George Buchanan


Life
1904-1989 [George Henry Perrott Buchanan], son of vicar of Kilwaughter, Larne, Co. Antrim; ed. Larne Grammar School and Campbell College, Belfast; became London journalist; joined RAF, 1940; Chairman, Town and Country Development Committee, N. Ireland, 1949-53; issued journals, Passages Through the Present (1932) and Words for Tonight (1936); also novels, A London Story (1935); Rose Forbes, 2 Pts. (1937-50); Entanglement (1938); The Soldier and the Girl (1940); A Place to Live (1952);
 
issued essays as Naked Reason (1971) and The Politics of Culture (1977); haas his plays incl. Dance Night (1934); A Trip to the Castle (1960) and Tresper Revolution (1961), all staged in London; his poetry collections are Bodily Responses (1958), Conversation with Strangers (1961) and Adjacent Columns (1982); The Green Seacoast (1959) and Morning Papers (1965) are volumes of Ulster autobiography. IF MAC G20 ORM OCIL

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Works
Poetry
  • ,Bodily Responses (London: Gaberbocchus 1958);
  • Conversation with Strangers (London: Gaberbocchus 1961);
  • Annotations (Manchester: Carcanet 1970);
  • Minute Book of a City-Oxford (Manchester: Carcanet 1972);
  • Inside Traffic (Manchester: Carcanet 1976);
  • Possible Being (Manchester: Carcanet 1980);
  • Adjacent Columns (London: Menard Press; Manchester: Carcanet 1982), 54pp.
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Fiction
  • A London Story (London: Constable 1935);
  • Rose Forbes [Pt. 1] (London: Constable 1937);
  • Entanglement (London: Constable 1938);
  • The Soldier and the Girl (London & Toronto: Heinemann 1940);
  • Rose Forbes [Pts 1 & 2] (London: Faber & Faber 1950);
  • A Place to Live (London: Faber & Faber 1952);
  • Naked Reason (NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston 1971).
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Drama
  • Dance Night (London: French’s Acting Eds. 1935);
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Autobiography & documentary prose
  • Passage Through the Present (London: Constable 1932);
  • Words for Tonight ([London: Constable] 1936);
  • Serious Pleasures: The Intelligent Person’s Guide to London (London Transport 1938), and Do. [rev. edn.] (London Transport 1939);
  • The Green Seacoast (London: Gaberbocchus 1959), 124pp.;
  • Morning Papers (Gaberbocchus 1965);
  • The Politics of Culture (London: Menard 1977).
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Articles
  • ‘Lyle Donaghy: An Obituary’, in The Dublin Magazine, 26, 1 (Jan.-March 1951), pp.15-21;
  • ‘The Novels of Forrest Reid’, Dublin Magazine, Vol. 27, 1 (Jan.-March 1952), pp.23-32;
  • ‘The Autobiographies of Forrest Reid’, Threshold, No. 28 (Winter 1977), pp.86-91 [see under Reid, infra];
  • review of Forrest Reid, Peter Waring, in The Honest Ulsterman, 56 [1976], p.132.
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Discography
  • George Buchanan Reading His Poems (London: Audio Arts 1977).

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Poems in The Honest Ulsterman. Issue No. 39, pp.3-4: Seven Poems ['A painter'; 'At a Cafe Table'; 'Anti-Quixotic'; 'Esba'; 'Proust'; 'A Believer'; 'A Sodden Evening'. Issue No. 42, p.21: Two Poems ['Irish in London'; Family']. [q. iss.] Five Poems ['Italian Incident'; 'Lewis Mumford'; 'Amabel'; 'Elderly Widows'; 'Pastoral']. Issue No. 60, p.48: 'The Conclave'. Issue No. 62, p.39: 'Jill's Death'. Issue No. 68, p.34: 'Two Poems' [Sick Visit'; 'Still Life']. Also prose, Issue No. 51, p.23: 'Naked Reason, Extracts from a Issue Novel'. Issue No. 54, p.36: 'The Umbra, pages from an unpublished autobiography'. Issue No. 56, p.132: review of Forrest Reid, Peter Waring. Issue No. 56, p.141: review of Roy McFadden, Verifications. Issue No. 63, p.17: ‘Lyle Donaghy: A Personal Issue Note’. Issue No. 64, p.16: ‘The War Years in Ulster 1939-45’. [See Tom Clyde, ed., Honest Ulsterman, Author Index, 1995].

