Buchan of the Month: Introducing… The Long Traverse by John Buchan #ReadJB2020

Buchan of the Month Banner 2020.jpg

My final Buchan of the Month for 2020 is The Long Traverse. It was published posthumously on 12th August 1941 in the US by The Riverside Press and on 10th November 1941 in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton with an epilogue written by Buchan’s wife, Susan. Both the US edition and the Canadian edition (published in September 1941 by The Musson Book Company) carried the alternative title Lake of Gold.

20201202_142426-1My own copy (pictured right) is a first edition although without dust jacket sadly. However on the plus side, it contains illustrations by John Morton-Sale, whose work appeared in books by J. M. Barrie, Beverley Nicholls and others.

John Buchan started work on The Long Traverse in 1938, at which time he was Governor General of Canada. (He had been appointed to that post in 1935 and at the same time given a peerage, becoming Lord Tweedsmuir.) Janet Adam Smith, Buchan’s first biographer, quotes from a letter to his sister Anna (the novelist O. Douglas), in which he reports, “I am trying to write a Canadian Puck of Pook’s Hill. You see Canadian history is obligatory for the schools, but the books are perfectly deadly, and there is really nothing to engage the imagination of a child, and yet there are few more romantic stories in the world”.

On 5th February 1940, Buchan reported to Anna, “I have finished my novel [Sick Heart River] and my autobiography [Memory Hold-The-Door], and am almost at the end of my children’s book about Canada. This will leave me with a clear field for farewells this summer.” Sadly he never got time to finish The Long Traverse or make those farewells to a country he’d grown to love, as he died suddenly on 11th February.

In The Long Traverse, the role of Puck in Rudyard Kipling’s original is taken by an Indian (or, as we would say today, a member of the First People) through whose magic Donald, a young Canadian boy, is given visions of various visitors to Canada’s shores over the centuries: “the Norsemen, the voyageurs, the Highland explorers, the fur-traders and the Eskimos”.

Unfortunately, the book was not a commercial success. It had sold only 15,000 of the 25,000 print run by the following spring, at which point its price was reduced. However, as Andrew Lownie reports, in 1964 part of it was adapted and set to music as an ‘orchestral-choral fantasia’.

Look out for my review of The Long Traverse later this month.

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)

Buchan of the Month: Introducing… The King’s Grace by John Buchan #ReadJB2020 #nonficnov

20201108_125639-1This month’s Buchan of the Month is The King’s Grace. It seems appropriate to be reading one of John Buchan’s works of nonfiction to coincide with Nonfiction November but also because we have recently marked the 100th anniversary of the interment of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, a ceremony attended by King George V.

The King’s Grace was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 4th April 1935 and in the US by Houghton Mifflin (with the title The People’s King) on 1st May 1935. It was published in Canada by The Musson Book Company, bound up from sheets imported from England. A signed limited edition of 500 copies was also produced.

The King’s Grace was commissioned by Hodder & Stoughton to celebrate the 25th anniversary of King George V’s accession to the throne. Buchan’s first biographer, Janet Adam Smith, is anxious to point out the book is not a piece of “royal tushery” but a history of the events of the reign. She also quotes John Attenborough of Hodder & Stoughton, who worked with Buchan on the book, and recalls “He wrote the book at great speed, and we made great demands upon him as an author, for different versions of it were produced at different times, including special editions for school authorities, who wanted to give it away to their pupils as a memento of the anniversary.”

20201108_125702-1My own copy (complete with bookplate) is one of those school editions, in this case published by University of London Press. The frontispiece states “In accordance with the wishes of Mr. John Buchan, this School Edition of The King’s Grace has been specially prepared and edited by Dr. F. H. Spencer”. (Although he was still Mr. John Buchan at the time of publication of the book he would shortly become Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfield, in preparation for taking up the post of Governor-General of Canada.)

Look out for my review of The King’s Grace later this month.


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)