The Fleshly School Controversy
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Buchanan and the Law

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Harriett Jay

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1. 1840 - 1868





1840 - 1859


5 October 1840

Robert Buchanan marries Margaret Williams at a civil ceremony in Manchester, attended by Robert Owen.


Notice from The Staffordshire Gazette.

More information about Robert Buchanan Snr. prior to his marriage is available here.

6 June 1841

Date of the 1841 census. Margaret Buchanan is living in the village of Caverswall.


The census return for Caverswall is available here. It would appear that Margaret Buchanan was living with her mother, Anne Williams, and brother, William. Robert Buchanan Snr. is not listed.

17 August 1841

Robert Buchanan and two other Socialists disrupt the Clerical Anti- Corn-Law Conference in Manchester and are arrested.


18 August 1841

Robert William Buchanan born in Caverswall, Staffordshire.

Meanwhile, his father appears at the Borough Court in Manchester.

Copy of birth certificate.

An account of the disturbance in Manchester from The Staffordshire Gazette.

23 August 1841

Robert Buchanan Snr. and Rev. J. R. Stephens discuss “the truth and practicability of Socialism” at a public meeting held at the Hall of Science in Manchester.


January 1842

A serious physical assault on Robert Buchanan Snr. at a Methodist chapel in Whitehaven, Cumberland, brings his missionary career to a close. He moves to London and works as a journalist for The Sun newspaper and as London correspondent for the Birmingham Pilot.

According to Robert Buchanan Snr.’s entry in the Dictionary of National Biography.


c. 1842

Margaret Buchanan and her son join the Ham Common community, in Surrey. They do not stay long and the family eventually settle in  Norwood, in the London borough of Lambeth. Buchanan attends Alexander Campbell’s school in Hampton Wick, then one at Merton. Their house in Norwood is visited by prominent Socialists including Louis Blanc, Marc Caussidière and Lloyd Jones. [Jay.]


December 1844

Mary Ann Jay born in Grays, Essex.


There is some confusion about the date of Mary Ann Jay’s birth. The BMD records list a Mary Ann Jay in the district of Orsett born in both June and December, but I have also seen her baptismal date given as 29th December, 1844.

30 March 1851

According to the 1851 census Margaret Buchanan (34) and Robert Buchanan (9) are still living in Gothic Cottage, Norwood. Margaret Buchanan is listed as ‘wife of newspaper proprietor’ indicating that Robert Snr. had by now bought the Glasgow Sentinel.

Margaret Buchanan joins her husband in Glasgow and Robert is sent to boarding-school at Rothesay, on the Island of Bute. He begins writing poetry. [Jay.]

1851 census:
Margaret Buchanan (and son).
Family of Richard Jay.

18 April 1851

Robert Buchanan Snr. returns to Scotland and buys the Glasgow Sentinel.

Buchanan Snr. had no capital but raised most of the money to acquire the paper on a life insurance policy.

22 July 1852

At a meeting of the Glasgow Parliamentary Reform Association an executive committee is appointed and Buchanan Snr. becomes the group’s secretary.


22 October 1852

Buchanan Snr. is nominated to stand as a candidate in the forthcoming Glasgow municipal elections. Buchanan’s address at this time, according to his letter accepting the nomination, is 20 Houston Street, Kingston, Glasgow.

The address could be a misprint. 10 Houston Street is more likely, since there is an advert in The Glasgow Sentinel of 24th April, 1852 for the London & County Assurance Company which lists Robert Buchanan, of 10 Houston Street as ‘Agent for Glasgow’. Possibly a coincidence, but the Buchanans were resident at No. 10 when their daughter was born in 1856. It would appear (from google maps) that the houses in Houston Street have been demolished, but I did come across this description of the property.

2 November 1852

The Glasgow municipal elections are held but Buchanan Snr. fails to win a seat.


c. 1853

After trying to run away from the school, Buchanan is expelled and returns home to Glasgow to continue his education at the Glasgow Academy and then the High School. [Jay.]


27 January 1853

Robert Buchanan Snr. is honoured at a Complimentary Supper at the Tontine Hotel. He gives a speech outlining his reasons for standing in the recent elections.


24 March 1853

Birth of the Buchanan’s second child - a daughter.


11 May 1853

Death of Margaret Anne Buchanan at the age of seven weeks.


2 September 1853

Harriett Jay born in Grays, Essex.

Copy of birth certificate.

4 October 1854

Buchanan Snr. is nominated to stand again as a candidate in the forthcoming Glasgow municipal elections. On his letter accepting the nomination, Buchanan gives his address as 2, Antigua Place, which was the office of The Glasgow Sentinel.

According to the Post Office Directory for Glasgow, 1855-56, the Sentinel office had moved to 37 Jamaica Street. Then, according to a notice in The Glasgow Sentinel of 17th October 1857, there was a move to 45 Jamaica Street, and the ‘Entry to the Publishing Office’ was at 30 Adam’s Court Lane, Howard Street.

7 November 1854

The Glasgow municipal elections are held but Buchanan Snr. fails again to win a seat.


c. 1855

First works printed (anonymously) in a Glasgow newspaper “one, moreover, which did not belong to his father.” Hugh Macdonald (who worked for Buchanan Snr.) encourages Robert’s literary ambitions, buying his first long poem and printing it in the Glasgow Times. [Jay.]

According to the Post Office Directory for Glasgow, 1855-56, the Buchanans had left 10 Houston Street and were now living at 25 St. Vincent Crescent. The Directory for 1856-57 has 26 St. Vincent Crescent. This seems to be the only Buchanan residence still standing. There’s a history of the Crescent online and here’s a current photo courtesy of google.

6 July 1855

According to an item in The Glasgow Sentinel, Buchanan Snr. is now also publishing a weekly newspaper, The Glasgow Times.

At some point Buchanan Snr. also acquired another weekly, The Penny Post. I’ve not been able to find an exact date, but in his bankruptcy hearings of 1860, referring to his earlier problems in November 1856, he stated: “I was then proprietor of the Sentinel and Penny Post newspapers, which latter had been started shortly before then.”

18 August 1855

Robert Buchanan Snr. gives his son the one-volume edition of Wordsworth, published by Moxon, as a present on his fourteenth birthday. [Jay.]


c. December 1855

Writes a pantomime which is produced at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow. [Jay.]



Attends Glasgow University.
First becomes interested in the theatre. Impressed by Vandenhoff’s performance of King Lear. Meets Henry Irving. Spends time at the Theatre Royal Glasgow.
Meets David Gray at a cricket match on Glasgow Green. They become friends and send letters seeking advice and help from British literary notables. Buchanan writes to G. H. Lewes. [Jay.]

The current edition of the D.N.B. states that Buchanan “enrolled in Greek and Latin classes at Glasgow University in 1856” whereas the 1912 edition has “In 1857–8 he completed his education by joining the junior classes of Greek and Latin at Glasgow University.”

