The Fleshly School Controversy
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Buchanan and the Law

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Harriett Jay

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3. U.S.A.


Folger Shakespeare Library:

(I’d like to thank the Folger Shakespeare Library for letting me add these transcripts to the site and Rebecca Oviedo for providing the photocopies. I have placed the group of letters to Augustin Daly on a separate page.)


8 Letters to Augustin Daly (1875 - 93)
(Including a copy of a letter from William Terriss to Buchanan regarding the American production of A Man’s Shadow.)



1. Letter to William Hepworth Dixon - [1862].

66 U. Stamford St

Dear Sir,

                   Hazlitt says that literary experience means simply the relation by individuals of the truths they have read or learnt before twenty. This is only partly true, but I would ask you to let its part-truth apply to my case. I am now twenty, getting on for twenty one, and in spite of the necessary inexperience you have once or twice mentioned, am—I think— able from my range of reading to deal with some provinces of English poetry. This may be egoism; but may I beg you, in your goodness, to test me? You see, I am doing all I can to elbow my way in the world, and I feel very miserable when you tell me my youth is an obstacle to my eating bread and butter—or, which is the same thing, getting it.—Wont you give me one trial with a tolerably good book of poems, and show me an opportunity of uttering part of the little I know, in your columns? Macaulay had an article in the Edinburgh Review when he was twenty; and I myself am doing responsible work for responsible journals.—I wish you would try me with Miss Procter’s forthcoming volume of lyrics. I liked her former book much.
         I will thank you, here, for your candour. You did not attempt to deceive me by the cruel falsehood about “no vacancy.” You said to me—“You are young, consequently inexperienced. I do not like to place very responsible work in your hands.” This was true kindness, I think. But do you in your heart believe that judgement is simply the result of continual contact with the materials for judgement; that the man who criticises poetry can criticise it without being in some respects a born poet? Poetry differs materially from science, exactly so called; it is the recognition of the significance of things visible by the aid of the imagination, the colouring and beautifying of things visible by aid of the fancy. Could not John Keats at twenty (in his letters) criticise poetry better than Gifford at fifty? Could not Shelley at twenty write truer things of poetry than the Edinburgh Reviewer who slaughtered “Christabel” or the burly Doctor who thought Shakspere an irregular spasmodist:—But I bore you. Take my excuses for troubling you, and do give me a trial. I have thoughts to utter, my own thoughts—give me a chance of uttering them, and do not measure my experience by that of the generality of individuals. Large experience is often condensed into a short life, by hard blows & incessant moral responsibility.—If ought but strict justice & pure truth should appear in what I write, never trust me again.

                   Gratefully yours
                   R. W. Buchanan

Hepworth Dixon Esq.


[’only’ inserted before ‘partly true’.
‘give’ crossed out before ‘me an opportunity’ and ‘show’ written above.
‘born’ inserted after ‘in some respects a’.
‘at twenty’ inserted after ‘John Keats’.
‘Large’ inserted before ‘Experience is often condensed’.
If Buchanan is telling the truth about his age then this letter would have been written some time in 1862 prior to his 21st birthday on August 18th. I have no accurate dates for when Buchanan was living at 66 Upper Stamford Street, but going by surviving letters, he was there in December 1861 and had moved to Haverstock Hill by June of 1862. Another possible clue as to the date is Buchanan’s mention of reviewing “Miss Procter’s forthcoming volume of lyrics.” Adelaide Procter’s A Chaplet of Verses was reviewed (not by Buchanan) in The Athenæum on June 14th, 1862. So I would suggest that this letter dates from 1862, prior to June.]



2. Letter to Alexander Strahan - 1st February, 1873

6 Wells Road
Regents Park
Feb. 1. 1873

Dear Strahan,

                   I enclose “Kitty Kemble” for next month’s St Pauls. It is quite new and very strong. “Poetry & the Drama” by “Walter Hutcheson” in a day or so; and a St “Abe”.
         Can you let me have some cash to-day? Answer per Bearer.

                   Yours ever
                   Robert Buchanan.

A. Strahan Esq.


[This letter was originally sold with the (20) proof sheets of ‘Kitty Kemble’ for The Saint Paul’s Magazine corrected by Buchanan, which are now held by the Folger Library.
Buchanan wrote under several pseudonyms for Strahan’s magazines. For example the September 1872 edition of The Saint Paul’s Magazine contained the following pieces by Buchanan:
John Mardon, Mariner: His Strange Adventures in El Dorado Part II by the author of St. Abe
‘Prose and Verse’ by Walter Hutcheson
The Ballad of the Wayfarer by T. M. ]



3. Letter to Nicholas Trübner - [1877].

58 Upper Gloucester Place
Dorset Square
Friday eveng.

My dear Sir,

                   Could you kindly favour me with a call—as before—to-morrow morng on your way to the City? I wish most particularly to see you.
         I suppose you have heard of all the changes on the “Contemporary Review”—If I can be of any service to you there, I shall be glad.
         I have just come over again from Ireland, & finding my usual chambers occupied, am temporarily here—No 58.

