ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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LETTERS TO THE PRESS (15)

 

Zæo (2)

 

[This was a wide-ranging discussion which began with letters from several dramatists and actor/managers (including Henry Irving, John Hare, Edward Terry, Arthur Wing Pinero, Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Charles Wyndham, Henry Pettitt, Arthur Lloyd, Wilson Barrett, Charles Coborn, Sara Haycraft Lane, John Hollingshead, Henry Arthur Jones, Captain Molesworth and Sydney Grundy) on the subject of proposed changes to the regulation of London theatres and music-halls. By the time Robert Buchanan joined the debate the graceful figure of the acrobat, Zæo, had become entwined with the original subject. Rather than just transcribe the Buchanan letters alone, with no context, I have added links to scans (unfortunately not of the greatest quality) of some of the other relevant pages from The Daily Telegraph.]

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The Daily Telegraph
(23 February, 1891 - p.5)
Editorial.

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The Daily Telegraph
(26 February, 1891 - p.5)
Letters from Edward Terry
and Arthur Wing Pinero.

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The Daily Telegraph
(2 March 1891 -  p.3)
Letters from
Wilson Barrett,
Charles Coborn, Sara Haycraft
Lane and John Hollingshead.

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The Daily Telegraph
(24 February, 1891 - p.5)
Henry Irving letter.

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The Daily Telegraph
(25 February, 1891 - p.7)
John Hare letter.

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The Daily Telegraph
(27 February, 1891 - p.3)
Herbert Beerbohm Tree letter.

The Daily Telegraph
(28 February, 1891 - p.5)
Letters from Charles Wyndham,
Henry Pettitt and Arthur Lloyd.

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The Daily Telegraph
(3 March, 1891 - p.4)
Letters from Henry Arthur Jones
 and Captain Molesworth.

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The Daily Telegraph
(5 March 1891 - p.4)
Letters from Tree and Molesworth.

The Daily Telegraph (6 March, 1891 - p.3)

THEATRES AND MUSIC HALLS.

TO THE EDITOR OF “THE DAILY TELEGRAPH.”

     SIR—Since Captain Molesworth’s letter anent the action of two members of the County Council towards me has excited much comment and discussion as to the truth or otherwise of the statement it contained, a few words from myself may be of interest. The first gentleman who came to see me presented himself as a member of the County Council, with a picture he had received that morning by post, which was an exaggeration of the large poster which had been exhibited on the hoardings by the Royal Aquarium Company, and he wanted to see “if it was a fair representation of Zæo.” “It had been rumoured in the Council that Zæo had sores on her back, and he wished to be in the position to prove if such was the case or not.” My foster-father, Mr. Wieland, declined to permit any such examination, but I was afterwards advised to submit to it, and I was told that if I declined to do so it might jeopardise the granting of the licence on the following day. At this time I may mention that Captain Molesworth was not in the building. The secretary of the Royal Aquarium came to the back of the stage and introduced the gentleman to me as a member of the Licensing Committee of the County Council, and said, “I leave him with you.” My foster-mother, Mrs. Wieland, indignantly refused to permit me to be examined, saying I was not a horse or wild beast on exhibition, and for my own part I was greatly angered at the though of such an abominable indignity. The councillor, however, said he came for my benefit, and that if he was convinced that the rumour was untrue he would speak in my favour at the council meeting next day. My foster-mother replied, “I have taken my girl all over the continent, and now, after ten years, I return to my own country to be insulted by those who consider themselves to be English gentlemen.” The councillor then went to witness my performance, and at its conclusion again came uninvited to the back of the stage, accompanied by a Scotch gentleman, and although they complimented me warmly upon my performance, my foster-mother was greatly upset, while I cried so much with the annoyance as to make myself ill. The second member of the Council who wanted to see my back came some days afterwards, and I presumed he was sent by the order of the Council, for he seemed to feel that he was performing a shameful task, blushing and expressing the shame he felt when my foster-mother indignantly took my dress down from my back and said, “There is my daughter, and if your daughters are as pure as my child you may be as proud of them as I am of her.” I and my mother then desired my foster-father to go at once to the board and say that I would not perform again. This he did, and then telegraphed to Captain Molesworth, at the Hôtel Métropole, Brighton, for I felt that had he been present he would have protected me from such indignities, and I waited his return next day. When he came back, he having satisfied my father with assurances that he would protect me, I remained at the Aquarium. It was a trying time for my foster-mother and myself, I was bound by agreement to perform, but if I had not had a protector besides my father I would not have stayed another day. From the day on which the question of the licence was finally settled may be dated the beginning of my poor foster-mother’s fatal illness. Hearing read the infamous remarks made by some County Councillors, she fainted and was taken home. I nursed her day and night with a heavy heart, though I had to show a smiling face when I came to do my performance. At the door of those who instigated the persecution from which I have suffered lies my foster-mother’s death. She never left her bed from the day she was taken home until she was placed in her coffin a month later, and during her delirium she continually spoke of a naked woman and the indignities I had suffered. Her last words to me were, “Do as I have taught you,” and I have conscientiously striven to follow her advice. I am deeply thankful to you and the Press generally for the manner in which you have so generously championed my cause; but I know that I shall never again feel so happy and light-hearted as I did before the commencement of this miserable business.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

                                                                                                                                     ZÆO.
     Royal Aquarium, Westminster, March 5.

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TO THE EDITOR OF “THE DAILY TELEGRAPH.”

     SIR—I have read with all respect and sympathy the letters of our theatrical managers on this subject. Whatever dictum is pronounced by such enlightened judges as Mr. Irving, Mr. Hare, and Mr. Beerbohm Tree is certain to have been deeply weighed and entitled to careful consideration. I fail altogether, however, to comprehend the panic into which these “most potent, grave and reverend” leaders have fallen, or to conceive any possible harm likely to ensue from the “loosening of tongues” in the music halls. What we want in the Drama, as in all Art, is not more Protection, but more Free Trade, and the same argument which is now being used to limit dramatic representations to duly licensed “theatres,” was used long ago in favour of the great “patent” houses. A few individuals might suffer, at least temporarily, from the production of stage plays in the temples of Bacchus and St. Nicotine; the high-class manager might have a troublesome quarter of an hour; but matters would soon right themselves, and it would be found then, as now, that the environment conditioned the entertainment. Those who believed in respectabilities would betake themselves, as before, to the Lyceum, the Garrick, and the Haymarket; while those who liked “varieties” would be still constant to the Empire and the Alhambra.
     The whole licensing system is, to my mind, dangerous and anomalous—bad for the individual licensed, bad for the public in general. I am altogether in sympathy with those who would unfetter Art in every direction and leave the rest to public opinion. Mr. Tree is quite right to resent the impertinencies of the County Council, but he is inconsistent when he blesses the paternal guidance of the Lord Chamberlain. Thanks to the latter functionary such masterpieces as “Les Lionnes Pauvres” are still forbidden on our stage, while full freedom of indecent exposure and vulgar imbecility is given to the houses of Cockney entertainment. All governmental restrictions on public amusement are certain to become crass and tyrannical, since good taste is not a sentiment to be created by Acts of Parliament. It seems to me positive absurdity to insist that bodily refreshment, including tobacco, is incompatible with spiritual entertainment. A good cigar would not interfere with my enjoyment of even the “Passion Play,” nor would the absence of either cigar or whisky and water deepen my appreciation of contemporary burlesque.
     A little reflection, moreover, should convince our managers that just in so far as restrictions have been loosened, as private enterprise and public competition have enlarged the area of theatrical effort, has the modern Drama advanced in public estimation. How signal that advance would be if full and absolute liberty were given to any man who wished to appeal directly to the great public! It is whispered in the air just now that our Official Censor Morum absolutely declines to licence Ibsen’s “Gengangere,” on the plea that it is too “shocking.” I think the public, not the censor or the manager, the public, not the publisher, is the best judge of what is and is not fitting in acted dramas and written books. If we must be guided at all as to what we are to see and what we are to read, let us remember that we can still fall back on quasi-official Criticism, which assumes all the “blessing” and “damning” prerogatives of a small special Providence. The headlong Journalist is bad enough, without the Protectionist, and without the Censor.
     Mr. H. A. Jones, I observe, would have no restrictions save on points of “delicacy”! Has he forgotten that the posters of “Zæo” were pronounced indelicate, and that, from certain points of view, the appearance of women on the stage is considered improper? Points of delicacy are points of taste, and should be left to the decision of the spectator.
     Everywhere, if things are to advance, we want more freedom, not less. Neither Life nor Art is ever helped by monopolies. I look forward to the time when the Drama, with or without concomitant creature comforts, will be the free possession of every man, and when the only difference between the Theatre and the Music hall will be one of intellectual degree.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

