14 FEBRUARY 1903, Page 24


[Under this heading we moats such Books of the week no have not been reserved for review in other forms.]

Robert Buchanan. By Harriet Jay. (T. Fisher Unwin. 10s. 6d. net.)—When Robert Buchanan was a lad "Barry Cornwall" warned him not to attempt to live by literature. The advice was disregarded, but it was amply justified by the result. This does not mean that Buchanan was unsuccessful. If he was not in the first class of poets, he was very high up in the second. He tried fiction, and did well with it; he tried the stage, and did well there. Miss Jay tells us very little about his literary gains ; but they must have been considerable, such as to suffice for his wants if he had only been acquainted, as his biographer puts it, with the rules of compound addition and subtraction. But there is some- thing in the life of the man who lives by literature which often incapacitates for this branch of arithmetic. Supported by the most precarious of occupations, he "lived the life of a regulation country gentleman, had his fishing and shooting, and kept his yacht. Later on, as if to leave nothing untried that could bring him to grief, he frequented the turf. Another characteristic of the unmixed literary life is the tendency to quarrel. Buchanan had "many enemies," we are told. That seems often the case with, the literary environment. Nothing could show this more clearly than the story told in the chapter entitled "The Fleshly School of Poetry." It is not difficult to see, then, that this biography has much in it which is painful to read. That it is interesting in a very high degree need hardly be said. With such a subject it could not fail to be that, and Miss Jay has handled it with sufficient skill and tact. The story of David Gray is, indeed, scarcely relevant ; but no one will find fault with it, and it exhibits one of the best aspects of Buchanan's character. Nothing in the volume is more painful than the passages in which Buchanan avowed his contempt for Christianity. We do not say that Miss Jay has been wrong in printing them, They are not logical or forcible in any way, and the writer was not one whose judgments in such a. matter have much weight. Still, this was a part of the man, and we do not say that it was a mistake to show it. But there could be no reason for giving the offensive language quoted on p. 19, in which a writer, whom it is not necessary to name, supposes that Buchanan in time "would logically have completed the evolution of so many years, and have definitely proclaimed himself as an Agnostic, perhaps even as an Atheist." And this, says the biographer, "was written during the poet's last illness, and published shortly before his death"!