June 1856

Robert Buchanan Snr. in financial difficulties. According to newspaper reports of his 1860 bankruptcy, in 1856 he had liabilties of £4000 and assets of £1000- £1200.

According to the reports of his 1860 bankruptcy, one reason for his debts in 1856 was his involvement in a Chancery suit connected to the estate of his father-in-law.

13 September 1856

A poem by Robert Buchanan Snr., entitled ‘Little Mary’ on the subject of the death of a child is published in The Glasgow Sentinel.


18 October 1856

‘On the Death of an Infant Sister’ by Robert Buchanan Jr. is published in The Glasgow Sentinel.

This is the first signed contribution to The Glasgow Sentinel of Buchanan Jr. which I’ve managed to find. His poems continued to appear in the paper until 1859, along with essays and reviews. This early work is available in the section, Robert Buchanan and The Glasgow Sentinel. The British Library Newspaper Archive only has copies of The Glasgow Sentinel, not Buchanan Snr.’s other newspapers, The Glasgow Times and The Penny Post, so I don’t know whether Buchanan Jr. was also contributing to these titles, although it seems probable.

November 1856

Buchanan Snr. reaches a settlement with his creditors, agreeing to pay 6s. in the pound.


April 1857

Buchanan Snr. buys a house at 9, Oakfield Terrace, Hillhead, Glasgow, for £750, with a loan from the Glasgow Provident Investment Society.

The house is now demolished, but here’s a photo from (judging by the car) the 1940s.

18 August 1857

Robert Buchanan’s 16th birthday.


November 1857

Poems & Love Lyrics, Buchanan’s first book of poetry, published (Glasgow: Thomas Murray and Son. Edinburgh: Sutherland and Knox. London: Hall, Virtue and Co.).
Reviewed in The Glasgow Sentinel, 14 November, 1857.
Reviewed by Gerald Massey in The Athenaeum, December 26, 1857.

Robert Buchanan Snr., in partnership with Lloyd Jones, starts the Leeds Express.


23 January 1858

The Glasgow Sentinel publishes an article, entitled ‘A Coming Poet’ about David Gray, by ‘an occasional Correspondent’ (possibly Buchanan Jr.)


July 1858

Robert Buchanan Snr.’s partnership with Lloyd Jones in the Leeds Express is dissolved, but he continues to own the paper.                       

According to Jay:
“For years fortune favoured him, and everything he touched succeeded. It was not until he was tempted to extend his ventures beyond the locality where he resided that the tide of his fortunes seems to have turned. He became involved in serious liabilities and finally failed to meet his responsibilities.”

6 September 1858

Queen Victoria visits Leeds to open the new Town Hall. The Glasgow Sentinel publishes a poem by Robert Buchanan, ‘Domine! Salvam Fac Reginam Noxtram!’, in its edition of 25th September. The poem is dated “12th September” which seems to indicate that Buchanan visited Leeds at this time.


January 1859

Mary, and other Poems, second book of poetry published in Glasgow. The book is dedicated to Hugh Macdonald.
Reviewed in The Glasgow Sentinel, 15 January, 1859.
The review in The Spectator (February 5, 1859) concluded:
“As a first production there would have been promise in his book. As a second designed to fulfil the expectations of a hopeful first, it is rather a failure.”

Buchanan Snr. sells the Leeds Express. In the reports of his 1860 bankruptcy, he estimates his losses due to the paper amounted to £1700.


There is an undated letter to Blackwood’s Publishers from the Oakfield Terrace address which could relate to the proposed publication of Buchanan’s first two books of poetry (neither of which were published by Blackwood’s), or perhaps to a third (unpublished) volume.

23 April 1859

‘In The May Woods’, a poem by Buchanan Jr. is published in The Glasgow Sentinel. It contains an echo of Sir John Suckling’s A Session of the Poets’, to which Buchanan would later return (with consequences which would affect his relationship with Swinburne and the Pre-Raphaelites).


13 July 1859

John Macpherson, editor of The West of Scotland Magazine and Review is murdered.

To put readers’ minds at rest, Robert Buchanan (despite subsequent developments) was not involved. The Glasgow Herald reported the murder on 1st August, and published an obituary of MacPherson on 3rd August.

August 1859

Buchanan Snr.’s financial difficulties continue and he raises a £133 loan on his furniture from a firm of auctioneers.


1 October 1859

An advert in The Glasgow Sentinel announces the relaunch of The West of Scotland Magazine and Review. Robert Buchanan Jr. is listed among the contributors to the magazine and it is possible that he was also the editor at this point.

Adverts for the October, November and December issues of the magazine are available here. There is an undated letter from the Oakfield Terrace address written to Le Chevalier de Chatelain discussing a proposed article for the magazine which he would like to receive by the beginning of January (presumably 1860), which confirms that he was editing the magazine in December, and it seems fairly safe to assume that he held the post for the October relaunch. Information about The West of Scotland Magazine and Review is scarce, but here’s the cover of the (pre-Buchanan) January 1857 edition.




February 1860

Writes to Thackeray submitting two poems to the new Cornhill Magazine, which were rejected.

[David Gray goes to London. Sends letter to Monckton Milnes from 65, Deveril Street, Borough (Southwark).]


A transcription of this letter (marked, ‘rec’d Feb. 7, 1860’) is available here.

[David Gray goes to London. Sends letter to Monckton Milnes from 65, Deveril Street, Borough (Southwark). This letter from Gray, dated “Feb. 1860”, printed in The Life, Letters, and Friendships of Richard Monckton Milnes, First Lord Houghton by T. Wemyss Reid (Cassell & Co., Ltd., 1890, Vol. II, p. 46), sheds some doubt on Buchanan’s account of their joint flight to London (albeit by different trains). It could, of course, be a printing error. In the ‘Memoir’ by James Hedderwick, in the introduction to The Luggie, published in 1862, the date given for Gray’s arrival in London is 5th May, 1860, which is taken from “a brief note to his parents”. This is the date which Buchanan gives in ‘The Story of David Gray’(first published in the Cornhill Magazine in February 1864). Another source of confusion is the differing tales of Richard Monckton Milnes’ first meeting with Gray - in his brief ‘Introductory Notice’ in The Luggie, Gray turns up on his doorstep, whereas in Reid’s description of events, he goes to visit Gray at his lodgings.]

March 1860

The March edition of The West of Scotland Magazine and Review includes an article about Victor Hugo written by Le Chevalier de Chatelain.


3 March 1860

A poem, ‘Snow-Music’ by ‘B.’ is published in The Athenæum.


According to Jay:
“Shortly before his father’s misfortune he had sent some verses to Hepworth Dixon, who had printed them in the Athenæum, then under his editorship, and he had some faint hope that Mr. Dixon might give him a little work.”
The initial ‘B’ might seem too slight a reason to assign ‘Snow-Music’ to Buchanan, especially since, as far as I know, it was never reprinted under his name. The same is true of the other poems which followed it during 1860 (more details here). However, in The Athenæum of 6th July, 1861, there was another poem by ‘B’, entitled ‘The First of July’, which later appeared (slightly altered) in Undertones as ‘A Voice from Academe’, so I think it is safe to assign the other ‘B.’ poems to Buchanan.