                                                                                                                           ROBERT BUCHANAN.
     Lyric Club, March 5.

     P.S.—That the present Lord Chamberlain does his spiriting gently we all admit, and most of us have the highest opinion of his deputy, the Examiner and Licenser of Plays; but the fact remains that while frivolity and vulgarity of all kinds are franked and countenanced, much that is great and noble in serious drama is daily and hourly interdicted. My friend Mr. Pettitt, commends the Lord Chamberlain for freeing our stage from the “nude adultery” of French plays. I do not understand the expression Mr. Pettitt uses, and fail to see its application; but I do know that “Pink Dominos” and “Jane” have had the Censor’s approval, while the masterpieces of Augier and Dumas have been denied even a hearing. I like the “Pink Dominos,” and do not object much to any of the other farcical jokes about the Seventh Commandment. I prefer, however, great characterisation and good literature, and I fail to see why my taste should not be gratified, when the Special Providence Incarnate is so liberal towards those who welcome the imbecilities of homebred “nudity” and the salacious humours of the Palais Royal.—R. B.

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The Daily Telegraph (7 March, 1891 - p.3)

THEATRES AND MUSIC HALLS.

. . .

TO THE EDITOR OF “THE DAILY TELEGRAPH.”

     SIR—I notice Mr. Robert Buchanan, in quoting from my recent letter to The Daily Telegraph, says “that I would have no restrictions save on points of delicacy.” My contention, however, was for “entire free trade in amusement, subject only to supervision on the score of decency.”
     This is, of course, wholly a different matter. Points of delicacy are, as Mr. Robert Buchanan justly observes, points of taste, and I am quite at one with him that these should be left entirely to the public.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

                                                                                                   HENRY ARTHUR JONES.
     Townshend House, North-gate, Regent’s Park, March 6.

 

[Note; The rest of the letters from the 7th March issue of The Daily Telegraph are available below.]

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The Daily Telegraph (9 March, 1891 - p.5)

THEATRES AND MUSIC HALLS.

. . .

TO THE EDITOR OF “THE DAILY TELEGRAPH.”

     SIR—Mr. H. A. Jones, in correcting my quotations from his letter, suggests the “delicacy” and “decency” are hardly synonymous terms. Possibly not; but for the purposes of the present discussion, they possess an almost identical meaning. Gross indelicacy or indecency is no more likely to penetrate into our houses of public entertainment than into our literature or into our works of art; but if “restrictions” are to be admitted, where are they to stop? What is frankly and beautifully decent to me—e.g., “Tartuffe” and “L’Ecole des Femmes” of Molière, the “Nymphs and Satyr” of Bougereau, the “Epithalamium” and “Atys” of Catullus—is highly indelicate to my next-door neighbour> What awakens enthusiasm in my neighbour opposite—e.g., the last fin de siècle burlesque, the moral pictures of Mr. Frith, the literature of the New Journalism and the Divorce Court—is to myself thoroughly obnoxious. That tastes are infinite may be illustrated by a fact recently brought under my own knowledge. A friend of mine, a well-known artist, was commissioned to paint a picture. He executed the commission, and produced a beautiful Italian landscape, in the foreground of which was seen, rolling on the grass, a little bright-eyed child, about two years old. The purchaser, a shrewd man of business, admired the work hugely, but demurred at once to the figure, because it was naked. “I’m no’ caring so much myself,” he said—he was a Scotchman—“but I ken the wife will think it’s indelicate.” After some little argument the difficulty was got over, and when the picture was taken home the poor little Italian baby had been accommodated with a shirt!
     It is perfectly certain, I believe, that if the verdict of a minority were taken, no picture of the nude would be hung on the walls of our Royal Academy. What is pure to the pure, both in art and literature, is not pure at all to the prurient and the puritanical. To those, and such as those, “Les Lionnes Pauvres” and “Le Demi-monde” are simply “shocking.” To myself and many others they are great studies of modern society; but thanks to the “restrictions” which Mr. Jones, with all his fine catholicity, is willing to asmit, and thanks to the power of an official to decide on questions of “delicacy” or “decency,” these and other masterpieces have never yet been seen upon an English stage.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

                                                                                                                         ROBERT BUCHANAN.
     Hampstead, March 7, 1891.  

 

[Note; The rest of the letters from the 9th March issue of The Daily Telegraph are available below.]

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The Daily Telegraph (11 March, 1891 - p.4)

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The Daily Telegraph (30 March, 1891 - p.6)

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[And a final item, an account from The Times of 26th June, 1891 of a court case involving the London Aquarium. There is only a passing mention of Zæo and no connection with Buchanan, but I found it rather amusing.]

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Sir Charles Dilke

 

[Sir Charles Dilke was the proprietor of The Athenæum during the ‘Fleshly School’ period, so was no friend of Buchanan’s. In fact he wrote in a letter to Andrew Chatto concerning review copies of God and the Man:

“Please oblige me by not sending to the Athenæum—a journal which has for many years been malignant towards me—I mean, specially & personally malignant.”

Dilke was also a Liberal M.P. who was destined for high office until a divorce case in 1885 ruined his political career. He lost his Chelsea seat in the 1886 election, but in 1892 became M.P. for the Forest of Dean.]

 

St. James’s Gazette (9 March, 1891 - p.4-5)

“PURITAN” PERSECUTION.

To the EDITOR of the ST. JAMES’S GAZETTE.

