ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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ROBERT BUCHANAN OBITUARIES - continued

 

Southend Standard and Essex Weekly Advertiser (14 June, 1901)

DEATH OF MR. ROBERT BUCHANAN.
_____

THE FAMOUS NOVELIST’S FORMER
CONNECTION WITH SOUTHEND.

     On Monday, at Streatham Common, Mr. Robert Buchanan, a popular novelist, passed away in his sixtieth year after a long and painful illness, consequent upon a paralytic stroke. To the influential Southender of from thirty to twenty years’ standing, Mr. Buchanan was well-known; for, prior to his wife’s death, Mr. Buchanan frequently visited the town, in company with a brother and his sister-in-law (Miss Jay), and took up residence at Hamlet Court, and at another time in Devereux Terrace. Mrs. Buchanan died and was buried here and was attended in her last illness by Dr. Phillips. As far as we can gather, her demise occurred at Hamlet Court, in November, 1881.
     Speaking of the novelist’s death sickness the “Times” says—In the middle of October, last year, Mr. Buchanan was struck down by paralysis without any warning. He had been in indifferent health for some time before, and had been obliged almost to give up work, depending upon the assistance of friends and a small Government pension. His savings had been swept away in a disastrous speculation, which obliged him to go through the Bankruptcy Court and to part with all his copyrights. Just before the stroke of paralysis however, he had begun to gain strength and to recover his spirits, and had taken up work again. In his helpless state he had once more to rely upon the aid of friends. He had been a very generous man when he was prosperous himself. He had never refused to help anyone in distress and in his time of need he was generously assisted.
     After dealing with his work as a poet, author and playwright, the great daily organ proceeds—The future chronicler of letters will take note of him mainly as a very industrious worker in various fields of literature who was once connected with an incident that greatly stirred the literary world. This incident was, of course, Buchanan’s attack upon Rossetti in the pseudonymous article called “The Fleshly School of Poetry” which appeared in the “Contemporary Review” in  1871. Even to those who do not recollect the article the nature of the attack is sufficiently indicated by its title. In itself it was unimportant—merely one of those attacks to which most poets of distinction are subjected in the course of their careers. Mr. Buchanan himself soon saw that he had done Rossetti an injustice, and showed it, among other ways, by dedicating “God and the Man” to “An Old Enemy.” But it created some sensation at the time, and in Rossetti’s life it became “deplorably prominent,” since according to his brother, it happened just at the worst possible moment and had an effect upon the poet’s mind from which he never recovered.
     With one of his most widely read novels, “Andromeda”, Southend is closely connected, for the scenes of the principal events in an exciting book are laid at Canvey Island, Southend, Rayleigh, Benfleet etc.
     Indeed, his opening chapter is as follows:

     “Early in the fifth decade of the present century when the quaint fairy Crinolina was waving her wand over merry England and transforming its fair women into funny reproductions of their ancestresses under Good Queen Bess; when young townsmen wore white hats and peg top trousers, and when nearly every house boasted its dismal array of horsehair-stuffed chairs and sofas covered with that most horrible invention, the antimacassar—early, that is to say, in the married life of her Majesty Queen Victoria, there stood in the loneliest part of Canvey Island at the mouth of the Thames a solitary tumble-down inn, called the Lobster Smack.
     Its landlord was a certain Job Endell, who had once been a deep sea mariner, and, if report did not greatly belie him, a savage sea-dog and pirate; its patrons and customers, few and far between, were such fishermen, bargees, lightermen, and riverside characters as were driven in their various vessels by stress of weather or freaks of the tide into the little muddy haven close to the inn door. From time to time the little inn resounded with the merriment of such wayfarers, but as a rule it was as deserted as its surroundings; and the aforesaid Job Endell was the lonely monarch of all he surveyed.
     Now and then, however, Job had the privilege of entertaining a stray visitor from London, attracted thither by the chances of fishing in the river or sea-bird shooting in the creeks or along the sea-wall and at the time when our story opens two such visitors, who combined the profession of art with the pleasures of cheap sport, were occupying the only habitable guest-chambers in the inn. The little dark parlour was lumbered with their guns, their fishing rods, and their nets, as well as with the paraphernalia of their profession — easels, brushes, canvases, sketch books, pipes, and cigar boxes.
     Canvey Island exists still, and so, curiously enough, does the Lobster Smack; and even to-day, when the neighbouring shores of Kent and Essex are covered with new colonies and ever-increasing resorts of the tourist, Canvey is practically terra incognita, and its one house of public entertainment as solitary and desolate as ever. Flat as a map, so intermingled with creeks and runlets, that it is difficult to say where water ends and land begins. Canvey Island lies, a shapeless octopus, right under the high ground of Benfleet and Hadleigh, and stretches out muddy and slimy feelers to touch and dabble in the deep water of the flowing Thames.
     Away across the marshes rise the ancient ruins of Hadleigh Castle, further eastward, the high spire and square tower of Leigh Church; and still further eastward, the now flourishing town of Southend, called by its enemies Southend-on- Mud. There is plenty of life yonder, and sounds of life; the railway has opened up every spot and in the track of the railway has followed the cheap tourist and the Salvation Army; but down here on Canvey Island everything is still as silent, as lonely, and as gruesome as it was fifty or a hundred years ago—nay, as it was a thousand years past, ere the walls of Hadleigh had fallen into ruin, and when the loopholes of the Castle commanded all approaches of the enemy from the shore or the deep sea.”

     As we stated in the heading, Mrs. Buchanan was buried in St. John’s Churchyard, Southend, and a representative was despatched to ascertain particulars of the little known event. After a long search, with the aid of the sexton, the grave was discovered in the north-east corner, near the wall, and close by the Rumble enclosure. It is a brick grave and was covered with long grass, and the low head-stone was nearly hidden from view. The inscription thereon is: “Sacred to the memory of Mary Buchanan, who fell asleep at Southend-on-Sea, November 7th, 1881 aged 36 years.” We understand that another interment—that of a sister—was made in the grave about seven years ago, but no record is given on the headstone. The sexton states that up to a few years ago he was paid to keep the grave in repair, but since then it has not been attended to. A few weeks since, however, some ladies made enquires and diligent search in the churchyard for the resting place, but were then unable to find it.
     The following pathetic story is told by G. R. Sims, in the “Morning Leader”: “Once at Southend we went to bed at three. At half-past eight he was up and ready for a stroll before breakfast. We walked about Southend for an hour. Suddenly my companion left me saying “Go back to the hotel. I’ll be with you directly.” When he came in I noticed that the knees of his trousers were covered with chalk. He had gone to the churchyard to see the grave of his wife. He had found the gate locked and had climbed over the wall.”
     We understand that Mr. Buchanan’s remains will rest in the town he so much appreciated; it being the intention to inter the coffin beside that of the wife on Friday morning.