April 1860

Bankruptcy proceedings started against Robert Buchanan Snr. At this point he owns three newspapers in Glasgow, The Glasgow Sentinel, the Penny Post and the Glasgow Times.


5 May 1860

Robert Buchanan leaves Glasgow for London.

He loses his train ticket and his luggage is confiscated. He meets a lad in a park who invites him back to his lodging house where he spends his first night in London.


This is the date given for David Gray’s journey to London in James Hedderwick’s ‘Memoir’, in The Luggie (published 1862) and Buchanan gives the same date in ‘The Story of David Gray’ (published 1864). Apart from the date of Gray’s death and those attached to letters quoted in ‘The Story of David Gray’, this is one of only two dates specified by Buchanan. The other is of their meeting on 3rd May when they discuss going to London. Buchanan then writes:
“On parting, we arranged to meet on the evening of the 5th of May, in time to catch the five o’clock train.”
Which seems very close to the Hedderwick’s version:
“In a brief note to his parents, dated Glasgow, 5th May, 1860, he says, ‘I start off to-night at 5 o’clock by the Edinburgh and Glasgow railway, right on to London, in good health and spirits.’”

May 1860

He looks up an old friend of his father’s, Mr. Merriman, who helps him retrieve his luggage and invites him to stay at his house in Euston Road. He stays with the Merriman family for a week or so, then moves to the garret at 66, Stamford Street, Blackfriars. Visits Bryan Procter (Barry Cornwall), with whom he had corresponded while in Scotland, and who had “warned him not to attempt to live by literature”. Procter slips him three sovereigns as he leaves.

Writes to Hepworth Dixon, editor of The Athenæum, asking for help in finding work:
“I will work bone brain and sinew for any man who will employ in any way—as a writer or as a laborious proof-correcting drudge.”





The letter to Hepworth Dixon is undated and has no address other than ‘London’.

1 June 1860

Robert Buchanan Snr. in the Glasgow Bankruptcy Court. The examination is reported at length in the Glasgow Herald. The case is adjourned until 8th June.


The newspaper reports of Buchanan Snr.’s bankruptcy give an insight into his fairly dubious business practices. Another interesting fact is that Mrs. Ann Williams, his mother-in-law, lives with them. Although she is never mentioned in the Jay biography, she appears on both the 1861 census return for Buchanan Snr. and the 1871 census for Robert Buchanan, indicating that after his father’s death, both his mother and his grandmother joined his household.

8 June 1860

Robert Buchanan Snr.’s bankruptcy hearing resumes.


20 June 1860

Robert Buchanan Snr.’s bankruptcy hearing resumes.


14 July 1860

The first of Buchanan’s reviews appear in The Athenæum. He continues to submit reviews until 1869. The magazine also prints occasional poems.

A list of Buchanan’s magazine contributions is available here.

31 July 1860

Sale of Robert Buchanan Snr.’s assets (copyrights of the Glasgow Sentinel, Glasgow Times, and the Penny Post newspapers, printing plant and job printing business) for £1400 at the Crow Hotel, Glasgow. No buyers.


c. 1860

Buchanan also writes for the Literary Gazette and contributes a weekly leader on current politics to a newspaper in Ayr. He makes several acquaintances in the literary and theatrical world, including Edwin Danvers, the actor, and Westland Marston, the playwright. At Marston’s house he meets Dinah Mulock (Mrs. Craik), author of John Halifax, Gentleman and a fellow native of Staffordshire. She makes her library available to him. Also at Marston’s house he meets Hermann Vezin (with whom he later collaborated on Bachelors in 1884) and W. G. Wills (who provides a letter of introduction to Edmund Yates).

Meets up with David Gray in London. Invites him to stay at 66 Stamford Street. David Gray’s illness diagnosed.                                                   

Unlike the childhood and teenage years where the information is sparse, this period of Buchanan’s early struggles in London contains a lot of detail but little of it is dated by Jay. Buchanan also wrote of this period several times but without helping matters.

15 September 1860

Buchanan’s poem, ‘Down the River’ is published in Dickens’ All The Year Round. Several more poems follow.


October 1860

David Gray returns to Scotland.


Letter in Jay from Gray in Scotland dated 10th November 1860. A letter in The Life, Letters, and Friendships of Richard Monckton Milnes, First Lord Houghton by T. Wemyss Reid (Vol. II, p. 49) from ‘an eminent Glasgow physician who had been consulted by Gray’ is dated 4th November and the doctor writes: “At the request of my friend Mr. Sydney Dobell, I visited poor Gray some days ago at his father’s cottage, Merkland...”

9 October 1860

Second attempt to sell Buchanan Snr.’s assets, this time for £1250, at the Crow Hotel, Glasgow. No buyers.


November 1860

Calls on Edmund Yates assistant editor of Maxwell’s new magazine, Temple Bar, with a letter of introduction from W. G. Wills.

Gray returns from Scotland and stays at Stamford Street while waiting for a place in a hospital in Torquay.

“He wrote a series of poems in our new magazine, the first one having ‘Temple Bar’ for its subject, and became a constant contributor.” (Edmund Yates : his recollections and experiences - 1885). Buchanan later fell out with Yates over his article, ‘A New Thing in Journalism’ (1877).

December 1860

Temple Bar’ (the first in a series of ‘London Poems’) is published in the first number of Temple Bar.

‘The Country Curate’s Story’ (a poem) is published in the Christmas edition of the Welcome Guest, as part of a linked series of tales, under the title ‘Snowbound’.

There were nine poems in all: ‘Temple Bar’, ‘The Dead’, ‘Outcasts’, ‘The Destitute’, ‘Belgravia’, ‘A City Preacher’, ‘The River’. ‘Christmas in the City’ and ‘Haunted London’. The last appeared in the February 1862 edition of Temple Bar. None of the poems were included in London Poems or any subsequent collections.

5 December 1860

Gray moves to a hydropathic establishment at Sudbrook Park, Richmond

Letter in Reid from Gray to Monckton Milnes.

22 December 1860

Gray leaves Sudbrook Park and moves back to 66 Stamford Street while waiting to go to Torquay.

Letter in Reid from Gray to Monckton Milnes.




January 1861

Gray in the hospital at Torquay but does not stay long and returns to Stamford Street for a brief time before returning home to Scotland.

The Dead’, the second of the ‘London Poems’, and ‘Robert Herrick, Poet and Divine’, the first of a series of essays about poets, are published in the second number of Temple Bar.

Letter in Jay from Gray in Torquay to his parents dated Jan 6th 1861.

Other poets in the series were Richard Corbet, George Herbert, John Donne and George Wither.

February 1861

John Maxwell offers Buchanan the editorship of the Welcome Guest.