     SIR,—Who is the most sinful, who deserves most contempt and execration from society—the man who, swept away by the torrent of evil passions, becomes personally a criminal, bespattered from head to foot by filth of his own making; or the man who, scenting the filth from afar off, multiplies it tenfold by filth of his own invention, parades it in the name of virtue, and fills society with ordure from the social sewers? The first man sins and takes his punishment; the second man—the prurient Puritan—stirs the filth and pollutes the very air we breathe.
     In common with thousands of your readers, I have perused the Manifesto against Sir Charles Dilke issued by the extreme Puritans, the well-poisoners, the advocates of eternal punishment and eternal spite. I have already stated, in another connection, that I would condemn no man finally on any evidence produced in the Divorce Court—that chamber of hypocrisy, casuistry, and lies; but whether Sir Charles Dilke be innocent, as he asserts, or guilty, as his opponents would have us believe, I think the time has come when he may fairly be considered to have expiated his real or supposed offences against society. No living man, perhaps, has been so tremendously punished. Is it not time, therefore, to cry to his tormentors “Forbear”?
     I bear no personal love to Sir Charles Dilke; indeed, I have reason, and good reason, to regard him as a personal and not too generous foe. But I would rather stand in the pillory with him than join the Melchiors and Chadbands, the Well-poisoners and Journalists in Absolution, who pelt him with mud and rotten eggs and cry, “Let his punishment last for ever!” If conduct (as these persecutors affirm) is three parts of life, what shall we say of theirs? How shall we assess the infamies of the “unco gude,” who are just now filling the world with the base coin of Mock Morality, degrading Literature, prostituting Journalism, and caricaturing Religion? The world suffers much from the infirmities of its Sinners. It suffers far more, however, from the indecency, the malignity, the pitiless cruelty, and spitefulness, of its self-styled “Saints.” Fortunately, the bias of English feeling has never been towards the descendants of Tartuffe, towards the doctrinaires of eternal malice and eternal punishment. The mass of Englishmen are generous to the erring and disposed to allow fair play even to the poor Devil. They believe, and justly, that the punishment of the criminal should end with the exit from the prison-gate. Sir Charles Dilke has “dree’d his weird” of shame and contumely. The hounds of Justice caught him, fairly or unfairly, in the open. It is not just that he should be attacked, when just rising to his feet, by the whelps of the New Journalism and the wild cats of Prurient Puritanism.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

     Hampstead, March 6.                                                                                        ROBERT BUCHANAN.

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Perfect Manhood And The Way To Attain It

 

[Not a letter, but Buchanan’s response to a ‘symposium’ in the New York Herald on the subject of ‘Perfect Manhood and the Way to Attain It’. The Pall Mall Gazette’s report on the exercise (18th June) ends with the following comment:

     ‘Mr. Jerome K. Jerome’s contribution to the discussion was not bad. He had no time, he said, to answer the questions; but, he added, “Isn’t Mr. Robert Buchanan your man? He would settle the whole thing for you, I am sure, in ten minutes.” And Mr. Buchanan did!’

New York Herald (7 June, 1891 - p.13)

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The rest of the page from the New York Herald is available here.

Later in June, 1891, Buchanan took part in another ‘symposium’, this time in the London edition of the New York Herald, on the subject of ‘Ibsen and the English Drama’. Unfortunately I’ve not been able to find the original but The Era (20th June) summarised Buchanan’s contribution as follows:

‘... Mr ROBERT BUCHANAN, in three exhaustive paragraphs, expects that a play of high comedy, something on the lines of Le Monde où l’on s’ennuie, or Lionnes et Renards, will be the dominant type of drama in the near future. IBSEN Mr BUCHANAN considers to be—like the Barbadian people described by one of their units in a novel of Captain MARRYAT’S as being “only too brave”—only suffering from an excess of morality. As regards realism, Mr BUCHANAN would leave the dramatist absolutely free to choose his own subject, and to justify himself. He would impose no limitations either of conventional good taste or conventional morality. This is “rather a large order;” but if Mr BUCHANAN were the Reader of Plays, or the responsible critic of a daily paper, he might, perhaps, hold other views.’

The rest of the article is available here.]

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The Outcast

 

St. James’s Gazette (9 September, 1891 - p.12)

MR. ROBERT BUCHANAN’S NEW POEM.

To the EDITOR of the ST. JAMES’S GAZETTE.

     SIR,—In your review of the “Outcast” you commit yourself to an astonishing statement, as follows:—“Vanderdecken spends a delicious year in the society of a sort of South Sea Haidee,” adding, “Byron did all this much better in ‘Don Juan,’ and then it had the merit of being original.” Now, it is no business of mine to impugn your critical estimate of my verses; but I do think I have a right to question the accuracy of your description of my purpose, more especially as other eminent critics are busily echoing or chorusing your blunder. Your statement, indeed, makes me wonder whether you have really read my book at all. If the “Outcast” has any purpose or meaning, it is to unmask and ridicule the very “Byronism” in question—the rampant and dyspeptic Individualism which is just as potent now as when Napoleon was sent to Elba. The episode of Haidee, describing faithful love in excelsis, is one of the divinest things in our language. My episode of Aloha describes what Byron never thought of or heeded—the folly and fatuity of self-conscious intellectuality trying to assert itself with pure natural passion. Juan is a boy, the type of eternal boyhood; my Vanderdecken is a jaded man, who will never be a boy again; and at every step he takes, in the self-conscious endeavour to recover a lost innocence, he is pursued by the writer’s scornful invective. Of all this, of my reiterated ridicule of hero-worship and genius-worship, you say not a single word; but you convey to your readers the impression that I am treading in the path of the very Folly which it has been my lifelong effort to contemn. I may have expressed myself badly, but I have repeated the same idea so often, in passage after passage, that I cannot have failed to express myself altogether. It is fair to assume, therefore, that the misstatement of facts of which I complain is due quite as much to the carelessness of my critic as to my own literary incompetence.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

     London, Sept. 8, 1891.                                                                                       ROBERT BUCHANAN.

     [We can answer for it that the reviewer of “The Outcast” did read the book, and read it with care. If, therefore, Mr. Buchanan has not succeeded in making his meaning clear to a careful reader of certainly not less than average intelligence, we are not surprised that he should find himself misunderstood by the general public.—ED. St. J. G.]

 

[Note: The St. James’s Gazette review of The Outcast is in the Reviews section.]

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W. S. Gilbert on Living Dramatists

 

The Echo (17 September, 1891 - p.2)

     The tardy honours paid to Christopher Marlowe yesterday ought to convince even Mr. Robert Buchanan that Mrs. Grundy is not after all Queen of England. The Dean of Canterbury sent an apology for his absence, and one of the Canons of Canterbury Cathedral, the Hon. and Rev. H. Fremantle, was present at the celebration, as also was the reverend head-master of the Grammar School at which Marlowe received his early education. These facts are noteworthy, considering that not very long after Marlowe’s death the bishops ordered his translations of Ovid’s “Love Elegies” to be burned, on account of their licentiousness. Truth to say, their licentiousness cannot be denied, from a modern point of view, though it should always be remembered that, in “the spacious times of great Elizabeth,” men and women in good society spoke with a freedom in regard to sexual relations which would shock the audience of a modern music-hall.