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M. A. P. (15 June, 1901 - pp. 591-593)

Robert Buchanan.

     NOBODY could tell the story of his life so well as Robert Buchanan himself, and he told it in these columns. Of the many interesting chapters of autobiography which have appeared in these columns, none was more interesting than his; and in some respects, none have so much glow and eloquence. That, indeed, was the characteristic of everything Buchanan wrote. It might be fractious in temper, arrogant, needlessly defiant and provocative; but it was always aglow with the vehement and eloquence of the born poet.

*****

     I HAVE not seen much of Buchanan in recent years; our paths lay too much apart. But at one time I knew him fairly well, and all my relations with him have left pleasant memories behind. He sent for me just after I had published my biography of Disraeli, and when he himself was about to start a short-lived but brilliant little newspaper called Light, and I contributed a pretty large part to that journal during its existence. At that time Buchanan used to live in furnished houses, at one time in one part, at another in another part of London; often in the West of Ireland, which he greatly loved. On the first occasion I visited him—if I remember rightly—he lived in Belsize Park; then I saw him in some country house down Richmond way; and the last time it was in one of those wondrous places in St. John’s Wood—the one spot left in London with big gardens and numerous trees, and windows flat with the lawn; true country in the midst of bustling, dusty, and choked London.

*****

His Temperament.

     HE was a very interesting and a very agreeable man; with daring originality in all he said; with a spice of malice; and with a certain tendency to fall foul of accepted idols. I remember being very much struck with the tone of bitterness and disrespect with which he spoke of George Eliot. Altogether I took him to be a man of uncertain and trying temper; with many animosities—some reasonable, some unreasonable—with a certain sense of not having succeeded as largely as his very remarkable gifts entitled him to expect; and with a good deal of the irritability of the irritable, nerved and touchy race of littérateurs to which he belonged.

*****

His Appearance.

     AND his appearance justified this impression. He was a regular Scotchman in physique—sandy-haired, freckle-skinned, robust. The eyes were very remarkable, very light blue, very brilliant, almost burning, with a certain frigidity and irritability in their depths that revealed the man of hot temper, strong hatreds, and vehement affections.

*****

     IN many ways he seemed, even when he was still a comparatively young man, a survival of that period of the sixties to which he belonged, and which he so graphically described in our columns. He affected the Inverness cloak which dated from that time; and generally he looked an upper class Bohemian. The brilliancy of the eyes was somewhat dimmed by gold spectacles, which he always had to wear because of his short sight. The face was round and rather pale; the nose was small, sharp, and, if I may so say of a nose, somewhat irritable.

*****

His Inner Life.

     BUCHANAN’S life had not been altogether happy or prosperous. He was married to a very beautiful woman—sister of Miss Harriet Jay, well-known in the theatrical world, and, like Miss Jay, she was stately and statuesque in figure, with beautifully chiselled regular features, fine eyes, and a gay and almost bubbling spirit. But early in her married life she was attacked by one of those painful internal maladies which are the death of health and domestic happiness, and often she suffered tortures. Indeed, I remember once seeing her laughing and chattering like some bright singing bird, and in the midst of it a shade suddenly fell upon her face, and turning to me she said: “If you speak to me, I shall have to burst into tears.” I was young in years, and even younger in experience, and knew nothing at that time of that strange world of laughter and tears, of heroic suffering and tragic depression, which is the world of the invalid woman, but the moment remained with me afterwards, an illuminating glimpse into the unfathomable depths of secret and silent sorrow and pain in which we move unconsciously among our fellow men and women.

*****

As Actor.

     IN his reminiscences I do not find any mention of one stage in Buchanan’s life which was very interesting. He was employed as a small actor; if I mistake not, at the Britannia, or some other of the popular and suburban theatres. And I think I have heard that his somewhat bulky form was one night precipitated from the rope on which, as Myles-na-Coppaleen in Boucicault’s play, he was crossing the Lake of Killarney.

*****

His Work.

     BUCHANAN would have done better work if he hadn’t done so much work. But I fancy that, like so many literary men, he never learned the art of compound addition; and that, however much he earned, he was always a little in arrear. And so he had to waste a lot of his beautiful talent in mere hackwork—adaptations of plays, melodrama and the like. And so he had to work on and on till the tired brain snapped; his days—after all his great earnings—ended in something approaching to penury. And so rest his fevered soul; it has found peace at last.

*****

Some Extracts.

     I HAD some extracts taken from his autobiography, especially in reference to his earliest years; they tell a sombre and touching tale of what his early life was like; and it is so like the life of so many others that from Scotland and Ireland and the English provinces enter on that dreadful struggle for bread through letters in the overstocked market of London:

*****

In the Days of his Youth.

     “THE man who has not lived in London all alone, without a relation or a friend, scarcely knows what loneliness is. For day after day, for week after week, for month after month, I dwelt by myself in ‘the dear old, ghastly, bankrupt garret,’ as David Gray had christened it, and the only human soul with whom I exchanged a word, with the exception of the one or two strangers on whom I called when seeking for employment, was the draggled maid-of-all-work who attended upon me and the other lodgers, scarcely one of whom I knew even by sight. I had no companions, I had not even an acquaintance, save Hepworth Dixon, of the Athenæum, from whom I carefully concealed my poverty and terrible isolation, and whom I saw at intervals in his editorial office in Wellington Street, Strand. A little later on I introduced myself to W. G. Wills, of All the Year Round, and to John Morley, then a boy like myself and editing the Literary Gazette, and still later I made the acquaintance, at the General Post Office, of Edmund Yates, who was sub-editing Temple Bar; but, in reality, these men were strangers to me—strangers to whom I could neither retail my troubles nor unburthen my ambition.

*****

The Loneliness of an Outcast.

     “I HAD to fall back on solitude, and on my fellow-outcasts; the streets. The friend of my boyhood was dying in Scotland. My mother and father were there also, and in desperate straits, and the only sense of human sympathy and companionship came to me in correspondence from these dear ones. I seldom went out in the daytime, except to visit the offices of the journals where I had found a little work; I wrote, thought, read, and studied from dawn to dusk; and at night, when darkness had fallen, I wandered out into the streets, down by the riverside, on the lonely Bridge immortalised in Hood’s piteous poem. I had a roof to shelter me, that was all; in other respects I was nearly as forlorn as the weary women with whom I often stood and talked, and from whom I do not recollect ever hearing a coarse or an unkind word.

*****

His Mother.