Charles Gibbon, whom Buchanan met at Herne Bay, is now sharing the garret at 66, Stamford Street. They collaborate on an adaptation of Michael Banim’s Crohoore of the Billhook, retitled, The Rathboys and also write pieces for All the Year Round and Once a Week, which are later published as Stormbeaten: or Christmas Eve at the “Old Anchor” Inn.


“A little after this period he [John Maxwell] gave me the editorship of one of his publications, the moribund Welcome Guest, and it was while I was editing this publication that he sent to me the lady whom he afterwards married, Miss M.  E. Braddon. I ran her first story through the Guest and about the same time reviewed in the Athenæum, at Maxwell’s request, her first and only volume of verse.”   [Jay.] Buchanan’s review of Braddon’s Garibaldi; and other Poems was published in The Athenæum on 23rd February, 1861.

If there is any truth in Buchanan’s story about setting out to kill a publisher, then Gibbon’s arrival at Stamford Street must predate Maxwell’s (the publisher in  question) offer of the editorship of Welcome Guest.

April 1861

An Artisan’s Story’ is published in Alexander Strahan’s magazine, Good Words.

Buchanan visits David Gray in Scotland.


Although Buchanan was writing for several magazines at this time, this should be noted considering the importance of Alexander Strahan to Buchanan’s career. As well as publishing several of Buchanan’s books of poetry, Strahan was also the publisher of the magazines, The Argosy, The Contemporary Review and The Saint Pauls Magazine.

The 1861 census was taken on the night of 7th April 1861. I have been unable to find a listing for Robert Buchanan which could be explained by the fact that the return for 66 Upper Stamford Street is missing. Checking the returns for Scotland I came across Robert Snr. in Glasgow (whose household also includes his mother-in-law) and David Gray at ‘Merkland’, but neither lists Buchanan. Mary Ann Jay is coincidentally also missing from the Richard Jay household and I have been unable to find her elsewhere. Richard Jay, listed as a labourer on Harriett Jay’s birth certificate is now a Foreman at the Grays Chalk Pit.

1861 census returns:
Robert Buchanan Snr.
David Gray.
Richard Jay.

c. July 1861

Robert Buchanan Snr. and his wife move down to London. They live in lodgings in Euston Road, Buchanan Snr. working as a journalist and writing cheap fiction. [Jay.]


18 August 1861

Robert Buchanan is 20 years old.


2 September 1861

Robert Buchanan marries Mary Ann Jay.


This is the date given in the D.N.B., but I have not been able to confirm it. Harriett Jay gives no date, just: “towards the close of the year 1861”. There are no details of how or where the couple met, and this lack of information is presumably due to Harriett Jay’s attempt to conceal her real age. If the 2nd. September date is correct (the fact that it was also Harriett’s eighth birthday could suggest that it crept into the D.N.B. account by some accident) then Buchanan would have been 20 and his wife, Mary Ann, 16.

December 1861

Storm-Beaten: or Christmas Eve at the “Old Anchor” Inn. A collection of poems and short stories, written in collaboration with Charles Gibbon, published by Ward Lock & Co.
The introduction to the book is dated December 1861 and  signed, “Williams Buchanan”.
The book is mentioned in the Daily News of 9th December as a forthcoming title for the Christmas market.

A Heart Struggle. A Tale in Two Parts, Part I’ published in Temple Bar.


3 December 1861

Death of David Gray.


10 December 1861

Writes to David Gray’s father in reply to a letter informing him of David’s death. In the letter (with the address: 66 Upper Stamford St., Waterloo Rd.) Buchanan writes:
“I am too poor now to come at once to Scotland. A thousand family annoyances, poverty & old debt, have reduced my means to a very low ebb indeed. For the last six months, I have had six people besides myself to support, & the strain has been a severe one.”

Although Buchanan could be exaggerating the  figure, the six people he was supporting would include his wife, his mother and father, and presumably his grandmother. The other two could be Charles Gibbon and Harriett Jay, although I believe she was a later addition to the household.

21 December 1861

My Aunt’s Christmas’ (story) published in The Illustrated Times.





c. 1862

Writes a letter (undated) to Hepworth Dixon from 66 Upper Stamford Street, in which Buchanan asks to be given better books of poetry to review in The Athenæum.

At some point (according to Jay) Buchanan’s parents move to a small house in Kentish Town and Robert Buchanan (presumably with his wife) and Charles Gibbon move in with them.

Buchanan visits G. H. Lewes and George Eliot. He had previously corresponded with Lewes before coming to London.






Jay gives the year as 1862. Buchanan also gives two accounts of his friendship with Lewes (in Jay and ‘My First Book’) where he mentions Lewes urging him to write the memoir of David Gray (published in February 1864 in the Cornhill Magazine) and arranging a publisher, Smith and Elder (later rejected in favour of Alexander Strahan) for Idyls and Legends of Inverburn. In his ‘Latter-Day Leaves’ piece about Lewes in The Echo of 9th July, 1891, Buchanan says that although he had written to Lewes when he was still living in  Scotland, he did not meet him until a few years after arriving in London (after the publication of Undertones), when he was living in “a small cottage on Haverstock-hill”. Given the proximity to Kentish Town, this could be the house referred to by Jay.

12 February 1862

Writes to David Gray Snr. saying he has been “exceedingly ill, suffering from congestion of the lungs, but am now a great deal  better.” He also says that he has been unable to get some poems of David Gray’s published and that he intends to come to Glasgow within the month to deliver a lecture called “The Story of the Lives of Three Glasgow Cronies” (David Gray, James Macfarlan and Buchanan himself).

The address on the letter is “Chertsey, Surrey” and it is signed “Williams Buchanan”.

I’ve not found any evidence that Buchanan went to Glasgow in 1862 to deliver his lecture.

The Chertsey address is interesting with regard to Buchanan’s acquaintance with Thomas Love Peacock.

March 1862

Lady Letitia’s Lilliput Hand, Part I’ published in Temple Bar.

The poem, ‘Sir Tristem’, is published in Once A Week under the name, “Williams Buchanan”.

Noted by some commentators as Buchanan’s first attack on the Pre-Raphaelites.

May 1862

David Gray’s The Luggie, and other poems published by Macmillan and Co. It contains a ‘Memoir’ by James Hedderwick and a ‘Prefatory Notice’ by Richard Monckton Milnes.
Reviewed (by John Westland Marston) in The Athenæum on 24th May, 1862.


17 May 1862

The Rathboys; or Erin’s Fair Daughter, written by Buchanan and Gibbon, is produced at the Standard Theatre London.


June 1862

The poem, ‘Baby Grace’ is published in The St. James's Magazine. It is reviewed favourably in several newspapers - The Standard declares that “If Mr. Buchanan had never written anything else ‘Baby Grace’ would stamp him as a poet of no common order.” The poem is also reprinted in various provincial papers.


