ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)
BOOK REVIEWS - Miscellaneous (1)
Wayside Posies (1866)
The Derby Mercury (15 January, 1862)
The Cruise of the Blue Jacket, and other Sea Stories. By Lieut. WARNEFORD, R.N. London: WARD and LOCK, Fleet-street.
The Shilling Volume Library is one of those numerous undertakings which have risen out of Mr. Gladstone’s rash repeal of the paper duty, for which the world will never be one whit the better and may possibly be something the worse. The series appear at present to be confined to the re-issue of some second and third rate tales, in imitation of the French series familiar to early and loose dabblers in the study of the French language. A portion of the Storm-Beaten has been reprinted from All the Year Round, and the other two volumes display some talent in book-making. Any reader, however, who has not too high a standard by which to guage his reading will find plenty for money in the 250 pages which the publishers provide for a shilling. Of course we cannot expect so much of Dickens, Thackeray, or George Eliot tolerably well printed and in a handy form for twelvepence; but even Lieut. Warneford’s Cruise of the Blue Jacket ought to have been printed on better paper than that which lies before us.
The Newcastle Courant (24 January, 1862)
THE SHILLING VOLUME LIBRARY.—[London: Ward and Lock, Fleet Street.]—These active publishers have sent us three of a series of shilling volumes of light reading which they are now issuing; and which will cause the lovers of such literature to be thankful for the repeal of the paper duty. For how else could any man expect to get an inch-thick volume of close and well-printed reading for a shilling? The volumes before us are—The Cruise of the Blue Jacket, and other Sea Stories, by Lieut. Warneford; Storm-Beaten, or Christmas Eve at the Old Anchor Inn, by Messrs. Williams, Buchanan and Charles Gibbon; and The Night Mail, its Passengers, and how they Fared at Christmas, by Percy Fitzgerald. In the first volume, the reader will get his money’s worth in romance and exciting incident; in the second, he will get stories which have already appeared in Once a Week and All the Year Round, and others which are original; and in the third, he will get a series of picturesque tales, which will by no means disappoint him. All the reading, so far as we have dipped into it, seems innocent and wholesome; and whilst the Shilling Volume Library continues to be thus characterised, it will have out best wishes for its success.
The Era (26 January, 1862)
STORM-BEATEN; OR, CHRISTMAS AT THE OLD ANCHOR INN. By WILLIAMS BUCHANAN and CHARLES GIBBON. Ward and Lock, 158, Fleet-street, London.
This is a curious collection of stories, supposed to be told by the passengers of the “good ship Boomerang,” as they sat round the fire one Christmas Eve, in the hall of the “Old Anchor Inn.” The cause of their being together there was that the ship, after starting for Sydney, was “storm-beaten,” and driven back into the little port of Scuttleton-upon Kegg, where the passengers landed and took refuge in the old inn.
Glasgow Herald (5 February, 1862)
THE NIGHT MAIL: Its Passengers, and how they fared at Christmas. By Percy Fitzgerald.
THESE are three additional volumes of Messrs. Ward & Lock’s Shilling Volume Library, and though last, they are not by any means the least worthy of those that have gone before. Each volume is complete in itself, and presents the reader with the utmost possible value both in quantity and quality. Every volume of this series that has come under our notice, has been carefully revised, so as to render the “Library” in all respects unexceptionable reading for the young as well as for the old. The “Night Mail” is a collection of Christmas stories told by passengers in a “first class” to while away the time on the road to their various destinations along the line. Some of them are capital stories, and will be read on many a railway and in many a comfortable parlour during the long winter evenings. “The Cruise of the Blue Jacket” is also a budget of stories, full of “hair-breadth ’scapes,” adventures, love scenes and awkward predicaments, all of which are highly interesting and amusing. “Storm Beaten” is constructed in the same way as the “Night Mail.” A number of shipwrecked passengers are congregated together on Christmas Eve in the Old Anchor Inn, and there, around a blazing fire, they tell over the story of their lives. Most of the tales in this volume are written by Mr. R. W. Buchanan, a young man of very promising talents, and a native of Glasgow. He has already made himself known in the world of literature; and from the acknowledged merit of his late productions in several leading magazines and periodicals, it is reasonable to expect that a work of more enduring interest will in due time appear with his name on the title page.
The Morning Post (18 December, 1869)
“Storm Beaten,” by Robert Buchanan and Charles Gibbon, is a shilling Christmas volume of prose and verse, one of the series of “The Parlour Library” now in course of issue by Messrs. War, Lock, and Tyler. The introduction relates how the good ship Boomerang was storm beaten; how she was compelled to put back into the port of Scuttleton-upon- Kegg; how everybody came together on Christmas-eve in the Old Anchor Inn; and how well Messrs. Buchanan and Gibbon entertain the storm-beaten company.
“I stand on the bridge, while the river flows
No need to say who wrote this as introduction to “The Sickly Gentleman’s Story.”
The Spectator (25 December, 1869)
Stormbeaten. By Robert Buchanan and Charles Gibbon. (Ward, Lock, and Tyler.)—This little book contains some very good and effective, and some very poor and melodramatic Christmas stories, and two or three spirited pieces of verse,—we conclude, by Mr. Buchanan,—which, though they will not for a moment compare with his true poems, are very far indeed above the ordinary verse of Christmas annuals. “Reuben Gray, or the sickly gentleman’s story,” is one of the best of these pieces of verse; and the “Gold-digger’s Story” also contains some very spirited descriptive verse. Still, neither of them is at all of the class of poems by which Mr. Buchanan has gained, and we trust will keep, his high character as a poet. The comic prose stories are, we think, the worst. “A Parisian Mystery” is one of the best.
Illustrated Times (1 January, 1870 - p.11)
Storm Beaten. By ROBERT BUCHANAN and CHARLES GIBBON. London: Ward, Lock, and Tyler.
This is a collection of stories with a common setting. They are some in prose and some in verse, and appear to have been written many years ago. Mr. Robert Buchanan, by his “Idylls of Inverburn” and some other works, and Mr. Charles Gibbon, by his “Robin Gray,” have since made their marks, each in a sufficiently decisive way; and though, possibly, they may neither of them be pleased with this reprint, there is nothing in it that either need be ashamed of. Some of the writing is, indeed, very effective, and the whole has, in a high degree, that indescribable characteristic, freshness. The reader must be warned that he will find in this collection pieces which neither of the authors would now write; but, for all that, “Storm Beaten” would, in any case, be pronounced a clever group of stories, with plenty of “go” and invention in them.