     “BUT high as my heart was, and sanguine as I was of winning both fame and fortune, I was lonely beyond measure; and so heavy did the sense of solitude weigh upon me that it often became almost more than I could bear. The one thing that saved me from utter despair was the thought of my mother in Scotland, praying for the time when she would again be united to her son. Her letters came daily—always loving, always divinely tender; and wherever I went her face was with me, blessing every footstep of the way. I prayed for her as I had never prayed before; and from that hour to this she has never ceased to be the load-star of my life.

*****

The Journalist of the Sixties.

     “THIS was early in the Sixties, when men wore white hats and peg-top trousers, and women crinolines. Charles Dickens was the reigning king of literary London, and his young lions, headed by George Augustus Sala, were beginning to roar on innumerable Cockney journals. It was the average literary man of those days, the buoyant self-assured mimic of the manners of Thackeray and Dickens, that most amazed me; for he appeared never to have read a book, or to have possessed an idea beyond the idea of grinning with affected bonhomie through a horse-collar, or to be capable of conceiving any literary influence beyond the sphere of his own little clique or ‘set.’ He was, for the rest, very loud spoken, very vulgar, and too often, very drunk. He swaggered and swore, clapt his friends on the shoulder, and ‘slated’ his own enemies and those of his Editor. He said ‘smart’ things, which his admirers quoted and printed.

*****

In Bohemia.

     “LET me be just, however, to the spirit, even the minor spirit, of the early Sixties. With all its noisiness and vulgarity, all its abysmal ignorance of great books and great ideas, it was full of sympathy with humanity, full of kindliness and animal spirits, full of true camaraderie, and free of merely artistic affectation. Dickens had done his conjuring well, and almost slain the literary Prig. Most of the young writers of those days called themselves, and really were, Bohemians; on their ’scutcheons were a clay pipe and a quart-pot neatly graven; they were poor, yet open-handed; loose, yet kindly hearted.

*****

A Confession.

     “I DO not wish to suggest for a moment that I, the bumptious new-comer from Scotland, was independent of the social environment into which I found myself plunged. Pose as I might in my own mind as a superior person, I felt, like my elders and contemporaries, the spell of Bohemia. I thought it a very fine and splendid thing to be independent of social sanctions. I smoked a pipe, and I often drank more than was good for me. I knew Mimi and Marie, or their English namesakes. I made holiday from time to time at Cremorne and at Rosherville Gardens. I thought myself a fine fellow not to be judged by the common codes of respectability. I swaggered, in and out of print, and pronounced judgment on my betters with amazing self-assurance. I would starve for weeks, or next to starve, having only one square meal now and then, a repast of coffee and muffins at the old Caledonian Coffee House in Covent Garden; then, having drawn a month’s pay I would spend it royally in a single evening. That was the way in these days, and it became my way. Et ego in Bohemiâ vixi.

*****

First Steps in Literature.

     “MY first contributions, I think, were to the Athenæum and the Literary Gazette. I did reviews for both these journals, the first of which was conducted by Hepworth Dixon, the second by John Morley, then a youth like myself. My pay for the Athenæum was 10s. 6d. a column, extracts not deducted; that for the Gazette, I fancy, rather less, with all quotations deducted. I well remember how old John Francis, the kindliest of men, used to measure off with a foot rule my contributions to the Athenæum, and pay me in cash over the counter. About the same time I did some occasional work for All the Year Round, and received for it a more liberal remuneration. These desultory contributions would hardly have served to keep me in bread and butter, had they not been supplemented by a leader on current politics sent weekly to a newspaper in Ayr, and paid for at the rate of 12s. 6d. a week. One literary engagement, however, soon led to another; and I was in high spirits indeed on the morning I received a letter from Edmund Yates, informing me that he was sub-editing, under Sala, a new magazine, to be called Temple Bar, and that Dickens had given him my name among others.

*****

Parting Words.

     “FAIRLY launched at last upon the troubled currents of Literature, I began that long career of cheerful dishallucination which has left me wondering, in the autumn of my days, what the deuce I ever did in that galère of ephemeral masterpieces and bogus reputations. At fifty years of age I discovered that I had never “grown up,” although most of my illusions had tumbled round me like a house of cards, I had still the boy’s belief in a world that never was and never will be, though it had appeared to me so real and substantial in the days of my youth.”

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The Tamworth Herald (15 June, 1901 - p.2)

ROBERT BUCHANAN.

     Mr. Robert Buchanan, who died at the house of his sister-in-law, Miss Harriet Jay, the playwright, in London, on Monday, was a Scotsman, but by the accident of his father’s wanderings was born at Caverswall, near the Staffordshire Potteries, on August 18th, 1841. He was the son of Robert Buchanan, a Socialist, missionary, and journalist, and was educated at the High School of the University of Glasgow. Early in life he began that restless struggle for fame and fortune which carried him through so many vicissitudes, but failed to bring him contentment or happiness in the end. He was under 19 when he went to London, and his experiences were depressing. The amount of work which Buchanan accomplished is enormous. For some years past, however, he had done little, and his name, once very familiar in literary circles, where his personality was strongly marked, has seldom been heard. He was granted a pension from the Civil List by Mr. Gladstone.

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The Penny Illustrated Paper (15 June, 1901 - p.3)

The Late Robert Buchanan.

     With regret also did we learn that Robert Buchanan, the well-known poet, novelist, and dramatist, died on Monday last at the residence of his clever  sister-in-law, Miss Harriet Jay, Streatham. Mr. Buchanan had been in a deplorable state of health for a long time, and a friend who visited him some weeks ago found the once vigorous writer helpless and speechless. He was stricken in the prime of life. He was only sixty at the date of his death. His opinions of contemporary writers were expressed without reserve in “The Fleshly School of Poetry,” published in 1872. His severest criticisms were launched against the poems of Mr. Swinburne and Mr. Dante Gabriel Rossetti. He always had great faith in his poems, and in 1874 published a new edition in three volumes. He had the true Scottish sincerity, courage, and determination. Nothing ever daunted Robert Buchanan. Peace to his memory! He was a man of great ability, and, until his distressing loss of health, of unflagging energy.

OBITPIC

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The Athenæum (15 June, 1901)

ROBERT WILLIAM BUCHANAN.

     THE death occurred on Monday last of Robert Buchanan, journalist, critic, novelist, and dramatist. He was born in 1841, and came to London in 1860 as, to use his own words, “a literary adventurer, with no capital but a sublime self- assurance,” and starved in what David Gray called a “dear old ghastly bankrupt garret.” He was, however, befriended by Sydney Dobell and the future Lord Houghton, and as early as 1861 was reviewing for the Athenæum, for which he wrote for several years. He contributed, for instance, a judicious criticism of ‘The Ring and the Book’ in 1868. In 1871 came the furious attack by “Thomas Maitland” on Swinburne and Rossetti in the Contemporary Review. Rossetti, to whom the results of the onslaught were disastrous, replied in our own pages. Violent writing was unfortunately only too characteristic of Buchanan. He was always at war with somebody, and spent much of his energy in making himself impossible to his friends and well-wishers. The bitterness of his early struggles was some excuse for this, but the years after he had made his position might well have brought more wisdom, more moderation of tone and language. His contempt for all contemporary criticism may be seen, for instance, in his ‘Look Round Literature,’ in 1886, and ‘The Devil’s Case,’ in 1896, when he became his own publisher for a time. In this poem he was a Lucifer railing against

                   the cliques of Heaven,
Who for ever and for ever
Roll the Log and praise the Lord.

