Robert Buchanan by Harriett Jay
Additional Biographies
Reminiscences of Buchanan
The Last Months of Buchanan
Buchanan’s Funeral
Buchanan’s Grave
Robert Buchanan Timeline:
     Documents (census returns etc.)
     Robert Buchanan Snr.

Buchanan’s Music
Chronological Bibliography

Idyls and Legends of Inverburn
London Poems
Ballad Stories of the Affections
North Coast
The Book of Orm
Napoleon Fallen
The Drama of Kings
Saint Abe and his Seven Wives
White Rose and Red
Balder the Beautiful
Ballads of Life, Love, and Humour
The Earthquake
The City of Dream
The Outcast
The Wandering Jew
     The Wandering Jew’ Controversy
The Devil’s Case
The Ballad of Mary the Mother
The New Rome
‘Faces on the Wall’
Poems from Other Sources
     The Glasgow Sentinel
     Newton Neville
Selected Poems
Alphabetical List of Poems on the Site

The Rath Boys
The Witchfinder
A Madcap Prince
The Queen of Connaught
The Nine Days’ Queen
The Mormons
The Shadow of the Sword
Lucy Brandon
Lady Clare
[Flowers of the Forest]
A Sailor and His Lass
Alone in London
The Blue Bells of Scotland
Joseph’s Sweetheart
That Doctor Cupid
The Old Home
A Man’s Shadow
Man and the Woman
Miss Tomboy
The Bride of Love
Sweet Nancy
The English Rose
The Struggle for Life
The Sixth Commandment
The Gifted Lady
The Trumpet Call
Squire Kate
The White Rose
The Lights of Home
The Black Domino
The Piper of Hamelin
The Charlatan
Dick Sheridan
A Society Butterfly
Lady Gladys
The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown
The Romance of the Shopwalker

The Wanderer from Venus
The Mariners of England
Two Little Maids from School
When Knights Were Bold
Short Plays
Other Plays
Buchanan in America
Poetry Readings

A Hero In Spite Of Himself
The Moment After

Short Stories
‘My Aunt’s Christmas’
‘A Heart Struggle’
‘Lady Letitia’s Lilliput Hand’
‘A Roman Supper’
‘Poor Bonnithorne!’
‘The Heir’
‘Miss Birchington’s Love Story’
‘My Good Fairy’
‘A Dream; and a Deduction’
‘A Queer Theatrical Engagement’
‘The Peacocks’ Feathers’
‘An Old Reckoning’

David Gray and other Essays, chiefly on poetry
The Coming Terror
‘Robert Herrick, Poet and Divine’
‘Cœlebs in Search of Relaxation’
Donne the Metaphysician’
‘Society’s Looking-glass’
‘Poems About Babies’
‘Bridal Poetry’
‘Love Songs of Horace and Catullus’
‘Pythagors and the Poets’
‘Review of Dramatis Personæ by Robert Browning’
‘Review of The Ballad-Book: a Selection of the Choicest British Ballads by William Allingham’
‘Danish Romances’
‘Wintering at Étretat’
‘Étretat in the Bathing Season’
‘Immorality in Authorship’
‘Review of Essays on Robert Brownings Poetry by John T. Nettleship and A Study of the Works of Alfred Tennyson, D.C.L., Poet-Laureate by Edward Campbell Tainsh’
‘Review of Graffiti d’Italia by W. W. Story and Beatrice, and other Poems by the Hon. Roden Noel’
‘George Heath, The Moorland Poet’
‘Mr. John Morley’s Essays’
‘The Fleshly School of Poetry’
‘On Mystic Realism’
‘Tennyson’s Charm’
‘Criticism as One of the Fine Arts’
‘Pity the Poor Drama!’
‘Prose and Verse’
’The Newest Thing in Journalism’
‘Fashionable Farces’
‘Wylie’s Life of Thomas Carlyle’
‘Charles Reade: a Personal Reminiscence’
The Stage of Today’
‘A Talk with George Eliot’
The Landlord-Shooters
Free Thought in America
Literary Bohemia
Dining with Trollope
‘Review of Ballads and Poems by Members of the Glasgow Ballad Club’
Theatrical First Nights
‘W. E. Forster: a Personal Reminiscence’
Mr. Ruskin and Mr. Froude
‘A Note on Emile Zola’
‘In Memoriam: Lester Wallack’
‘On Descending into Hell’
The Modern Drama and Its Minor Critics
How Plays Are Made
‘The French Novelette As Norwegian Drama’
‘The Drama in England’
‘How I Write My Plays’
The Muses in England
‘My First Book’
‘Is Barabbas a necessity?’
The Ethics of Play-Licensing
An Interesting Experiment
A Word on the Defunct Drama
Preface to The Truth about the Game Laws
‘The Voice of “The Hooligan”’