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The Times (18 September, 1891 - p.7)

A POINT OF TASTE.
_____

TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.

     Sir,—At the recent unveiling of the statue to Christopher Marlowe, the Hon. and Rev. Canon Fremantle is reported to have asked, in the course of his speech, “Why it was that our English nation, so capable of literary excellence, had hardly produced any really great playwright in these latter days?”
     It is, unfortunately, too true that, although we have several capable dramatic writers among us, we have none who have any claim to be considered great. But was it polite or tactful on the part of the honourable and reverend orator to impress this unpleasant fact upon an assemblage of gentlemen intimately connected with the stage, and among whom was that excellent dramatist, Mr. A. W. Pinero? Probably we have not many great divines among us, but what would be thought of Mr. Pinero if, finding himself in the society of a number of clergymen engaged in honouring the memory of (say) Bishop Latimer, he ventured to make such an assertion to such an assembly? It might be quite true, but it would not be pretty to say so.
                   I am your obedient servant,
     September 17.                             W. S. GILBERT.

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The Echo (19 September, 1891 - p.1)

HEAR ALL SIDES.
_____

TO THE EDITOR OF THE ECHO.

MR. GILBERT ON LIVING
DRAMATISTS.

     SIR,—In a brief letter to this morning’s Times, apropos of the Rev. Canon Fremantle’s disparaging remarks concerning modern English dramatists, delivered on the unveiling of the Marlowe Memorial, Mr. W. S. Gilbert says:—“It is, unfortunately, too true that, although we have several capable dramatic writers among us, we have none who have any claim to be considered great”; adding, however, that it was very bad taste to obtrude such a remark in the presence of that “excellent dramatist,” Mr. A. W. Pinero. Now, writing as one fairly familiar with great literature, I wish to express my opinion that Mr. Gilbert is himself guilty of unreasonable judgment, if not of bad taste. It has been the fashion from time immemorial for hasty and impertinent writers and speakers to deny “greatness” to contemporaries; it is so easy to find gods ready-made, and so difficult to discern them during the process of development. Let me take one illustration, which is here at my hand. I have always held that Mr. Gilbert himself is a great, because an original and unique,  humourist. In all the range of the drama, I know no writer who surpasses him in quiddity, in oddity, and in individuality; and I believe the time will come when his “greatness” will be as obvious as (say) that of Congreve, or of Farquhar, or of Sheridan. But I, personally, do not take dramatic “greatness” on hearsay; I discern it as easily in a living contemporary as in an unacted “fossil.” Of Mr. Pinero’s works I know less than of those of Mr. Gilbert, owing to the fact that they have never been printed. Yet I have no doubt in my mind that those of his plays which have delighted me on the stage would compare favourably with the impudence, the sham sparkle, the general emptiness and tawdriness, of many “great” comic writers. Be that as it may, a reproach to living dramatists comes ill from the mouthpiece of a Church which, now as ever, is at deadly war with the Drama, as with Freethought generally. Why will not Churchmen leave us alone? We have never had their sympathy, and we ought to decline their patronage. And why will the professional Idiot, ignorant of the whole history of literature, persist in sounding pæans to the “great” spirits of the Past, and consistently deny the possibility of any “greatness” in the Present?
 —I am, &c.,                   ROBERT BUCHANAN.
    
London, Sept. 18.

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The Echo (21 September, 1891 - p.4)

MR. GILBERT ON LIVING DRAMATISTS
_____

TO THE EDITOR OF THE ECHO.

     SIR,—In your issue of Saturday Mr. Robert Buchanan, criticising Mr. W. S. Gilbert’s recent letter in the Times concerning certain remarks on our modern English dramatists delivered by the Rev. Canon Fremantle on the occasion of the unveiling of the Marlowe Memorial, ventures to express his opinion that Mr. Gilbert “is guilty of unreasonable judgment, if not of bad taste.” Mr. Buchanan must allow me to endorse his statement, and at the same time permit me to say that the same accusation may still more fairly be brought against himself. Among the many eloquent speeches that were made at the luncheon that followed the unveiling of the Marlowe Memorial, at Canterbury, last Wednesday, that of Canon Fremantle’s was one of the most remarkable, not only for the able and earnest manner in which it was spoken, but for the frank confession that he made, that those who cared for religion had to look back with sadness over the past and feel that they had done a great wrong not only to the memory of Christopher Marlowe, but also to English literature; and for the seriousness with which he dwelt on the importance of the two institutions of Pulpit and Stage uniting in the task of building up a noble conception of humanity. And these excellent remarks on the advantages of an alliance between Church and Stage have no other effect upon Mr. Buchanan than to cause him to angrily and petulantly exclaim, “Why will not Churchmen leave us alone? We have never had their sympathy, and we ought to decline their patronage.” I am not a Churchman myself, and I don’t suppose the time will ever arrive when the Stage will be gathered under the banner of the Church, but I fail to see the necessity for such a vigorous protest on the part of Mr. Buchanan. That Canon Fremantle made certain remarks about our modern dramatists is perfectly true, but that they were disparaging to Mr. A. W. Pinero, or any other dramatists present is entirely erroneous. We have amongst us many capable playwrights, but I venture to think that Mr. A. W. Pinero, Mr. W. S. Gilbert, Mr. Henry Arthur Jones—or even Mr. Robert Buchanan himself, for instance, would scarcely consider themselves great, in the same sense that Marlowe and many other Elizabethan dramatists were. Mr. Robert Buchanan is a very excellent type of a literary fighter, but it is seriously to be regretted that he does not display a little more discretion and courtesy in his assaults upon his opponents. If he only would do so his unexampled polemical abilities would be prevented from running to waste so much.
—Yours, &c.,                   JAMES ERNEST BAKER.
     London, Sept. 19.

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The Era (26 September, 1891)

