Buchan of the Month: Introducing… Homilies and Recreations #ReadJB2020

20200205_130743-1My Buchan of the Month for June is Homilies and Recreations, a collection of essays first published by Thomas Nelson & Sons in September 1926. The book was dedicated to Viscount Astor in a return gesture for his naming one of his racehorses after Buchan. A later revised edition was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1939 which omitted six of the essays but included three new ones. The latter is the edition I have so my eventual review will only cover the contents of that version.

The original edition of the book is made up of sixteen essays (see below) on a variety of topics reflecting Buchan’s wide range of interests. It includes portraits of figures such as Sir Walter Scott, Edmund Burke and Arthur Balfour as well as essays on subjects such as literature, history and poetry. Many of the essays had previously been published elsewhere or delivered as speeches to various institutions.

Having reminded myself of the definition of a homily – a public discourse on a moral or religious subject – I’ll admit I’m looking forward more to the ‘recreations’ promised in the title.

Original 1926 edition (* indicates also in 1939 edition)

*Some Notes on Sir Walter Scott – Paper read to the English Association on 26 October 1923
*The Old and the New in Literature – Paper read to the Royal Society of Literature on 26 January 1925
The Great Captains
The Muse of History
A Note on Edmund Burke
*Lord Balfour and English Thought – Revised version of article first published in The Times Literary Supplement on 7 May 1914
*Two Ordeals of Democracy – Address delivered on the Alumni War Memorial Foundation at Milton Academy, Massachusetts on 16th October 1924
*Literature and Topography – Address to the Working Men’s College, London on 20 February 1926
The Judicial Temperament
*Style and Journalism – Address delivered to the School of Journalism in King’s College, London on 19th May 1925
Certain Poets:
– *Scots Vernacular Poetry – Introduction to The Northern Muse: An Anthology of Scots Vernacular Poetry, published by Nelson in 1924
– *Morris and Rossetti
– *Robert Burns – Speech to the Edinburgh Burns Club on 25 January 1924
The Literature of Tweeddale – Included in A History of Peebleshire by Walter Buchan, 1925
*Thoughts on a Distant Prospect of Oxford – First published in Blackwood’s Magazine in October 1923

In 1939 edition only:

The Victorian Chancellors – First appeared in Some Eighteenth Century Byways, 1908
The Novel and the Fairy Tale – Presidential address delivered to the Scottish Branch of the English Association on 22 November 1930
The Interpreter’s House – Chancellor’s Installation Address delivered before the University of Edinburgh on 20 July 1938


Janet Adam Smith, John Buchan: A Biography (OUP, 1985 [1965])
Kenneth Hillier and Michael Ross, The First Editions of John Buchan: A Collector’s Illustrated Biography (Avonworld, 2008)
Andrew Lownie, John Buchan: The Presbyterian Cavalier (Constable, 1995)

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