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Buchanan, Robert

Entry updated 4 February 2020. Tagged: Author.

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(1841-1901) UK poet, playwright, author and controversial journalist now almost exclusively remembered for his contumelious assaults in the press on Algernon Swinburne (1837-1909) and the Pre-Raphaelites, on account of their sexual and other "fleshly" "excesses". During his lifetime he was best known for his voluminous poetry, which now seems turgid. Very early in his prolific career, he published a mildly Dickensian volume of Club Stories, Storm-Beaten or Christmas Eve at the "Old Anchor" Inn (coll 1862) as Williams Buchanan, with Charles Gibbon (1843-1890); several of the tales, told to one another by a group of stranded travellers, are fantastic. Love Me For Ever: A Romance (2 December 1882 Illustrated London News as "Love Me For Ever: A Christmas Carol in Prose"; 1883) features an appearance by the Flying Dutchman; in Foxglove Manor (1884 3vols), the wife of a scientist, threatened by the adulterous longings of a vicar, is put into Suspended Animation by her protective husband; Stormy Waters: A Story of Today (1885 3vols) hovers at the edge of sf, if only through the plots of the villainous Colonel Kingston, who conspires to rule a Republican Britain.

Buchanan's long poem The Earthquake: Or Six days and a Sabbath (1885) inflicts a devastating earthquake upon London. The Piper of Hamelin: A Fantastic Opera in Two Acts (performed 1893; 1893), a fantasy play with added songs, features a Mysterious Stranger piper who unctuously restores the lost children to Hamelin. Buchanan's only full-fledged sf novel, The Rev. Annabel Lee: A Tale of To-Morrow (1898), posits a twenty-first-century society whose rationalist ideals leave a void in the bosom of the Christian Rev. Lee, who violates Eugenic taboos and by so doing manages to create in her banned choice of husband a martyr to the new supernaturalism. In The Moment After: A Tale of the Unseen (1890), a hanged murderer survives his own death. [JC]

Robert Williams Buchanan

born Caverswall, Staffordshire: 18 August 1841

died London: 10 June 1901



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