GREAT DRAMATISTS.
_____

     “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Mr PINERO has been placed in the last-named category by the too-scrupulous solicitude and very zealous sympathy of Mr W. S. GILBERT. It seems that at the recent unveiling at Canterbury of the statue to CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE a Mr FREMANTLE, who was both Honourable and Reverend, asked, in the course of his  speech, “Why it was that our English nation, so capable of literary excellence, had hardly produced any really great playwright in these latter days?” It is difficult, by the way, not to be reminded by this of the Rev. Mr CHADBAND’S plaintive inquiry why he and his friends did not fly, and of Mr SNAGSBY’S suggested but promptly suppressed explanation, “No wings!” Mr PINERO seems to have borne the implied detraction patiently enough; but Mr GILBERT, with a delicate sympathy which, while we are still in the realm of DICKENSIAN reminiscence, recalls the solicitude of TILLY SLOWBOY for the feelings of the injured baby, has written to remonstrate publicly with Canon FREMANTLE for his remarks. It is true, says Mr GILBERT, that we have no great writers amongst us; but why mention it? “Was it polite or tactful to impress this unpleasant fact upon an assemblage of gentlemen intimately connected with the stage, amongst whom was that excellent dramatist Mr A. W. PINERO? It may be quite true,” says Mr GILBERT, “but it is not pretty to say so.”
     The touching solicitude for the feelings of others which Mr GILBERT has invariably shown, and his well- known native sweetness of disposition make this remonstrance quite characteristic, and it is pleasing to find that the exercise of the stern functions of a country magistrate has not blunted Mr GILBERT’S sensibilities or hardened his moral cuticle. But this is not all the pleasure which we have derived from perusing correspondence on the same subject. If Mr GILBERT is not satisfied with the “prettiness” of Canon FREMANTLE, Mr GILBERT’S letter itself does not please Mr ROBERT BUCHANAN. This, perhaps, is not to be wondered at. Mr BUCHANAN’S gentleness and urbanity need only be alluded to in order to be acknowledged, and he finds Mr GILBERT guilty of “unreasonable judgment, if not of bad taste.” In order that Mr GILBERT may not be too deeply depressed by this finding, Mr BUCHANAN administers to him a corrective in the shape of the statement that he (Mr BUCHANAN) has always considered Mr GILBERT to be great. It is a difficult task, Mr BUCHANAN admits, this “discerning gods in the process of development,” but Mr BUCHANAN is specially gifted in this direction. He can “spot” dramatic greatness as easily in a living contemporary as in an unacted fossil. Mr BUCHANAN somewhat weakens the effect of his protest against bad taste in letter writing by an allusion to a professional Idiot ignorant of the whole history of literature. To call a man, even a canon, an idiot—and with a capital I, too—is certainly as Mr GILBERT would put it, “not pretty.” Mr PINERO is in an embarrassing position. If he agrees with the Canon and approves of his speech, he “gives away” his excellent friend Bombardos—we beg pardon, Mr W. S. GILBERT; if he takes umbrage people will say he (Mr PINERO) is jealous of MARLOWE. We congratulate him upon adopting the only judicious course, viz., to possess his soul in peace, and put the finishing touches to his new comedy for Mr EDWARD TERRY.
     It is impossible not to be touched by the exquisite sense of the fitting and the courteous which has been displayed both by the author of The Gondoliers and the part-proprietor of The Trumpet Call. It is evident that we are entering upon a new epoch of behaviour in the world of playwrights. In future, not only will authors object to that being said which is offensive to themselves; they will protest against the statement of anything that may possibly be unpleasant to other people. Mr GILBERT is too modest to cherish any illusions as to his own greatness; but he has an idea that Mr PINERO may be hurt by certain remarks being made in public. It would be interesting to know if Mr PINERO gave any signs of suffering at Canterbury—if he was “visibly affected” by the ugliness of the Canon’s remarks. Did his cheek flush or his lip curl? Was there a “pained expression” about the corners of his mouth, and did his appetite at dinner afterwards appear to be abated? From what little we know personally of Mr PINERO, we should say that he was too sensible to trouble himself about posterity, too philosophical to worry about the merit of his work, and too reasonable to take amiss a simple statement of fact which was introduced incidentally into a remarkably broad and liberal speech.
     It is a pity that so entirely satisfactory a ceremony as the unveiling of the MARLOWE Memorial at Canterbury could not be allowed to pass without even a shadow of adverse criticism. We cannot even coincide with those who seriously entertain the opinion that the memorial might better have stood within the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral. There are probably a great many worse men than CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE was who are interred within those precincts; but that is not the point, which is one concerning the fitness of the thing. The evidence concerning the man MARLOWE is so meagre that those who are always willing to whitewash a man of genius, even at the cost of emasculating his memory, may make out a case in this instance. But there is really no reason to reject the brief account of FRANCIS MERES, in his Palladis Tamia, or, all allowances made for Puritan animosity and prejudice, to doubt that MARLOWE was a dauntless Freethinker, and, like most of his fellow-playwrights of the period, a wild and turbulent spirit. He and his works were the most intense expression of his time, an epoch of great and sudden passions, of violent animalism, of grandiose and ill-regulated efforts. It is difficult, indeed, to believe that the man who wrote Tamburlaine when he was twenty-four, and died a terrible death in a base quarrel in a Deptford tavern at thirty, after pouring out, with volcanic prodigality, works like Doctor Faustus, The Jew of Malta, and Edward II., was a sober, orthodox citizen. MARLOWE was a child of the Renaissance, and a Pagan to the backbone. We feel certain that the deceased poet would have turned uneasily in his grave if he had learned that there were proposals to place his Memorial within the precincts of a cathedral. We much prefer it where it stands, “on the site of the old bull stake at the lower end of Mercery-lane.” There is more fresh air there than in the precincts, decorous and pretty as they are.

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The Sentencing of Charles Grande

 

[Another ‘work in progress’ since I have not seen Buchanan’s original letter to The Echo protesting the 20 year sentence imposed on Charles Grande for demanding money with menaces. The Grande case is confusing since he was simultaneously tried for another crime, but the accounts from The Times of his arrest (The Times 29 September, 1891 - p.2), the first day of the trial (Times, 20 November - p.13), the second day (Times, 21 November - p.4), the third day (Times, 25 November - p.13), and the final sentencing (Times, 26 November - p.3) are available for those wishing to know the background. And if you want to enter the darker labyrinths of the Ripperologists, there’s more information about Charles Grande and his candidacy as a possible Jack, here. Since Grande was sentenced on 25th November, and it was reported in The Times, the following day, and the mention of Buchanan’s letter in The Echo occurs in The Dundee Evening Telegraph of 28th November, I would suggest that it was published on 27th November, 1891.]

 

The Dundee Evening Telegraph (28 November, 1891 - p.2)

MR ROBERT BUCHANAN ON THE
SENTENCE OF THE THREATENING
LETTER-WRITER.

     Robert Buchanan writes as follows to the Echo on the sentence pronounced by Mr Justice Hawkins on Charles Grande, convicted of sending threatening letters to a nervous lady with a view to extract blackmail. No sane man, says Mr Buchanan, can justify this criminal; he was guilty of the basest and meanest kind of crime, conducted in a spirit approaching fatuity or imbecility, yet absolutely indefensible from any standpoint. No breach of the peace, however, no catastrophe of any kind, resulted from his conduct. He had merely frightened an hysterical woman, and such a bungler was he in his sorry business that he strewed incriminating documents over the floor of his own lodging. The truest estimate of him would be that he was insane, or nearly so, and needed severe looking after in an asylum. Yet this poor, bungling creature, rendered desperate by our false system of society, has been sentenced to imprisonment for twenty-seven years. A monstrous sentence! A sentence only possible in a “Christian” country, only utterable by a “Christian” Judge! Why, the man Grande might have committed actual murder at an infinitely cheaper rate! He might, like the ruffian who has just been convicted of driving his helpless wife out of a second-floor window, and of gloating savagely over her death agony, have been convicted of “manslaughter,” and have received a far lighter punishment! The imbecile blackmailer, sending fatuous letters to a person in good society, who might simply have handed them to her nearest male protector, and who should surely have seen the absurdity of such epistolary nonsense, is more criminal, in the eyes of the law, than the wife-butchering bully of low life.