10 June 1862

Writes to David Gray Snr. enclosing a review of The Luggie from The London Review. He also writes:
“Tell me what you think of my plan to write a long loving memoir of David, and to include in the volume his remains. His genius can never be truthfully represented unless by one who knew him as well as I; and to me it would be indeed a labour of love.”
The address on the letter is “8 Wellington Rd. West, Haverstock Hill.”

The date of this letter to Gray’s father, coming soon after the publication of The Luggie, could indicate that the inspiration for Buchanan’s account of the life of David Gray was the ‘Memoir’ by James Hedderwick, which contained only two passing mentions of Buchanan.

18 June 1862

For one night only, Buchanan and Gibbons appear in The Rathboys at the Standard Theatre. Gibbons plays Maurice, and Buchanan plays Shadragh the Shingawn.


21 June 1862

The poem, ‘Wife and I’, is published in Once A Week under the name, “R. Williams Buchanan”.


27 June 1862

Final performance of The Rathboys at the Standard Theatre.


Summer 1862

Buchanan takes lodgings at Chertsey in order to visit Thomas Love Peacock at Lower Halliford.


In Buchanan’s ‘Thomas Love Peacock: A Personal Reminiscence’ (New Quarterly Magazine, iv (April 1875) pp. 238-55) he writes “Mainly with the wish to be near him, I retreated to quiet Chertsey; and thence past Chertsey Bridge, through miles of green fields basking in the summer sun, and through delightful lanes to Lower Halliford.” And in Jay: “He was living at Lower Halliford, on the Thames, and in order to be near him I took lodgings at Chertsey, only sleeping occasionally under his hospitable roof. It was rest and inspiration indeed to pass from the roar of Grub Street and the strident Sixties into the peaceful atmosphere of the brave old pagan’s dwelling, to drink May Rosewell’s cowslip wine, and to boat on the quiet river with Clara Leigh Hunt, a bright-eyed little maid of fifteen and Peacock’s special pet. It was under Peacock’s influence that I wrote many of my pseudo-classic poems, afterwards gathered together in my first volume, ‘Undertones.’”

Although Buchanan places his time in Chertsey in the summer, the letter to David Gray Snr., dated 12th February 1862, has the address: “Chertsey, Surrey”. Also, Buchanan mentions that the letter has been forwarded to him, which would indicate that he is living in Chertsey, rather than just there on a quick visit. However, there is also the poem, ‘Ad Virgilium’ published in The Athenæum on 20th September, which is dated: “Chertsey, Sept. 6, 1862”.

August 1862

Society’s Looking-Glass’, an essay on the state of the arts in Britain, is published in Temple Bar.


14 November 1862

Buchanan writes to William Hepworth Dixon asking him to insert a piece about the recently deceased poet, James Macfarlan, in The Athenæum. The short piece is published in the edition of 22nd November.


30 December 1862

According to an advert in the Belfast paper, The Northern Whig, a story by Williams Buchanan, entitled ‘Love, True Love: A Woman’s Problem’, was due to be published in The Key: a Weekly Journal of Instructive and Amusing Literature. The advert describes it as “A beautiful domestic serial.”





c. 1863

Most of Buchanan’s magazine work during 1863 was primarily for The St. James’s Magazine.

William Black, a friend from Glasgow came to London “at the end of 1863” and took lodgings in the same house as Buchanan at 9, Granby Street, Camden.



William Black, novelist by Wemyss Reid (Cassell & Co., 1902).

The letter to David Gray’s father written on 10th June, 1862 has a Haverstock Hill address, which is situated in the borough of Camden, and two letters (offered for sale by David Holmes Autographs) also place Buchanan in the Camden area around this time. A letter of 9th February 1864 to J.A. Langford, the Birmingham antiquary and journalist, gives Buchanan’s address as Grove Cottage, Haverstock Grove. Another letter from the same seller to William Hepworth Dixon has a similar address (102 Prince of Wales Road, Haverstock Hill, N.W.) and although the date is ‘unclear’ it could refer to Dixon’s review of Undertones in The Athenæum. However, Wemyss Reid’s account of William Black’s arrival in London states that he “went at once to lodgings which had been secured for him at Granby Street, Camden Town, in a house in which Robert Buchanan already rented an apartment.” One of the difficulties with tracking Buchanan’s homes through odd letters and fragments of information like this, is that he did seem to rent furnished rooms for his own use while his family lived elsewhere. Whether this is a case in point, or whether Buchanan and his wife (not mentioned) had moved to an ‘apartment’ in Granby Street is thus open to speculation.

December 1863

Undertones published by E. Moxon.
Reviewed in The Athenæum by William Hepworth Dixon, December 19, 1863.

Undertones is dedicated to Westland Marston. The book also has a poem to David Gray (‘To David in Heaven’) as a prologue and one to Buchanan’s wife (‘To Mary on Earth’) as an epilogue.





February 1864

‘The Story of David Gray’ published in the Cornhill Magazine.


9 February 1864

Writes to J.A. Langford, the Birmingham antiquary and journalist: “Pray do not put yourself to any inconvenience concerning the  Lecture. I have by no means decided to read in Birmingham, tho’ I thought such a contingency was possible.”

I’ve found no evidence of Buchanan giving any lectures or readings apart from those in December 1868, and January and March 1869.

Spring/Summer 1864

Buchanan goes to Denmark, accompanied by his father, to report on the Second Schleswig-Holstein War (which lasted from February to October 1864) for the Morning Star.

Buchanan meets Hans Christian Andersen.

Mary Jay stays with her mother-in-law in Shepherd’s Bush.

Jay quotes the Pearson’s Weekly article, which says that he went ‘towards the end of the war’. Although the peace treaty was not signed until October 30th, the final battle of the war was the Battle of Lundby which was fought on the 3rd July.

July 1864

The Society for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts awards its silver medal to Mr. Robert Buchanan, for Undertones.
Reported in the Birmingham Daily Post (1 August, 1864).


8 October 1864

Buchanan’s second play, and his first solo dramatic effort, The Witchfinder, opens at the Sadlers’ Wells Theatre, London.


22 October 1864

Final performance of The Witchfinder at the Sadlers’ Wells Theatre.


16 November 1864

First letter to Robert Browning (referring to their meeting at G.H. Lewes’ house), asking him to contribute to ‘Memorials of David Gray’. In order to give financial help to the family of David Gray, Buchanan was proposing to publish a book featuring contributions from the leading writers of the day.

Buchanan also writes a similar letter to Tennyson on the same day.

Buchanan’s address is given as: Woodlands Cottage, Iver, Uxbridge.


3 December 1864

Letter to Browning saying the ‘Memorials of David Gray’ has been abandoned.
“All seemed well, when one or two objections were raised on the score of propriety; and it was even suggested that ‘it looked like begging for the father on the strength of Gray’s reputation.’” [Jay]


10 December 1864

According to The London Review:
“Addresses have been delivered by Mrs. Hermann Vezin at Drury Lane this week between the farce and the tragedy, and sold in the house in aid of the “People’s Shakespeare Monument Fund.” The writer of the addresses are Mr. Buchanan (the author of  “Undertones”), Mr. J. A. Heraud, Mr. Friswell, and others.”
Buchanan’s address was delivered by Mr. Walter Lacey on Saturday, 10th December, according to this piece from The Illustrated London News of that date.





