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

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Short Plays

Other Plays

Buchanan’s Theatrical Ventures in America

Poetry Readings

ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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ALONE IN LONDON IN LONDON - continued

 

Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper (8 November, 1885)

PUBLIC AMUSEMENTS.
_____

OLYMPIC THEATRE.

     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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

OUR CAPTIOUS CRITIC.

alonecapcrit

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

aloneadbonnets02

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

aloneadchristmas02

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

 

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

TOPICS OF THE DAY.
_____

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

THE THEATRES.
_____

                                                                                                                                       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.

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

OLYMPIC THEATRE.

     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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

alonetimes100ad

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

alonetimesaadlast

[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.

mrsconover85

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

mrsconover1888

[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

or back to Alone in London main menu

 

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The Fleshly School Controversy
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Harriett Jay
Miscellanea

 

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