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The Derby Daily Telegraph (28 November, 1891 - p.2)

     Mr. Robert Buchanan is once more upon the warpath. Sir Henry Hawkins is his victim and the sentence on Charles Grande is the cause of the outburst, which is amusing for the two reasons, that he declares the judge to have been a mountebank before he was raised to the Bench, and that he traces some connection between the sentence and the book of selections from the poets just compiled by Mr. Henley. The logic is admirable in its way: sentences of such severity are only possible in a land where boys are fed on such literature (that is, poems like Tennyson’s “Revenge” and Rudyard Kipling’s “Flag of England.”) This reminds one of the very old syllogism that the existence of old maids leads to an increase in the clover crop.

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The Pearl Case

 

[Briefly, the ‘Pearl Case’ involved the theft of some jewellery from Mrs. Hargreave in February 1891. When the pearls turned up in a jeweller’s shop, both Mrs. Hargreave and her husband made their suspicions known that the theft had been committed by Ethel Elliott, Mrs. Hargreave’s cousin, who was engaged to Captain Osborne. The Hargreaves were accused of slander and the case came to court in December, 1891. However the case was abandoned when evidence came to light which confirmed Ethel Elliott’s (Mrs. Osborne’s) guilt. The Osbornes fled to the continent. In February 1892, they returned to England and Mrs. Osborne (now pregnant) gave herself up to the police. She was subsequently tried for perjury and theft and on 9th March was sentenced to nine months hard labour. However, due to the state of her health she was released from Holloway prison on 31st March 1892.

The case was reported in newspapers throughout the land, but the court reports from The Times probably give the most detailed account of the affair. Too detailed, in fact to be included here, for the sake of a single letter from Buchanan. However if you click the pictures below there’s a report from Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper which gives some background to the case and the report from The Times of the final court appearance of Mrs. Osborne.]

lloysosbornep1thmb lloysosbornep2thmb

Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper
(7 February, 1892 - p.10 and p.11)

pearltimefinalthmb

The Times
(10 March, 1892 - p.3)

The Echo (28 December, 1891 - p.2)

PUBLIC CLAMOUR AND PRIVATE
CONSCIENCE.
_____

TO THE EDITOR OF THE ECHO.

     SIR,—This pearl-stealing case is so dreadful and so instructive that I beg to be allowed some concise remarks:—
     (1) The conduct of Mrs. Osborne is so hideous towards a confiding cousin, and so infamous towards her bridegroom, now her husband, that I dare not wish on her account any punishment milder than a severest English tribunal would award. Only, if a severe, yet just, sentence does but heap new suffering on those whom she has already cruelly injured, and is of infinitesimal weight to deter like offences; on that ground, Mercy, not to the guilty, but to the guiltless, may be implored.
     (2) What is still more to be considered—if the like crime occurred beyond Christendom, it is all but certain that Mrs. Osborne would be judged to have obtained her position as a wife by false pretence, with a cruel wrong to her husband. She has acted a part which, in all natural probability, must turn his love, if not into hate, yet into such utter contempt and distrust as to make marriage unnatural and miserable. Whatever else her punishment, great or small, divorce ought, as of course, to follow her crimes. [Captain Osborne would be left free, after the divorce, to offer re-marriage if he chose. It would not constrain him.] This is the least that humane sentiment prescribes as his right.
     (3) The bench of Bishops, as a collective body in the Lords, will reply, “Nay, but Christianity forbids divorce, except for adultery. This is only their blindness, in following a blind tradition. The Gospels do not so state the matter. Under Mosesism the Jewish husband held a barbarous power to divorce his wife. No Divorce Court was dreamt of. The religion of the Jews most justly limits this arbitrary power of the husband, but suggests no thought that should limit or direct a national court, if such an institution were to arise.
     Do we begin to learn how real an infliction on our nation is the permitting of ecclesiastics to dictate our law?—Yours, &c.,                   F. W. NEWMAN.
     Weston-super-Mare, Dec. 25.

_____

 

TO THE EDITOR OF THE ECHO.

     SIR,—In connection with what has been called “The Great Pearl Mystery,” there is one point on which I wish to say a few words. With the legal question I have nothing to do; and it is no part of my business to defend Mrs. Osborne against the laws which she has broken. But I protest, with the fullest strength of conviction, against the illogical, unreasonable, virulent, and absolutely brutal tone of the English Press on what may be termed the “moral” issues of the case. In every newspaper I have taken up there is but one expression of opinion—detestation of the criminal, and pity for her husband; and in most newspapers a savage cry that “this man” should be torn from “this woman.” Captain Osborne is a “noble gentleman”; his wife is utterly ignoble. Why, then, should our wicked “marriage laws” link these two together any longer?
     Now, après?
    
Again and again, in these columns, I have pointed out the enormity of our posing and posturing as a nation, of “Christians.” This new development of pagan folly, raging in the hearts of pious or super-moral editors, is another proof of the national ignorance or hypocrisy. Writing neither as a sentimentalist, nor as a nebulous optimist, I will seek to detach the moral from the legal question, and regard the case from the simple and logical standpoint of human ethics.
     The outcry to which I have alluded is, in the first place, a rabid attack on the liberty of the chief individual concerned, who, in so far as he is “noble,” will resent and despise it. I attach little or no importance to the fact that Captain Osborne, in the face of a charge which seemed calumnious, married the lady he had chosen. What amazes me is that personal independence should be so uncommon that so very natural an act of manliness has awakened ecstasies of admiration! To my mind, the claim of Captain Osborne to moral superiority had to be decided after, not before, the proof of his wife’s guilt. Now, up to the moment of writing, this gentleman has made no sign. He has not voiced his sorrow to the public; he has not shrieked out against the “wicked marriage laws”; he has not turned upon the woman who is still, in the eyes of the law, his wife. Possibly, if he had done so, he would have been within his rights; but certainly, as he has not done so, no other living creature has any right to speak on his behalf. So far from “pitying” him, then, I begin to realise, for the first time, that he is a Christian in the best sense, and a Christian logician. For outside the law and its just exactions this man and this woman stand still together. Their moral relation to each other can be determined by no outside influence, not even by that of the law. The whole assumption of popular criticism is that the marriage contract can be broken by a public act of crime on the part of one of the contractors. The whole assumption of human ethics is that a public act of crime has everything to do with the social laws, and nothing to do with the laws which govern the conscience of the individual.
     Put the case, or a case. I love a woman of doubtful reputation, I marry her, and I find after marriage that she has been a criminal. Her guilt is proved, and, possibly, she has to pay the penalty. Just in so far as I love that woman, or have loved her, do I help her or stand apart from her. More than any creature living, by the very touchstone of my love, do I know that woman. Whatever she is to the world, she is something very different to me. In all the world only one hand now can help her, and that hand is mine. I know, if I am a consistent “Christian,” that the God in whom I believe will succour her, and remain with her. Just in so far as I follow that God, who is Love, do I act in the emergency. If I turn from my wife, the World, the Flesh, and the Newspaper will approve me. But my God being neither the World, nor the Flesh, nor the Newspaper, I do not ask for their approval.
     Never, so long as Englishmen profess a religion which they daily disregard in practice, will the ethical right of individuals be understood. The journalistic clamour that the husband of Mrs. Osborne should occupy a public standpoint of vulgar retribution is an insult to moral freedom, and an outrage on common sense. The legal relation between a man and a woman is one thing, their moral relation is another. It is precisely because our Marriage Laws deal only with legal relations, and obscure or ignore those relations which are inscrutable to all save the two persons concerned, that they are so often, in their practical results, detestable.
     As I write, a dear friend of mine looks over my shoulder, and exclaims, “Idealism again! defending a wicked woman! making a martyr of a criminal! The saints in your calendar are Mrs. Maybrick the poisoner, Grande the blackmailer, and Mrs. Osborne the thief!” Hardly so, I think. I cannot pretend even to the idealism of Christianity, for my faith is pinned to no God and no system. But I plead, as a thinking being, for logic and for consistency. It is not for me, as an individual, to do the Law’s business. It is not for me, as an individual, to protect Society. It is my business, however, and it is the business of every thinking man, to protect the individual conscience against the tyranny, the cruelty, and the violence of public opinion. What I demand for Captain and Mrs. Osborne I demand for all men and women, and that is, liberty to the full in the sphere of spiritualities, which no legality can affect one way or the other, and in which Man comes face to face with conscience, the only voice of the only living God.—Yours, &c.,
     Hampstead, Dec. 27.                   ROBERT BUCHANAN.