It was the lifelong complaint again of no fair criticism or recognition, false gods everywhere, a literary Inquisition! It was hardly surprising to find such assertions resulting in the record that

         the laws of Earth and Heaven
Seemed one vast Receiving Order.

Buchanan left singularly little praise of his contemporaries. To Charles Reade only was he generous. It is not necessary, nor would it be desirable, to write out the long list of his aversions. Such a man made it difficult for others to appreciate him. He did not, however, lack official recognition, being pensioned in 1870 “in consideration of his merits as a poet.”
     His energies were too much dissipated to secure permanent success in any line. As poet his possibilities were greatest—he was poignant, if pungent; he showed a genuine lyric gift, a cri du cœur which put him above many lauded bards of to-day. His ‘Undertones’ (1860) and ‘London Poems’ (1866), which led the public to regard him as one of the rising poets, were never followed by any great poetic advance; he was too impatient and probably too facile to be anything but unequal, yet his claim that he preached spiritual things to a materialistic generation may be easily underrated to-day. In his more ambitious poetry, such as ‘Napoleon Fallen,’ he was unequal to his theme. Showing great ability in many departments, he was an adept at echoing the thoughts and modes of his day; and his originality has often been questioned. When Science was the new gospel and Humanity was writ so large, he was a philosopher after Lewes and George Eliot; Reade influenced him as novelist; as poet he had evidently read Heine. His most effective work was, perhaps, in adaptations for the stage. His novels, which will not last, if they are not already forgotten, were melodramatic, but effective enough. ‘The Shadow of the Sword’ and ‘God and the Man’ were the best of them. Froude found ‘Foxglove Manor’ “the worst novel he ever read.” A great fighter, confident in his own powers and ever ready to strike, Buchanan had his generous side too, and aspirations to higher things. Pity it was that his life did not answer to his ideals. It has the pathos of unresting work, of limited achievement, of misunderstanding. He has gone where sæva indignatio can vex him no more.

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Black and White (15 June, 1901)

Robert Buchanan

     FIGHTERS are not always popular, and so a good deal of the applause that might otherwise have fallen to Robert Buchanan was seldom given, and even then but grudgingly. Yet there are many unprejudiced people who think that “The City of Dream” is one of the most beautiful poems of modern days, not only owing to the splendid level at which the verse is maintained, but also because of the exquisite lyrics which come in to lighten the heavier verses. As a dramatist, Mr. Buchanan was associated chiefly with the Adelphi Theatre, his sturdy soul being quite content with melodrama. Novel-writing also occupied many hours of a busy life, though Mr. Buchanan’s novels will not very likely add much to his fame. Of course, no article in a review ever made so much stir as that on The Fleshly School of Poetry.

_____

Alone in London

     THE tale of Robert Buchanan, however, is not so much the tale of poems and dramas and romances as the tale of a man, full of vigorous independence, of sympathy and compassion and of generous appreciation of the strength and weakness of other men. His friendship with David Gray and the story of his early struggles with poverty have often been told: how he lost his friend and rediscovered him at a wretched lodging in the Borough, how poor Gray was one day forced to sleep out in Hyde Park and caught his death from exposure. De Quincey himself could not have been more lonely than was Robert Buchanan in those early days. “I seldom went out in the daytime,” he said in a recent autobiography, “except to visit the offices of the journals where I found a little work; I wrote, thought, read, and studied from dawn to dusk; and at night, when darkness had fallen, I wandered out into the streets, down by the riverside, on the lonely bridge immortalised in Hood’s piteous poem. I had a roof to shelter me, that was all.”

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The Illustrated London News (15 June, 1901 - p.6)

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     Mr. Robert Buchanan, whose death on June 10 ended a long and painful illness, was born in 1841, at Caverswall, in Staffordshire. His father, also Robert Buchanan, was a Socialist, a missionary, and a journalist; and his more famous son inherited from him much more than his name. Robert Buchanan the younger was always a Propagandist; his was no scheme of “art for art’s sake”; he brought at times almost the biases of a fanatic to his literary tasks. His pen was that of the ready writer and the ready smiter. His education at Glasgow Academy and Glasgow University did not cool the fires, which, when  he came to London, found expression in such articles as that on “The Fleshly School of Poetry,” to which Rossetti made answer, and which Mr. Buchanan himself, as the years proceeded, practically withdrew. Setting out to be himself a poet, he published a volume of verse in 1866, and in 1880 issued his “Collected Poetical Works.” His first novel, “The Shadow of the Sword,” published a quarter of a century ago, made at once apparent a new personality among popular writers. Like another novelist, whose death is simultaneously recorded, he had his ideals about methods of issuing books, and he became his own publisher in 1896, sending out “The Devil’s Case” and other works. When, however, he produced a little later a story of Irish clerical life, he had recourse again to the ordinary channels of communication between an author and his readers. In 1880 Mr. Buchanan began his career as a writer of plays, some of which have become very popular. He had his share of the “quarrels of authors” from the says of his early encounter with Mr. Edmund Yates; but the impetuosity of character which sometimes led to breaches of the literary peace was by no means abandoned by him when sacrifices had to be made and generous deeds done.

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The Sphere (15 June, 1901 - p.6)

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     The death of Robert Buchanan from paralysis at the age of sixty will give an opportunity for the genuine literary critic to do justice where justice has perhaps long been withheld from personal reasons. Mr. Buchanan was born in Warwickshire and was educated at Glasgow University, where he had for college companion the David Gray whose pathetic life-story Robert Buchanan afterwards told. The two friends lived in London together until Gray died. Mr. Buchanan’s first volume of poems, Undertones, appeared in 1860; six years later his London Poems met with a greater measure of success. Although poetry is probably the medium through which Robert Buchanan is destined to live in literature, and, as I have said, in later years very little justice has been done to his really very considerable qualities, it is as a novelist and dramatist that he is known to the present generation. Perhaps his position as a poet was blurred for his older contemporaries by his great quarrel with Rossetti in which the latter perhaps secured too much of the world’s sympathy and partisanship. Some of the charges in Buchanan’s Fleshly School of Poetry were, however, retracted afterwards.