The Daily News (26 November, 1866)
We have had occasion, in previous years, to protest against certain strange heresies in designing and wood engraving which have recently crept up; and we must renew that protest in connexion with the illustrations to Wayside Posies: Original Poems of the Country Life, edited by Robert Buchanan (Routledge and Sons). The “pictures,” as they are rather ostentatiously called in the title-page, are by G. J. Pinwell, J. W. North, and Frederick Walker; and they have been engraved by the Brothers Dalziel, who have done more than any other living wood engravers to encourage this false style of art. Mr. Pinwell, among the designers, is also, by this time, rather and old offender, and we must say that in the present volume he has surpassed himself. Let us not, however, be understood to deny the ability possessed by all the gentlemen concerned in the production of these illustrations. It is not want of cleverness, of observation, or of invention, which makes them err. They are the victims of an absurd hobby, which appears to rest on the ultimate principle that art should be made as ugly as possible, and that rather than not be ugly, nature and fact should be falsified. They have set themselves to imitate the asceticism of the old painters before Raphael, and, not having the aid of colour (which the early Italian artists employed to excess, thus in some degree correcting the rigidity of their forms), they produce a result which is often absolutely repellent. Realism is what they are evidently aiming at; but the “reality” is not real. It is a pretence. They omit all the air and light, all the soft, tender gradations of nature, all the poetry and vital glow of earth, sea, and sky, and reduce the breathing whole to a dry anatomy—a harsh affair of outlines. Even on this ground, many of their sketches are imperfect. The work is slovenly without freedom, and minute without exactness. Everything— we are speaking of the worst specimens, and especially of Mr. Pinwell’s productions—is brought up to the surface; the atmosphere is nowhere; there is no light, because no shadow; and the texture of everything is reduced to a uniform appearance, which is that of very coarse frayed cloth or frieze. Large blotches of white are left for the high lights, and in many of the landscapes the ground seems to be covered with snow, though the leaves on the trees indicate anything but winter. In the sketch called “Spring,” where the trees are bare, we supposed that snow really was intended, until we read the accompanying verses, and found that the far-stretching glare of the fields is meant for
The white of the midday sun,
Mr. J. W. North is the artist, and we will make bold to tell him that, though his sketch is clever and striking in itself, it is an absurdity for what it pretends to be. The same thing appears in many of the other illustrations, and in the darker subjects nothing can be more oppressive than the prevailing darkness, which is not the duskiness of nature, but a mere morbid fancy of the artist. he determination to be ugly at all costs is shown in many places, but in none more obviously than in Mr. Pinwell’s illustration to “Kitty Morris.” The poem describes Kitty as a radiant young beauty, whom the supposed utterer of the verses does not know how to approach, because he is only a lad. In the sketch Kitty is a very plain, commonplace, middle-aged woman, engaged at some dairy work or other in a wretched, squalid, outhouse, while the “lad,” who seems to be a mature man, and rather an ill-favoured one, as far as we can see him, looks on loutishly. The best things in the volume are the bits of scenery by Mr. North, which, though not devoid of the prevailing affectation, are sometimes striking and truthful. For instance, the glare of light on the sea in the engraving on page 18 is very remarkable; but it is too obviously copied from some recent photographs. Of the poems contained in the volume (which are original and anonymous) we can only say that some are very fair, and others very poor and sentimental.
The Morning Post (4 December, 1866 - p.3)
ILLUSTRATED GIFT BOOKS.*
The progress of refinement in our literature is manifested to no small extent by the increasing elegance which annually marks the illustrated gift books for Christmas and the New Year. Everything that literary talent or artistic skill of the highest order can accomplish is now pressed into the service to bring them to perfection. The old annuals—whether “Keepsakes,” “Books of Beauty,” or “Forget me nots”—however much admired in their day—are quite eclipsed by the exquisite gems of art to be found among the present publications of a similar nature. Several volumes which fully attest this advancement with the advancing age have made their appearance this year. “Wayside Posies,” an elaborately embellished work, holds a high place among them. It is edited by Robert Buchanan, and consists of original poems relating to country life, with numerous illustrations, engraved by the Brothers Dalziel from the designs of some of our most eminent artists. The editor announces in his few lines of preface that he has selected the poems from a number submitted to him for approval by “men known and unknown,” and (including some little pieces of his own) he has made all alike anonymous that the “unknown men” might meet with unprejudiced judgment. From this introduction it may be inferred that the compositions are of unequal merit; but, at the same time, it is only fair to say that all of them are characterised by a simplicity which accords well with the subjects. Some of the poetry, indeed, is very beautiful, and generally it runs in smooth cadence and is full of pleasant imagery. Only occasionally the rhythm is open to objection in the use of participles emphasized on the last syllable, like charm’ed, stain’ed, and so forth. We know that such accentuation is now frequently adopted; but it carries with it a mingled affectation and incorrectness, to which not even “poetical license” can reconcile the lovers of good, sound metre. “Afloat on the Stream,” “Hope,” “The Swallows,” “A Vesper Hymn,” and “The Journey’s End,” may be cited as containing some very charming writing; but the most beautiful lines altogether are those on “Reaping,” to which allusion is made in the preface. There is a ring about them which touches the heart and elevates the feelings, and they may be described as quite worthy of “Longfellow.” Each verse carries its own charm with it, as will be seen by giving the lines at full length:—
“Up, mortal, and act, while the angel of light
The red sun has rolled himself into the blue,
To Spring comes the budding; to Summer, the blush;
The subject of this “Posie” of rare poetical flowers is illustrated by one of North’s pictures, representing harvest, where the slight discrepancy is observable of the labourers carrying scythes instead of “hooks,” or “sickles,” which, though somewhat fallen into disuse, are still the only implements to indicate “reaping.” “On the Shore,” “Hope,” and the illustration to the first stanzas of “The Swallows,” are also charmingly delineated by the same artist. The second picture to the latter poem, by Pinwell, is not so effective. The original of the “Bit o’ Garden,” by F. Walker (if we mistake not), formed one of the gems at a late exhibition of “Water Colours” by the society. The engraving in this volume is very striking in its contrast of light and shade, but it loses much through the absence of the vivid tints on the beds of flowers bordering a pathway, which were so lovely in the water-colour drawing. Too much praise cannot be accorded to the manipulation of the various pictures by the Brothers Dalziel. They have extended their share of the work with all their accustomed delicacy of touch and appreciation of the original designs. The exterior of the volume displays much taste on the part of the publishers, and in every respect “Wayside Posies” will be accepted as corresponding with its designation, “Dalziel’s Fine Art Gift Book.”