Miscellaneous Works
Buchanan and the Magazines

To William Hepworth Dixon
To Robert Browning
To Roden Noel
To Alfred Tennyson
To the Brothers Dalziel
To Augustin Daly
To Chatto & Windus
To George Bernard Shaw
To Alfred Russel Wallace
Letters from Collections
Published Letters
Random Letters
List of Locations of Buchanan’s Letters
Mary Buchanan’s Album

The Fleshly School Controversy
The Fleshly School of Poetry’
‘The Stealthy School of Criticism’
The ‘Fleshly School’ Pamphlet
Under The Microscope
Reviews of Rossetti’s Poems
Related Documents
The ‘Fleshly School’ in the Press
The ‘Fleshly School’ Libel Action
Buchanan’s Apology
Other Accounts of the Controversy
Critical Essays
A ‘Fleshly School’ Timeline
An additional note

Buchanan and the Press
Articles about Buchanan
Latter-Day Leaves
Letters to the Press

Buchanan and the Law
Lucy Brandon
Alone in London
Lady Gladys
The Charlatan
Buchanan’s Bankruptcy:
     Rudolph Blind
     R. Buchanan Snr.’s Bankruptcy
Dick Sheridan
Harriett Jay’s Bankruptcy
A Showman’s Courtship

The Critical Response
including Robert Buchanan, the Poet of Modern Revolt by A. Stodart-Walker

Harriett Jay
Book Reviews
Theatre Reviews
Short Stories
The Literary Ladies’ Dinner

A Letter from Tennyson’s Brother
A Trip to Oban
‘Like a Giant Refreshed’
‘Art in England’ by Israel Zangwill
Random Cuttings


Site Diary
Diary Archives

Site Search





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

The Critical Response
Harriett Jay

Site Diary
Site Search



15 November 2021

Late News

Robert Buchanan died at 90, Lewin Road, Streatham in 1901 (said it was late) and now Lambeth Council have approved the naming of a new development between Lewin and Natal Roads as ‘Buchanan Lodge’.


More information and another photo at The Streatham Society where I came across the information, posted by Mark Bery, the Society’s Secretary, on the 18th May this year (said it was late).



Just a couple of additions to the ‘Critical Response’ section of the site:

Hoxie Neale Fairchild’s assessment of Robert Buchanan and Roden Noel from Volume IV (‘1830-1880 Christianity and Romanticism in the Victorian Era’) of his Religious Trends in English Poetry (New York: Columbia University Press, 1957).

Buchanan and Noel

This prompted me to move Roden Noel’s assessment of Buchanan to that page, and to add Robert Buchanan’s own assessment of Roden Noel (his Preface to Poems of the Hon. Roden Noel. A selection) to the ‘Essays’ section.

And a complimentary assessment of Buchanan’s poetry by W. Gibson from the September and October 1877 issues of The Poets’ Magazine popped up on the Internet Archive. Coming after the Fleshly School Libel Trial of the previous year (which is referred to in the piece) this is quite refreshing. Very much a fanboy’s (or fangirl’s) response to Buchanan.

Robert Buchanan in The Poets’ Magazine


27 September 2021

Another Last Letter

This just turned up on ebay. I’ve put the following on the Random Letters page, and I put something similar when I discovered another of these in the collection from UCLA, so forgive me for repeating myself but I thought I should acknowledge it here as well as burying it elsewhere.


To Grant Richards - 19th October [1900].

9 Duchess St
Portland Place
Oct 19

Dear Mr Richards,

                   I have been expecting to hear from you respecting our little chat.

                   R. Buchanan.

Grant Richards Esq.


[This letter (more of a note) turned up on ebay at the end of September, 2021. At first sight it appears rather inconsequential but its significance lies in the date. Although there is no year, the address confirms it as 1900, since, as Harriett Jay states in her biography of Robert Buchanan:

     ‘We arrived at the rooms in Duchess Street on Monday, October 8, 1900, and all those friends who saw him at that time were amazed at the wonderful improvement in his health, for his old gaiety of spirit seemed to have come back to stay.’

