O’Connor also dealt with the lives of the poet’s wife and mother, remarking of the former that her character as woman and wife would always stand forth as one of the most beautiful that human life had ever presented.
The Yorkshire Evening Post (27 July, 1903 - p.4)
“T. P.” ON CERTAIN POPULAR AUTHORS.
Mr. T. P. O’Connor M.P., on Saturday unveiled, at Southend-on-Sea, a memorial to Robert Buchanan, the poet dramatist. In a speech, he said: Buchanan, like his father, never learned the art of compound addition; he was chronically, hopelessly, eternally hard up. Whatever money he made disappeared quickly, and the result was that painful combination of the drudge and the spendthrift. He was too busy and too much of a drudge ever to be at his best, or to achieve that greater and higher fame he ought to have reached. There were authors who sold by hundreds of thousands who were really not fit to write for kitchenmaids, and it required some clear voice to remind the public that the number of copies sold must not always be taken as the eternal verdict of literature on the quality of the writer.
The Aberdeen Weekly Journal (29 July, 1903 - p.7)
It was a happy selection the choosing of Mr T. P. O’Connor to unveil the memorial to the late Mr Robert Buchanan in St John’s Churchyard, Southend, on Saturday. Both men came to London in a penniless condition. Buchanan and his chum David Gray tramped from Glasgow to the Metropolis, and “T. P.” has told the story of how he himself had solved the problem of living in London on sixpence a day. There was this marked difference between the two men: Both made fortunes, but the initial act of O’Connor when he made his first successful hit was to secure himself a competency in the shape of an annuity to provide against any future contingency. Buchanan frittered away his means in speculation and horse-racing, and died as poor as he began.
THE MEMORIAL IN ST. JOHN BAPTIST
On Saturday afternoon, in St. John Baptist Churchyard, Southend, Mr. T. P. O’Connor unveiled the bust of the late Robert Buchanan which has been erected as a memorial to the great poet, novelist, and dramatist, at the grave where he lies buried with Margaret Buchanan, his mother, and Mary Buchanan, his wife. With Mr. O’Connor came others whose names figure in the world of literature, including Mr. George R. Sims, with whom Buchanan collaborated in the writing of Adelphi plays, Miss Harriett Jay, Rev. Conrad Noel, Dr. Gorham, of Clapham, Mr. R. E. and Mrs. Francillon, Mr. William Holles and others.
Poet, novelist, and dramatist.
Forget me not, but come, O King,
The arrangements for the ceremony had been admirably made by Mr. Reveirs-Hopkins, who had been considerably assisted by the Rev. T. Varney and Mr. Coulson Kernahan, co-secretaries, who unfortunately could not be present. Mr. O’Connor and party arrived at four o’clock and proceeded immediately to the grave, where was gathered a large company, among whom were: The Mayor and Mayoress, Sir F. Carne Rasch, Bart., M.P., Mr[s]. Rasch, Col. Tufnell, M.P., and Mrs. Tufnell, Revs. E. R. Monck-Mason, E. Hamilton, Dr. A. C. Waters, J.P., Alderman Brightwell, J.P., Mr. W. Lloyd Wise, J.P., Mr. T. Whur, J.P., Alderman Francis, Mr. T. J. Sharland, Col. D. C. Lamb, Mr. J. Hitchcock, Mr. A. J. Connabeer, Councillor Hewitt, Mr. G. Scott, and others.
THE THEATRE AND EDUCATION.
There was another agency in the education of Robert Buchanan, and that was the theatre. I know that a large number of very earnest and good people have a great dread sometimes and positive hatred of the theatre. And so far as the theatre merely lends itself to the lower part of human nature that is a feeling that everybody can comprehend. But the theatre is, and must be. one of the great teachers of the people in a country like ours, (Hear, hear and applause.) I am sure that nobody will deny that in listening to one of the plays of a great author one may learn some of the highest and noblest doctrines and teachings of life. (Applause.) certainly Robert Buchanan never denied that to the theatre he owed some of the best part of his education. He was especially moved by “Lear,” that most wonderful of Shakespeare’s plays, and summing up the effect of that play upon him he says “I first gained from it that perception of the piteousness of life which has been the inspiration of all my writings,” and I say that was one of the noblest lessons a man can learn from any teacher or in any place.
EARLY STRUGGLES IN LONDON.