* Wayside Posies: Original Poems of the Country Life. Edited by Robert Buchanan. Pictures by G. J. Pinwell, J. W. North, and Frederick Walker. Engraved by the Brothers Dalziel. London: George Routledge and Sons.
The Standard (13 December, 1866 - p.3)
BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS.—No. 1.
A book under the title Wayside Poesies comes to us from the same firm, in a cover of blue, white, and gold. It is “Dalziel’s Fine Art Gift Book for 1867,” and is more especially interesting from the fact that it contains, we believe, the first editorial work done by Mr. Robert Buchanan, who has evidently not regarded the volume as a “pot boiler,” since he has bestowed a very great deal of pains on the selection of the original poems which it contains, and which are altogether anonymous. Some of them are his own, and many are by new men; but in all there is more or less freshness and vigour, while we can say as much for the illustrations, which are large, well-drawn, and carefully engraved after Messrs. Pinwell, North and F. Walker. This is a really first-rate book in every respect, and, moreover, considering the labour and cost expended on it, a cheap book.
Notes and Queries (Vol. 10 3rd S. (259) 15 December, 1866 - p.486)
Wayside Posies: Original Poems of the Country Life. Edited by Robert Buchanan. Pictures by G. J. Pinwell, J. W. North, and Frederick Walker. Engraved by the Brothers Dalziel. (Routledge.)
This is a Christmas Book edited by a true poet, who rejoicing in the belief, that—
“There are flowers along the peasant’s path
has culled a goodly nosegay of graceful little poems which have for their theme the pleasures of home life, and the riches which are garnered in the domestic affections. The poems are illustrated by nearly fifty engravings by the Brothers Dalziel from the designs of Messrs. Pinwell, North, and Walker; and the volume forms a very handsome and appropriate Gift Book for those who, eschewing the sensational spirit which marks and mars so much of the literature of the present day, prefer a book calculated to stimulate home duties and elevate home affections.
The Athenæum (22 December, 1866)
UNDER this head we class a large number of volumes, all of which are more or less splendid, and some beautiful.
’Tis weary now with over-love, and all for Lizzie’s sake,
and is itself a capital poem. There is a brilliant point, of small size, in ‘Shadow and Substance,’ to which Mr. G. J. Pinwell has not added much of wit or bulk by means of his “odd” sketch of a damsel and her image as reflected in smooth water. We fear the forms of the shadow and substance in this drawing would not bear scientific testing. There is great sweetness as well as a happy knack of versifying in ;Afloat on the Stream.’ ‘School’ is a broadly-treated, well-finished, pleasant and thoughtful composition, with some choice fancies in it, and a sort of “tag” that is not over new. Mr. J. W. North’s drawing to ‘On the Shore’ is a poor thing; the poem itself is as pleasant a piece of Art as the melancholy theme allows. Mr. Pinwell’s illustration to ‘The Swallows’ lacks solidity; the figures are but ghostly, a common defect in works that are stopped at the stage of sketching, and achieve little that is worth the name of study: see ‘The Journey’s End,’ by this artist. Of sketches, poetical as well as pictorial, there are, as might be expected, many in this book. It is, withal, wonderfully cheap. Mr. J. W. North’s drawing to ‘Spring’ is very good, and brilliant with tender sunlight. It is somewhat ungainly in its arrangement of forms. ‘King Pippin’ is capital. Has not the writer of ‘By the Dove-cot’ taken a leetle liberty with the word “enchanted” in rhyming it with “haunted”? A pretty, pleasant verse, ‘The Visions of a City Tree,’ has one of the quaintest as well as most original themes among its class, here or elsewhere; the rural tastes and memories of a house-environed tree are related with much spirit and picturesque power in versifying. Among which the following, after describing the daily woes of the tree, is noteworthy:—
But in the night-time I am blessed
I watch the sunset’s latest dart
Mr. North’s landscape illustration to this poem, although thin, is full of nature of the simplest kind. The best and most carefully-wrought interior view in this book is that which illustrates ‘Norlan Farm,’ by Mr. Pinwell. This is richer in tone than any other; the figures, as is common here, are not very well drawn. ‘Summer Storm,’ both verses and picture, the latter by Mr. Pinwell, is one of the best of this series. ‘The Heath’ shows an excellent landscape by Mr. North, which is not the less good for being of very simple character.
The Illustrated London News (29 December, 1866 - p.10-11)
The poems collected together by Mr. Buchanan, under the name of “Wayside Posies,” are all new and original, but he has thought it better to withhold the names of the authors, in order to let those who have not yet achieved a literary reputation stand a fair chance of approval on the merits of their contributions in this instance. The illustration we have borrowed is one designed by Mr. F. Walker, and engraved, as all the others are, by the Messrs. Dalziel. It refers to a poem of tender melancholy on the death of a child, “Our Little One” is the title, and here is a verse of it:—
All day long the house was glad,
We will not quote the other two verses, which are sad; but the poem is true to the nature of the human heart and to the conditions of human life. There is no truer praise for a poem of this simple kind.
The Pall Mall Gazette (14 September, 1867 - p.4)
Mr. Robert Buchanan has undertaken the editorship of a “Life of John James Audubon,” from materials supplied by his widow.
The Bury and Norwich Post, and Suffolk Herald (24 November, 1868 - p.4)
. . .
