Robert Buchanan 1841-1901: an assessment of his career.
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Robert Buchanan was widely regarded during his lifetime as a poet of distinction, a capable and powerful novelist, and a critic of some perception, yet his name is now associated only with one regrettable episode, while those of lesser men and women continue to be remembered for work inferior to his. A man possessing large reserves of energy, and pressed to write for a living at an early age, he produced much work that deserves the oblivion it has found; but his early verse, expressing his profound compassion for the sufferings of the unfortunate in the simplest language, some of his ballads, and not a little of his later more vatic verse, is still worthy of study. As a novelist his work is provocative and readable, but too often descends to the level of the sentimental melodrama which earned him, for a while, a very good income from the stage. As a critic he was not profound, but was quick to detect and praise expression of his own sympathy for humanity that came to represent for him art's highest aspiration; Dickens, Browning and Whitman were his heroes, and for the last two he did sterling work in helping them to gain widespread recognition. As a polemist he rushed into several arenas, for some of which his talents were not especially suited; but he publicly supported C. S. Parnell and Oscar Wilde when few found the courage to do so. An interesting man of impressive variety and undoubted talent has found an undeserved neglect, and a full-scale critical biography of Robert Buchanan is long overdue.
AuthorsMurray, Christopher David
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