     Buchanan’s most famous novels were The Shadow of the Sword and God and the Man; they were clever, but certainly not such good literature as his poetry. His plays, again, made for a time a great reputation, Lady Clare, Stormbeaten, and Sophia being, perhaps, best known.

     That quarrel with Rossetti, in which Mr. Swinburne joined, a quarrel which has played a very large part in the literary small-talk of the Victorian era, was only one of many disputations into which Mr. Buchanan entered. It was a certain faculty for falling out with people that, as I have said, has somewhat blurred the critical vision of the age with regard to his poetry. But that time will do him justice, that it will place him very high among Victorian poets, I have not the slightest doubt.

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The Academy (15 June, 1901 - No. 1519, p.504-505)

     BY the deaths of Sir Walter Besant and Mr. Robert Buchanan literature has suffered two very dissimilar losses. In Sir Walter Besant goes a most able writer, in whom the practical virtues of a literary man were conspicuously embodied. ...

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     OF late years Mr. Buchanan had been best known as a playwright and a novelist. As a novelist he never took high rank. His publishers may tell us that such-and-such of his recent stories have had such-and-such a circulation, and we are quite prepared to believe them; but the assertion, if made, would not be much to the point. When a man of letters disappears from among us, one seeks to ascertain what have been ephemeral and what may probably be lasting. Mr. Buchanan’s God and the Man may be dipped into for the sake of the quatrain-preface, in which he apologised to the shade of Gabriel Rossetti; but, apart from that as story, who is likely, fifty or even twenty years hence, to turn to any of Buchanan’s prose romances, from The Shadow of the Sword to Andromeda? In days when anybody and everybody can write a novel, Mr. Buchanan wrote novels—some two dozen altogether; but he wrote such things no better than did half-a-hundred of his contemporaries, and assuredly it is not as a prose story-writer that he has any chance of being permanently remembered. We may take for granted that he wrote novels as pot-boilers, and without any self-deception as to his capacity for the work. He produced them pretty steadily from 1881 onwards, at the rate occasionally of three a year. He brought out three in 1882, two in 1884, three in 1885, three in 1893, two in 1894, three in 1898, and so forth; but from 1881 his chief business was that of the concocting of plays.

_____

     AND he was not at all a bad playwright as playwrights go. He had a considerable command of the technique of the theatre, of which he had always been more or less a devotee. There is record of a drama of his, written in collaboration with his friend MacGibbon (softened down to Gibbon), which was performed at the Standard Theatre, London, when Buchanan was not yet “of age.” A play written wholly by himself “faced the footlights” three or four years later. Unquestionably he knew how to put together a stage-piece, and out of some of his adaptations from Fielding and the French a good deal of money must have been made by somebody. He was also very successful when working with the late Mr. Augustus Harris, Mr. G. R. Sims (with whom, for a time, he ruled the Adelphi audiences), and Miss Harriett Jay, who has so often hidden herself under the nom-de-guerre of “Charles Marlowe.” But what that was lasting or first-rate did Mr. Buchanan do for the theatre? There was, no doubt, some literary merit in his blank-verse play, “The Bride of Love,” but it is no longer in the theatrical repertory, having disappeared in company with such pieces as “That Doctor Cupid,” “Marmion,” “The Gifted Lady,” “Dick Sheridan,” and the like. On the whole, we dare say, Buchanan reaped more pecuniary reward from the seed he sowed in the playhouse than from any other literary crop. He was wise in his generation. He recognised in good time that if money was to be made anywhere nowadays, it was in the theatre. That his heart was either in his play-writing or in his novel-writing it is difficult to believe. He began his literary life as a poet, and it is as a poet that he will be remembered, if at all.

_____

     As a poet, the younger generation know Buchanan only as the author of such books as The New Rome, The Devil’s Case, The Outcast, The City of Dream, The Earthquake, and so on; but it is not by these querulous and spasmodic productions that his position as a verse-writer is to be fixed. His career as a poet came to an end, virtually, in 1874—the year previous to that in which he made his first appearance as a fictionist. It was as a poet that Buchanan started (in  1863, when only in his twenty-second year), and it was as a poet, we may be sure, that he desired to excel and make himself “for ever known.” It was as a poet that he was accepted and praised by the press for a whole decade. His Undertones, his Idylls and Legends of Inverburn, his London Poems, his Ballad Stories of the Affections, all made for him many friends and admirers. This vogue culminated in North Coast, and Other Poems, the volume in which, as a verse-writer, he is seen at his best. There was very considerable pathos in “Meg Blane,” and a good deal of genuinely satiric humour in the English and Scotch eclogues. The lyrico-dramatic dialogue between the dying Meg and her half- witted adult son still appeals to the heart:

     “O bairn, when I am dead,
         How shall ye keep frae harm?
     What hand will gie ye bread?
         What fire will keep ye warm?
How shall ye dwell on earth awa’ frae me?”—
               “O mither, dinna dee!” . . .

     “O bairn, it is but closing up the een,
         And lying down never to rise again;
     Many a strong man’s sleeping hae I seen—
           There is nae pain!
     I’m weary, weary, and I scarce ken why
         My summer has gone by,
And sweet were sleep, but for the sake o’ thee”—
               “O mither, dinna dee!”

Excellent, again, were some of the “Sonnets written by Loch Coruisk, Isle of Skye,” with their touch of mysticism and their modern note. Even more mysticism was there in The Book of Orm, and merit of a kind was to be noted in St. Abe and White Rose and Red, both of them issued anonymously. There is vivacity and sprightliness in “The Wedding of Shon Maclean,” and to other fugitive pieces by Buchanan attention might very profitably be drawn. Assuredly it is upon his verse that Buchanan’s title to remembrance rests.

___

 

The Era (15 June, 1901 - p.13)