A curious association of names is seen in a work published to-day by Messrs. Moxon, viz., The Letters and Journals of Charles Lamb, by Mr. G. A. Sala. Of all living literary people I should have said Mr. Sala was the least able to sympathise with and describe the idiosyncracies of Lamb. Both have humour, it is true; but so it might be said that Mr. Gladstone and Feargus O’Connor were both eloquent. However, it does not seem necessary now to esteem an author very highly to write his life or edit his books. Mr. Robt. Buchanan, who has just edited the journals of Anderton, the naturalist, expresses himself so unfavourably of certain alleged characteristics of that remarkable man, that the widow protests and declares he is moved by prejudice. Mr. Buchanan states this in his preface, and replies to the lady, maintaining his criticisms. The circumstance has hardly an edifying look. A biographer ought, of course, to be as near impartiality as he can, but if he sees many defects in the subject of the memoir, it would be as well if he allowed somebody else to write it. Mr. Buchanan has also just edited a new edition of Longfellow’s works, the first volume of which was published to-day.
The New York Times (6 December, 1868)
AUDUBON THE NATURALIST.
THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF JOHN JAMES AUDUBON, the Naturalist. Edited from materials supplied by his widow, by ROBERT BUCHANAN. London: SAMPSON LOW, SON & MARSTON.
If the truth that science is cosmopolitan and knows no country, clime or language, needed any demonstration, it might be found in the career of the illustrious AUDUBON. A native of Louisiana, he traveled over nearly every part of this country, spending months and indeed years in England and France to promote the great object to which he devoted his life; and now his biography, edited by a Scotchman, ROBERT BUCHANAN, the poet, has just been published in London, and it cannot be long before it shall be reproduced here, not only as the last mark of respect to one of the greatest geniuses to which our country can lay claim, but to show to all who may be called on to struggle with adverse fortune that there are no obstacles which energy and perseverance, guided by an indomitable will, may not overcome.
“When I awoke in the morning and made my rounds through the camp, I found a squaw had been delivered of beautiful twins during the night, and I saw the same squaw at work tanning deer-skins. She had cut two vines at the roots of opposite trees, and made a cradle of bark, in which the new-born ones were wafted to and fro with a push of her hand, while, from time to time she gave them the breast, and was apparently as unconcerned as if the event had not taken place. * * * *
After a short time spent in Genevieve, AUDUBON became thoroughly wearied of business, and impatient to get back to his young wife who had come as far west as Hendersonville. ROSIER had married, and AUDUBON having sold out his interest to him determined to make his way across the country to Hendersonville. During this journey he met with the most thrilling adventure and the most narrow escape of his life. The story has, we believe, been told in substance before, and has probably been the basis of numerous dime novels and magazine narratives, but it is worth repeating, since the chief part shall be given in AUDUBON’S words. One night as he was making his way across a prairie near the Upper Mississippi, he sought shelter in a log hut, the only inmates of which were a muscular and repulsive-looking woman and a young Indian who had sought assistance there after having, by accident, nearly put out one of his eyes. AUDUBON chanced to let the woman get a glimpse of his watch, which was of rare workmanship, and the sight of it at once aroused her cupidity. Letting her take it to examine, he only managed to get possession of it quietly by a ruse, and not until the Indian had endeavored by pantomime to draw his attention to certain suspicious actions on the part of their hostess. Going out of the hut AUDUBON slipped a ball into each barrel of his rifle, picked the locks, and returning, called his faithful dog to his side, threw himself down upon a few bear skins, and feigned sleep. The rest of the story shall be told in his own words. He writes:
“A short time had elapsed when some voices were heard, and from the corner of my eyes I saw two athletic youths making their entrance, bearing a dead stag on a pole. They disposed of their burden, and asking for whisky helped themselves freely to it. Observing me and the wounded Indian, they asked who I was, and why the d—l that rascal (meaning the Indian, who, they knew, understood not a word of English,) was in the house? The mother, for so she proved to be, bade them speak less loudly, made mention of my watch, and took them to a corner, where a conversation took place, the purport of which it required little shrewdness in me to guess. I tapped my dog gently, he moved his tail, and with indescribable pleasure I saw his fine eyes alternately fixed on me and raised towards the trio in the corner. I felt that he perceived danger in my situation. The Indian exchanged the last glance with me.
Western Kentucky was then, possibly because the country was not “well settled,” troubled, as California is now, with earthquakes. The effect produced by the phenomenon is thus graphically described:
“In the month of November the naturalist was riding along on horseback, when he heard what he imagined to be the distant rumbling of a violent tornado. ‘On which,’ says he, ‘I spurred my steed, with a wish to gallop as fast as possible to the place of shelter. But it would not do; the animal knew better than I what was forthcoming, and instead of going faster, so nearly stopped, that I remarked he placed one foot after another on the ground with as much precaution as if walking on a smooth sheet of ice. I thought he had suddenly foundered, and, speaking to him, was on the point of dismounting and leading him, when he, all of a sudden, fell a groaning piteously, hung his head, spread out his four legs, as if to save himself from falling, and stood stock still, continuing to groan. I thought my horse was about to die, and would have sprung from his back had a minute more elapsed; but at that instant all the shrubs and trees began to move from their very roots, the ground rose and fell in successive furrows, like the ruffled waters of a lake, and I became bewildered in my ideas, as I too plainly discovered that all this commotion in nature was the result of an earthquake. I had never witnessed anything of the kind before, although, like every other person, I knew of earthquakes by description. But what is description compared with reality? Who can tell of the sensations which I experienced when I found myself rocking, as it were, upon my horse, and with him moved to and fro like a child in a cradle, with the most imminent danger around me? The fearful convulsion, however, lasted only a few minutes, and the heavens again brightened as quickly as they had become obscured; my horse brought his feet to the natural position, raised his head and galloped off as if loose and frolicking without a rider.