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Criticism
‘George Buchanan’, Honest Ulsterman, 59 [Special Issue] (March/June 1978), pp.17-87 [includes articles by James Simmons, Val Warner, and Arthur McMahon, with an interview conducted by Frank Ormsby, ed.]. See also J. W. Foster, Themes and Forces (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1974), pp.223-28..

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Commentary
John Foster Wilson
, Forces and Themes in Ulster Fiction (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1974), pp.223-28, with Stephen Gilbert, a friend and disciple of Forrest Reid; impressionistic autobiography, Green Seacoast (1956), ‘the murmur of out-of-date childhood’; Rose Forbes explores adult sexuality (unlike Reid); backcloth of middle-class decline; highbrow coyness gnomic affection can mar his work; by his own account ‘born to academic wife of country clergyman who was descended from a line of clergymen, lawyers, army officers, doctors, in Ireland since the seventeenth century’ (Seacoast, p.112); Kilwaughter Rectory, gentle decay until his father finally withdraws into suburban retirement [in Belfast]; novels in the 1930s and 1940s. Rose Forbes … presented through the eyes of a sexually mobile woman; notes hypocrisy of Unionist politician-employer; first husband Patrick Mullan, journalist; compromises with the Unionist establishment in closed-shop newspaper; drowns (actually and professionally); meets and marries Maxwell Smith in Belfast; in England marries a shopkeeper, has affair with Robert, a revolutionary who goes to Spain, where he is wounded; he is ‘too much afraid … of the perils of tenderness’; returns to Northern Ireland; marries a dull schoolmaster, who becomes a met. officer in wartime Belfast; Buchanan sees his writing as concerned with ‘the weather of people’; deals with political upheavals and changing social landscape; essentially atmospheric writer; impressionist technique; lacks controlling irony of Ford Maddox Ford; ‘panorama of the century’ (Seacoast); his writing in both kinds combines fiction and documentary, treating of rising lower middle-class with ambition and no self-belief or security.

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Gerry Smyth, Decolonisation and Criticism: The Construction of Irish Literature (London: Pluto Press 1998), ‘I am, I hope, in the direrct tradtion of these Irishmen to whom I have paid both public and private homage. Think, also, of Swift. The Anglo-Irish tradtion, in a word, differs from the English. / It is the sense of world-life coming through a region that is, in my view, the principal interest, not a region hardening its shell against the universal life. A region, like a person, becomes valuable in so far as it transcends itself. (Rann, 16, Summer 1952, pp.22-23; Smyth, p.119.)

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Desmond Clarke, Ireland in Fiction, Part 2 (1985), notes Buchanan reviews for the TLS; his fiction deals realistically with the economic and sexual trials of middle-class life, in which he seeks to find the key of secular spirituality; A Place to Live (1952) [hero joins RAF in wartime and later finds happiness as a hotelier]; A London Story (1935) [two brothers compared]; The Soldier and the Girl (1940) [Irish women seeking fulfilment through affairs and marriages away from home]. The Green Seacoast (1959), an autobiographical work, covers the period of the Larne gun-running of 1914 and the 1916 Rising. Poetry, Conversation with Strangers (1959) and Inside Traffic (1976), his poetry is concerned with the ‘aesthetic and emotional impoverishment’ of contemporary urban experience; despite a pointedly prosaic style, it shows a metaphysical interest in the ‘not-yet-here’ of evolving human life (Preface to ). For a selection, see Frank Ormsby, Poets from the North of Ireland (1979). The Politics of Culture (1977) is one of several essay collections. See also the ‘George Buchanan Supplement’ of The Honest Ulsterman, 59, ed Frank Ormsby (1978). Entry in Who’s Who. b. Kilwaughter, Larne [bio-dates acc. James Simmons]; for comment on Forrest Reid, see entry; also wrote for Honest Ulsterman as contributor. SEE Honest Ulsterman 59; Buchanan “Special”, ed. Ormsby. NOTE, Cathach Bks. 12 lists Rose Forbes (London 1950) [press copy from author].