                   Yours faithfully
                   Robert Buchanan.

N. Trübner Esq


[‘58’in the address and the body of the letter is double-underlined.
‘up’ crossed out before ‘over again’.
While Buchanan was living in Ireland he used rooms in Upper Gloucester Place for his visits to London. Letters to Browning from January 1874 to February 1878 have addresses at either 51 or 16 Upper Gloucester Place, so one presumes this letter fits somewhere in this time period. The mention of the ‘changes on the “Contemporary Review”’ could refer to the removal of James Knowles as editor in 1877. Knowles was no friend to Buchanan whereas his successor, Alexander Strahan was, so this would make sense of Buchanan’s offer of help. Consequently I have tentatively dated the letter as 1877.]



4. Letter to The Academy - 7th July [1888]

Corresp. Stage

What is a Tragedy?

                                                                                                     Hamlet Court, Southend, Essex, July 7.

         Sir,—I think we are getting very “mixed” in our definitions when Mr Hall Caine describes my play of “Partners”, founded on Daudet’s novel of Fromont Jeune et Risler Ainé, as a melodrama, and thereupon suggests that a Melodrama should be so called because it does not end in the death of the leading character. The difference between Tragedy & Melodrama is in reality technical. The first is a form of art where the old unities of time & place are generally preserved, and where the action moves grandly & monotonously towards the final consummation, foreshadowed from the outset, of a sublime death; in which, moreover, all the interest is subordinated to the one central purpose, to the one solemn issue, generally spiritual & ennobling, & the very essence of which is moral or religious concentration. A melodrama, on the other hand, is a varied picture of life & incident, a mélange, a mingled web of thought, passion, & character, and may or may not end tragically,—the point being that its style & treatment, not its catastrophe, differentiate it from tragedy. The great Sophoclean Trilogy is tragedy pure & simple. Most of Shakspere’s serious plays, notably “Macbeth” and “Richard III,” are melodramas. Such masterpieces as “Hamlet” & “Lear” are of twofold character, extremely melodramatic in their style, highly tragical in a certain monotony of characterization and moral suggestion. Of course, the more popular & etymologically correct definition of Melodrama—ie. drama accompanied with musical effects—will scarcely serve us here; but it is a good & right definition, if we insert the word “varied” before the adjective “musical,” and imply that the drama itself is many-mooded.
         I learned with deep regret that Mr Hall Caine’s fine play, quite tragical in its character, had been vulgarized & made absurd by a “happy ending.” There is a superstition among managers that “happy endings” can reform a serious & monotonous theme, & render it pleasing to the vulgar; but the truth is, the public care little how a play ends, so long as it is not depressing, and deficient in relief, throughout. A very popular & not quite worthless play of the late Watts Phillips, “Lost in London,” is a case in point. The piece is a melodrama, though the end is tragical in Mr Caine’s sense, but the action throughout is all alive with life and comedy—effective if very conventional; so that average spectators enjoy it, and do not by any means resent the heroine’s pathetic death just before the fall of the curtain. I think Mr Caine should have nailed his colours to the mast, standing or falling by the absolutely & inherently tragic nature of his theme. To change the dominant note at the last moment into a doubtfully lively one, was something like singing through all the magnificent verses of the Old Hundredth, & then suddenly breaking into “Haste to the Wedding.” Fortunately, this is an error which can be easily corrected, for the preservation of a piece which has justly received high encomium.

                   I am &c.
                   Robert Buchanan.


[Quotation marks around title crossed out.
‘Partners’ originally underlined, but the line is crossed out.
‘thereupon’ inserted before ‘suggests that a melodrama’.
‘old’ inserted before ‘unities’.
‘, foreshadowed from the outset,’ inserted after ‘final consummation’.
‘, moreover,’ inserted before ‘all the interest’.
‘, a mélange,’ inserted before ‘a mingled web’.
‘Macbeth’, ‘Richard III’, ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Lear’ are all originally underlined, then the lines crossed out.
‘characterization and’ inserted before ‘moral suggestion’.
‘Lost in London’ was originally underlined, but the line has been crossed out.
‘& inherently’ inserted before ‘tragic nature’.
After ‘dominant note’ ‘into’ is crossed out and ‘at’ written above.
‘magnificent’ inserted before ‘verses of the Old Hundredth’.
Buchanan’s signature is double-underlined.