21 March 1865

Notice in the Guardian:
     “Mr. Strahan will soon publish a volume called “Poems of Ploverdale,” by Mr. Robert Buchanan. The same publisher has also in the press a drama on “Judas Iscariot.”


May 1865

Idyls and Legends of Inverburn published by Alexander Strahan.
Reviewed in
The Athenæum by John Westland Marston, May 13, 1865.

Death of David Gray’s father.


2 May 1865

Letter to Browning soliciting his opinion of Idyls and Legends of Inverburn. The address on the letter indicates that Buchanan has now moved to Bexhill.

Buchanan also writes to Professor John Stuart Blackie, asking his opinion of Idyls and Legends of Inverburn.


The address on the letter to Browning is “Belle Hill, Bexhill, near Hastings”. Jay gives the following explanation for the move: “Just before the publication of “Idyls and Legends of Inverburn” the state of my sister’s health became such as to make it quite clear that a permanent residence in London was not to be thought of, so the young couple removed to the (then) little village of Bexhill, and settled down for a time in a quaint gabled house built of red brick and surrounded with wonderful stretches of garden ground and orchard.”
Since this is her first description of a Buchanan residence (the descriptions of 66 Upper Stamford St. are Buchanan’s) one could speculate that this was when Harriett Jay joined the Buchanan household, in which case she would have been 11 years old.

16 May 1865

Notice in the Guardian:
     “Messrs. Strahan will shortly put forward a new venture, termed the “Argosy,” to be freighted with the produce of the brains of Mr. Charles Reade, Miss Dinah Mulock, and others. Mr. Robert Buchanan will be the Orpheus of this bold band.”


6 June 1865

First letter to Roden Noel and the start of a long friendship.

Other friends mentioned by Jay at this time are Mr. Gentles and the painter, Walter MacLaren.


1 July 1865

G. H. Lewes, editor of The Fortnightly Review, writes a 16 page review of Idyls and Legends of Inverburn in which he declares:
“Robert Buchanan seems to me a man of genius.”
The same issue contains ‘A London Idyl’, which will later be reprinted in London Poems under the title, ‘Liz’.


August 1865

Second edition of Undertones (“enlarged and revised”) published by Alexander Strahan.
Reviewed in The Athenæum by William Hepworth Dixon,  August 19, 1865.


1 August 1865

‘The Old Ballads of Denmark’ is published in The Fortnightly Review.

This essay was reprinted in Master-Spirits (1873).

2 August 1865

A monument to David Gray is erected over his grave in the Auld Aisle Cemetery at Kirkintilloch.


7 August 1865

Buchanan writes a letter to The Athenæum (published 12th August) complaining about the David Gray Monument ceremony and the speeches.


Buchanan’s letter is sent from Bexhill, and although he does not say whether or not he attended the ceremony, it is most probable that he did not and took the information from one of the Glasgow newspapers which reported the event. Buchanan’s description of the monument is exactly the same as that printed in an extensive piece in The Glasgow Daily Herald of 3rd August, which is available here.

24 August 1865

The Dundee Courier & Argus prints ‘The Poet of Monkland’ criticising Buchanan’s letter in The Athenæum:
“Mr Robert Buchanan, however, fails to see it exactly in that light, and has addressed a letter to the Athenæum on the epistle, full of superciliousness and sneering, for which the Athenæum has been so long conspicuous. The ceremony we thought so natural is denounced, and the bad taste of talking common-place on such graves rebuked.”

Photos of David Gray’s grave and the monument are available in the Miscellanea section.

December 1865

First issue of The Argosy includes ‘Verner Ravn: A Dramatic Sketch’ and ‘Hermioné’ by Buchanan.
‘At The Threshold’ and ‘The Water Wraith’ are included in the anthology, A Round Of Days, published by George Routledge, engraved by the Brothers Dalziel.

’Hermioné’ was later included in the anthology, Touches of Nature, published by Alexander Strahan in December, 1866.

Winter 1865

Spends the winter in Etrétat, Normandy.





January 1866

‘Wintering at Etrétat. Part I’ published (under the pseudonym, ‘John Banks’) in The Argosy. The issue also includes the poem, ‘Artist and Model’.

Buchanan is contracted by J. B. Payne to edit an edition of Keats for Moxon. This is then cancelled and the work is given to Swinburne.


February 1866

Returns to Bexhill.

Robert Snr. seriously ill in London. He is moved to Bexhill, accompanied by his wife.


Jay, as ever, is not helpful with dates. She states that they returned “in the spring of 1866” but considering the date of Robert Snr.’s death it is likely they returned some time in February. A letter to William Cox Bennett (offered for sale by David Holmes Autographs) is dated 19th January 1866 and bears the address, “Etretat, Seine Inferieure, France”.

15 February 1866

‘Nell’ (under the title “A London Poem”) is published in The Fortnightly Review.



‘Wintering at Etrétat. Part II’ published in The Argosy.


4 March 1866

Death of Robert Buchanan Snr. He was 54 years old.


10 March 1866

Burial of Robert Buchanan Snr. at St. Peter’s Church, Bexhill.


April 1866

Poems published by Roberts Brothers of Boston. Buchanan’s first ‘collection’ it includes Undertones and Idyls and Legends of Inverburn, plus two selections from London Poems.

The short story, ‘A Roman Supper’ and the poem, ‘In London, March 1866’ are published in The Argosy.


16 April 1866

Writes a letter to the Brothers Dalziel about Wayside Posies for which he is to receive £150.


May 1866

‘A Morning in Copenhagen’ (‘by an Idle Voyager’) and the poem, ‘The Bachelor Dreams’ published in The Argosy.


23 June 1866

In a letter to the Brothers Dalziel, Buchanan discusses a proposed guide-book for Scotland.

Although the Brothers Dalziel do not take up Buchanan’s suggestion for a Scottish guide-book, he does produce something similar in The Land of Lorne published by Chapman and Hall in 1871.

July 1866

London Poems published by Alexander Strahan.
Reviewed in The Athenæum by William Hepworth Dixon, July 21, 1866.

London Poems is dedicated to William Hepworth Dixon.


August 1866

Etrétat in the Bathing Season’ published in The Argosy.


4 August 1866

Buchanan’s scathing review of Swinburne’s Poems and Ballads appears in The Athenæum.


15 September 1866

The Session of the Poets’, a satirical poem by ‘Caliban’, ridiculing Swinburne in particular, published in The Spectator.
Immorality in Authorship’ published in The Fortnightly Review.