He had only a few shillings in his pocket. He was very glad to take a third class ticket and to travel through all the dreary night. He says himself that in the hours of darkness he wept as he thought of the mother and the home he had left behind and of the dark and uncertain future that lay before him. He had one possession which is somewhat characteristic both of his mother and himself. That is to say, he had a large supply of very good clothes, and among these clothes was a luxurious dressing gown, which I am sure was the pride both of his mother and of himself. It was the most gorgeous piece of apparel that lit up the dinginess of his lodgings. Buchanan wandered through London on that first memorable day, but he found no familiar or friendly face. He lay down in Regent’s Park to sleep. As he lay there he suddenly became conscious of a pair of very keen, bright eyes steadfastly looking at him. It was a companion in misfortune. It was a companion whose exterior certainly was not very attractive, but he was one of those friendless but friendly souls that one meets in all parts of London. In the end he offered to accompany Buchanan to a lodging house in the East End of London. It was in this low lodging house, or as Buchanan calls it, thieves’ kitchen, that the great poet and novelist spent his first night in London. Do not let us pity Robert Buchanan too much as we see him in the Thieves’ Kitchen in the East End of London. When he was at the thieves’ kitchen he was perhaps at the most useful of all universities, for the literary man especially, the university of life and especially the life of the poor and the struggling. It was there that he learnt some of those lessons of tenderness and humanity which he preached consistently throughout his life.
LITERATURE—THEN AND NOW.
Now here may I pause for a moment to say that in one respect the literature of the second half of the nineteenth century is very different from most of the literature that has gone before. I think anyone who reads the literature of the eighteenth century will above all be struck by its narrowness both of range and of sympathy. It deals almost entirely with the lives of the rich, the aristocratic, and the well-to-do, and whenever it does happen to come across any of the poor it sees only the sordid and the cruel and the evil side of their characters and of their lives. Even in the middle of the nineteenth century you will find the same spirit of remoteness and divergence from the lives of the poor. For instance, there is a passage in one of the prefaces of Thackeray—I forget at the moment to which work it is—in which he excuses himself from not dealing more harshly with some of his characters. He had an idea, he said, of making one of his characters do some desperate deed that would bring him to penal servitude, but could not boast any acquaintance with convicts and therefore he did not propose to describe either their character or their lives. I venture to say that was not an observation worthy of that serene and judicial outlook which literature should always choose. For literature, as De Quincey once said, should have an equal and impartial view of all society, of all men and women, and should look and analyse with the same care the minds and the souls and the careers of the guilty as well as of the free. Robert Buchanan was one of the men who symbolised the growth of the human spirit in literature. If he had done nothing more than re-preach the gospel of Dickens in that respect his life and his works would not have been in vain. After some hours of this wandering about London Buchanan settled down in 66, Stamford Street, Blackfriars. I shall not attempt to describe for a Southend audience 66, Stamford Street, Blackfriars. Southend would probably not quite understand what kind of squalor and hopelessness such a street possesses. If a gentleman who is at the end of the room, and who is now the greatest master living in describing the life and character of London—I mean Mr. George R. Sims—were on this platform, he could give a description of Stamford Street, Blackfriars, which would present it to your imaginations in a way I cannot attempt. Suffice it to say that in a top room in this unlovely street and at a rental of 7s. a week, Buchanan started his career in London. One of his fellow lodgers was a drunken compositor, and he told afterwards how one morning the compositor came into his room with an open razor and asked him to cut the button off his shirt that was choking him. Buchanan complied with the request and the compositor committed suicide immediately afterwards in the adjoining room. Here again Buchanan was, unconsciously perhaps, going to school in the great university of life. He was among the depths of human despair end human misery, to which afterwards he gave such noble and such eloquent utterance. His efforts to obtain employment. like those of most young literary provincials who come to London, were attended with many disappointments. He was able to get hack work from the “Athenæum,” and to write in some of the cheaper newspapers and periodicals, and in that way he was able to eke out a small but very uncertain livelihood. Mr. O’Connor went on to speak of Buchanan’s connection with Gibbon and Miss Braddon and said after a while his parents followed him to London. The indomitable father had taken up at this time the writing of those penny dreadfuls for cheap story papers, and between them all they managed to sparsely furnish a little house in Kentish Town and there they all lived together some time.