While residing at Hendersonville one misfortune after another overtook AUDUBON. His father died, and as he did not learn of the sad event for nearly a year, he lost, through the failure of a merchant in Richmond, Va., the sum of $17,000, which had been deposited with him by the elder AUDUBON for the benefit of his son. One unfortunate business venture followed another until hardly anything was left him but his sick wife, his gun, his dog and his skill in drawing with his knowledge of dancing, fencing, &c. Still his courage did not for a moment desert him. Foiled in one place he left it for another. From Kentucky he went to Cincinnati, where he was for a time curator of the Museum, and thence down the Mississippi to Natchez and New-Orleans. His diary during this time gives us most graphic sketches of every phase of Western life, with accounts more or less detailed of notabilities with whom he was now and then thrown in contact. Of RAFINESQUE, the eccentric naturalist, he tells this odd incident:
“After a day’s pursuit of natural history studies, the stranger was accommodated with a bed in an attic-room. We had all retired to rest; every person, I imagined, was in deep slumber save myself, when of a sudden I heard a great uproar in the naturalist’s room. I got up, reached the place in a few minutes, and opened the door, when, to my astonishment, I saw my guest running about naked, holding the handle of my favorite violin, the body of which he had battered to pieces against the walls in attempting to kill the bats which had entered by the open window, probably attracted by the insects flying around his candle. I stood amazed, but he continued jumping and running round and round until he was fairly exhausted, when he begged me to procure one of the animals for him, as he felt convinced they belonged to a ‘new species.’ Although I was convinced of the contrary, I took up the bow of my demolished cremona, and administering a smart tap to each of the bats as it came up, soon got specimens enough. The war ended, I again bade him good night, but could not help observing the state of the room. It was strewed with plants, which had been previously arranged with care. He saw my regret for the havoc that had been created, but added that he would soon put his plants to rights—after he had secured his specimens of bats.”
Of another eccentricity, a painter, whose name is not given, but whose oddities fascinated AUDUBON, we have this amusing sketch.
“His head was crowned with a straw hat, the brim of which might cope with those worn by the fair sex in 1830; his neck was exposed to the weather; the broad frill of a shirt, then fashionable, flopped about his breast, while an extraordinary collar, carefully arranged, fell on the top of his coat. The latter was of a light green color, harmonising well with a pair of flowing yellow nankeen trousers and a pink waistcoat, from the bosom of which, amid a large bunch of the splendid flowers of the magnolia, protruded part of a young alligator, which seemed more anxious to glide through the muddy waters of a swamp than to spend its life swinging to and fro among folds of the purest lawn. The gentleman held in one hand a cage full of richly plumed nonpareils, while in the other he sported a silk umbrella, on which I could plainly read ‘Stolen from I.,’ these words being painted in large white characters. He walked as if conscious of his own importance; that is with a good deal of pomposity, singing, ‘My love is but a lassie yet;’ and that, with such thorough imitation of the Scotch emphasis, that had not his physiognomy suggested another parentage, I should have believed him to be a genuine Scot. A narrower acquaintance proved him to be a Yankee; and anxious to make his acquaintance, I desired to see his birds. He retorts, ‘What the devil did I know about birds?’ I explained to him that I was a naturalist, whereupon he requested me to examine his birds. I did so with some interest, and was preparing to leave, when he bade me come to his lodging and see the remainder of his collection. This I willingly did, and was struck with amazement at the appearance of his studio. Several cages were hung about the walls, containing specimens of birds, all of which I examined at my leisure. On a large easel before me stood an unfinished portrait, other pictures hung about, and in the room were two young pupils; and at a glance I discovered that the eccentric stranger was, like myself, a naturalist and an artist. The artist, as modest as he was odd, showed me how he laid on the paint on his pictures, asked after my own pursuits, and showed a friendly spirit which enchanted me. With a ramrod for a rest, he prosecuted his work vigorously, and afterward asked me to examine a percussion lock on his gun, a novelty to me at the time. He snapped some caps, and on my remarking that he would frighten his birds, he exclaimed, ‘Devil take the birds, there are more of them in the market.’ He then loaded his gun, and wishing to show me that he was a marksman, fired at one of the pins on his easel. This he smashed to pieces, and afterward put a rifle bullet exactly through the hole into which the pin fitted.”
During the vicissitudes through which he passed at this period, he was nobly sustained by his self-sacrificing wife, who secured a position as governess in one or another of the families of wealthy Southern planters able to remunerate her well for her valuable services. AUDUBON had all the while been prosecuting the subscription which was to enable him to bring out his great work on ornithology, and, after securing three hundred names in this country, determined to go to England and take further subscriptions and get the plates under way, and he accordingly sailed from New-Orleans for Liverpool, in April, 1826.
“I have balanced my accounts with the Birds of America, and the whole business is really wonderful; $40,000 have passed through my hands for the completion of the first volume. Who would believe that a lonely individual, who landed in England without a friend in the whole country, and with only sufficient pecuniary means to travel through it as a visitor, would have accomplished such a task as this publication! Who would believe that once in London, AUDUBON had only one sovereign in his pocket, and did not know of a single individual to whom to apply to borrow another, when he was on the verge of failure, in the very beginning of his undertaking; and above all, who would believe that he extricated himself from all his difficulties, not by borrowing money, but by rising at 4 o’clock in the morning, working hard all day, and disposing of his works at a price which a common laborer would have thought little more than sufficient remuneration for his work? ‘To give you an idea of my actual difficulties during the publication of my first volume, it will be sufficient to say, that in the four years required to bring that volume before the world, no less than fifty of my subscribers, representing the sum of $56,000, abandoned me! And whenever a few withdrew I was forced to leave London and go to the provinces to obtain others to supply their places, in order to enable me to raise the money to meet the expenses of engraving, coloring, paper, printing, &c.; and that with all my constant exertions, fatigues and vexations, I find myself now having but 130 standing names on my list.”
On Sept. 3, 1831, AUDUBON again landed in New-York, and soon after went to Florida, where he had determined to spend the Winter. The “Live Oakers,” “Deer Hunting,” “The Wreckers,” “The Touters,” &c., furnish the material for graphic and thrilling sketches to which we can only allude. In August of the following year, with his wife and two sons, he made a journey into the State of Maine, thence through New Brunswick to Labrador, where he spent a summer. A visit to Florida was proposed, but abandoned, for the winter of 1833-34, and in April of 1834 he returned to London with his wife and sons. Soon afterward he called on Baron ROTHSCHILD with proper letters of introduction, hoping to secure his subscription to the Ornithology. He writes:
“Soon a corpulent man appeared, hitching up his trousers, and a face red with the exertion of walking, and, without noticing any one present, dropped his fat, comfortable body into a chair, as if caring for no one else in this wide world but himself. While the Baron sat, we stood, with our hats held respectfully in our hands. I stepped forward and with a bow tendered him my credentials. The banker opened the letter, read it with the manner of one who was looking only at the temporal side of things, and after reading it said; ‘This is only a letter of introduction, and I expect from its contents that you are the publisher of some book or other and need my subscription.’ Had a man the size of a mountain spoken to me in that arrogant style in America, I should have indignantly resented it; but where I then was it seemed best to swallow and digest it as well as I could; so in reply to the offensive arrogance of this banker I said I should be honored by his subscription to the Birds of America. ‘Sir,’ he said, ‘I never sign my name to any subscription list; but you may send me your work and I will pay for a copy of it. Gentlemen, I am busy, I wish you good morning.’ We were busy men, too, and so bowing respectfully, we retired, pretty well satisfied with the small slice of his opulence which our labor was likely to obtain.”