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Aberdeen Evening Express (31 December, 1891 - p.4)

THE CAPTAIN AND HIS WIFE.

     Two remarkable letters on the subject of the relations between Captain Osborne and his wife have been addressed to a London contemporary. The venerable Professor F. W. Newman (brother of the great Cardinal) argues that Captain Osborne ought to have a divorce. He says that, if the crime occurred beyond Christendom, it is all but certain Mrs Osborne would be judged to have obtained her position as a wife by “false pretences,” with a cruel wrong to her husband. Whatever else her punishment, divorce ought, in his opinion, to follow her crime. He knows, however, that the law forbids divorce except for adultery, and so he concludes with a fling at the infliction imposed on the nation by the permitting of ecclesiastics to dictate our law. The other letter is from Mr Robert Buchanan, who, like Professor Newman, has ceased to call himself a Christian in the current sense of the term. Mr Buchanan protests against the hypocritical clamour of the public with regard to Mrs Osborne. He attaches little or no importance to the fact that Captain Osborne, in the face of a charge which seemed calumnious, married the lady he had chosen. What amazes him is that personal independence should be so uncommon that so very natural an act of manliness has awakened ecstasies of admiration. Seeing that Captain Osborne has not turned upon the woman who is still in the eyes of the law his wife, Mr Buchanan contends that no other living creature has any right to speak on his behalf. So far from pitying him, Mr Buchanan begins to realise that Captain Osborne “is a Christian in the best sense, and a Christian logician.” He says that only one hand can help the woman, and that hand is her husband’s.

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The Echo (4 January, 1892 - p.4)

THE PEARL CASE.

     SIR,Through The Echo—“our Echo,” I might truly say, for to its constant and faithful readers it is a gem of comfort, light, and knowledge at the end of many a weary day—may I follow up the noble and kind rendering of Robert Buchanan’s summing-up of the conduct of Captain Osborne in the Pearl Case.
     While in no wise wishing to revert to another criticism of that special case in point, I would like to note emphatically one or two sentences of our friend Mr. Buchanan; firstly, “again and again in these columns I have pointed out the enormity of our posing and posturing as a nation of Christians,” “and in every newspaper I take up there is but one expression of opinion, detestation of the criminal, pity for the    husband.” The latter is no doubt from a worldly point of view an extremely just opinion, because it was a heinously deceitful crime, and the husband utterly crushed by the astounding and sad revelation, but it is the sequel of his conduct that is the turning point to my mind, and thereby hangs Mr. Buchanan’s strongest point, and as a body of professing Christians our greatest condemnation. What would we have had Captain Osborne to do? “Why, leave her at once,” “get a divorce directly.” These two opinions were breathlessly uttered by my dearest friend. Yet I went to the house of God on the next day, and heard my friend in rhapsodies over the sermon, its idealism, and the exquisite beauty of the Lord’s Prayer. I turned it all over in my mind, and then The Echo came with this exquisitely beautiful letter, and my mind again and again recurred to the profession of the Christian body, and the actual daily carrying out of the spirit of it, and it seems to me that more and more is the spirit of Christ sinking into obscurity, or rather, mere “theorising.” The very essence of His divine teaching was forgiveness first of all and end of all. Where, Oh where is the spirit to be found such as He inspired in these never to be forgotten words—“Let him that is without sin amongst you first cast a stone.” Is it all forgotten now at this time, when the season is emblematical of Him in all directions. There is the Pagan, Robert Buchanan, shaming us, and well, if we can be shamed, let us hate the sin of this fair sinner with all our hearts, but, in the name of the Prince of Peace, let us not go so far as to denounce her beyond her husband’s love; let us never carry cruelty of condemnation so far as to say she (like many others) must be cut off from the being to whom alone she can look at such an awful moment. Next to her God comes her husband, he is her earth god, “her own familiar friend.” No one has a right in private, or public, to go behind that scene between those two souls; according to his depth of love will be his forgiveness, I think, and in our case as Christians, in so far as we really love Christ, will be our forgiveness one to another. In fact, I do not believe in anyone’s Christianity unless there is the corresponding balance of that spirit, and may I doubt myself much if I ever allow that cruel censoriousness to find a resting- place in me. “Who art thou that judgest another?” Let us take and turn that little text over, my fellow Christians, who are so fond of judging these sad cases which every now and then crop up; indeed, it seems to me that it is the Christians who are hardest on everyone. Just put it to yourself. If such a sinner came to you in a similar sad and desperate plight, would you not be bound, as a Christian (if you wish to be one), to take her or him in, and do what you think your Saviour would approve of? Well, then, why should not her husband, to whom she belongs, do the same? She is his for time and eternity; till “death them do part.” Therefore, I am glad that he has so far done his duty, and I strongly condemn the un-Christian judgment against his acting so that went forth ruthlessly and uncalled for, and evoked Robert Buchanan’s indignation. He is the Christian, not we.—Yours, &c.,
                                                                                                           CONSTANT READER.
    
London, Dec. 31st.

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The Echo (6 January, 1892 - p.1)

     We have received several letters on the Pearl Case, but as no practical good is likely to arise from a continuance of the discussion, we have not inserted them. Mr. Robert Buchanan struck a lofty note of a lofty gospel when he courageously vindicated in our columns the conduct of Captain Osborne in protecting his erring wife. If he, knowing all the circumstances, continues to love and cherish a woman whatever misfortune may have overtaken her, what is it to busybodies who might be better employed than in poking their noses into other people’s business.