This was Buchanan’s reply to a letter of Hall Caine, published in The Academy on 7th July, 1888. Buchanan’s letter was published in the next edition of The Academy on 14th July, 1888 (image available here). For Caine’s letter and more information, see the Letters to the Press section.]



Library of Congress:

Letter to Robert Browning - 13th May 1865

Belle Hill
near Hastings.
May 13th 1865

My dear Mr Browning –

                   I did care to hear your opinion– More, much more, than you may have imagined. If it were courteous to explain what I think of you, you would know what value I set on every line from your hand.
         And what you say, coming from such a quarter, is like new blood to me—blood, heaven knows, very much needed by my very irritable & despondent nature.

                   Ever yours truly
                   Robert Buchanan.

Robert Browning Esq.



Smithsonian Institution - Archives of American Art:

Letter to Thomas Buchanan Read - 26th February 1871.

Soroba Lodge
Feb. 26th 1871

My dear Mr Read –

                   I have asked Strahan to post you “Napoleon”– Tell me, please, if you get it. If you can send me anything of your own, I will be grateful.
         I only know the little Ed: of your poems pubd here by Trübner. They make me long to know more.
         Do you ever meet in Rome a young Scotch artist named Walter Maclaren? If so, please tell him to write to me; he is a dear friend.

                   Yours most truly
                   Robert Buchanan.

T. Buchanan Read Esq.


[Walter Maclaren is mentioned in Chapter XI of the Jay biography, regarding Buchanan’s move to Bexhill in 1865:
“After a time their domestic circle was enlarged by the appearance upon the scene of the late Mr. Gentles and Mr. Walter Maclaren, who has since become so well and widely known as a painter of Italian scenes.”

Four paintings by Walter Maclaren ]



University Libraries:

Baylor University, Waco, Texas - Armstrong Browning Library

Letter to G. R. Sims - n.d.

25 Maresfield Gardens

Dear Sims –

                   In drawing out Bill I stupidly omitted the word “two”—will you kindly write it in with your initials following, thus: ‘twoG. R. S. ?
         Awfuly sorry to trouble you, but the thing as it stands is informal. Please return it by my man.
         I shant forget your kindness, but shall return it somehow or other in another way.

                   Always yours
                   Robt Buchanan.

G.R. Sims Esq.

         Shall be glad to hear about Cousin Phil – Am reading the French play.


[The collaboration of Buchanan with G. R. Sims produced five plays for the Adelphi Theatre, from The English Rose (first produced 2nd August 1890) to The Black Domino (1st April 1893). The Maresfield Gardens address gives a similar time frame for the date of this letter - although I don’t have the exact dates, he was living there from August 1890 to November 1894.
The letter seems to refer to a financial transaction. This could either be Buchanan cashing in his share of one of their plays (Sims mentions in Among My Autographs that Buchanan received £2500 for his share in The English Rose) or it could refer to Buchanan borrowing money from Sims (according to the reports of Buchanan’s bankruptcy in July 1894 he owed Sims £805).
I have no idea who or what ‘Cousin Phil’ is, or the ‘French play’ which Buchanan is reading.

The Armstrong Browning Library also has Mary Buchanan’s photograph album, selections from which are available on this site.]



Colorado College, Tutt Library - Alice Bemis Taylor Collection:

Letter to Benjamin Webster Jr. - 28th June, 1867.

June 28th 1867

Dear Sir,

                   I send you some lines to Miss Terry,—to which you will kindly sign my name in full, as I do not wish to seem an indiscriminate contributor. I should like to see a proof.
         I wrote to Mr Webster Sen. some weeks ago on business, & have received no reply of any kind. However, I have no right to trouble you with your father’s affairs.

                   Faithfully yours
                   Robert Buchanan.

Benjamin Webster Esq Jun.


[‘your father’ crossed out and ‘Mr Webster Sen.’ written above.
The ‘Miss Terry’ referred to is Kate Terry (sister of Ellen and grandmother of John Gielgud) who retired from the stage in August 1867. In June of that year she was appearing in Dora by Charles Reade at the Adelphi Theatre, which was managed by Benjamin Webster Snr. She had also appeared in a play by Benjamin Webster Jnr. (Ethel; or, Only a Life) the previous year.
The mention of writing to the manager of the Adelphi ‘on business’ could indicate that Buchanan was writing plays at this time, although he had nothing produced between The Witchfinder in 1864 and A Madcap Prince in 1874.]