In 1861 took place what in many respects was the most momentous event in Buchanan’s life, namely his marriage. I have ventured an attempt at a description of the wife of Robert Buchanan, but I saw her when she was already somewhat of an invalid. I never had an opportunity of seeing her in the first flush of her youth, her health, and her beauty, but even when I saw her she was one of the most beautiful and certainly one of the most winning creatures I have ever beheld. Her character will always stand forth as one of the most beautiful of a woman and a wife that home life has ever presented. At this moment the world is engaged in discussing the conjugal relations of another great Scotchman and his wife. I mean Thomas Carlyle and Jane Welsh Carlyle. It is instructive to make a contrast between Mrs. Carlyle and Mrs. Buchanan. Mrs. Carlyle had many great and noble qualities. She endured much suffering in her life. But not the greatest friend and admirer of Mrs. Carlyle can say she was always very reticent with regard to her sufferings and that she bore the ordinary worry of life with exemplary patience. A quarrel attained to something like a tragedy, with all the grief, fatefulness, and horror combined in it. Mrs. Buchanan was a woman of a very different mood. Her tragedy was in many respects a more real tragedy than that of Mrs. Carlyle. Mrs. Carlyle suffered much from nerves and died at sixty from heart disease. But for many years of her life Mrs. Buchanan was a martyr to ill-health. Towards the end she was attacked by the most appalling of all diseases—cancer, and it was of cancer she finally died. She was a sufferer during most of her life, but she was mainly a silent sufferer and her aim was to hide from those she held dear the real state of her own health and her own sufferings. Next to his relations to his mother, the most beautiful thing in the life of Robert Buchanan is his treatment of his wife. Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t think that any literary man is much entitled to the admiration of mankind whose relations to the wife do not bear the inspection of the tenderest and humanest spirit. (Applause.) After his marriage, Buchanan of course worked harder than ever, and now I come to speak of what, after all, is one of the saddest things about the life of Buchanan. He never learnt the “art” of compound addition. He was
CHRONICALLY, HOPELESSLY, ETERNALLY, HARD UP.
Whatever money he made disappeared suddenly and quickly, and the result of it was he was in that painful position which one often sees in life and especially in the profession to which he belonged—he was at once a drudge and a spendthrift. He worked hard, he got the money, and when the money was got it very soon disappeared and the hard work had to begin again. The result of it is that there is always about the life of Robert Buchanan a sense of failure and ineffectiveness. There is always a feeling that his was a genius which never reached the height and never earned the recognition to which it was entitled. He was too much of a drudge, too worried, to be ever at his very best. He wrote too much to be ever properly considered, and in addition to these disqualifications for the greater and higher fame to which he ought to have reached he had something of the love of a fight which betrayed him into many quarrels and into many expressions and articles which he himself afterwards deplored. The curious thing is that Robert Buchanan was himself never an ill-natured man. On the contrary, he was one of the most kindly and good-natured of men, but somehow or other kindly and good-natured men seem to be stirred up to some degree of violence and vehemence when they get their pens in their hands. I dare say some of you would be very surprised if you could see in the flesh some of the authors of those violent diatribes which anger, shock, and amuse you in the newspapers.
WARLIKE ONLY ON PAPER.
You generally find that a man who is calling for blood and war and all that sort of thing is a chronic invalid—(laughter)—who has to fashion his diet on a toast and water regime. You generally find that a man who calls upon his countrymen to rise up in their wrath trembles before the slight form of a tiny and delicate wife. (Laughter.) In the same way you will find, as in the case of Buchanan, that the man who writes most violent and sometimes most vehement articles is himself of a very kindly nature. You all know some of the quarrels into which Buchanan fell. Some of them are already historical—some of them are, I am glad to say, almost forgotten. The most bitter of these quarrels was the quarrel he had with what he christened, I think he was the first to christen it—the fleshly school—the school represented in poetry by Swinburne and Rossetti. Many of the attacks he made on these most distinguished and illustrious poets were ill-founded, unfair and unnecessarily rancourous. The result of the attack was to bring down on Buchanan a storm of ridicule and abuse under which he might well have reeled and it pursued him for a great many years afterwards. And if you want to find one of the reasons why the recognition of Buchanan has been so slow and so grudging you will find it in the fact that, as in the case of the article on the fleshly school, he was always tilting at other men and tilting without regard to consequences. This is a spirit which one must not always entirely condemn. I am myself rather opposed to vehemence in any literary discussion; at the same time the world is so given up to conventions and shams that it is absolutely necessary that you should have some independent, fearless, and perhaps rancourous and crushing attack to bring it back to truer ideals of literature. In literature there are always a number of false reputations. There are those whose works sell by the hundreds of thousands who really are
NOT FIT TO WRITE FOR KITCHEN-MAIDS.
(Applause.) Sometimes Buchanan was wrong, perhaps usually he was wrong, but very frequently he was right. And in these days when literary criticism is so often conventional and so often ready to accept the ideas of the mob, the literary mob, it is well that some such voice as his should be raised in protest and in protection of true literary value.
BUCHANAN AS THEATRICAL MANAGER.
Again the speculative spirit which he inherited from his father came in to interfere with his advance. No sooner had he made a large sum from the play than he took into his head the mad idea that he was a good business man and a good theatrical manager. He took theatre after theatre and produced play after play. I need scarcely say that these things, while they were all artistic triumphs, always ended in financial disaster. In the end he was not only not one penny piece the better for all his immense earnings, but he was broken in fortune and to a certain extent broken in health and in hope as well. The final blow came when he took the Opera Comique and produced a play there with insufficient capital. He was served with a notice in bankruptcy and he had to go through all the distress of financial embarrassment.