The point of this interview was in its result. Several numbers of the Birds of America were sent to the Baron by AUDUBON and after eight or ten months a bill for £100 was presented. “The Baron” writes AUDUBON, “looked at it with amazement and cried out, ‘What, a £100 for birds! Why, Sir, I will give you £5, and not a farthing more,’” and since the naturalist did not regard that amount of the Baron’s money as worth a £100 from any one else he was compelled to take back the numbers delivered.
The Morning Post (29 December, 1868 - p.3)
THE LIFE OF AUDUBON.*
Philosophers are generally supposed to lead very tranquil lives. Ruminating in the quietude of their libraries, they are thought to be sifting out of the more active researches of others materials on which to reflect and to reason. We learn, however, from these memoirs of John James Audubon, and in other instances, that the naturalist, who is intently watching the properties and habits of animal existence, especially among the wild tribes of the jungle and the desert, endures severer hardships and braves more terrific dangers than usually fall to the lot of man. Such adventures are the principal subject-matter of this volume, amusing in its variety and attraction by the interest which it keeps awake. The editor gives us to understand that the information on which it is founded was communicated to him by Audubon’s widow, in a narrative consisting chiefly of her husband’s own autobiography, but so prolix and diffuse, that, while preparing it for the press, the manuscript has been, in the exercise of a sound discretion, cut down to one-fifth of its original amplitude. Nor can he vouch for its perfect authenticity and entire freedom from the partial bias of domestic affection. Highly admiring the great naturalist, thinking him a grand and large-hearted man, and desiring to see him understood by the public, he is, nevertheless, not blind to his failings as here revealed in the confessions of his diary. “Call Audubon vain,” he says, “call him in some things selfish, call him flighty and inconsequential in his worldly conduct—all these qualities are palpable in every page. He was handsome, and he knew it; he was elegant, and he prided himself upon it; he was generous in most things, but did not love his rivals; he prattled about himself like an infant, gloried in his long hair, admired the fine curve of his nose, thought ‘blood’ a great thing, and reverenced the great.” Yet these were the faults of “a man of genius, with the courage of a lion and the simplicity of a child. One scarcely knows which to admire most—the mighty determination which enabled him to carry out his great work in the face of difficulties so huge, or the gentle and guileless sweetness with which he throughout shared his thoughts and aspirations with his wife and children, who were never failing for a moment in their faith that he was destined to be one of the great workers of the earth.” His family was of French origin; John Audubon, his grandfather, was a poor fisherman in the small village of Sable d’Olorne, in La Vendée. With the earnings of this humble pursuit he brought up a large family, 21 of whom attained to maturity. His neighbours till a late date remembered having seen the patriarch with his wife and the long train of their offspring regularly attending their church devotions. The father of the naturalist was the 20th of this filial group. At the age of 12 years he was sent forth to seek for his fortune, provided with a shirt, a dress of warm clothing, a cane, and the paternal blessing. Arrived at Nantes, he found immediate employment as a sailor-boy on board a vessel bound on a fishing voyage to the coast of America. Always wandering from one clime to another, he thriftily acquired the means of speculative enterprise, alternately making and losing money; but the balance of luck must have been greatly in his favour, for we find him at different times in possession of landed property both in France and in the colonies. Among the last he had an estate in Louisiana, where he married a lady of Spanish extraction, beautiful and wealthy, and there their third son, John James, afterwards the eminent naturalist, was born in 1775. Little information is given us respecting the boy’s early years, and scanty particulars of his education, with much want of accuracy in dates. Madame Audubon, having accompanied her husband to one of his plantations at Auxes Cayes, in the Island of St. Domingo, perished miserably there during a negro insurrection. Having converted into money and plate all that he could save of his property, he returned with his family to France, where he married a second time. He obtained a commission in what is here, by a strange anachronism, called “the Imperial navy,” and leaving his children under the care of their step-mother, sailed to co-operate with the auxiliary force of Lafayette in the revolted British colonies. During a visit to Pennsylvania he purchased the farm of Millgrove, on the Parkiominy Creek, near the Schuylkill Falls. Again domiciled in his native land with a post in the marine, he retired to a beautiful domain on the Loire, nine miles from Nantes, where he died in 1818, at the advanced age of 95 years. This brief outline of the father’s career explains much in the son’s early training. The boy’s first recollections were of Louisiana, “lying among the flowers of that fertile land, sheltered by the orange trees, watching the movements of the mocking-bird,” and receiving vivid impressions of all nature. Removed to France, his education was to begin there; but the military fever of the time diverted attention from all instruction not preparatory for that line of service, in which direction the opening mind of the youth took its bent. Left under the superintendence of his step-mother, who, having no children of her own, treated him with the fondest indulgence, she weaned him from this predilection by affording him the means of wandering in the country and reviving his love of nature. Supplied with a haversack of provisions, he made frequent and long excursions, always bring home treasures of curious specimens which he had picked up and arranged in his cabinet with self-taught systematism. Music, fencing, and geography were less earnestly cultivated; dancing was a favourite accomplishment; but the lessons in drawing which he received from the eminent artist, David, were improved with avidity to copy objects of natural history, especially its ornithological varieties. Returning from the sea, his father was astonished at the taste and ingenuity of his son; but, dissatisfied with his neglect of more solid attainments, he insisted upon a course of close application to mathematics. He wished the young man to enter either the army or the navy; but finding the indications of the naturalist insuperably predominant, he sent him to look after his farm in the United States. At Millgrove, John James Audubon devoted himself to the course of life for which he had been prepared by his previous tendencies and occupations. Hunting, fishing, and drawing were the employments of his time, and imparted to him that practical knowledge which suggested and fitted him for his great task. Birds selected their nesting-places on the quiet banks of the milldam which was part of his estate, and afforded him constant opportunities for watching their habits. The peaceful Quakers around him were friendly, and did not interfere