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Buchan, John

Page history last edited by Jon 11 years, 9 months ago

John BuchanSource: Wikipedia

The Right Honourable John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, GCMG, GCVO, CH, PC (26 August 1875 – 11 February 1940), was a Scottish novelist and politician who also served as Governor General of Canada.


Early life


Born in Perth, Scotland, Buchan was educated at Glasgow University and Brasenose College, Oxford, winning the Newdigate prize for poetry while a student at the latter. He had a genius for friendship which he retained all his life. His friends at Oxford included Hilaire Belloc, Raymond Asquith and Aubrey Herbert.


Buchan at first entered into a career in law in 1901, but almost immediately moved into politics, becoming private secretary to British colonial administrator Alfred Milner, who was high commissioner for South Africa, Governor of Cape Colony and colonial administrator of Transvaal and the Orange Free State—hence Buchan gained an acquaintance with the country that was to feature prominently in his writing. Buchan married Susan Charlotte Grosvenor, cousin of the Duke of Westminster, on July 15, 1907. Together they had four children, two of whom would spend most of their lives in Canada.


During World War I, he was a correspondent for The Times in France before becoming Director of Information under Lord Beaverbrook in 1917. After the war he began to write on historical subjects, and became president of the Scottish Historical Society. He was twice High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and in a 1927 by-election was elected a Conservative Member of Parliament for the Scottish Universities.


Inspired by thriller master E. Phillips Oppenheim, his career as an author was very successful, and he produced many well-known works, including Prester John (1910), The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915), and Greenmantle (1916). The Thirty-Nine Steps later became even more famous when Alfred Hitchcock made it into a movie. He also wrote biographies of Sir Walter Scott, Caesar Augustus, Oliver Cromwell and James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose. His writing continued even after he was appointed Governor General. His later books included novels and histories and his views of Canada. He also wrote his autobiography, Memory Hold-the-Door, while in office. His wife was also a writer, producing many books and plays as Susan Buchan.


Life in Canada


In 1935 he became Governor General of Canada and was created Baron Tweedsmuir. Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King had wanted him to go to Canada as a commoner, but King George V insisted on being represented by a peer. While he pursued his own writing career, he also promoted the development of a distinctly Canadian culture. In 1936, encouraged by Lady Tweedsmuir, he founded the Governor General's Awards still some of Canada's premier literary awards.


Lady Tweedsmuir was active in promoting literacy in Canada. She used Rideau Hall as a distribution centre for 40,000 books, which were sent out to readers in remote areas of the west. Her program was known as the "Lady Tweedsmuir Prairie Library Scheme". Together, Lord and Lady Tweedsmuir established the first proper library at Rideau Hall.


Lord Tweedsmuir took his responsibilities in Canada seriously and tried to make the office of Governor General relevant to the lives of ordinary Canadians. In his own words, "a Governor General is in a unique position for it is his duty to know the whole of Canada and all the various types of her people".


Lord Tweedsmuir travelled throughout Canada, including the Arctic regions. He took every opportunity to speak to Canadians and to encourage them to develop their own distinct identity. He wanted to build national unity by diminishing the religious and linguistic barriers that divided the country. Lord Tweedsmuir was aware of the suffering experienced by many Canadians due to the Depression and often wrote with compassion about their difficulties.


Lord Tweedsmuir was recognized by Glasgow, St. Andrews, McGill, Toronto and Montréal Universities, all of which conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, and he was made an Honorary Fellow and an Honorary D.C.L. of Oxford. When His Majesty King George V died in 1936, the front of Rideau Hall was covered in black crepe and Lord Tweedsmuir cancelled all entertaining during the period of mourning. The new heir to the throne, King Edward VIII, soon abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson – creating a crisis for the monarchy. However, when the new King, His Majesty George VI and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth travelled throughout Canada in 1939; the regal visit – the first visit to Canada by a reigning Sovereign – was extremely popular.


Like many people of his time, the experience of the First World War convinced Lord Tweedsmuir of the horrors of armed conflict and he worked with both United States President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Mackenzie King in trying to avert the ever-growing threat of another world war.

While shaving on February 6, 1940, Lord Tweedsmuir had a stroke and injured his head badly in the fall. He received the best possible care – Canada's famous Dr. Wilder Penfield operated twice – but the injury proved fatal. On February 11, just 10 months before his term of office was to expire, Lord Tweedsmuir died. Prime Minister Mackenzie King reflected the loss that all Canadians felt when he read the following words over the radio, "In the passing of His Excellency, the people of Canada have lost one of the greatest and most revered of their Governors General, and a friend who, from the day of his arrival in this country, dedicated his life to their service."