And then there were family troubles, among them the ill-health of his wife. As her last hours were approaching she longed for a sight of the sea and she came down to Southend in order to get it. Her history as well as her grief are very intimately associated with this town. I thought to-day as I ascended the somewhat steep steps of Fenchurch Street Station of a pathetic incident which Miss Jay relates in her biography. While her husband went to take the tickets at the railway station, she rushed to the stairs. She tried to run up the stairs rather rapidly in order to prove to him and to herself perhaps, that she was much better than he thought she was. A stranger met her on the stairs and with thoughtfulness and tenderness offered to lead her up and to give her his arm as support. She pettishly and almost angrily resented this offer of assistance and said to her sister “Why did he do that? I am very well able to do it myself.”
The Mayor said he was sure they felt it a very great honour to have in their midst and to be able to retain in their midst the memory of a man such as Robert Buchanan, and he was sure they would all in the future respect, honour, and keep sacred that memory.
AFTER 33 YEARS.
He had been trying to get to Southend for 33 years, but this was the first time he had succeeded in doing so. It was 33 years since he started from his lodgings by the Strand—not quite so bad as that lodging poor Buchanan had in Stamford Street, but not very much better—to take a trip to Southend. But some malign destiny seemed to hang over him. When he got to Fenchurch Street—when the train service was, he dared say, not so good as now—he found that the train by which he had determined to come had gone. The result of it was he had to postpone his visit for 33 years. (Laughter.) He had not yet seen much of their town, though he had heard much of it. But what he had seen had pleased him very greatly and he hoped at no distant date he would have the opportunity of making a longer stay and a closer acquaintance.
The Stage (30 July, 1903 - p.10)
MEMORIAL TO ROBERT BUCHANAN.
On Saturday a memorial to the late Robert Buchanan, which had been erected in St. John’s Churchyard, Southend, was unveiled. Mr. T. P. O’Connor, M.P., and Miss Harriett Jay, the deceased poet’s sister-in-law, approached the monument together, and as Miss Jay removed the covering Mr. O’Connor declared the bust unveiled, and handed it over to the custody of the vicar and churchwardens. The memorial, the cost of which has been defrayed by public subscription, is of plain sunk Bath stone, semi-circular in form, in front of which is a pedestal surmounted by a bronze bust of the late Mr. Buchanan. York stone forms the base, upon which is the inscription, and on either side are planted yew trees. Mr. Buchanan passed his last days at Southend. Mr. Buchanan’s body is interred with those of his wife and mother in the churchyard where the bust was unveiled.
Essex County Chronicle (31 July, 1903 - p.2)
MEMORIAL TO ROBERT BUCHANAN AT SOUTHEND.
On Saturday, in the presence of a large assembly, a memorial to the late Robert Buchanan, the poet, which had been erected in St. John’s Churchyard, Southend, was unveiled. Mr. T. P. O’Connor, M.P., and Miss Harriet Jay, the deceased poet’s sister-in-law, approached the monument together, and as Miss Jay removed the covering Mr. O’Connor declared the bust unveiled, and handed it over to the custody of the vicar and churchwardens. He afterwards gave an address in the Parochial Hall bearing upon the life of Buchanan. The memorial, the cost of which has been defrayed by public subscription, is of plain sunk Bath stone, semi-circular in form, in front of which is a pedestal surmounted by a bronze bust of the late Mr. Buchanan. York stone forms the base, upon which is the inscription, and on either side are planted yew trees. Mr. Buchanan passed his last days at Southend. His sister-in-law, Miss Harriet Jay, collaborated with him in the production of the plays—“Alone in London,” “Fascination,” “The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown,” and “The Romance of a Shop Walker.” Buchanan was a fertile as well as a most able writer. In 1872 he created an enormous sensation by an attack on what he called the “Fleshly School of Poetry.”
The Referee (2 August, 1903 - p.11)
(From the ‘Mustard and Cress’ column by ‘Dagonet’ (George R. Sims):
Last week I went to Southend-on-Sea to assist at the unveiling of
The Memorial to Robert Buchanan.
Mr. T. P. O’Connor, who, with Miss Harriett Jay, performed the ceremony, delivered a sympathetic address which dealt largely with the tragic side of Buchanan’s life story. After the address I slipped away, for I wanted to get back to London under favourable circumstances. I have travelled from Southend to London late on Saturday night twice. That is sufficient for any many who likes to choose his own company and his own musical entertainment.
The only picture I’ve found of the original monument is the drawing from Harriett Jay’s biography of Buchanan, which was published in February, 1903 (several months before the monument was erected). Jay also mentions in Chapter 23, referring to The City of Dream, that “a verse from which is now to be found upon his tomb.”