John Buchan

John Buchan
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John Buchan, first Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfield (1875-1940) Scottish historian, Governor General of Canada, Commander-in-Chief of the Dominion of Canada and author of the infamous thriller The Thirty-Nine Steps. (1915)

John Buchan was born at York Place, Perth, Scotland on 26 August 1875 and grew up in the mining town of Pathhead, Fife. He was the eldest son of John Buchan (1847–1911) a jovial and fun-loving Free Church of Scotland minister, and Helen née Masterson, (1857–1937) both of whom would later provide fodder for his fictional characters. Among John's siblings William, Walter and Alistair, his sister Anna Buchan (b.1877) would become the novelist O. Douglas.

Young John's childhood was brightened by his father's love of singing Scots border ballads and playing instruments along with daily family prayers. He would teach all his children the legends and history of Scotland. On the Fife coast, their big grey manse house was surrounded by a railway, a coal-pit and a bleaching works and further away woods to play in. In contrast to his mother's harsh Calvinistic sense of respectability, Buchan's Uncle Willie (d. 1906) would encourage and inspire him in creativity and pursuits beyond his forebears'. At the age of five, Buchan was run over by a carriage, whereupon he lay in bed for the better part of a year and which would leave permanent scars on his otherwise striking features. Summer holidays were spent in the southern sunny Borders region with his maternal grandparents, sheep farmers for many generations, where young John explored the glens, hunted for birds and their eggs, fished for trout in the rivers and met the local people. Daytime revolved around jaunts into the surrounding woods, which Paul Bunyan himself had claimed, and the magic of fairytales told by his father added to the enchantment. These idyllic childhood memories would also provide much basis for his future writings. The concept of a Calvinistic Devil didn't torment Buchan as a child because "The fatal influence of Robert Burns made me regard him as a rather humorous and jovial figure; nay more, as something of a sportsman, dashing and debonair." An avid reader, John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress was a "constant companion" for John.

Buchan did not follow a conventional schooling due to the family's financial constraints. He first attended a dame's school, where he learned to knit, but because of his spilling a pot of broth was promptly expelled. He entered grammar school in 1888, then went on to Glasgow University on scholarship at the age of seventeen, where he studied the classics, wrote poetry and published essays in the Glasgow University Magazine to defray his costs of tuition. Buchan saw his first publication, The Essays and Apothegms of Francis Lord Bacon in 1894. A year later Buchan, the patriotic Scotsman would go to England, the "sinister and fascinating land" to attend Brasenose College, Oxford University to study law. His then misunderstandings and hesitancy about entering the country caused him some period of adjustment. "I felt that I had been pitch forked into a kindergarten. . . I must have been at that time an intolerable prig." But these worries were soon quelled, as the homey and comforting lodgings, the noble grounds and buildings of the ancient institution appealed to his sensibilities and claimed his heart forever.

In the year 1900 Buchan moved to London, during which the Boer War was raging and of which he had decided he would not volunteer for service. Now that he was residing in London and not just visiting he bore a period of extreme loneliness and homesickness while working with and apprenticing in law firms. Two years later at the end of the war, Buchan accepted a two-year post as private secretary to Lord Milner `the seer of Empire' in South Africa. He travelled throughout the country, assisting in refugee camps, the administration of the colonies and advising on legal matters. Upon his return to London he became a partner with Thomas (Tommie) Arthur Nelson, publisher. He wrote The African Colony in 1903. Buchan and Susan Grosvenor married on 15 July, 1907 and took up residence at Hyde Park Square. Grosvenor wrote of their courtship "John thought me haughty, while I thought him conceited and difficult to talk to." In 1908 their daughter Alice was born. There is a picture of Buchan with her around the age of one year noted to be one of the rare images of him caught smiling. He wrote Prester John in 1910, which was to become a school reader translated to many languages.

1911 saw the birth of his son John Norman Stuart, on 25 November and it was to be the first year that Buchan would suffer troubles from painful duodenal illness. He entered politics for the first time, becoming the conservative candidate for Peebles and Selkirk counties. He also wrote a number of biographies including one of Sir Walter Scott. Also in 1911 Buchan's father John died peacefully in his sleep after years of dedication to the sick and poor in the Gorbals tenement district of Glasgow. "He was something of the apostle, and, if it be virtue to diffuse a healing grace to lighten the load of all who cross your path, then he was the best man I have ever known."