October 1866

Swinburne publishes Notes on Poems and Reviews, which includes the following reference to Buchanan:
“We have idyls good and bad, ugly and pretty; idyls of the farm and the mill; idyls of the dining-room and the deanery; idyls of the gutter and the gibbet. If the Muse of the minute will not feast with “gig-men” and their wives, she must mourn with costermongers and their trulls.”


November 1866

‘Agnes’ (by R. B.), ‘The Lead-Melting’ (by Robert Buchanan) and ‘Convent-Robbing’ (by Walter Hutcheson) published in The Argosy.

Swinburne’s Poems and Ballads. A Criticism by William Michael Rossetti published. It opens with the following statement:
“The advent of a new great poet is sure to cause a commotion of one kind or another; and it would be hard were this otherwise in times like ours, when the advent of even so poor and pretentious a poetaster as a Robert Buchanan stirs storms in teapots.”


6 November 1866

Writes a letter to The Athenæum (printed 10th November) about an item from a provincial newspaper which had been copied by The Bookseller, suggesting he would be suing the critic of The Westminster Review for calling his dedication of London Poems to Hepworth Dixon, sycophantic, and also George Bentley of Temple Bar for publishing a poem called ‘Hugo the Bastard’. Buchanan denies he intends to sue and explains.


The concluding part of this letter is interesting since it reveals Buchanan’s attitude to his work and the division between what he sees as ‘hack-work’ and that which he treats seriously:
“I have found it necessary to write variously for bread; and although, in so doing, I attempt to write well and responsibly, I should only under very extraordinary circumstances reprint what was so written. What is produced to serve one purpose, and serves it, is quite unlikely to serve another and a higher purpose; and although it is at all times a misfortune to the man and a disgrace to the country that an original writer should be compelled to drudge with his pen for subsistence, the public has been too generous to judge me by any productions save those which, in the intervals of labour, I have carefully nurtured, and which I am able boldly and candidly to avow.”

9 November 1866

In a letter to Browning, Buchanan writes:
“I hate Goethe, everything Goethesque; and either you agree with me, or I see Goethe & Goetheism wrongly. That Man I believe to be the incarnate Curse of modern times, a horribly perfect Tempter,—the father of unbelief,—the Devil’s last & subtlest disguise to entrap the beautiful & the pure of soul.”


December 1866

Wayside Posies: original poems of the country life edited by Robert Buchanan. An illustrated poetry anthology (engraved by the Brothers Dalziel) published by George Routledge & Sons.
Reviewed in The Athenæum by Frederick George Stephens, December 22, 1866.

Ballad Stories of the Affections: from the Scandinavian published by George Routledge & Sons, an illustrated edition engraved by the Brothers Dalziel.
Advertised in The Times, December 17, 1866. Reviewed in The Daily News, January 15, 1867, and in The Athenæum, by Frederick George Stephens, February 23, 1867.








29 March 1867

A letter to the Dalziel brothers asking for a payment of £9 indicates that Buchanan is in financial difficulties at this point.


The period in Bexhill would seem to be a fairly comfortable one for Buchanan. He was writing regular pieces for the magazines and was enjoying the success of his first three books of poetry which had all been received favourably by the critics, plus there was the lucrative contract with the Brothers Dalziel. However this letter and the problem with F. S. Ellis does confirm Jay’s opinion of her brother-in- law’s attitude to money: “when he had it he spent it like a lord, when he hadn’t it he lived upon credit, and then, finding himself in difficulties, he endeavoured to extricate himself by hard work, or by plunging into hazardous speculations which very often had the effect of sinking him still deeper in the mire.”

23 April 1867

Frederick Startridge Ellis, a publisher and bookseller, writes to Buchanan asking him to return three books immediately and he will extend his credit for another two months.

Ellis was, coincidentally, the publisher of Rossetti’s Poems in 1870. Andrew M. Stauffer’s essay, ‘Another Cause for the “Fleshly School” Controversy: Buchanan Versus Ellis,’ published in the Journal of Pre–Raphaelite Studies (Vol. 11 (2002): 63–67) sheds more light on this dispute.

25 April 1867

Ellis writes again to Buchanan:
“Unless I have these three books returned at once I shall demand immediate payment for the full amount, including them, And if you oblige me again to put the matter in my lawyers hands I shall leave it to them to settle it with you.”


27 April 1867

Ellis writes to Buchanan informing him that the matter is now in the hands of his solicitors.


22 May 1867

Buchanan writes to the Dalziel brothers asking them to deal with Ellis’ lawyers. The bulk of the letter deals with delays in his providing poems for North Coast, and Other Poems and Buchanan ends the letter with a suggestion implying that if the Dalziel brothers have any pictures lying around, they should send them to him and he’ll write something to fit, in order to speed up the process.


28 June 1867

Writes to Benjamin Webster Jnr. enclosing “some lines to Miss [Kate] Terry”. He also mentions writing to Benjamin Webster Snr. “some weeks ago on business, & have received no reply of any   kind.”

Benjamin Webster Snr. was the manager of the Adelphi Theatre and this mention of ‘business’ could indicate that Buchanan was also writing plays at this time.

15 August 1867

‘Charmian’ published in the first edition of The Broadway magazine.


14 September 1867

Item from The Pall Mall Gazette:
Mr. Robert Buchanan has undertaken the editorship of a ‘Life of John James Audubon,’ from materials supplied by his widow.”


October 1867

North Coast, and other Poems published by George Routledge & Sons, an illustrated edition engraved by the Brothers Dalziel.
Reviewed in The Athenæum by William Hepworth Dixon, October 19, 1867. Reviewed in The Times, December 12, 1867.
Following the success of Ballad Stories of the Affections, Buchanan was offered £400 for North Coast, and other Poems by the Brothers Dalziel.

Swinburne’s essay, ‘Matthew Arnold’s New Poems’, published in The Fortnightly Review. It contains the following passage:
‘The poets that are made by nature are not many; and whatever “vision” an aspirant may possess, he has not the “faculty divine” if he cannot use his vision to any poetic purpose. There is no cant more pernicious to such as these, more wearisome to all other men, than that which asserts the reverse. It is a drug which weakens the feeble and intoxicates the drunken; which makes those swagger who have not learnt to walk, and teach who have not been taught to learn. Such talk as this of Wordsworth’s is the poison of poor souls like David Gray’s.’





Buchanan would later claim Swinburne’s slur on the memory of David Gray as the ‘fons et origo’ of the Fleshly School affair, although he confuses it with the new footnote which accompanied the essay when it was reprinted in Swinburne’s Essays and Studies in 1875. However, Swinburne’s initial comment about Gray obviously affected Buchanan and he refers to it in his 1871 essay on George Heath and in a letter to Browning from March 1872.

November 1867

‘Walt Whitman’, Buchanan’s review of Leaves of Grass and Drum Taps, is published in The Broadway.


30 November 1867

Item from the Illustrated Times:
Mr. Robert Buchanan is preparing a bijou edition of Longfellow’s poems for Messrs. Moxon, which is to contain a complete collection of that author’s poetical works, and to appear in two volumes, uniform with the popular edition of Hood’s serious and comic poems. Each volume will be prefaced by a critical essay by the editor.”