with his pursuits. On the adjoining property of Fatland Ford resided a family of the name of Bakewell, who had recently emigrated from England, purchased and settled upon the territory. Imbued by early prejudice with an intense hatred of everything English, Audubon repelled the advances of his neighbours and declined to reciprocate their civilities. Accidentally meeting the father on a creek expedition in search of grouse, he found in him a spirit congenial to his own, a keen lover of the chase, and an expert marksman. They became acquainted; intercourse with the other inmates of the home duly ensued; the incredulous Frenchman was convinced that even “perfidious Albion” can produce estimable persons; he gave the eldest daughter drawing lessons, and she in return instructed him in her native tongue, till at last his admiration culminated in his marrying Lucy Bakewell. Their union was delayed by necessary measures for increasing his income by engaging in some regular avocation. The working of a lead mine then in progress on his land was frustrated by the frauds of an assistant whom his father had sent to promote the undertaking. To arrange this matter and obtain the consent of his parents to his matrimonial project he once more repaired to France, when we are again puzzled by an extraordinary complication of dates. He is said to have rejoined his family at the period when “the tremendous convulsions of the French empire had culminated in colossal preparations for a conflict with Russia.” This refers evidently to the year 1812; yet we learn that, to evade the conscription, he was enrolled as a midshipman in the navy; that he remained a year at home, then obtained leave of absence and returned to America with a friend who was to be his partner in bird-hunting, and in some proposed commercial enterprise; that to initiate himself in habits of industry he passed some time in a counting-room at New York; that he sold the property at Millgrove, and with the proceeds established a mercantile concern in Louisville, Kentucky; and then, after all this, that on the 8th of April, 1808, he married Lucy Bakewell at Fatland Ford! This confusion can be cleared up only by supposing that he arrived in France on the eve of Napoleon’s first war with Austria in 1805. One of his brothers-in-law has described him at that period as “An admirable marksman, an expert swimmer, a clever rider, possessed great activity, prodigious strength, and was notable for the elegance of his figure and the beauty of his features, and he aided nature by a careful attendance to his dress. Besides other accomplishments he was musical, a good dancer, had some acquaintance of legerdemain tricks, worked in hair, and could plait willow baskets.” All these were unprofitable amusements; and that which he preferred above the whole of them—the collection of materials for his work on the “History of Birds”—he had still to look forward for years before it could remunerate his labours. Success in trade was not to be the reward of so unsteady and eccentric a practitioner; the first lesson which he received was a heavy loss by a speculation in indigo. It is impossible to follow, even in its curtailed proportions, the track of this erratic genius, never remaining long in any fixed residence, or persevering in any employment except his studies of nature, maintaining himself sometimes by the produce of his gun or his fishing-rod, sometimes by portrait-painting, by stuffing or pictorially copying birds and animals, and by public exhibitions of his museum. Adventures in the prairies and swamps, on lakes and rivers, escapes from dangers among treacherous Indians and wild tenants of the forest—these and other incidents recur in a succession too rapid for special notice. Pecuniary losses and continual peregrinations compelled him to find a home for his wife and young son beneath her father’s roof. Years of wanderings and mishaps ended in his establishing her at the head of a school in Bayou Saru, on the Mississippi, where her industry and talents were rewarded by an income of $3,000 a year/ To this he earned a considerable addition by lessons in dancing and fencing; but the awkwardness of his pupils provoked his irritable temper so much that he broke his bow, and nearly his violin, in his excitement and impatience. This prosperity was too tame to suit his restless disposition. Disappointed in his efforts to bring out at home his great ornithological work, he turned his thoughts to England, where he expected to reap the fame so tardily awarded to heroes in their own country. Leaving his wife and family at Bayou Saru, April 26, 1826, he set sail from New Orleans, and arrived at Liverpool on the 20th July. Furnished with letters of recommendation, he was soon introduced to Mr. Rathbone, Mr. Roscoe, and the other literary celebrities of the place. They admired his drawings and preserved specimens, encouraged him to make them more widely known by public exhibition, and suggested a visit to Edinburgh as the proper sphere for his exertions. Welcomed by the best society in that seat of learning, he found zealous patrons of his undertaking, who are duly recorded in his diary. “My success in Edinburgh borders on the miraculous. My book is to be published in numbers, containing four birds in each the size of life, in a style surpassing anything now existing, at two guineas a number. The engravings are truly beautiful; some of them have been coloured, and are now on exhibition.” A few days later he wrote, “The exhibition of my birds more crowded than ever. This day I summed up the receipts, and they amounted to $300.” On the 17th of March, 1827, stands the entry, “Issued my prospectus this morning for the publication of my great work.” He made many provincial tours, canvassing everywhere for subscribers, till he at last made his way to London, whither he transferred from Mr. Lizars, of Edinburgh, to a metropolitan publisher the office of ushering his work into the world. His habit of sedulously courting the great conciliated the favour of the aristocracy, many of whom added their names to his list. As soon as the first number was ready he presented a copy to George IV., who expressed his admiration, allowed it to be dedicated to him, and placed himself at the head of its patrons. Here Audubon had attained the only object for which he had perseveringly laboured. In a strange country, with little ready money at command, he had launched a publication the completion of which would cost $100,000, and with which his fame is associated. Beyond this point the interest of his memoir flags. During a visit to Paris, in 1828, he obtained the friendship of Cavier, came back to London, and, on the 1st of April, 1829, returned to America. The desultory tenor of his subsequent life supplies a fund of entertaining anecdotes, but the want of a definite purpose detracts from their value. In 1846 his mind entirely failed him, and his remaining years are an uncheered blank till he breathed his last on the 1st of January, 1851. The intimate knowledge of the man which may be culled from these pages certainly tends to lower the respect which the reputation of the author had inspired. So much infirmity of purpose and instability of decision are not relieved by the single trait of consistent pursuit, the merits of which consist rather in manual dexterity and expert copyism than in original and philosophical studies of natural facts.