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References
James Simmons, ed., Ten Irish Poets (Cheadle: Carcanet 1974) includes poems “Conversation with Strangers”; “A Wave of Joy”; “War-and-Peace”; “Philanthropy”; “The Animals”].

Robert Hogan, ed., Dictionary of Irish Literature (1979), rates him more highly than the journalistic novelist he has been taken for; a play, Dance Night (1935)m published by French; lists poems, Conversation with Strangers (1959), Annotations (1970), Minute-book of a City (1972), all Carcanet; novels, as entry, also Naked Reason (NY 1971) For Green Seacoast, A Place to Live, and Rose Forbes, see J. W. Foster, Themes and Forces (1974); poems anthologised in Poems of the North of Ireland, Frank Ormsby (1979).

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Frank Ormsby, ed., Poets from Northern Ireland (Belfast: Blackstaff 1979; rev. and updated 1990), incls. selection of Buchanan’s poems.

Frank Ormsby, ed., Northern Windows, An Anthology of Ulster Autobiography (Belfast: Blackstaff 1987), pp.79-91, gives an extract from Morning Papers (1945 edn.), together with a bio-note.

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Books published up to 1994: Bodily Responses, Poems (London: Gaberbocchus 1958, 1993) [0 85247 039 8]; Inside Traffic (Man: Carcanet 1976) [0 85635 169 5]; Adjacent Columns (London: Menard; Man: Carcanet 1982) [0 90340081 2]; The Green Seacoast (London: Gaberbocchus 1959, 1963, 1993) [0 85247 041 X]; Morning Papers (Gaberbocchus 1965, 1993) [0 8527 059 2]; Inside Traffic (Man: Carcanet 1976) [0 85635 169 5]; The Politics of Culture (London: Menard 1977) [0 90340 038 8]

Belfast Central Public Library holds four novels incl. The London Story (1935); A Place to Live (1952). [No BNB entry for Naked Reason].

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Quotations
Academic Morning’ (from Possible Being), ‘Jane says, “Don’t turn the news off. Study it. / This is what ‘thinking of others’ ought to mean.”’ ‘What in the future will they do or be?’; ‘marriage duration is a gloomy topic’ ; ‘as a non-realist, he’s realistic only about elemental happenings.’ On sex, ‘The romans sank through sexual / laxity, they say. Is it proved? / Is it the slur of later puritans? / If proved, it may redound to the credit of sex: / It helped to undermine a tyranny’; On Yeats, ‘He had mixed his life with that of a small State / In rebellion against a larger State; valued / the insular obsession, a Robinson Crusoe / Awaiting a metaphysical rescue.’ (See Linen Hall Review, 2.16, 1989).

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Regionalism: ‘[…/] It is the sense of world-life coming through a region that is, in my view, the principal interest, not a region hardening its shell against the universal life. A region, like a person, becomes valuable in so far as it transcends itself. (Rann, 16, pp.22-23; quoted in Gerry Smyth, Decolonisation and Criticism: The Construction of Irish Literature, Pluto Press 1998, p.119)

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Notes
James Simmons, The Honest Ulsterman (Nov.1974-Feb. 1975), p.69, review of Padraic Fiacc, The Wearing of the Green (1974), incls. comments on Buchanan: ‘the most original [of those represented of the Thirties], but his output has been small (more a novelist) and ther is not quite enough flesh on his clever bones.’

John Durkan, Bibliography of George Buchanan, poeta sui saculi facile princeps’ (Glasgow ULib 1995), is dedicated to the author of sixteenth-century Scottish Latin dramas and other works.

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