Poet, novelist and playwright. Born at Caverswall, Staffordshire.
"The story of Robert Williams Buchanan begins in 1840 when his father to be, Robert Buchanan, a journeyman tailor from Ayr, left his trade and began to follow Robert Owen the founder of the Grand National Consolidated Trade Union. Owen was in Stoke-on-Trent during 1839 and 1840 sowing political seeds, some of which were to flourish in the Chartist riots of 1842. It was then that Robert met and married Margaret Williams. He was a free thinking, socially aware advocate of organised labour; she was the daughter of a local solicitor noted for his socialist inclinations and a willingness to support the under-privileged. The wedding took place before a Registrar in the presence of Robert Owen."
From The Spirit of the place - Caverswall by Mike Rogers.
The family moved to London and in 1851 to Glasgow where Robert's father became editor of the Glasgow Herald. Robert's education continued at a small day school in Glasgow and then a boarding school on the Island of Bute, where he began to write poetry. He read Latin and Greek at Glasgow University for a short while before his father was declared bankrupt as a result of specualtion. At the age of nineteen, with little to keep him in Glasgow, Robert decided to embark on a literary career in London.
His first collection of poems to be published was Undertones (1863). Controversial reviews of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Rudyard Kipling brought him very much to everyone's attention, but made some amends to the former by dedicating to Rossetti the novel, God and man (1881). The shadow of the sword (1876) was one of his most popular novels. He wrote a large quantity of poetry, much on the subject of peasant life in Scotland, but the quality of his output was variable. The vision of the man accurst and Ratcliffe Meg are two of his finer poems. Many of his successful plays were adaptations, such as Sophia (1886), based on the novel Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, and he made a fortune from the stage and his other literary writings. He was to lose it all by speculation and he died in poverty in Streatham, London.
The following works are available in the West Midlands Creative Literature Collection:-
The charlatan (1894) [Play]
Father Anthony (1898)
God and the man (1881)
Look round literature
Martyrdom of Madeleine
Poetical works of Robert Buchanan
The shadow of the sword (1876)
The wandering Jew (1893) [Poetry]
Woman and the man
A sample chapter and the complete text of the following are available on this website:
The Spirit of the place - Caverswall by Mike Rogers gives a good account of Robert Williams Buchanan (pages 199-207). It is published by Three Counties Publishing, Leek, Staffordshire. ISBN 0953523934.
Page created 2 September 2001 and last
updated 28 October 2002
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