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John Buchan 1st Baron Tweedsmuir Biography

(1875–1940), Sir Quixote of the Moors, Scholar Gypsy, The Yellow Book, The Thirty-Nine Steps

Scottish writer, diplomat, and politician, born in Perth, the eldest son of a minister in the Free Church of Scotland; he was educated at Glasgow University and Brasenose College, Oxford, where he was President of the Union, took a first in Greats, won the Stanhope history and the Newdigate poetry prizes, published a novel (Sir Quixote of the Moors, 1895) and a volume of essays (Scholar Gypsy, 1896), and contributed to The Yellow Book. Later he read for the Bar, and from 1901 to 1903 was in South Africa on the staff of Lord Milner, the High Commissioner. On his return he began a long association with Nelson's, the Scottish publishers, was a lieutenant-colonel in the Intelligence Corps during the First World War, and then Director of Intelligence in Beaverbrook's new Ministry of Information. He sat in the House of Commons as Member for the Scottish Universities during the 1920s, and was Governor-General of Canada (193540). His works are voluminous: the non-fiction includes lives of Montrose (1913, revised 1928), Scott (1932), Cromwell (1934), and Augustus (1937), and a four-volume history of the First World War. He is best remembered, however, for his adventure stories, which he termed ‘shockers’, most of which feature a recurring group of interconnected heroes (Richard Hannay, Sandy Arbuthnot, Peter Pienaar, Edward Leithen, etc.); the first, which introduces Hannay, is The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915; filmed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1935), written while convalescing at Broadstairs. Others include Prester John (1910; US title The Great Diamond Pipe), Greenmantle (1916), The Three Hostages (1924), John Macnab (1925), and Sick Heart River (1941; US title Mountain Meadow). Buchan himself, however, preferred his historical novels: they include The Path of the King (1921), Midwinter (1923), and The Blanket of the Dark (1931); Witch Wood (1927), set in his native Tweeddale in the seventeenth century, is probably the best. There is an autobiography, Memory Hold-the-Door (1940; US title Pilgrim's War: An Essay in Recollection) and a life by Janet Adam Smith (1965). See D. Daniell, The Interpreter's House: A Critical Assessment of John Buchan (1975).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Bridgnorth Shropshire to Anthony Burgess [John Anthony Burgess Wilson Burgess] Biography