Harvard University - Houghton Library:

1. Letter to Dr. Thomas King Chambers - 5th June, 1870.

         N. B.
June 5th 1870.

Dear Dr Chambers,

                   The public announcement came suddenly, & we knew wd: reach you, long ere we could communicate the tidings. Much of “this too, I owe to thee, Jaffar!”
         You think “Orm” morbid—and Death too, & Theology, and Celticism, I fear. If you mean morbid in the sense of hopeless & unwholesome, read the book thro’ line by line from 1st page to last, & then I will believe you. “Orm” is only a prologue—a sad general statement—and on my Soul, my thoughts of God & the world are not morbid ones, rather utopian ones & glorious. The portal is more shadowy than the Edifice; I shall try to let the Sun get into that.
         All kind wishes & thanks from both of us. I am better, tho’ still “a creaking Door.”

                   Yours always
                   Robert Buchanan.

T. K. Chambers Esq. M. D.


[Autograph file, B. *46M-400. Houghton Library, Harvard University.
The quotation, “this too, I owe to thee, Jaffar!” is from Leigh Hunt’s poem, ‘Jaffar’.
The ‘public announcement’ referred to is the award to Buchanan of a Civil List Pension of £100 per year, which occurred on 12th April, 1870. Browning had been instrumental in getting the pension for Buchanan (mainly on the grounds of Buchanan’s ill health) and it would appear from this letter that Dr. T. K. Chambers, who had connections with the Royal household, had also leant his assistance in the case. Dr. Chambers is mentioned in Chapter 17 of Harriett Jay’s biography and for further information, his obituary in The British Medical Journal (31 August, 1889) is available online.]



2. Letter to Nicholas Trübner - 27th February, 1880.


97 Burton Road
Feb. 27. 1880

Dear Mr Trübner,

                   I send this to your private address, as I wish the whole of the arrangements for my book to be as secret as possible.
         I am now ready to put my book to press under the title of

The City of Dream:
a New Pilgrimage.

I wish it to be not in one volume, but in three small vols, to be published simultaneously, or at intervals of a month. Thus:

Part I.
Part II.
Revolt—The Groves of Pan.
Part III.
Circling Homeward.

Each vol. to contain about 150 pp. & to be published at 3/6. The complete work, 10/6.
         I think, if you exercise due energy, keep the requisite mystery about the authorship &c. that we may have a great success. The poem deals with the one subject which is now absorbing intellectual attention.—I think I shall inscribe it to Herbert Spencer.
         I should like to see you, & arrange everything at once. Shall you be at Ludgate Hill on Monday?—or could you call upon me here any time tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon?—With kind regards

                   Yours faithfully
                   Robert Buchanan.

Nicolas Trübner Esq.


[Autograph File, B. *54M-179. Houghton Library, Harvard University.
‘Private’ is double-underlined and written at an angle opposite the address.
Above ‘Private’, ‘Important’ has been written in pencil in another hand.
‘(Sunday)’ is inserted after ‘tomorrow’. (February 27th was a Friday, Buchanan presumably expected Trübner to read the letter on the Saturday and possibly visit on Sunday 29th.)
The date of this letter is significant since The City of Dream was not published until April, 1888 by Chatto & Windus. The plans outlined here for a three volume edition, published anonymously and dedicated to Herbert Spencer were subsequently revised. It appeared as one volume, under Buchanan’s name, with fifteen sections, and was dedicated to John Bunyan.]



3. Letter to Messrs. Fields & Osgood, New York City - 22nd September [1884].

42 East 23rd Street
Madison Square
New York City
Sept 22.

Dear Sirs,

                   I have ready a poem of some importance, entitled “Schopenhauer; or, the New Buddha”, & can offer you the use of it in the ‘Atlantic Monthly’ for one hundred dollars, payable on acceptance of M.S. Do you care to consider it?

                   Truly yours
                   Robert Buchanan.

Messrs Fields & Osgood.


[Aldrich, Thomas Bailey, Papers (MS Am 1429) (1014) Houghton Library, Harvard University.
[1884] added in another hand after the date. This is correct. Buchanan was in America from around August, 1884 to the summer of 1885.
‘a’ inserted after ‘ready’.
The Atlantic Monthly did not take the poem but it was published in The North American Review in May 1885 (pp. 445-455).

I’d like to thank Mary Haegert of the Houghton Library for her help in acquiring these letters.]



U.C.L.A. - Charles E. Young Research Library

As well as the twenty-two letters from Robert Buchanan to William Hepworth Dixon (available here) the Charles E. Young Research Library of UCLA has another thirty-eight items related to Buchanan, which are transcribed below. I would like to thank Molly Haigh for her help in acquiring copies.


Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection (Collection 100). Library Special Collections,
Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.


1. Letter to Mr. Bower - 24th January 1861.

66 Upper Stamford St
Waterloo Rd

Dear Mr Bower,

                   I’m reading this “Life of Wilson,” but am not quite sure what I can make of it. You know that the reviews of books in All the Year Round are not reviews, and demand an interesting story. I’ll do my best with it, but you must not be disappointed if I’m unsuccessful.
         Of course the transaction is strictly private, as between friends, and you are not supposed to know who reviews it. If I cant write a good notice of it, I shall pay you its price & not use it as a theme.

