ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)
ROBERT BUCHANAN AND THE GLASGOW SENTINEL - continued
Queen Victoria visited Leeds on 6th September, 1858 to open the new Town Hall. Robert Buchanan Snr. had connections with Leeds, having started a newspaper, the Leeds Express, with Lloyd Jones in December, 1857. Although that partnership was dissolved in July, 1858, Buchanan did not sell the paper until January, 1859 and the note at the end of the poem does suggest that Robert Jr. was in Leeds for the Queen’s visit.
DOMINE! SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM!
WHEN Deity approved and blest
Still roll and surge the restless years,
O strew ye, strew her path with flowers!
O strew her path with fears and joys!
O strew her path with orient flowers,
Leeds, 12th September. ROBT. W. BUCHANAN.
Robert Buchanan would edit an edition of Longfellow’s ‘Poetical Works’ for Moxon & Co in 1868. Reviews of that edition are available here.
The Glasgow Sentinel (9 October, 1858 - p.2)
THE COURTSHIP OF MILES STANDISH, AND OTHER POEMS.
DR JOHNSON, in more than a century and a half of English literary history, beginning with Cowley and ending with Gray, found less than threescore writers in verse whom he deemed worthy of a place in his biographical collection. Though, in his own line, and in cases where partiality did not disturb his judgment, a tolerably correct arbiter of literary reputation, the doctor would find it a task onerous indeed, to persuade any well-read individual of the present day that more than half the verse-writers whose lives he has composed have any claim to the character of poets, or even of men of distinguished talents. Perhaps the account might be balanced by the admission to his list of as many names as a modern judgment of the literary celebrities of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries would erase from it. We have learned to look for other qualities in those we honour with the name of poets than those which pleased the critics of Johnson’s age; or, at least, we have learned a different relative estimate of poetic gifts, and are used to flatter ourselves that ours is a truer and deeper view than the one held by our grandmothers. The result is that reputation has since that time both sunk and risen, forgotten writers have been dug up from the dust of oblivion, and others, who lived then peroravirum, in the gossip of Mrs Thale’s tea-table, and in the pages of the oracular doctor, are buried out of sight and of hearing, and silence covers them. This familiar fact of our literary history would seem to prove that, however common a certain degree of poetic faculty may be among men, the possession of this faculty in such perfection and strength, as to enable the possessor to produce genuine poems, is exceedingly rare. Why this is so, and whether the defect be one of nature or of training, an original vigour denied, or a due cultivation neglected, is a most interesting question, but one which would require us to diverge from our immediate route into phsychology and the science of education. We would merely point to the fact that poetic genius, capable of artistically manifesting itself, is, as a matter of experience, extremely rare. Yet at this moment we have ranged before us a set of volumes of American verse by not fewer than half as many authors as Johnson found poets in one hundred and fifty years, and these form but a fraction of those published in America during the past year. Not one of these volumes was published without a belief on the writer’s part that he or she was an exception to the general rule of poetic incapacity. Draw as we may upon our own candour, we cannot suppose that anybody but a lunatic at large would go to considerable expense to give the world testimony that he or she was the most despised of literary drudges—a verse maker without poetic genius.