In 1912 Buchan's brother Willie died and a number of his friends, three from Oxford, were killed in the Great War to his everlasting sadness. When the war had broken out in 1914 Buchan was bed-ridden for three months due to illness. His brother Alistair would be killed in action in 1917 as head of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. They were "now a part of that immortal England which knows no age or weariness of defeat." In 1915 Buchan become a war correspondent after the battle of Loos for The Times newspaper. He wrote Britain's War By Land and his famous thriller The Thirty-Nine Steps in 1915. The hero, a strong silent type, Richard Hannay, is based loosely on Edmund Ironside, a friend from South Africa. Greenmantle, (1916) set in the middle east, and The Purpose of War were published in 1916. Buchan was an officer for the Intelligence Corps in France until early 1917 when he went home for an operation and remained in convalescence for a few years. The Buchans had two more sons, William de l'Aigle (1916) and Alastair Francis Buchan. (1918–1976)

"The war left me with an intense craving for a country life . . . quiet after turmoil." Walking was one of Buchan's favourite pastimes whereupon he would don his `disreputable' shapeless hat and tweeds and head for the hills and dales. He, Alice and son John moved to the manor house "Elsfield" in 1919 where his revived delight in nature soothed his weary psyche. "Wood, sea and hill were the intimacies of my childhood, and they have never lost their spell for me." He was close enough to Oxford however to keep an eye on the political scene and continue his work with Nelson's. Mr. Standfast was published in 1919, The Path of the King in 1921 and Huntingtower in 1922. "After some six years of my ivory tower I grew restless." In 1933 he became His Majesty's High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, until 1934, and elected a member of parliament in 1927.

In 1935 Buchan, created Baron Tweedsmuir, accepted the appointment as Canada's Governor General. Lady Tweedsmuir would author books under the name Susan Buchan and, encouraged by her in 1936 Lord Tweedsmuir created the Governor General's Awards which for many years were Canada's primary literary awards. The Tweedsmuirs built the first proper library at Rideau Hall, Ottawa, the G.G.'s official residence. President Roosevelt was the first American President to officially visit Canada in 1936. Lord Tweedsmuir was well-received and he travelled extensively around the country including British Columbia to tour the 5,000 square miles of Tweedsmuir Park reserve and the Prairie areas most damaged by drought. He barely missed Scotland as he found Canada to be "simply Scotland on an extended scale." On 9 September, 1939 the Governor General signed Canada's declaration of war.

On 6 Feb 1940 John Buchan suffered a fainting spell while shaving, striking his head and causing concussion and swelling. An embolism had formed and after three brain operations he died at the Montreal Neurological Institute on 11 February 1940. "Beloved Viceroy Gone". There were many Memorial services including one at Westminster Abbey in London and the University Church in Oxford. In a wartime round-about way his ashes were collected by his sons William and Johnnie and taken to Elsfield Church. The editor of The Times told Buchan's daughter Alice that the newspaper had never before received such an outpouring of tribute to one man

Saint Augustine

Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430), bishop and Doctor of the Church is best known for his Confessions (401), his autobiographical account of his conversion. The term augustinianism evolved from his writings that had a profound influence on the church.
Augustine was born at Tagaste (now Nigeria) in North Africa on 13 November, 354. His father, Patricius, while holding an official position in the city remained a pagan until converting on his deathbed. His mother, Saint Monica, was a devout Christian. She had had Augustine signed with the cross and enrolled among the catechumens but unable to secure his baptism. Her grief was great when young Augustine fell gravely ill and agreed to be baptised only to withdraw his consent upon recovery, denouncing the Christian faith.
At the encouragement of Monica, his extensive religious education started in the schools of Tagaste (an important part of the Roman Empire) and Madaura until he was sixteen. He was off to Carthage next in 370, but soon fell to the pleasures and excesses of the half pagan city’s theatres, licentiousness and decadent socialising with fellow students. After a time he confessed to Monica that he had been living in sin with a woman with whom he had a son in 372, Adeodatus, (which means Gift of God).
Still a student, and with a newfound desire to focus yet again on exploration of his faith, in 373 Augustine became a confirmed Manichaean, much against his mother’s wishes. He was enticed by its promise of free philosophy which attracted his intellectual interest in the natural sciences. It did not however erase his moral turmoil of finding his faith. His intellect having attained full maturity, he returned to Tagaste then Carthage to teach rhetoric, being very popular among his students. Now in his thirties, his spiritual journey led him away from Manichaeism after nine years because of disagreement with its cosmology and a disenchanting meeting with the celebrated Manichaean bishop, Faustus of Mileve.
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Passing through yet another period of spiritual struggle, Augustine went to Italy in 383, studying Neo-platonic philosophy. Enthralled by his kindness and generous spirit, he became a pupil of Ambrose. At the age of thirty-three, the epiphany and clarity of purpose which Augustine had sought for so long finally came to him in Milan in 386 through a vast stream of tears as he lay prostrate under a fig tree. He was baptised by Ambrose in 387 much to the eternal delight of his mother, “..nothing is far from God.” The next event in his life leads to some of the most profound and exquisite writings on love and grief; the death of his mother Monica.
Surrounded by friends, Augustine now returned to his native Tagaste where he devoted himself to the rule in a quasi-monastic life to prayer and studying sacred letters and to finding harmony between the philosophical questions that plagued his mind and his faith in Christianity. He was ordained as priest in 391.
For the next five years Augustine’s priestly life was fruitful, consisting of administration of church business, tending to the poor, preaching and writing and acting as judge for civil and ecclesiastical cases, always the defender of truth and a compassionate shepherd of souls. At the age of forty-two he then became coadjutor-bishop of Hippo. From 396 till his death in 439, he ruled the diocese alone. At that point the Roman Empire was in disintegration, and at the time of his death the Vandals where at the gates of Hippo. 28 August, 430, in the seventy-sixth year of his age Augustine succumbed to a fatal illness. His relics were translated from Sardinia to Pavia by Luitprand, King of the Lombards. Saint Augustine is often depicted as one of the Four Latin Doctors in many paintings, frescoes and stained glass throughout the world. “Unhappy is the soul enslaved by the love of anything that is mortal.” Saint Augustine. The cult of Augustine formed swiftly and was widespread. His feast is celebrated on 28 August.
Saint Augustine’s books, essays and letters of Christian Revelation are probably more influential in the history of thought than any other Christian writer since St. Paul, namely his Confessions, sermons on the Gospel and the Epistle of John, the The Trinity (400-416) and what he finished late in life, the The City of God (426), writings that deal with the opposition between Christianity and the `world' and represents the first Christian philosophy of history. He also wrote of the controversies with Manicheans, Pelagians, and Donatists which helped lead to his ideas on Creation, Grace, the Sacraments and the Church. There is a massive collection of his writings and they also include: Soliloquies (386-387), On Grace and Free Will. (426) Retractions (426-427) and Letters (386-430).