                   Truly yours
                   R. Williams Buchanan

Letter No. 2 in the collection.

I’ve found no trace of ‘Mr. Bower’ (or Bowe, Bowen or Bowes) or his “Life of Wilson”.
Rather an inauspicious start.]



2. Letter to Linnaeus Banks - 24th [late 1864 - early1865].

Woodlands Cottage

Dear Sir,

                   I have tried hard to finish an address in the scanty time you allowed me in your last note, but find it impossible. Unless you can give me a day or so longer, I must resign the Task.

                   Faithfully yours
                   Robert Buchanan.

Linnaeus Banks Esq.

         I could finish it for you, by Wednesday next.

Letter No. 3 in collection.
ca. 1863’ is written in another hand in top right-hand corner, but that would be too early. According to other letters, Buchanan was at the Iver address from around November 1864 to March 1865. Buchanan did write a review of G. Linnaeus Banks’ Daisies in the Grass for The Athenæum of 26th August, 1865, but this is too late for this letter since Buchanan was settled in Bexhill by then. Besides this does seem to refer more to a commission for a speech or some other item, rather than a review. More information about George Linnaeus Banks on wikipedia.]



3. Letter to [Alexander Strahan] - 4th April 1866.

April 4th 1866

Dear [Strahan],

                   I purpose making Translating the subject of next month’s article. But [ ] is useless—his remarks are false, & all his illustrations are dreadfully hacknied. Could you get me Lord Derby’s “Homer” at once, & post it down? Of course I shall be as amusing as I can.
         I have been expecting to hear from you on the other subject. Please send only £20 in this month’s cheque. I will tell you wherefore immediately.

                   Always yours
                   R. Buchanan.

[A. Strahan Esq.]

Letter No. 4 in collection.
The notepaper has a black border - Robert Buchanan Snr. died at Bexhill on 4th March, 1866.
The name of the addressee has been redacted, as also is the name of the ‘useless’ person. ‘Strahan’ does seem to be a good fit for the crossing out and since Buchanan was submitting pieces for The Argosy, published by Strahan, at this time (and may even have had a hand in the editing of that journal - there seems some confusion on the matter) I think it’s fairly safe to assume the letter is addressed to him. As for the ‘useless’ person, I have no idea. That name seems to have been erased in some manner, rather than just crossed out (and if Mike Nesmith’s (of Monkees fame) mother did invent tippex then I don’t know how they did it, or why for that matter).

Lord Derby’s translation of The Iliad was published in December 1864. I have not come across any article on the subject of ‘Translating’ which is possibly by Buchanan in either The Argosy, The Contemporary Review or Good Words (all Strahan titles published monthly) for May or June 1866.



4. Letter to John Dennis - 6th March 1873.

Holyrood House
Wells Road
Great Malvern
March 6. 1873

My dear Dennis,

                   I return the sonnets; they have been delayed thro’ illness. As to Macklehose refusing permission, you surprise me. Do you mean Macmillan, who pubd the “Luggie”? If so, I will write to him on the subject. He has no possible right to interfere. Indeed, all Gray’s manuscripts are in my possession, being assigned to me by his father; and as to Macmillan having any claim over the pubd pieces, that is fudge, as the edition was sold out & must have paid all its expenses.
         Let me have information at once as to how the matter stands & believe me

                   Yours sincerely
                   Robert Buchanan.

John Dennis Esq.

Letter No. 9 in collection.

John Dennis (1825-1911) was the author of various works about poetry and literature including English Sonnets, a Selection which was published in 1873 and includes four sonnets by David Gray (pp. 190-193), one of which is dedicated to Robert Buchanan.]



5. Letter to R. H. Hutton - 23rd August [1875].

Rossport Lodge
Co Mayo
Augt 23

My dear Mr Hutton,

                   I am very glad that you are going to read the story yourself, for I think you will like it; it is, at any rate, no common novel, but deals with quite new scenes & characters. Should your opinion be favorable, as I hope, I trust it may lead to an early review, which is half the battle for a new author, most critics being so slavish in following authoritative opinion good or bad. I am very anxious about the fate of this work, as the nature of its reception will either greatly depress or greatly stimulate an author of whom I expect great things.
         I am grateful for your kind wishes concerning myself. I never doubted your sympathy, & I always covet your praise.

                   Ever yours
                   Robert Buchanan.

R. H. Hutton Esq.

         N. B. Extraordinary as some of the scenes & characters are, I can vouch for them being true transcripts of Irish civilization!