“Steady, straightforward, and strong, with irresistible logic
Like many worse individuals before and after him, Master Miles, who has buried Miss Rose, his first wife, begins to long, after all the trouble and turmoil of a fighting life, to repose in the arms of a second better half. Miss Priscilla something, the pretty girl and belle of Plymouth, comes under his especial consideration, and the staunch, straightforward soldier exclaims in a very tender strain—
John Alden is one of Miles Standish’s very particular acquaintances, but a man of totally different calibre. He is blest with good looks, bright eyes, and woman’s ringlets, moreover; is as young as he is handsome; and, to be brief, entertains himself a secret passion for the damsel. Poor John is thunder-struck when Standish deputes him to propose to this pretty young lady on his (Standish’s) behalf. Friendship overcomes passion, however, and Master Alden undertakes the mission. A pretty picture is drawn of the beauty in the following lines:—
Seated beside her wheel, and the carded wool like a snow-drift
Entering the house with a heavy heart, Alden delivers the message of the captain of Plymouth, and receives the following very sensible rebuke:—
“If the great captain of Plymouth is so very eager to wed me,
The affair proves a failure, and the friends quarrel. A false report of the death of Miles Standish being circulated shortly after this, John takes Priscilla to himself. The resuscitated and redoubtable hero is, of course, brought again upon the scene alive and well, and, much to everybody’s satisfaction, extends to the bridegroom his forgiveness. The poem winds up with the following quaint but very beautiful lines:—
Onward the bridal procession now moved to their new habitation,
In one among the miscellaneous poems contained in this volume, Professor Longfellow has developed a great, and, with him, somewhat unusual faculty—suggestive power. Among the greatest poets this exists in the greatest degree; for this it is which casts over the whole face of nature the “consecration and the dream.” Shakspere is full of it. So is Gœthe. So are the epics of Coleridge. So are Wordsworth’s great odes, some of his sonnets, many of his minor pieces. So is the poetry of Mr Tennyson. And for this reason all subjective poets are invariably popular. They know the limits of human thought, and how, when it is reached, to turn the mind in upon itself. They know by their own experience the tenderest chords of the heart, and that, as with a harp, a delicate touch will make them vibrate longer and more melodiously than the rude sweep of unskilled fingers, which certainly awakens the emotions, but only to jar them together and agitate them painfully. Moreover, without suggestive power it is impossible to produce romantic feeling. We may gratify the admirer of Professor Longfellow by making an extract or two from the poem to which we allude:—
MY LOST YOUTH.
Often I think of the beautiful town
I can see the shadowy lines of its trees,
I can see the breezy dome of groves,
I remember the gleams and glooms that dart
There are things of which I may not speak;
And Deering’s Woods are fresh and fair,
Professor Longfellow, we hardly need remark, is a linguist, and in every respect an educated man. Moreover, he has gained a very great deal of indirect knowledge through the medium of books. Every one of his productions has gained something, either in form or in sentiment, from the influence of intellectual culture. The right always lies between extremes; and he possesses in an eminent degree the graceful “knack” of associating nature conveniently with art. A pure and beautiful feeling is delivered by him with a refinement and grace almost entirely suggested by learning. If there is sameness and want of variety in his mind, by spending his life in constant intercourse with nature and his fellow-men he has been enabled to express, in admirable and beautiful language, several of their more remarkable features. He very often associates things of true imaginative interest with the pure outpouring of subjective emotion. Self-meditation is said to be often the vice of modern poets; a habit of dwelling upon and fondling their mental diseases, and of making the infirmities they have encouraged by their weakness an excuse for quarrelling with the nature which God has given them, and the world in which God has placed them. But there is no humbug of this kind about Mr Longfellow. He seems to live to be good and happy, and to teach others to be good and happy with him. By him the modern rule of “ars est nescire artem” is cast aside with contempt, and the good old rule regarded. If sentimental young ladies and gentlemen like his poetry, very sensible people may also find a sensible kind of pleasure in its perusal. It is of good flavour now and then, if we knew how to appreciate its best qualities. Some cultivation of taste is required to appreciate the beauty of the following lines. In them there is nothing artificial, nothing elaborate, but they are verses which a much greater poet might have produced:—
In the Valley of the Vire
Far above it, on the steep,
Once a convent, old and brown,
In that darksome mill of stone,
Never feeling of unrest
True, his songs were not divine;
From the alehouse and the inn,
In the castle, cased in steel,
In the convent, clad in gray,
Gone are all the barons bold,
But the poet’s memory here
In these, as in some other of the poet’s verses, we detect the advantages to be acquired by the study of good continental poetry. Beranger might have written them, in our opinion.
ROBT. W. BUCHANAN.
This advert for Robert Buchanan’s second book of poetry, Mary, and Other Poems, first appeared in The Glasgow Sentinel of 9th October, 1858 and was repeated until the end of the year.
The Glasgow Sentinel (9 October, 1858 - p.8)
TO ONE IN HEAVEN.
IF I do simply sing thee, and rehearse
Think that the memory of loving hours
For O! the dear old world were out of tune,
And there is something beautiful in pain—
I lay this lowly wreath upon thy tomb,
We wend together; and I sometimes dare
BEAUTY, at once the mother and the child
WHAT makes me gather as I go
Perhaps the strangest of Robert Buchanan’s pieces in The Glasgow Sentinel of 1858 is this early foray into fiction. Mainly strange because this is a continuation of the ‘story’ and I have been unable to find the earlier part. There is nothing in the other issues of 1858 and I doubt it would have appeared in the previous year. I would suggest that it is some kind of printer’s error, although no explanation, or apology, is given in the following edition.