And she continues:

‘His interest in his work was keener than it had been for years, and he was never tired of talking over future plans. Although we had taken rooms in the busiest part of London he continued his cycling as before, going about among the traffic with an intrepidity which filled me with terror. On Wednesday, October 17th, he went to the Avenue Theatre, saw and greatly enjoyed the performance of “A Messenger from Mars.” On the Thursday morning he interviewed several people on business, and got a little excited in conversation, and just before dinner, when we were again alone, he took up the evening paper, and after looking at it for a few minutes put it down again, saying he could not see very well. I thought he must have tired himself and persuaded him to cease 312 reading till after dinner. The symptom passed away and he thought no more of it.
     The next morning, Friday, October 19th, his high spirits had not deserted him, for I heard him whistling merrily before he came in to breakfast. I asked him if the muddled vision had troubled him again, and he replied in the negative, assuring me that he felt particularly well in every way. Breakfast over and the morning papers read, we set off on our bicycles together.
     After a ride in Regent’s Park, which lasted close upon two hours, we returned home. He partook of a hearty lunch, and then fell asleep in an easy chair beside the fire. He awoke refreshed, and after he had drunk a cup of tea and had written some half-dozen letters, proposed that we should cycle again. “I should like to have a good spin down Regent Street,” he said. Those were the last words he ever spoke, for five minutes later the cruel stroke had descended upon him which rendered him helpless as a little child.’

So, this letter to Grant Richards is one of the half dozen letters Robert Buchanan wrote just before suffering the massive stroke from which he never recovered. There is another letter (to the editor of The Star), presumably from the same batch, in the Charles E. Young Research Library at UCLA, which is available on this site. It does seem strange to me that, considering how many of Buchanan’s letter have been lost, two have survived from the final half-dozen. As for this one and the possible subject for Buchanan’s ‘little chat’ with Grant Richards, there may be a clue in the following description of a letter in the Mortlake Collection of Pennsylvania State University:

“ALS, 27 September 1900, to publisher Grant Richards, about three books, Latterday Letters, Recollections, and The Coming Terror.”

Judging by the first two titles this was probably an attempt by Buchanan to interest Richards in publishing his autobiography, which had been rumoured to exist since 1884.


20 September 2021

More on ‘Fra Giacomo’

Having found that reading of ‘Fra Giacomo’ on youtube, I thought I should maybe add a page on the poem considering its extensive afterlife - readings, dramatisations, the musical version by Cecil Coles and the early experiment in Talkies by Eric Williams. This I have done:

Fra Giacomo

I also came across a prose adaptation of the poem (fully acknowledged) in the novel, Brakespeare; Or The Fortunes of a Free Lance by George Alfred Lawrence (1868). And that youtube version turned out to be a LibriVox recording available at the Internet Archive, or here.



The Ballad of Judas Iscariot

The search for additional information about ‘Fra Giacomo’ led to a quick search for items related to Buchanan’s other great hit, ‘The Ballad of Judas Iscariot’ and on the Eclectic Theology site I found the article, ‘Robert Buchanan and “The Ballad of Judas Iscariot”’ by Addison Hodges Hart. Despite describing Buchanan as a ‘minor poet’ and dredging up the Fleshly School again (I am now resigned to it and no longer shake my fist) the article is very good, but better yet are the comments appended to it. The last of these is from David Llewellyn Dodds (who also mentions the Fleshly School - the fist is shaken) who makes the following observation about ‘The Ballad of Judas Iscariot’:

I suspect Buchanan is consciously interacting in some way with the “Lyke-Wake Dirge” – e.g., the “whins” here and “Whinny-muir” and “whinnes” there, and “the Brig of Dread” here and “Brig o’ Dread” there – and the general Purgatorial theme, as well as “Fire and fleet and candle-lighte, / And Christe receive thy saule” there and the developed “lighted hall” here.’

Not being familiar with the “Lyke-Wake Dirge”, I looked it up (on wikipedia naturally) and the ‘see also’ bit led me to ‘“Draumvedet” - a similar Norwegian ballad’, which is described thus:

‘“Draumkvedet” (“The Dream Poem”) is a Norwegian visionary poem, probably dated from the late medieval age. It is one of the best known medieval ballads in Norway. The first written versions are from Lårdal and Kviteseid in Telemark in the 1840s.