Letter No. 7 in collection.
Something is scribbled out in the upper-left of the first page. ‘ca. 1875’ is written in pencil, by another hand, in the top right corner of the first page. The year is correct.

R. H. Hutton was the editor of The Spectator and an extensive review of Harriett Jay’s first novel, The Queen of Connaught (the obvious subject of this letter), appeared in that journal on 11th September, 1875.]



6. Letter to Richard Gowing - [November 1875].

16 Upper Glo’ster Place
Dorset Sq
Sunday eveng

Dear Sir,

                   If this isn’t strong enough, or too strong, doctor it at pleasure. One feels rather comic writing so of oneself, but an adv. is an adv!! I have mentioned some of the most popular pieces.
         Please send me up the agreement at once. Assuming that we are agreed as to the volume of Ballads, I shall do my best to let you have the reprint of Romaine at a reasonable figure,—for I should like you to reprint all you publish in the magne. You must come up some eveng & talk over details of the story, &c over a cigar.
         In haste

                   Yours truly
                   Robert Buchanan.

Richd Gowing Esq.

Letter No. 30 in collection.
‘&c’ is inserted between ‘story’ and ‘over a cigar’.

Richard Gowing was the editor of The Gentleman’s Magazine (1874-1877), which published several of Buchanan’s poems from May, 1874 onwards, and also the serialisation of Buchanan’s first novel, The Shadow of the Sword, which ran from January to December, 1876. According to the letters to William Canton in Chapter 18 of Harriett Jay’s biography of Buchanan, the original title of the novel was ‘Romaine’ and the final letter in that sequence (in which Buchanan breaks the partnership and says he is abandoning the novel and turning it into a poem) is dated 19th May, 1875. In Chapter 20 of the Jay biography, Buchanan’s letter to Richard Gowing detailing the terms of the agreement relating to the publication of The Shadow of the Sword is reproduced:

                                                               “16, UPPER GLOUCESTER PLACE, DORSET SQUARE
                                                                                                                   November 19th.

     “DEAR SIR,—Your memorandum is correct, with the exception that you put pounds instead of guineas, and that you introduce as points of legality several mere points of usage and understanding. It is agreed that I write you a story for the magazine, all copyright and re-print rights of which I reserve for the sum of one hundred and eighty guineas, payable in monthly cheques, that this story leads the magazine for at least six months of the twelve; that a half-page advertisement of my poems fronts the story each number, and in the event of your having to displace the story after six months you withdraw the advertisement and return me ten guineas, half the sum allowed for the same. These are the main points. As to delivery of copy I will not be bound rigidly, but I will do all in my power to let you have what you require, and shall be quite as anxious as you to be well ahead.
     Please get the above loose memoranda put into a proper agreement, and send it to me to sign. The letters would be sufficient, but it would save trouble if you just drew out the agreement in the usual way.
                               Yours truly,
                                         ROBERT BUCHANAN.”

Although the year is not given, it is obviously 1875, prior to the first instalment of the serial being published in the January 1876 edition of the magazine, and since the negotiations are still going on about the terms of the agreement I would suggest it is from the same month, November, as the letter in the Jay biography - certainly no later than December, 1875.

The mention of the ‘volume of Ballads’ seems to indicate that Buchanan wanted Gowing to publish a book of his poetry, but, in the end, Gowing published neither the Ballads nor the book version of The Shadow of the Sword.]



7. Letter to Richard Gowing - 1st May [1876].

51 Upper Gloucester Place
May 1st

Dear Mr Gowing,

                   I send you another slip (16). Now, I wonder if it will do to end here this month? I meant to add another short chapter, but it occurs to me that the words “Yes, I am here!” would form an exciting finish for the number. Kindly let me have proofs at once, & if the copy doesn’t make enough I will add on the Chapter.
         In haste

                   Yours always
                   Robert Buchanan.

R. Gowing Esq.

Letter No. 31 in collection.
‘know’ crossed out after ‘Kindly let me’ and ‘have’ written above.

‘I am Here’ occurs at the end of Chapter 29 of The Shadow of the Sword in the June 1876 edition of The Gentleman’s Magazine - “Yes, Mikel Grallon, I am here.”]