DEATH OF ROBERT BUCHANAN.
_____

     Mr Robert Buchanan, poet, novelist, and dramatist, died on Monday morning, at the residence of his sister-in-law, Miss Harriet Jay, 90, Lewin-road, Streatham. He was in his sixtieth year. In the middle of October, last year, Mr Buchanan was struck down by paralysis without any warning. He had been in indifferent health for some time before, and had been obliged almost to give up work, depending upon the assistance of friends and a small Government pension. His savings had been swept away in a disastrous speculation which obliged him to go through the Bankruptcy Court and to part with all his copyrights. Just before the stroke of paralysis, however, he had begun to gain strength and to recover his spirits, and had taken up work again. In his helpless state he had once more to rely upon the aid of friends. He had been a very generous man when he was prosperous himself. He had never refused help to anyone in distress, and in his time of need he was generously assisted. His old friend Mr John Coleman, actor and author, busied himself in starting a fund, and enough money was raised to meet the immediate needs of the case. It was seen from the first that no permanent recovery could be hoped for, and the end has come as a merciful release from a state of the most pitiful helplessness and living death.
     A Scotsman by origin, and the son of a provincial journalist and Socialist lecturer, Robert Buchanan was born in Staffordshire in 1841. He was educated at the High School and the University of Glasgow. Here he formed an intimate friendship with one of his college companions, David Gray, who was gifted with poetic genius, and the two young men decided to try their fortunes together in London, and travelled to the metropolis in 1860. For a time Gray and Buchanan lived together in humble lodgings in the neighbourhood of the Waterloo-road. Gray died at an early age from consumption. In 1860 he published his first book, “Undertones,” and this was followed five years later by “Idylls and Legends of Inverburn,” and in 1866 by “London Poems.” The last-named poems attracted considerable attention by their decided merits; they were marked by passion, pathos, and a power of expression at once graceful and vigorous. In the same year he published a collection of “Wayside Posies” and a translation of Danish ballads. “North Coast Poems” appeared in 1867, and in 1871 he produced a lyrical drama entitled Napoleon Fallen, which, though containing many impressive and powerful passages, did not add much to his reputation. Under the title of “The Land of Lorn” he brought out a collection from the magazines of prose essays and sketches, including the “Cruise of the Tern to the Outer Hebrides.”
     As a dramatist Mr Buchanan has been prolific, and several of his plays have been distinct successes. Many years ago his tragedy of The Witchfinder was brought out at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, and a comedy by him in three acts entitled A Madcap Prince was acted at the Haymarket in August, 1874. Among his contributions to the stage, A Nine Days’ Queen, in which Miss Harriet Jay first appeared as an actress, is reckoned one of the best. The same lady appeared in his dramatic version of one of her own novels, “The Queen of Connaught,” brought out at the Olympic in 1877, with the late Ada Cavendish in the principal part. The Shadow of the Sword, a dramatisation of the author’s story, presented by Mr John Coleman, also at the Olympic, in 1882, was not a success. Storm-Beaten, played at the Adelphi, in 1883, was founded on Mr Buchanan’s own novel, “God and the Man,” Charles Warner sustaining the leading character; the late Amy Roselle and Mr Beerbohm Tree were also in the cast. In A Sailor and His Lass, produced at Drury-lane Theatre in the autumn of 1883, Mr Buchanan collaborated with the late Sir Augustus Harris, who played a leading part in the drama. For the Globe Mr Buchanan wrote a version of Ohnet’s celebrated Le Maître de Forges, to which he gave the name of Lady Clare. Bachelors, a comedy by Buchanan and Vezin; Agnes, a comedy, adapted from Molière’s L’Ecole des Femmes; A Dark Night’s Bridal, founded on one of Stevenson’s sketches; Fascination, a three-act comedy, written in conjunction with Miss Jay; and Alone in London, also written in conjunction with Miss Jay, and produced at the Olympic, Nov. 2d, 1885, were other plays with which Mr Buchanan’s name was associated. Partners, a comedy-drama, in five acts, founded on Daudet’s Fromont Jeune et Risler Ainé, was produced at the Haymarket in 1888. That Doctor Cupid, described as a fantastic comedy, was produced at the Vaudeville in 1889, with Mr Cyril Maude, Miss Winifred Emery, and Mr Tom Thorne in the cast. The Old Home, a comedy-drama, was seen at the Vaudeville in the same year, and another play was The Struggle for Life, adapted by Buchanan and Mr Horner from Daudet’s La Lutte pour la Vie, George Alexander, Albert Chevalier, and Kate Phillips sustaining leading characters. The Sixth Commandment, brought out by Miss Wallis at the Shaftesbury, failed to attract. Man and the Woman, a three-act play, was produced at the Criterion, at a matinée, in 1889, and the year afterwards Miss Grace Hawthorne put on Buchanan’s version of Sardou’s Theodora at the Princess’s, with Leonard Boyne, Charles Cartwright, and W. H. Vernon, and the piece proved successful both in town and country. In 1891, in association with Mr Geo. R. Sims, the deceased wrote The Trumpet Call for the Adelphi, and with the same partner afterwards did The White Rose, The Lights of Home, and The Black Domino for the Gattis. Among Mr Buchanan’s later productions were The Piper of Hamelin and Dick Sheridan at the Comedy, The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown at the Vaudeville (in conjunction with “Charles Marlowe”) The New Don Quixote at the Royalty, and The Mariners of England at the Olympic. The Charlatan, in which Mr Tree made a hit, was popular at the Haymarket. His dramatic version of Miss Rhoda Broughton’s Nancy, produced at the Royalty, was greeted with high favour. The Romance of the Shopwalker, in which he collaborated with “Charles Marlowe,” was another successful play. A Society Butterfly was a joint production with Mr henry Murray. His adaptation of Fielding’s “Tom Jones,” called Sophia, ran at the Vaudeville for nearly two years. Some time ago Two Little Maids From School, from Dumas’s “Les Demoiselles de St. Cyr,” was performed at Camberwell. Probably, however, Mr Buchanan will be best remembered by A Man’s Shadow, which, under Mr Tree’s management, was very successful both at the Haymarket and at Her Majesty’s.
     His litigation with Mrs Langtry created no small interest in 1889. He had written for her a play entitled Lady Gladys, and he brought an action against her because she did not open the New York season with that play according to agreement. The late Sir Frank Lockwood was Mrs Langtry’s counsel. The case he submitted to the jury was that the play was to be suited to the actress’s powers, and that she was to be at liberty to reject it. Mr Buchanan won the day in spite of the odds against him.
     Mr George R. Sims writes of his old friend as follows:—Of all his work I think he liked the dramatic best. At least, he told me so. It was a relief to him to direct the rehearsals, and he enjoyed the Bohemianism that still lingers among the children of Thespis. Always a masterful man, he disliked interference when he was on the stage. Suggestions from others irritated him. When we were rehearsing The English Rose at the Adelphi I came down one afternoon, and found him brandishing his umbrella—by his umbrella and his white waistcoat you might know him in those days—and instructing a sergeant of the Scots Guards to say to his men “Enter the church.” The sergeant ventured to suggest that the proper command would be, “Right turn—quick march.” It took me all my powers of persuasion to induce the Bard to yield to the sergeant on a point of military procedure.
     It was always pleasant to see the Bard—the man who had given divine thoughts to the world—enthusing over a clever comedian at the music-hall, almost, as it were, composing verses “in his head” to the graceful lady of song and dance. He had all Dickens’s love of the show folk, and when we went away together in the country nothing delighted him so much as to find out a little show, a fair, a booth, or a circus.

_____

THE FUNERAL.