The Buddha

Siddhartha Buddha was born a prince in Lumbini, Nepal, at the foot of Mount Palpa in the Himalayan ranges, in 560 B.C. He died at age 80 in 480 B.C. His father was Suddhodana, king of the Sakhyas. Because his mother, Maya, died seven days after his birth, he was raised by his foster mother, Maya’s sister Mahaprajapati.

Siddhartha means “one who has accomplished his aim.” Gautama was Siddhartha’s family name. He was also known as Sakhya Muni, meaning an ascetic of the Sakhya tribe.Upon his birth, astrologers predicted that upon achieving manhood, Siddhartha would become either a universal monarch (Chakravarti), or would abandon all earthly comforts to become a monk and a Buddha, a perfectly enlightened soul who would then assist all mankind to achieve enlightenment. His father, who desired his son to become a universal monarch, asked the astrologers what his son would see that might cause him to retire from the world. They replied: “A decrepit old man, a diseased man, a dead man and a monk.” Doing his best to prevent his son from becoming a monk, Suddhodana raised him in luxury and indulgence and sought to keep him attached to sensual pleasure. Guards were posted to assure that Siddhartha did not make contact with the four men described by the astrologers. He placed his son in a magnificent walled estate with gardens, fountains, palaces, music, dancing and beautiful women. Siddhartha married Yasodhara at age sixteen, who subsequently gave birth to their son, Rahula. Throughout these early years of his life, he knew nothing of the sufferings that were taking place outside his enclosure.Then one day, desiring to see how the people in his town were living, he managed to get out of his walled enclosure accompanied by his servant, Channa. He came upon a decrepit old man, a sick man, and a corpse and he was shocked! Seeing their mortality, he realized that he also would one day become prey to old age, disease and death. He then met a monk who impressed him with his serenity and beauty. It was at this time that Siddhartha decided to renounce the material world with its luxuries and comforts, as well as suffering and pain, and take up a monastic life, realizing that “Worldly happiness is transitory.”

Siddhartha left his home forever, donning yellow robes and shaving his head, to take up Yogic practices. Seeking instruction from several hermit teachers who lived in caves in the neighboring hills, he practiced severe Tapas (austerities) and Pranayama (breath control) for six years, during which time he almost starved to death and became exceedingly weak. He finally realized that starvation did not serve his aims, as it would lead to the very conditions he was trying to surmount. At this point he decided to give up the extreme life he had been living, eat food in moderation, and take to the “middle path.”

Given food by a young woman, he sought a comfortable place to sit and eat it. He found a large tree, now known as the great Bo-tree, or Tree of Wisdom. Upon consuming the physical food, he realized that he was starved for spiritual nourishment. Going deep into meditation, he contemplated his journey with its temptations and desires but did not yield to them. The legends tell us that he came out of the meditation victorious, his face shining with illumination and splendor, having attained Nirvana. (Nirvana is the completion of the path of Buddhism in which the person has achieved self-enlightenment and all delusion and anguish are permanently ended). He got up and danced in divine ecstasy for seven days and nights around the sacred Bo-tree, after which he returned to a normal state of consciousness filled with incredible compassion for all. He had an overwhelming desire to share his illumination with humanity.
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