8. Letter to James Grant Wilson - 30th August [1876].

Rossport Lodge
Co Mayo
Augt 30

Dear Sir

                   Yours of the 20th has just reached me. Kindly let me see your “biographical notice”, which you offer to show me; I dont know where you get your materials, but any other “notices” I have seen are simply tissues of blunders.
         In suggesting a selection for your vols I am guided by the consideration that yours is a popular collection. I do not know your limits, but I suggest the following:

Willie Baird (as arranged)
The Dead Mother
The Ballad of Judas Iscariot
Battle of Drumliemoor
The Starling
Sonnets written in Loch Coruisk, Skye.
(Nos 9 – 10 – 11 – 15 – 16–
17 – 19 – 23 – 24 – 25)

If you use these poems, I must stipulate that you print them from the revised copies in my “Poetical Works,” pubd in 3 vols by “King & Co.”—“Willie Baird” is in Vol 2, the four next pieces in Vol 1, and the Sonnets in Vol 3. The last-named (Sonnets), if extracted as marked, will form a complete series of 10, well-connected in sequence of thought & feeling, & as they are descriptive of phases of Scottish scenery, are doubly appropriate.
         Please let me hear from you & believe me

                   Yours truly
                   Robert Buchanan.

Jas Grant Wilson Esq.

Letter No. 8 in collection.
‘ca. 1883’ is written in pencil, by another hand, in the top right corner of the first page. The year is incorrect since Buchanan (and family) left Rossport Lodge and Ireland around the latter part of 1877.

In December 1876, the second volume of The Poets and Poetry of Scotland, edited by James Grant Wilson, was published. It included a portrait of Buchanan and the following poems: ‘Willie Baird’, ‘The Dead Mother’, ‘The Ballad of Judas Iscariot’, ‘The Battle of Drumliemoor’ and ‘The Starling’.

Another incidental connection between Buchanan and James Grant Wilson concerns the biography of John James Audubon which was published in 1869, as explained on the ‘Audubon Controversy’ page:

“Robert Buchanan was commissioned by the publishers, Sampson Low, Son & Marston, to write a biography of John James Audubon, or, rather, to edit a manuscript and other materials supplied by Audubon’s widow. The resulting book, The Life and Adventures of John James Audubon, the Naturalist was published in 1868. It did not meet with the approval of Mrs. Audubon and, after three editions (and one in New York by E. P. Dutton & Co.), she prepared her own revised version of the work, with the help of James Grant Wilson. This was published in 1869 by G. P. Putnam as The Life of John James Audubon, the Naturalist. Then, in 1912, Buchanan’s original version was added to the ˜Everyman’s Library’ published by J. M. Dent & Sons in London and E. P. Dutton & Co. in New York. This resulted, rather ironically, in Buchanan’s The Life and Adventures of J. J. Audubon remaining in print far longer than most of his other works.”]



9. Letter to James Chambers - 2nd December [1876].

16 Upper Gloucester Place
Dorset Sq
Dec. 2.


                   Your letter dated Nov. 3rd has only just reached my hand. I gladly comply with your polite request & believe me I am Sir

                   Yours sincerely
                   Robert Buchanan.

James Chambers Esq.

Letter No. 5 in collection.
There is no year, but 1876 has been added to the date by another hand. Given the address, which Buchanan used from 1875 to 1878, it is as good a guess as any.

I have no idea who this particular James Chambers is, and so the letter could just be a response to a request for an autograph.]



10. Letter to Marcus Ward & Co. - 18th March [1881].

5 Larkhall Rise
March 18


                   Certainly. Pray use what selections you please for your Book of Days.

                   Faithfully yours
                   Robert Buchanan.

Messrs Marcus Ward & Co.

Letter No. 6 in collection.
The letter has been rubber-stamped by ‘Marcus Ward & Co. London’ and dated ‘19 Mar 81’.

Marcus Ward and Co. ‘was a British publishing company known for its illustrated books for children and adults, as well as its decorative greeting cards’.]



11. Letter to [unknown] - 28th April [1881].

     “The Exiles of Erin, or St Abe & his Seven Wives”—founded on the satire, “St Abe”—scene partly in Ireland, partly in Salt Lake City—Scenery realistic, from actual sketches taken in Utah and the West—Heroine played by Miss Harriett Jay—A particular feature will be the presentation by Mr Stanislaus Calhaem of the American Indian as he is, not as he appears in fiction—five acts & seven Tableaux—to be produced at Olympic, Saturday May 7


April 28.

Dear Sir,

                   From above mems. kindly form paragraph for [?] printing [?]

                   R. Buchanan.

Letter No. 28 in collection.
A collection of notes about the play, The Exiles of Erin: or St. Abe and his Seven Wives (the title was changed to The Mormons: or St. Abe and his Seven Wives) which ran from 7th May to 2nd June, 1881 at the Olympic Theatre, for working into an item about the play in an ‘unnamed’ newspaper or magazine. The notes are written fairly roughly, particularly the one following ‘Miss Harriett Jay’, which begins with a word crossed out, and has ‘by Mr Stanislaus Calhaem’ inserted between ‘presentation of’ and ‘the American Indian’. After the notes there is a brief ‘letter’, addressed from the Olympic Theatre, where there are a couple of’ redactions’ - not crossings out, but the missing words have had slips of paper pasted over them. I’ve no idea why.