     Close to the sunlit sea, with the great and gorgeous sky sending all its glory down, Robert Buchanan was laid to rest at Southend yesterday afternoon in the grave where lie his mother and wife. The first part of the funeral service was held at St. John the Baptist’s Church, the interment taking place in the cemetery. The chief mourners were the sister-in-law of the deceased, Miss Harriet Jay, Miss Bernardy, Miss May Jones, Mrs Bassett, Dr. Gorham, Mr Stoddart-Walker, Mr John Ross, Mr Pelham Wormsley, and Mr Henry Herman.
     The service was conducted by the Rev. T. Varney, who spoke his few words with most touching sympathy. Mr Buchanan was in the habit of going to Southend for rest and relaxation, and had endeared himself to all who knew him. At the graveside were Mr B. Shelton, Mr Weatherley, Mr Fred Marlow, and Mr A. H. Darbishire; and many local folk who knew and respected the late dramatist, including Messrs C. Bowmaker, H. J. Judd, Charles Belsham, J. Wisemann, H. Brewer, and Mr F. Rumes, the ex-Mayor of Southend, who takes great interest in all things theatrical.
     Amongst the wreaths received with touching lines were those from Mr J. L. Toole, Mr Beerbohm Tree, Mr F. Noel, Miss Alice McAnelly, Mrs J. S. Morten, Mr John Ross, Miss M. A. Victor, Mr Stoddart-Walker, Mr J. Stewart Blackie, Mrs C. M. Baldwin, Mr and Mrs Walter Slaughter, Mr Fred Stanley, and Miss Irene De Bernardy. The coffin simply bore these words:—

ROBERT BUCHANAN.
Born Aug. 18th, 1841;
Died June 10th, 1901.

And so we can say, after a turbulent life, Peace to his ashes. The only actors present were those who were playing in the town.

___

 

The Spectator (15 June, 1901 - p.3)

     We have noticed the death of Sir Walter Besant elsewhere, but must record here the death of Mr. Robert Buchanan (born in Glasgow in 1841) on the next day. Mr. Robert Buchanan, though he never gave his undoubted genius its rights, was a man of very remarkable powers. There was a touch of genuine originality as well as of true poetic passion in his verse. We quote in another column a portion of a very striking poem which Mr. Buchanan contributed to the Spectator in the year 1866. One would have said that the man who could write verse of that kind at twenty-five must be going to do really great things. Yet Mr. Buchanan was in the end known neither as a poet nor as a critic, but as a kind of literary pugilist,—famous for his fights rather than for his creative work.

_____

     We shall publish next week an article by Mr. Rudyard Kipling, entitled “A Village Rifle Club,” which will not only interest those of our readers who are believers in rifle clubs, but will, we trust, further the cause that they and we have at heart.

 

[Note: The poem referred to in the ‘obituary’ above is ‘The Session of the Poets’, five stanzas of which are printed on Page 17, prefaced by the following:

     “The following stanzas are taken from a poem by the late Mr. Robert Buchanan which appeared in the Spectator of September 15th. 1866. We reprint them as a reminder to our readers of how remarkable was the store of wit, imagination, and poetic force with which Mr. Buchanan was endowed.” ]

___

 

Bexhill-on-Sea Observer (15 June, 1901 - p.2)

Musings by the Sea.

Mr. Robert Buchanan.

     I DID not expect to find much literary gush over the death of Mr. Robert Buchanan, novelist and poet. He was too unorthodox, too independent of mind to please the sycophants of English society, but those who are above sordid considerations, and can laugh the opinion of the world to scorn, knew how to appreciate his remarkable genius, the precious jewel which was hidden beneath the rough exterior. Some narrow-souled Bexhillians took offence at his open letter to Lord De La Warr, published some years ago, in which the poet lamented in eloquent words the destruction of the sylvan beauties of Bexhill, and its change from “a green and gentle retreat, full of sunshine and sweet music, into a hideous monstrosity of red brick and mortar, with impudent hotels, bran-new boarding establishments, a genteel esplanade, a priggish kiosk, and the inevitable Viennese band.” Understanding the temperament of Mr. Robert Buchanan, who forty years ago received his first inspiration from Nature in the beautiful Arcadia of the old village, I absolutely revelled in his chapter of lamentations, and thought it one of the cleverest things I had ever read in my life. The idea of the article being written against Bexhill, or doing it any harm as a seaside resort, was of course grotesquely absurd. I fancy that on the occasion of his last visit Mr. Robert Buchanan stayed at Pevensey, where he found the rural neighbourhood more suited to his poetic tastes. He was a man of wide sympathies. From being a Secularist, he came to write in sympathetic terms of the grand social and spiritual work which is being carried out by that noble organisation, the Salvation Army.

His Work.

     DICKENS was his hero. Of him he wrote:—“Two or three times a week, walking, black bag in hand, from Charing Cross Station to the office of ‘All the Year Round,’ in Wellington-street, came the good, the only Dickens. From that good Genius the poor straggler from Fairyland got solid help and sympathy. Few can realise now what Dickens was then to London. His humour filled its literature like broad sunlight; the Gospel of Plum-Pudding warmed every poor devil in Bohemia.” His first published volume of poetry was called “Undertones.” It was followed with a volume of “Idylls and Legends of Inverburn,” and a few years later with his volume of “London Poems” in 1866. He established his reputation as a poet of real inspiration. His first novel was published in 1874, and since then almost innumerable essays, plays, and stories have come from his pen. Robert Buchanan was always a fighter. In 1871 he issued his famous attack on Rossetti in “The Fleshly School of Poetry,” and in a later book he launched vigorous criticism on, among other people, Mr. George Moore and Mr. William Archer. Modern drama he would have none of. “For myself,” he said, “I infinitely prefer Lottie Collins to ‘Hedda Gabler’ and Little Tich to ‘Rosmer of Rosmerholm.’” He wrote plays in collaboration with Miss Jay, Mr. George R. Sims, and Sir Augustus Harris, but he had no real gift for the stage, and “The Man’s Shadow,” adapted by him from “Roger La Honte,” and his versions of “Tom Jones” and “Clarissa Harlowe” are his only noteworthy contributions to the drama. In 1896 he started as his own publisher, with disastrous results; and his later years were darkened with financial troubles. He had been suffering for a long time with cerebral hæmorrhage, resulting in paralysis of the right side and complete loss of speech, and his death must have been a happy relief. Partly from misfortune, partly from the defects of his qualities, Robert Buchanan never gained in his lifetime the fame he deserved, and there is a good deal of pathos in a remark he made a few months ago: “This is a badly stage-managed world.”

 

[Note: Buchanan’s “open letter to Lord De La Warr”, originally published in The Sunday Special in September 1899, was reprinted in this edition of the Bexhill-on-Sea Observer and is available in the Letters to the Press section.]