The Glasgow Sentinel (18 December, 1858 - p.7)
A NIGHT WITH OUR SET.
CONTINUATION of Jones’s story—
BODY AND SOUL—V. HOW KARL MOVED.
When Karl returned home, he found a delicate little billet awaiting him. It ran thus:—
VI.—HOW THE SHADOW FELL.
One morning, just a year after Karl had taken his new apartment, he missed the Signora at her window.
. . . . . . . .
Gustav Wohlmachen was absent from Lieblicht when all this happened, and heard nothing of it in Paris, where he was then sojourning. When he returned, he learned the sad story, and called at once upon Karl.
Everybody looked serious when Jones concluded. We are not bad fellows, and have hearts of our own. Egremont broke the ice first.
A LOVE LAY.
The stars are looking the love I bear thee,
The stars may shine not, the flowers may fade, dear,
Oh, the cheek of Time, it is wreathed in smiling—
Come! in the light of affection shriven,
Fortune, fair flower maiden, smiles approving—
Egremont wound up his ditty, and the clock warned us that it was time to part.
R. W. BUCHANAN.
‘The Literary Lounger’ only appeared in three editions of The Glasgow Sentinel in 1858 and his identity is more speculative. The first is unsigned, but the inclusion of the poem by David Gray suggests Robert Buchanan Jr. is the writer, as do the initial comments about ‘Young America’ which mimic those in his Longfellow review. The next two articles were signed ‘R. B.’ The absence of the ‘W.’ might indicate Buchanan Snr., who, as well as being a journalist, essayist and polemicist, was also a poet. Two years later, after the collapse of The Glasgow Sentinel, at the first of Buchanan Snr.’s bankruptcy hearings (reported in The Glasgow Herald of 2nd June, 1860) he did make this statement:
“For upwards of twelve months before my sequestration, I did not contribute regularly to the literary department of the paper, that being supplied by the sub-editor and other parties who were paid for their contributions. This was occasioned because my mind was taken up by financial matters, and planning to meet my pecuniary engagements. I, however, took a general supervision of that department, and suggested the topics to be written for the papers.”
The Glasgow Sentinel (23 October, 1858 - p.2)
THE LITERARY LOUNGER.
TRULY, Young America is a clever boy, and one who likes his books. At the semi-annual book sale, held in New York recently, the amount sold by auction was rising 200,000 dollars. But he stands in much the same relation to literature as Master Jones, the young hopeful of such and such an honest fellow’s family, to his volume of “Fairy Tales.” The rogue likes to read, but he must be provided with something which he can regard as interesting. He prefers Don Juan to Anacreon, and Tennyson to Puritan John. Heigho! Box his ears, and you will find Jonathan a stubborn lad indeed; but give him the open fields, with full permission to read when he will, and what he will, and you will find him in the ultimate a very talented little fellow. He wont study in a pair of stays, depend upon it. He likes so and so’s writing, and tells you so. He follows impulsively the promptings of his own spirit, and will candidly inform you that his head is hardly old enough to contain the soundest material; that he loves the birds, the flowers, and the sunshine, the voice of Spring, and the little sober path through the wood much better than the bowers of classic Accademus and the society of Plato dux philosophorum; and that his feelings are those of a boy he can give you as his reason why. He is as loving as he is impulsive, and “Love knows no order,” said St Jerome. In the meantime, we may watch his gambols with the Peripatetics and his dallying at the foot of the Holy Hill advisedly; we may wait, in the meantime, for his grey hairs.