Buchanan must have sent out several such notes to the various papers and magazines, and this item from The Referee of 1st May, 1881 seems to suggest that one, at least, responded to his request.]


12. Letter to [unknown] - 13th April [1882].

Imperial Theatre
April 13

Dear Sir,

                   The insertion of enclosed in your issue of next Saturday will be greatly esteemed. The explanation is absolutely necessary, as I think you will admit.

                   Truly yours
                   Robt Buchanan.

Letter No. 26 in collection.
Again, there is a redaction following Buchanan’s signature, either concealing the recipient’s name or a postscript, with a pasted slip of paper. The notepaper has a black border - Buchanan’s wife, Mary, had died on 7th November, 1881.

The only play of Buchanan’s at the Imperial Theatre was Lucy Brandon, which ran from 8th to 15th April, 1882. Whatever was enclosed with this letter has been lost so one can only speculate. The early closure of Lucy Brandon seems to have been due to poor reviews, although Buchanan later took the managers of the Imperial to court to recoup £76 he had lent them prior to the production of the play. At the same time Buchanan had another play running at the Olympic Theatre, The Shadow of the Sword. This play, produced and, apparently, co-written by, and starring John Coleman, was also having difficulties, which led to an exchange of letters in The Era. The first of these appeared on Saturday, 15th April, 1882 and was dated by Buchanan, ‘Imperial Theatre, April 12th.’ I wonder whether that was the ‘enclosed’ item from this letter. If not, then I would suggest that the missing item would have been destined for another weekly paper and would have been along the same lines.]



13. Letter to the Proprietor of the Newcastle Chronicle - 25th October [1882].

Oct. 25.

Dear Sir,

                   The publication of my new story (in the L’pool Mercury, People’s Friend, &c.) has been delayed until the first week in December. If that delay will enable you to make me an offer for its use, I shall be glad to hear from you.

                   Faithfully yours
                   Robert Buchanan.

The Proprietor
‘Newcastle Chronicle’

Letter No. 23 in collection.

The year is speculative. Buchanan did treat the serialisation of his novels as a lucrative and easy revenue stream, especially when his other work ran into difficulties. I have not come across a Buchanan serial in the Newcastle Chronicle, so I don’t know whether the editor took him up on his offer. The only serial I’ve found published in the Liverpool Mercury in December is Annan Water, which commenced publication on 16th December, 1882. And although there was no publication of the novel in The People’s Friend, it was published in the People’s Journal, commencing 9th December, 1882. So, I would suggest that this is a probable date for this letter.]



14. Letter to Theo. Marzials - 28th February [1883].

We want simple,
telling, music—old
English fashion.

Westward Ho
Feb. 28.

My dear Sir,

                   Would you care to do a little music for my new Adelphi play? There is a part song, & some other pieces; and I should be very proud of your co-operation.
         Kindly let me know, & if agreeable to you I could see you when I come to town next week.

                   Most truly yours
                   Robert Buchanan.

Theo. Marzials Esq.

Letter No. 19 in collection.
The description of the music is written, at a slant, in the top left-hand corner.

This letter to the musician and poet, Theophilus Marzials, relates to Buchanan’s play Storm-Beaten which ran from 14th March to 8th June, 1883 at the Adelphi Theatre. However, nothing’s simple. There is another surviving letter from Buchanan to Marzials, dated 3rd January, presumably 1883:

‘36 Craven Street
Jan. 3

My Dear Sir,

                   Of course my letter was misdated, & I cant think how the mistake occurred. Thanks for your kind reply. I will endeavour to call upon you some time before one o'clock to-morrow, but pray dont remain at home on that account —if you have other arrangements—I will take my chance.

                   Truly yours
                   Robert Buchanan.

Theo. Marzials Esq.’

Dealing with the two addresses first: the furnished rooms at 36 Craven Street (round the corner from the Adelphi) were being used by Buchanan at this time, while his mother was living in the Westward Ho boarding house in Southend. As for the dates, is the ‘Westward Ho’ letter the misdated one referred to in the ‘Craven Street’ letter, in which case it was presumably written on the 28th December, 1882? Or did Buchanan just send it after his proposed meeting with Marzials? If the 28th February date of the ‘Westward Ho’ letter is correct, then Buchanan intended to meet Marzials in the week of 5th to 11th March. And Storm-Beaten was due to open on the 14th March? It doesn’t seem to give Mr. Marzials much time to provide ‘a part song, & some other pieces’. Marzials did write a part song for the play and the title, at least, has survived on amazon - ‘May Music’. As always when I mention Mr. Marzials I have to extend my thanks to Helen Assaf.]



Letters from U.C.L.A., Charles E. Young Research Library - continued

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


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


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