___

 

The Entr’acte (15 June, 1901 - pp.5-6)

     The late Robert Buchanan, who has just gone over to the majority, was, I suppose, a difficult person to get on with at times, but he was a very gifted man, and looking at the good work he did in his varied literary walk, it seems wonderful that he failed to feather his nest more satisfactorily. His temperament was spiced with an amount of pugnacity that warred against his winning the position which his intellectual gifts should have obtained for him. When anybody fell a little foul of Robert Buchanan he hit back. And he could hit very hard. I am very sorry to believe that his condition in recent times had been of a disturbed and none too happy a nature. Charles Dickens was the writer to whom he paid the greatest and most loyal homage. If he had lived till August he would have completed his 60th year. Peace to his memory!

***

     The late Mr. George Conquest was a wealthy man at the time of his death, and this I gave my readers to understand weeks ago. £71,000 odd is not a bad fortune to accumulate.

___

 

The Referee (16 June, 1901 - p.1)

ROBERT BUCHANAN.

Our Latest Literary Loss.

     It cannot be said that literature has sustained a loss by the death of Robert Buchanan. That loss was suffered many months ago, when a paralytic stroke robbed him of the faculty of speech, and brought a life of vivid intellectual energy to a lingering and most mournful close. My comrade DAGONET, who knew the deceased poet a hundred times more intimately than I did, deals with their dramatic partnership in the page with which his name has been associated since the foundation of the REFEREE. But it is in my mind to offer one word in protest against the critical conclusions which have been generally expressed with regard to Buchanan’s rank as a poet. The “Daily Telegraph,” for instance—and I cite it only as a sample—expresses the opinion that with a little more care and craftsmanship he might have become a poet of the second rank. I cannot help thinking that, even when all the defects of his style are taken into consideration, he is something more than that already. It was not a poet who was struggling to enter the second rank who wrote “St. Abe and His Seven Wives,” or the ballad of “Judas Iscariot,” and I cannot now recall without a thrill of feeling that extraordinarily fine passage in which the Flying Dutchman is called back to the fulfilment of his doom. In the Mormon poem there is a gentle and yet poignant humour which nobody but a man of real genius ever owned.

     In Germany Buchanan’s name was held in much higher regard than it was at home, and this fact was significant for several reasons. The apparent bitterness of animosity with which he threw himself into controversy about all manner of questions alienated from him many of his English readers. His German admirers were not affected in this way. Again, the greatness and originality of many of his poetic conceptions was unspoiled for them by that lack of delicacy in style which frequently robbed his work of its proper value to the mind of the cultured English reader. The poet’s concept was always in advance of his expression, not because he might not have been a verbal artist had he so chosen, but because of a certain impetuous impatience which forbade him to chasten his style. Ideas seemed to have thronged upon him so swiftly that he chose for their expression the most malleable medium, in place of the sternest and most enduring. With the solitary exception of “The Tarn,” Buchanan’s work strikes the critical mind as a series of brilliant and daring sketches out of almost any one of which a patient artist could have made a work of consummate and lasting beauty. It may be acknowledged and regretted that he left nothing behind him which will carry to future generations a full sense of his abounding genius, but it will be many a day before “The Wedding of Shon Maclean,” “The Wake of Tim O’Hara,” and the “Ballad of Judas Iscariot” are effaced from the memories of English readers, and it was a poet of the first quality in sympathy and imagination who wrote each and all of these. The critic who deals rightly with Robert Buchanan will regard him as being essentially an improvisatore, and, from that point of view, only one or two rivals can be found for him.

(p.11)

MUSTARD AND CRESS.

. . .

     “It is good to be alive,” I said to myself last Monday as I breathed the clear, exhilarating air and strode along the sunny street. Suddenly my eyes fell upon the newspaper placards:

“Death of Lord Wantage.
“Death of Sir Walter Besant.
“Death of Robert Buchanan.”

Two of the great dead were my intimate friends of many years, men with whom I had spent some of the happiest days of my life.

     Once, long years ago, Robert Buchanan. then a stranger to me, sent me a charming and sympathetic letter. He drew my attention to an article be bad written in the “Contemporary,” in which he had said many kindly things of the “Dagonet Ballads,” which were written for the REFEREE in its early days. Years afterwards I was associated with the poet-playwright on a series of dramas. and there commenced a friendship and close companionship which relieved the monotony of toil with many bright and happy hours.

     As a mattes of fact, only his most intimate friends knew

The Real Robert Buchanan,

for only those who saw him and heard him when the pan was laid aside knew what a world of gentle pity and human sympathy lay concealed under the rugged exterior of this literary Crusader. Men who did not know him hated him; men who knew him loved him. I have seen him soothe the grief of a strong man with the tenderness of a woman. I have known him, when the world was ringing with his fierce attacks upon a great reputation, take a poor brother of the pen by the hand and succour him with a delicacy that was a lesson in Christian charity.

     When he fought he never pinked with the rapier. He brought the claymore crashing down upon his antagonist’s skull. Of some of his furious attacks on public men he repented. But while he was fighting he always believed that his cause was just, and that the enemy was a villain. He was always St. George, and the other party was always the Dragon, whose destruction was demanded in the interests of the community.

     Speaking of him elsewhere I have said that he worked in the clouds and came down to Mother Earth for his relaxation. Sometimes the change in his mood was almost grotesque. I left him one night absorbed

In a Poet’s Dream of a New Redemption,

and met him the next morning backing horses with a Bank Holiday crowd at Kempton Park. I have seen him lost in an almost tearful ecstasy as the twilight descended on one of Nature’s solitudes, and I have sat by his side as he roared at the antics of a music-hall knockabout. Soon after he had written those wondrous lines in which a voice from Heaven called him by name as he wandered over Hampstead Heath at eventide, he was masquerading at Covent Garden in the black gown and hood of a Brother of the Misericordia.

     I have read what has been written of him now that he is dead. There is a good deal of

The Four Cross-Roads Interment

about his obituary notices. I think his failings have been emphasised and his virtues slurred. Many of his critics deny him greatness and belittle his genius. But since the giants of poetry fell, where has there been one who touched a nobler harp? That be occasionally laid it aside to brawl with rival Bards in no way alters the quality of the music that he made.
. . .
                                                                                                                                           DAGONET.
                                                                                                                                           [George R. Sims.]

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Next: Robert Buchanan Obituaries - continued (ii)

 

[The Last Months of Robert Buchanan]    [Obituaries 1]    [Obituaries 2]    [Obituaries 3]

[Obituaries 4: Buchanan and Besant]    [Obituaries 5: Buchanan and Besant 2]

[The Funeral of Robert Buchanan]    [The Grave of Robert Buchanan]

[Back to Biography]

 

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