Robert Buchanan and The Shadow of the Sword
by Arthur Mee, J. A. Hammerton
Robert Buchanan, poet, novelist, and playwright, was born on Aug. 18, 1841, at Caverswall, Staffordshire, England, the son of a poor journeyman tailor from Ayrshire, in Scotland, who wrote poetry, and wandered about the country preaching socialism of the Owen type, afterwards editing a Glasgow journal. Owing, perhaps, in part to his very unconventional training, Robert Buchanan entered on life with a strange freshness of vision. Nothing in ordinary human life seemed common or mean to him, and this sense of wonder, combined with a power of judgment much steadier than his father's, made him a poet of considerable genius. "Undertones," published in 1863, and "Idylls and Legends of Inverburn," which appeared two years later, made him famous. The same qualities which he displayed in his poetry Buchanan exhibited in his earliest and best novels. "The Shadow of the Sword," published in 1876, was originally conceived as a poem, and it still remains one of the best of modern English prose romances. In his latter years Robert Buchanan, tortured by the long and painful illness of his beautiful and gentle wife, wrote a considerable amount of work with no literary merit; but this does not diminish the value of his best and earliest work, which undoubtedly entitles him to a place of importance in English literature. He died on June 10, 1901.