The protagonist, Olav Åsteson, falls asleep on Christmas Eve and sleeps until the twelfth day of Christmas. Then he wakes, and rides to church to recount his dreams to the congregation, about his journey through the afterlife. The events are in part similar to other medieval ballads like the Lyke Wake Dirge: a moor of thorns, a tall bridge, and a black fire. After these, the protagonist is also allowed to see Hell and some of Heaven. The poem concludes with specific advice of charity and compassion, to avoid the various trials of the afterlife.’

On to a translation of “Draumkvedet” and, given Buchanan’s interest in Scandinavian ballads, I would think that if “The Ballad of Judas Iscariot” does have an inspiration, it would be “Draumkvedet” rather than the “Lyke-Wake Dirge”. However, this is not so obvious as the antecedents to ‘The Dead Mother’ so, we’ll leave it there. Interesting though. Minor poet, indeed!

There was one more comment on Fr. Addison Hart’s article which is worth a mention. This is from Russ Hewett:

‘I did a musical treatment of The Ballad of Judas Iscariot in 2017. I find the poem very intriguing. Here’s a link to the recording on iTunes.’

I hope Mr. Hewett won’t mind if I circumvent Mr. Apple and go with the version on youtube. I’ll add him to the Buchanan’s Music page in return.


12 September 2021

Just came across this on youtube and thought it worth a mention.


24 August 2021

Cowboys and Eton Boys

I came across a couple of articles in The Theatre Annual of 1888 which I’ve added to the site. The one which I’d gone looking for was an article by Harriett Jay about her early experiences on the stage and which included a section on her preparations for playing the part of the Hon. Cecil Brookfield in Lady Clare, which entailed, among other things, hiring a genuine Eton boy to hang around the house. The article is also notable for the fact that Robert Buchanan’s name is not mentioned at all.

‘How Actresses Work’ by Harriett Jay.

The other article preceded Harriett Jay’s and is of no importance whatsoever. It is by Grace Hawthorne, star of Theodora, and involves cowboys and her experiences treading the boards in the Wild West. I blame a youth spent watching the Cisco Kid, the Lone Ranger and the films of Audie Murphy.

A Nebraskan Experience’ by Grace Hawthorne.


15 August 2021

Sweeping up

Looking back, I haven’t added anything to the site since 28th December last year. Which is not true. The company which ‘hosts’ my site usually takes the money for it a couple of months before it’s due, but this year there was a delay and they sent me another email, obviously just to see if I was still alive, so I had to upload something to the site, and the money went out of the bank the next day. Nice to know somebody’s watching. Anyway, looking back, I haven’t added anything ‘significant’ to the site since 28th December last year. Blame COVID. One thing I have started doing is going through all the newspaper files I’ve accumulated over the years in order to find all those which have a passing mention of Robert Buchanan, or Harriett Jay, but which don’t really fit into any section of the site. This will probably take some time, so I thought I might as well add what I’ve got so far. You’ll find them in the Miscellanea section under

Random Cuttings.

One of the delights of going through old newspapers is coming across odd stories of “hate, murder and revenge”. One particular page of The Yorkshire Evening Post of Saturday, 16th November, 1929, which had been picked up on a search for When Knights Were Bold (the Bromley Challenor car crash), contained three such tales. One relating to the mysterious death of the Hon. Richard Bethell, who had worked with Howard Carter on the tomb of Tutankhamun, another to the murder of Mrs. Rosaline Fox, both of which have an afterlife in the world wide web. But then there’s the following case, which remains a mystery.


Sweet Nancy

I must thank Joel Green, who sent me a copy of a Sweet Nancy programme for the Avenue Theatre, London from January, 1898. The programme belonged to his Great Great Grandparents, William and Hilda Green. According to Hilda’s diary:

“Just before Christmas, Hilda and Margaret were joined by "Father" (William), who had come from Colorado.

January 10, 1898, the family went to London for a week's visit and sight-seeing. They saw all the famous old buildings and museums and saw several plays and operas. They returned to Yarm on the 18th.”