A LADY, pale faced in her lore of dreams,
A noble grand was gallant Lord Moraine,
So now sat she, a tear-drop in her eye
The golden stair by which the sun went down
* * * * *
Mr David Gray, the author of the poem transcribed above has contributed some very beautiful effusions to the local press; but his head has evidently been turned a little by Percy Bysshe Shelley and Master John Keats. He is capable of producing good poems, but we would warn him against putting his muse in a pair of stays. She is young and delicate now—far too delicate and young to be tampered with, we should think. Lollipops and bon-bons are well enough in their way, no doubt, but good honest bread and butter must form her staple article of diet now-a-days. Did time and space permit, we would take our young poet most lovingly by the button-hole, and discourse to him “most excellent advice.” The divine faculty is at bud within him, but he must nurse it well. We consider “Lord Moraine” exceedingly creditable to Mr Gray’s head and heart; but he will give us something better one day. A volume of his poems, now in the press, and to a view of which we have been treated privately, contains some effusions of sterling worth.
The Glasgow Sentinel (6 November, 1858 - p.2)
THE LITERARY LOUNGER.
THE snows of eight-and-eighty winters are piled on Alexander von Humboldt’s honoured head. He is old, very old, but the bright impassioned intellect has not died out yet within him. He prosecutes his literary labours quite as assiduously as ever—toiling, thinking, writing, morning, noon, and night. His glorious colleagues are dead and gone; he stood with Varnhagen von Ense in the mighty Presence only a day or two ago, yet he lingers with us still, engaged in the production of the two last volumes of his Cosmos, probably the last study which God will spare him to complete. A long life, and one, indeed, well spent, has been that of Alexander von Humboldt; and this very day the resources of his wonderful intellect appear as manifold and as unimpaired as they were twenty years ago. Friends of his say that he continues as great an enthusiast as ever. Farseeing and prophetic as a man of genius, he is earnest, simple, and light-hearted as a child.
JEANIE’S NAE MAIR.
Oh! sad wails the norlan’s wind round my lane sheiling;
I hear nae her silvery voice ring through the hallan
The sunbeams shoot over the ocean’s dark bosom,
An open-hearted and innocent girl might be even less profitably employed than in the production of verses as meritorious as these.
The Glasgow Sentinel (13 November, 1858 - p.2)
THE LITERARY LOUNGER.
LET us take a hasty glance at one or two of the monthlies. First and foremost in the list comes our sober, straightforward, honest old friend, Blackwood, discussing yesterday and to-day in the same sober, straightforward, honest manner. “What will he do with it?” progresses favourably enough. Mr Buckle and his “History of Civilisation” came under notice, and the reviewer appears to regard Mr Buckle as a builder of tangible theories based on unsubstantial foundations, and a man of genius at the same time. He touches that gentleman on the most sensitive point—in the most delicate manner possible; and, admirabile dictu, appears to look upon him all along as a very clever fellow who has made a very great fool of himself. “Cherbourg” is a topic exhausted weeks ago, but Blackwood will have its say about it. The author of the article on Edward Irving talks a good deal of nonsense—nonsense that we have heard from the lips of nonsensical people over and over again. He appears to regard the Scottish clergy in general and Edward Irving in particular (all honour to whom, however) as neither more nor less than angels in flannel waistcoats and pantaloons. He estimates the preacher by an erroneous standard, and magnifies his intellectual powers to bring them to the stipulated calibre. The direct popularity of Edward Irving, instead of resulting from his mental powers, might be traced to causes different indeed.
NEW WAY OF CROSSING THE ALPS.
The work of tunnelling the Alps has been commenced some months. The spot chosen for this undertaking is beneath Mount Cenis, the part of the Alpine chain which separates France from Piedmont. Although the ridge here is high, it is one of the narrowest portions of the chain anywhere hereabouts. The tunnel is to begin at Modane on the north side, and terminate at Bardoneche on the south, these two points being, within a little, on the same level. The convenience of this position for a tunnel was pointed out by M. Medoil, more than 20 years ago, and has often attracted the attention of engineers. The tunnel will be very near eight miles in length, and is designed in the same vertical plane; but, to facilitate drainage, is rather higher in the middle than at the ends, so as to form a slope on each side. The crest of the mountain is about a mile higher than the highest point of the tunnel; hence the sinking of shafts was practically impossible, and the tunnel can only be worked at its extremities. By the ordinary method of tunnelling, the work would occupy 36 years; and by an ingenious mechanical contrivance to be applied, this time will be greatly shortened. . . . The perforating apparatus, set in motion by the compressed air, is so compact and powerful, that in a space barely sufficient for three couples of miners to work, 18 perforators may be employed, so that it will be possible to complete the work in six years instead of 36. The inventors calculate upon being able to advance three metres per day at each end, or six metres per day altogether. The air, after working the perforators, is still available for ventilation. When this work is completed and connected with the Victor Emanuel Railway, it will form one of the finest, if not the finest, road on the continent of Europe; and the journey from Paris to Turin will occupy only 22 hours, and from Paris to Milan only 27 hours.
