John Buchan (1875-1940) : a reassessment of his Christian faith and practice
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This thesis emphasises, as paramount, Buchan’s little explored life-long and deeply held Christian faith and practice. Much on-going discussion of his life and character ignores or misrepresents this essential motivation, favouring interpretations that stress his desire for fame or fortune. This is not, however, a full-scale presentation of Buchan’s doctrinal beliefs, perhaps impossible to achieve with so private a man. Many influences around Buchan, and choices he made throughout life, indicate that he remained faithful to his early experience of commitment to Christ. Neglected parts of books, articles, and sermons, together with archived letters, documents and papers, in Oxford, Glasgow, London, Elsfield, Edinburgh, and Queen’s Library, Kingston, Ontario, are used to inform Buchan’s Christianity. An examination of writings by Buchan’s father and sister revises the extent of a suggested alienation between father and son over expressions of the faith. Subsequent chapters consider how older friends, and youthful contemporaries encouraged Christian faith throughout his life. Most appear as rather shadowy figures in what has been written. Greater attention to little published biographical material clarifies their importance. Using local reminiscences of the inter-war years when the Buchans were very prominent in Elsfield, for the first time the absorbing significance of their involvement in village life receives the attention it deserves. Those arguing that Buchan’s more racist or anti-clerical fictional characters voice his own beliefs are challenged by closer examination of some of his historical and fictional writings, and other activities. It has been claimed that one of Buchan’s greatest novels, Sick Heart River, reveals his own spiritual pilgrimage, lacking a fully satisfying conversion experience until the close of life. This book is given a new interpretation. All the matters addressed more thoroughly here trenchantly focus Buchan’s life-long faith, wonderfully expressed in Greek on his grave, ‘Christ shall overcome’.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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