Herbert Spencer

I also have to thank Janet Fizz Curtis, who is researching Irene Mawer, and who emailed to ask about the quotation from Balder the Beautiful inscribed on her memorial in Oxford Crematorium (“All that is beautiful shall abide, / All that is base shall die.”) Which, through some progression that I cannot now remember, led me to an addendum to the 'Are Men Born Free And Equal?' debate between Buchanan and Thomas Huxley in the pages of The Daily Telegraph which ran from 23rd January to 8th February 1890, ending with a letter from Herbert Spencer. Buchanan included the letters in The Coming Terror. Some background to Herbert Spencer’s intervention in the ‘discussion’ is provided in Chapter XXII: Latter Day Controversies. (November, 1889—October, 1895.) of The Life and Letters of Herbert Spencer by David Duncan (London: Williams & Norgate, 1911), including an extract of a letter from Spencer to Buchanan.



The Moment After

I originally put the newspaper serialisation of The Moment After on the site because the book version was unavailable on the usual sites. I then added a link when it appeared on Hathi Trust. Now I’ve just got it on the site as a download, but I’ve also added a few bits not in the serial version:

The Proem.

Chapter IX (which includes the attack on the Home Secretary, which was criticised in the Glasgow Herald’s review, as follows:
‘Apart from these excursions in the Unseen, the book is apparently intended to be a protest against capital punishment. The strong point of his case is that a recommendation to mercy is practically an expression of opinion on the part “of the only tribunal fitted to decide the question” that the accused ought not to be executed; but does Mr Buchanan imagine that this argument is strengthened by hysterical invective against any particular Home Secretary?’)

The Epilogue.

The Epilogue is particularly interesting since Buchanan leaves the characters of the novel and imagines his own death and its immediate aftermath. Given the ‘living death’ which he must have endured following the massive stroke he suffered in October, 1900, the piece has an additional, rather poignant, significance.




Another new poem to be added to the Alphabetical List of Poems on the Site occurs in a review of Buchanan’s second book of poetry, Mary, and other Poems, published in 1859 while he was still living in Glasgow, and which I doubt I’ll ever find a copy of to add to the site. The poem is below, preceded by The Literary Gazette’s reviewer’s remarks:

“There is so much of high promise in Mr. Buchanan’s poetry, however, that we feel confident his maturer taste and riper judgment will discard the metaphorical absurdities in which he now indulges, and that he will achieve something which the world will not willingly let die. As a specimen both of his faults and his excellences we quote the following:



Many and many a joy, Mary, has come and gone with the years,
     Since first in each other’s eyes we saw the light of the sky—
I only know I am old by counting the smiles and the tears,
     That fed the love-blossoms a-bloom in the days gone by!—Mary!


Still, without a thought or a prayer, Mary, that is not memory-born,
     I stand on the dreariest side of threescore summers and odd;
And our souls converse in the sighs our bosoms have cherished and worn,
     And I grope in the wonderful glooms of thy soul for God!—Mary!


Hope and delight still kneel Mary, tho’ the darkness has fallen at last,
     In the dead of the breathless night round the singing corn,
And I would not barter to-day for all my passionate past,
     To-day, with its skeleton faith, for the hour when my love was born!—Mary!


Golden-lip’d glances of love, Mary, write song on my heart no more,
     Sing I no longer mad ballads of roses and yellow hair—
The easy sighs of my youth are gone with the days that are o’er,
     And, nurst in her lap, I toy with the silver ringlets of Care!—Mary!


All this is fully as well, Mary, as I could wish it to be,
     Contented I smile, by the dark of mine own dead delights possest:—
But could the best blood at my heart give thee back for a moment to me,
     I would lay me down and die like a bird or a flower on thy breast!—Mary!



Dramatis Personæ

I’ve added Buchanan’s review of Dramatis Personæ by Robert Browning to the Essays section. It appeared in The St. James’s Magazine of  July, 1864 and I don’t think it was reprinted elsewhere. It begins with some digs at the Americans, which is always a delight.



Diary Archive

And that’s about it, apart from noting that the last of the Site Diary pages has been added to the Diary Archives, where you’ll find the following:

Diary Archives:

2006 to 2009

2010 to 2013

2014 to 2020

I should add that although the site sprung upon an unsuspecting public on 27th August, 2002, I did not start the Diary until four years later. I blame COVID.








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


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


Site Diary
Site Search