Buchan developed his own vision of Scotland partly due to his educational background and professional career. Matriculating when sixteen at the University of Glasgow, he excelled within this rigorous academic environment and came under the influence of the Idealist John Caird. A spell at Brasenose soon followed where he acquired the friendship of Hilaire Belloc. Buchan’s star shone brilliantly at Oxford with the Newdigate prize and presidency of the Union following is quick succession. One of the reasons for Buchan’s success proved his self-representation as a Caledonian ambassador to the wider British world. This son of the manse could easily converse with Old Etonians and Wykehamists while still connected to the grey villages of the Lowlands. Such graceful maneuvering positioned him well to become private secretary to the High Commissioner of Southern Africa in 1901. Buchan also married well by accepting the dowry of Lady Charlotte Grosvenor, cousin to the Duke of Westminster in 1907.
Almost Carlylean in his valorisation of Scotland’s ‘great men’, one of Buchan’s most important works in his sensitive biography of the Marquess of Montrose. In order to comprehend the sophistication of Buchan’s Tory Unionism, his historical works are absolutely vital. His Montrose: A History (1930) attempts to intellectually accomplish Buchan’s greatly desired synthesis between Cavalier and Covenanter. Buchan’s own mythologisation of Scottish history conceived of two strains; that of the Jacobite Tory and of the Presbyterian Covenanter. His Montrose biography was a grand narrative intending to both defend the initial cause of the Covenanters and ultimately return to the Crown’s rightful cause. In the figure of the First Marquess, Buchan sought to illustrate an aristocrat who represented his nation and proved able to transform his views in accordance with the rightful cause. Having originally signed the Solemn League and Covenent, Montrose recognised the disintegrative power of levelling and moved to the Stuarts when he was finally defeated at the Highland battle of Culrain. Through such heroicising, Buchan attempted to reaffirm the importance of kingship as the pitch holding together the ship of state.
Edited by Jonathan Paquette on November 2nd, 2014.
Buchan, John. Montrose; A History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1928
Buchan, John. The Path of the King. Champaign, Ill: Project Gutenberg, 1990
Buchan, William. John Buchan: A Memoir. London: Buchan & Enright, 1982.
Lownie, Andrew. John Buchan: The Presbyterian Cavalier. London: Constable, 1995
Tweedsmuir, Susan. John Buchan. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1947.