* The Life and Adventures of John James Audubon, the Naturalist. Edited, from Materials supplied by his Widow, by Robert Buchanan. London: Sampson Low, Son, and Marston.
The Academy (19 March, 1898 - p.332)
NOT a productive week. The issue of a bulky two-volume biography of Audubon, the naturalist, may seem superfluous at this date; but the author of Audubon and his Journals must be allowed the privileges of a grand-daughter. Moreover, Miss Audubon writes her biography because she thinks it is needed to counteract the existing one edited by Mr. Robert Buchanan. She writes in her Preface:
“The Life of Audubon, the Naturalist, edited by Mr. Robert Buchanan from material supplied by his widow, covers, or is supposed to cover, the same ground I have gone over; that the same journals were used is obvious; and, besides these, others, destroyed by fire in Shelbyville, Ky., were at my grandmother’s command, and more than all, her own recollections and voluminous diaries. Her MS., which I never saw, was sent to the English publishers, and was not returned to the author by them or by Mr. Buchanan. How much of it was valuable, it is impossible to say; but the fact remains that Mr. Buchanan’s book is so mixed up, so interspersed with anecdotes and episodes, and so interlarded with derogatory remarks of his own, as to be practically useless to the world, and very unpleasant to the Audubon family. Moreover, with few exceptions, everything about birds has been left out. Many errors in dates and names are apparent, especially the date of the Missouri River journey, which is ten years later than he states. However, if Mr. Buchanan had done his work better, there would have been no need for mine; so I forgive him, even though he dwells at unnecessary length on Audubon’s vanity and selfishness, of which I find no traces.”
The biography which Miss Audubon has put forth may claim to have received the imprimatur of the Audubon family; but doubtless Mr. Buchanan will have something to say in defence of his own work.
Illustrated Times (30 November, 1867 - p.343)
MR. ROBERT BUCHANAN is preparing a bijou edition of Longfellow’s poems for Messrs. Moxon, which is to contain a complete collection of that author’s poetical works, and to appear in two volumes, uniform with the popular edition of Hood’s serious and comic poems. Each volume will be prefaced by a critical essay by the editor.
The Daily News (24 November, 1868 - p.3)
The Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Edited and prefaced by ROBERT BUCHANAN. Vol. 1.Edward Moxon and Co. 1868.
The first volume is published of a new edition of the works of Longfellow, edited and prefaced by Mr. Buchanan— himself a poet, who has proved his claim to the title by work, some of which at least promises to be enduring. Oddly enough—and yet perhaps naturally, when one comes to think of it—Mr. Longfellow’s wonderful popularity has been often cited against him. His poems are read, and loved, and learnt all the world over (for is not the English tongue spoken now-a-days all over the world?); and so critics have come to ask whether what pleases everybody is worthy also of the “fit audience” whose praise is dearest to the poet? Mr. Longfellow, we reply, has done much—witness “Hiawatha” and many of his lyrics—which will satisfy the severest critics; but he has also done a little—very little, indeed, when compared with the bulk of his writings—which, although it has achieved popularity, is unworthy of enduring fame. We are glad to see that Mr. Buchanan does full justice to what we may call the many-sidedness of Longfellow, and to his vast literary culture. He says, too, and with truth, that “of all contemporary poets, with, perhaps, the exception of Mr. Morris, Longfellow is the best teller of stories.” We cannot, however, agree with the editor of this charming edition, that “Evangeline” is finer than Goethe’s exquisite idyl, the “Hermann and Dorothea.”
The Standard (26 December, 1868)
The Poetical Works of Longfellow. Edited and Prefaced by Robert Buchanan. Vol. I. Narrative Poems and Ballads. London: E. Moxon and Co.
The Atlas (8 January, 1869 - p.11)
Longfellow’s Poetical Works. Vol. I. Moxon & Co.
A very pretty miniature edition of the popular poet, with a brief preface from the pen of Robert Buchanan, to which we could have accorded unmixed approbation had it not been disfigured by sundry affectations in epithet, such as “selective,” “sub-Faustian,” &c. The feeling of appreciation for his subject which animates the writer is admirable, but his power of expression hardly equal to his intention.
The Pall Mall Gazette, reprinted in Littell’s Living Age (20 March, 1869 - No. 1294, p.745)
THE first volume of Messrs. Moxon and Co.’s edition of Mr. Longfellow’s Poetical Works is well printed, though in very small type. It contains all the poet’s narrative pieces. Mr. Robert Buchanan is the editor, and with great condescension introduces this obscure writer to the English public. From his preface, which is short but trenchant, we learn that Mr. Longfellow’s “faculty of story-telling is unique; his spiritual insight singularly calm and pure; his purpose admirable; his cadence rhythmical; and his whole art full of self-reverence and conscience.” In spite of this he is, Mr. Buchanan intimates, not a poet in the highest sense, but. like Byron (to a great extent), Browning (in a higher degree), Goethe (still more nearly), and Crabbe and Scott altogether, a rhetorical versifier, or a writer who “employs verse for the sake of its elegant effects.” “Only a few selective spirits,” it is added, “sing always because they find all other utterance inadequate.” Is Mr. Buchanan aware that “selective” cannot possibly mean selected? Further on we hear that Mr. Longfellow “is now and then prolix, but not so prolix as Goethe in the sub-Faustian and non-lyrical pieces.” We should like to bring Mr. Buchanan to chapter and verse about these “pieces.” This editor seems to be unwilling to praise one man without depreciating another. He tells us that “Evangeline” is “infinitely finer than the ‘Hermann and Dorothea.’” Finally, Mr. Buchanan sends forth the volume with a good word for its contents, and a bad one for a much-abused class of his fellow creatures. “In a word, they are all beautiful, all are full of clear ringing tones, and a pleasant music. The public is right to love them in defiance of small critics, who love nothing.” In six short pages this amiable editor has contrived to disparage a good many persons, including his author, and to leave a most unpleasant impression of dogmatism and pretension on the mental palate prepared to enjoy the Attic fare spread by a gentleman and a scholar. Such a banquet should have another marshal than Mr. Buchanan.