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The Dundee Evening Telegraph (9 February, 1892 - p.2)

     Writing in yesterday’s Echo with reference to the case of Mrs Osborne, Robert Buchanan says:—I hear “Hosannahs!” round the grave of a great preacher who is said, after a life of faith in eternal punishment and hell-fire, to have tranquilly “entered Heaven.” I hear no voice raised in any pulpit demanding that there should be equal justice for rich and poor, and that the rich and honoured, when they fall, should not bear punishment ten-fold greater than that meted to the poor, when they wander astray.

__________

 

Mr. Heggie

 

The Standard (11 January, 1892 - p.2)

     An inquest was held on Saturday at the Local Board offices, Wimbledon, by Mr. Braxton Hicks, concerning the death of David Birrell Heggie, 27, a commercial traveller, of 3, Dryden-road, Wimbledon, who was found dead on the 6th inst. His wife had left him about a month ago owing to his drinking habits.— William Page, a machinist, lodging with the deceased, stated that the latter had been the worse for drink several times lately. Witness was called by the deceased, who slept on the floor, about two a.m. on the 6th inst., when he asked for a seidlitz powder, complaining of feeling queer. Witness advised him to go to bed, and about eight o’clock found him lying dead in the kitchen behind the door. The following letter was found on the deceased:—“6-1-92.—3, Dryden-road, Wimbledon.—Good-bye, my mistaken, darling wife. I leave you now to meet again in Heaven soon. Good-bye, Robert Buchanan, dramatic author. Remember my ‘Religion of Science,’ and your neglect of me. No money, no home, ill awfully for last two years. No sleep for days upon days. Good-bye all, D. B. Heggie.” His brain and stomach were congested, and there was found, extending into the nostril, a diphtheritic membrane which had partly caught in the larynx and produced suffocaion, causing death.—A verdict in accordance with the medical evidence was returned.

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The Yorkshire Evening Post (11 January, 1892 - p.4)

heggieinquest

The Daily Telegraph (12 January, 1892 - p.2)

“AN EXTRAORDINARY CASE.”

TO THE EDITOR OF “THE DAILY TELEGRAPH.”

     SIR—In the daily newspapers of this morning I perceive an account of Mr. D. B. Heggie, a “commercial traveller,” aged twenty-seven, on whose person after death was found a paper containing these words, among others: “Good bye, Robert Buchanan, dramatic author. Remember my ‘Religion of Science’ and your neglect of me.” As the words may be misinterpreted, I must ask you to insert a few lines of explanation.
     Several years ago Mr. Heggie called at my country house in Essex and introduced himself to me as a young Scotchman ambitious to enter the profession of literature. It appeared to me, at our first interview, that he possessed little or no capacity for a literary life, and that his mind, moreover, was affected by hereditary physical infirmities. I assisted him to the best of my power with both advice and money. Shortly afterwards his hallucinations became so troublesome that I had to ask him not to intrude further upon me personally. He wrote to me subsequently expressing deep regret for what had occurred, saying that in accordance with my advice he had sought and found non-literary occupation, and adding that he had made a happy marriage. I heard no more of him until last year, when he sent me several pamphlets which he had written and published, including one on the “Religion of Science.” A few days before his death he sent a messenger to my house with a letter stating that the writer was in urgent need of pecuniary assistance. I was away from home, but the messenger was seen by my sister-in-law, Miss Harriett Jay, who immediately sent Mr. Heggie a small sum of money, and promised on my behalf further help when necessary. This was the last occasion on which I heard from  him, or of him, until this morning, when I read the account of his pitiable end.
     I owe it to myself to state that, so far from neglecting a fellow-creature in trouble, I again and again gave him practical proof of my sympathy. Possibly the expression “neglect of me” refers to the fact that I could not encourage this unfortunate young man, mentally and physically unfit for literary pursuits, to follow the wretchedest of all professions. Not a day of my life passes but I receive communications from other aspirants who see in literature a royal road to prosperity, and out of all these not one in twenty has the most rudimentary qualifications for the literary profession. There is not in this country a single professional author, however distinguished, who does not know, by sad experience, that to live by literature alone means infinite disappointment and proportionate suffering. Only the strongest and hardiest survive in an occupation which, in England at least, has few legitimate rewards and little social honour.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

                                                                                                                           ROBERT BUCHANAN.
     25, Maresfield-gardens, Hampstead, N.W., Jan. 11.

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The Yorkshire Evening Post (12 January, 1892 - p.2)

     Of all the evils which attend the success of authors, the least to be endured is the pestering of those aspirants for literary work, who are not mentally fitted to the pursuit. In most cases vanity prompts the essay. But, as LYLY says, “He that commeth in print because he woulde be knowen, is like the foole that commeth into the market because he woulde be seen.” The other day died one D. B. HEGGIE, a young commercial traveller, on whose body was found a paper containing these words—“Good-bye, ROBERT BUCHANAN, dramatic author. Remember my ‘Religion of Science’ and your neglect of me.” Naturally enough, such an imputation as this enforces an explanation from Mr. BUCHANAN—an explanation which plainly shows that this poor fellow was one who “commeth in print” without the requisite capacities. He was one of the thousands whom Mr. BUCHANAN, in common with every other author of repute, has had to discourage from an ambition wholly without warrant. Perhaps because he was a brother Scotsman Mr. BUCHANAN helped him with both advice and money, but succeeded in making him relinquish a profession for which he not only showed no native fitness but from which he was mentally incapacitated by infirmities. HEGGIE made “a happy marriage,” and went into a non-literary pursuit. But the hankering after the flesh-pots of the profession led him to write several pamphlets, and he appears to have become destitute, as a few days before his pitiable death he sent to Mr. BUCHANAN for money, which was given in the absence from home of the author. For this man to die with such an implied slur upon the generosity of an author who is known as a sympathiser with the struggling author, is much too bad. Mr. BUCHANAN has told us how he started his literary life in much the same way as the young Scotsman whose dead hand so unwarrantably reproaches him; but he always had the feeling of power which leads to success, and his struggles have carved out a name which will live long. He still thinks that “life by literature alone means infinite disappointment and proportionate suffering,” and after his recent experience will probably discourage yet more positively the applicants for his advice and guidance.

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The Leeds Mercury (16 January, 1892 - p.12)

ECHOES OF THE WEEK.
_____

                                                                           Friday, January 15th, 1892.

. . .

     What on earth can have prompted clever Mr. Robert Buchanan, in a letter to the “D.T.” touching a recent melancholy case of suicide, to remark incidentally that “literature is the wretchedest of all professions.” Mr. Buchanan was not, I should say, himself in very good trim when, about 1860, he contributed to a magazine which I founded, called “Temple Bar,” one of the most vigorous and the most pathetic poems that I ever read; still it appears to me that he has done very well in the profession of literature for at least a quarter of a century. He has achieved brilliant and well-deserved successes as a poet, a novelist, a dramatist, and an essayist; and he enjoys moreover, unless I am mistaken, a Civil List pension. Since when, I ask myself, with some dubiety, has he discovered that the craft of letters is a “wretched one?” I wish that I had half his complaint.

                                                                                                           George Augustus Sala.

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