1 December 1867

Buchanan’s introduction to David Gray and other Essays is dated:
Sligachan, Isle of Skye, Dec. 1, 1867.”


18 December 1867

Buchanan witnesses a collision between the steamer, Arbutus, and a fishing smack, Catherine of Arran, on the Firth of Clyde, near Gourock. John Kerr, a fisherman, is drowned.





January 1868

‘London Lyrics: The Politician’ (the first in a series of ‘London  Lyrics’) published in London Society.


There were seven ‘London Lyrics’ in all, the last appearing in the March 1869 edition of London Society. ‘The Politician’, ‘To the Moon’, ‘Spring Song in the City’ and ‘The City Asleep’ were included in the ‘London Poems’ section of the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works, whereas ‘A Fashionable Love Affair’, ‘A Drawing-Room Ballad’ and ‘The Faces’ were not.

February 1868

David Gray and other Essays, chiefly on poetry published by Sampson Low, Son, and Marston.
Reviewed in The Athenæum by John Westland Marston, February 15, 1868.

W. M. Rossetti’s edition of Poems by Walt Whitman published. Rossetti acknowledges Buchanan’s “eulogistic review” in The Broadway in a footnote to his Prefatory Notice.

Although the essay on David Gray was generally well- received, some of the other pieces in the book were not. The review in The Pall Mall Gazette was perhaps the worst of the lot.

15 February 1868

The first of two letters from Buchanan is printed in The Spectator objecting to their review of David Gray and other Essays. The second letter is printed in the following issue.


22 April 1868

Buchanan is called as a witness for the prosecution in the trial of John Simpson Oman, captain of the steamer, Arbutus, on a charge of culpable homicide, at the Glasgow Circuit Court.


A brief report of the trial in the Edinburgh Evening Courant of 23rd April, 1867 mentions the witnesses, “amongst whom was Mr Robert Buchanan, of London, who happened to be staying at Gourock at the time of the collision”. In the full report of the case in the Glasgow Herald, Buchanan is described as “Robert Buchanan, residing at Hammersmith, London”. Which would suggest that Buchanan had not settled in Gourock at this time.

28 April 1868

A letter from Buchanan is published in the Glasgow Herald in which he states his objections to the verdict of the jury in the court case.


August 1868

There is a letter in Jay, from Buchanan to Roden Noel with the address, “Loch Slighan, Isle of Skye’. Buchanan is enjoying a yachting cruise at this time:
“We have had a long wander, roughing it a good deal both literally and figuratively, and we have drunk much wonder by eye and ear. The little craft we sail in has behaved bravely and gone through her work like a lady of the old Norwegian school—with a fierce grace. I have thought much and written little, eat little and walked much. I don’t know that I am much the better in health for this cruise—the cuisine has been a little too bad; but I shall enjoy civilisation better when I next enter an eating-house.”


November 1868

The Life and Adventures of J. J. Audubon. Edited, from materials supplied by his widow, by Robert Buchanan. Published by Sampson Low & Co.
Advertised in The Pall Mall Gazette, November 12, 1868.
Reviewed in The New York Times, December 6, 1868.

The Poetical Works of H. W. Longfellow Vol. I. Edited and prefaced by Robert Buchanan. Published by E. Moxon & Co.
Reviewed in The Daily News, November 24, 1868.

Buchanan visits Lord Houghton (Richard Monkton Milnes) at Fryston Hall in Yorkshire. Milnes lends him £100.


The Audubon family object to some of Buchanan’s comments about Audubon and the following year the book is replaced by a revised edition with a new introduction by Jas. Grant Wilson.



The letter (and the loan) is mentioned in the following footnote on page 133 of Volume 2 of James Pope- Hennessy’s biography of Monckton Milnes:

“In this context an unpublished letter from Robert Buchanan to Lord Houghton, written after a visit to Fryston in November 1868, during which he had borrowed one hundred pounds from his host, is relevant. ‘I far too thoroughly disagree with you in matters of taste to feel with you on literary questions or to be influenced by your dictum,’ wrote Buchanan; ‘I think it has been a dictum for evil in Swinburne’s case. You will not misconceive me! I regard you with admiration and even affection, and shall be grieved if you felt hurt by my words; but I cannot in honesty conceal my feeling that many of your views would be fatal were they not counteracted in your case by a heart so infinitely more noble than themselves. . . Regret nothing that you did for David Gray! God will remember that.’”

20 November 1868

Letter to Browning from 23, Bernard Street, Russell Square, asking “may I give you a call between this & Wednesday next? I am only in London for a very short time, & it may be long ere I have another chance of seeing you.”


24 November 1868

Visits Browning.


4 December 1868

Letter to Browning from “Rock Point, Gourock” (where he says he will be “for a week or two”) enclosing a programme for his first Public Reading. “I hope there is nothing derogatory in a scheme which, if successful, will save me from much trouble, & perhaps enable me to pursue my literary designs in peace.”


There is a degree of confusion about when Buchanan moved back to Scotland. Jay offers little help. Chapter XII of the biography is titled, ‘Return To Scotland, 1866’, and contains the following:
“After his father’s death he found himself unable to settle down comfortably in Bexhill, so as soon as his book [London Poems] was fairly launched, and its success assured, he set his face northward, and after pausing here and there in his flight he finally went to Oban, and settled down in what was afterwards known as ‘The White House on the Hill.’”
Which has led some accounts of Buchanan’s life to place him in Oban in 1866. However, first he went to Gourock, a seaside resort on the south bank of the Clyde, west of Glasgow, near Greenock.
This is the first of the surviving letters from Gourock, but it is unclear at this point whether Buchanan had made a permanent move, considering his plans for Readings in London. There are letters to Roden Noel in the summer of 1869, which suggest the Buchanans had settled in Gourock for a time prior to the move to Oban.
The main reason for the move back to Scotland was undoubtedly financial, Buchanan was again in difficulties. However, the statement in the letter to Browning about enabling him to “pursue my literary designs in peace” could indicate that the move was also designed to allow him to work on The Book of Orm after a relatively unproductive year editing the work of others.

10 December 1868

Robert Buchanan gives his first Public Reading in the hall of the Watt Institute, Greenock.
Item in The Guardian (22/12/1868 - p.7): “The Scotch papers announce that Mr. Robert Buchanan has made a successful first appearance as a reader of his own poems.”

According to Jay, Buchanan tried Public Readings in imitation of Dickens, in order to raise money. Reviews of his Public Readings are available here.

22 December 1868

Letter to Browning from Gourock, mentions his review of The Ring and the Book in The Athenæum, and invites him to his Public Reading in London “about the third or fourth week in January.”


26 December 1868

Reviews the first volume of Robert Browning’s The Ring and the Book for The Athenæum.


Robert Buchanan Timeline - continued

2. 1869 - 1872



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


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Harriett Jay


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