Fraser opens with a chatty piece de resistance, “Our Failures.” Here we are seized as with an ague. Failures, failers—dupers, dupes—humbugs and shams of all sorts—there they stand in miserable array beneath the comprehensive eye of “A Manchester Man.” Havoc upon the flock, cried he—and no sooner said than done. He ships a director or two to Norfolk Island, pour encourager les autres, and kicks very heartily a few other kite-flyers of the class gregarious. The author of Headlong Hall contributes a curious notice of some translations from the Sanscrit into ancient Greek, by Demetrius Galanus, a Greek settler in Benares towards the end of the last century, which have been recently edited by G. K. Lypallus, Superintendent of the Royal Library at Athens. Mr Lever’s “Davenport Dunn” is continued with vigour. The following exhibits to some extent, the abilities attributed to the man in his varied capacities:—
THE SPECULATOR AND THE MINISTER.
“I am now coming to myself—to my own case, my Lord,” said Dunn, with the very slightest tremor in his voice. “Need I say that I wish it were in the hands of any other advocacy? I am so far fortunate, however, that I address one fully conversant with my claims on his party. For five-and-twenty years I have been the careful guardian of their interests in a country where, except in mere name, they never possessed any real popularity. Your Lordship smiles a dissent; may I enter upon the question?” “Heaven forbid!” broke in the Minister, smiling good-humouredly. “Well, my Lord, were I to reduce my services to a mere monetary estimate, and furnish you with a bill of costs, for what a goodly sum should I stand in the estimates! I have mainly sustained the charge of seven county elections, hardly contested. I have paid the entire charges on twenty-two borough contests. I have subsided the provincial press in your favour at a cost of several thousand pounds out of my own pocket. I have compromised three grave actions about to be brought against the Government. Of the vast sums I have contributed to local charities, schools, nunneries, societies of various denominations, all in the interest of your party, I take no account. I have spent in these and like objects a princely fortune; and yet these hundreds of thousands of pounds are as nothing—mere nothing—to the actual personal services I have rendered to your party. In the great revolution effected by the sale of encumbered estates, I have so watchfully guarded your interests that I have replaced the old rampant Toryism of the land by a gentry at once manageable and practicable—men intent less upon party than personal objects, consequently available to the Minister, always accessible by an offer of direct advantage. I have, with all this, so thrown a Whig light over all the rising prosperity of the country that it might seem the result of your wise rule that stimulated men to the higher civilisation they have attained to, and that a more forbearing charity and a more liberal spirit went hand in hand with improved agriculture and higher farming. To identify a party with the great march of this prosperity—to make of your policy a cause of these noble results, was the grand conception, which, for a quarter of a century, I have carried out. When Mr O’Connell kept your predecessors in power, his price was the bit-by-bit surrender of what in your hearts you believed to be the bulwarks of the constitution. In return for my support what have I got? Some patronage; be it so; for my own dependants and followers, no doubt! Show me one man of my name, one man of my convictions, holding place under the Crown. No, my Lord; my power to serve your party was based on this dure foundation, that I was open to no imputation; I was the distributor of your patronage to the men best worthy to receive it—no more.”
Our old friend Punch has sprung his Christmas rattle before all his rivals and issued his illustrated ephemeras for 1859. The “Pocket Book” is a repertoire of honest, good-natured fun. “A pic-nic is a drawing-room,” drawn by John Leech, makes a capital frontispiece. The artist has shown us how to get up a real rus in urbe, free from insects, flaring hot sun, or charge for waiters. The comic translations from Horace are decidedly clever; and the classico-comical cut of Demosthenes haranguing the waves, supposed to typify his sublime serenity the Speaker of the House of Commons, is among the best of the kind we have ever seen.
I also came across two reviews of poetry, both unsigned, which struck me as possibly the work of Buchanan Jr., but I have no evidence to support the feeling, so I’ve just added the scans below.