This was the first time a Governor General had died during his term of office since Confederation. After the lying-in-state in the Senate Chamber, a state funeral for Lord Tweedsmuir was held at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Ottawa. His ashes were returned to England on the warship H.M.S. Orion for final burial at Elsfield, where he had bought the Manor in 1920.




In recent years in common with many of his contemporaries, Buchan's reputation has been tarnished by the lack of political correctness perceived, with hindsight, in his novels. However, in many other ways, his work stands the test of time, and he is currently undergoing a resurgence in popularity. This is quite in keeping with the high degree of proficiency that he exhibits as a writer and novelist par excellence.


Buchan was involved with British Intelligence during the First World War and may have had an involvement later. He had a reputation for discretion. He was a friend of T. E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) and played a key role in Lawrence serving in the RAF in the 1920s under an assumed name.


In the 1930s Buchan gave financial and moral support to the poor, young academic Roberto Weiss, as Buchan was fascinated by the classical antiquity period Weiss studied, and wished to support this.


Many of Buchan's works are available through Project Gutenberg and Gutenberg Australia.




Sir Quixote of the Moors (1895)

Scholar-Gipsies {essays} (1896)

Grey Weather {stories and poems} (1899)

A Lost Lady of Old Years (1899)

The Half-Hearted (1900)

The Watcher by the Threshold {stories} (1902)

The African Colony (1903)

The Law Relating to the Taxation of Foreign Income (1905)

A Lodge in the Wilderness (1906)

Some Eighteenth Century Byways {essays and articles} (1908)

Prester John (1910)

Sir Walter Raleigh (1911)

The Moon Endureth {stories and poems} (1912)

What the Home Rule Bill Means (1912)

The Marquis of Montrose (1913)

Andrew Jameson, Lord Ardwall (1913)

Salute to Adventurers (1915)

The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915)

Britain's War by Land (1915)

The Achievement of France (1915)

Ordeal by Marriage (1915)

The Future of the War (1916)

The Power-House (1916)

The Battle of Jutland (1916)

Greenmantle (1916)

The Battle of the Somme, First Phase (1916)

The Purpose of War (1916)

Poems, Scots and English (1917)

The Battle of the Somme, Second Phase (1917)

Mr Standfast (1919)

These for Remembrance (1919)

The Battle Honours of Scotland (1914)] (1919)

The History of the South African Forces in France (1920)

Francis and Riversdale Grenfell (1920)

The Long Road to Victory (1920)

The Path of the King (1921)

A History of the Great War (1921)

Huntingtower (1922)

A Book of Escapes and Hurried Journeys (1922)

The Last Secrets {essays and articles}] (1923)

A History of English Literature (1923)

Midwinter (1923)

Days to Remember (1923)

Some Notes on Sir Walter Scott (1924)

The Three Hostages (1924)

The History of the Royal Scots Fusiliers 1678-1918 (1925)

John Macnab (1925)

The Man and the Book (1925)

Sir Walter Scott (1925)

Two Ordeals of Democracy (1925)

The Dancing Floor (1926)

Homilies and Recreations {essays and addresses] (1926)

Witch Wood (1927)

The Runagates Club {stories] (1913)] (1928)

The Courts of the Morning (1929)

The Kirk in Scotland {with George Adam Smith} (1930)

Montrose and Leadership (1930)

Castle Gay (1930)

Lord Rosebery, (1847) (1930)

The Blanket of the Dark (1931)

The Novel and the Fairy Tale (1931)

Sir Walter Scott (1932)

The Gap in the Curtain (1932)

Julius Caesar (1932)

The Magic Walking Stick {for children} (1932)

Andrew Lang and the Borders (1932)

The Massacre of Glencoe (1933)

A Prince of the Captivity (1933)

The Margins of Life (1933)

The Free Fishers (1934)

Gordon at Khartoum (1934)

Oliver Cromwell (1934)

The King's Grace (1935)

The House of the Four Winds (1935)

The Island of Sheep (1936)

Augustus (1937)

The Interpreter's House (1938)

Presbyterianism Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1938)

Memory Hold-the-Door {autobiography} (1940)

Comments and Characters (1940)

Canadian Occasions (1940)

Sick Heart River (1941)

The Long Traverse (1941)

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