The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.
§ 52. Robert Buchanan
That, at least, is a fault which could not be charged against his junior by a year, Robert Buchanan. A novelist, a dramatist, a miscellaneous writer of all sorts, Buchanan underwent to the full the drawback and the danger (here often pointed out) of such divagation; and his temper, rather than his genius, exposed him to another set-back. He was quite entitled to attack the pre-Raphaelite school if he wished to do so; but his unluckily pseudonymous assault (if it had been anonymous it would hardly have mattered much, and if it had been signed nothing at all) on the “fleshly” school of poetry combined the violence of Esau with the disingenuousness of Jacob; and, though some of those whom it attacked were magnanimous enough to forgive it, it could not be easily forgotten. It ought to be said, however, that Buchanan showed no bad blood in regard to open counter-attacks on himself, and his verse, as always, is entitled to be judged without regard to this misadventure, after the dues of history are paid. His verse, though produced rather in the earlier than in the later part of his career, was voluminous, and it was exceedingly unequal; but it has, what many of his contemporaries lacked, a certain sincerity sufficient to atone for an occasional imitation which he shared with them. Ratcliffe Meg, one of his most commonly praised poems, is rather a close approach to success than an attainment of it. But The Vision of the Man Accurst, The Ballad of Judas Iscariot (perhaps the best of the numerous attempts on the subject) and some passages on awe-inspiring aspects of the scenery in the Coolin and Coruisk districts of Skye, are poetry.