Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

John Buchan
(Lord Tweedsmuir)


[image ALT: A photograph of an ancient Roman sculpture: the head of a handsome young man with wavy hair and a forthright air; he wears a short veil on the back of his head. He is the Roman emperor Augustus as a young man.]

Museo Civico, Ancona

The Author and the Book

John Buchan (b. Perth, Scotland, 1875; † Montreal, Canada, 1940) was a Scots writer who led a multifaceted career as a journalist, a politician, and a government administrator.

Fresh out of Oxford shortly after the Boer War he served as the private secretary to the High Commissioner to South Africa for two years (leaving us an interesting piece on Johannesburg, part travel literature and part political pamphlet), but returned to England where he became increasingly involved in writing and publishing. His talent as a writer and his strong belief in the British imperial ideal laid the groundwork for the remainder of his career: when World War I broke out he became a war correspondent for The Times of London and a writer with the government's Intelligence Corps writing monthly propaganda pieces on the progress of the war; he eventually served on the Headquarters Staff of the British Army in France as Director of Information. After the war he became a director of the Reuters news agency and was elected president of the Scottish Historical Society, represented the Scottish Universities in Parliament from 1927 to 1935, served as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and as Chancellor of Edinburgh University.

In 1935 King George V appointed him Governor-General of Canada, and for the occasion raised him to the peerage as 1st Baron Tweedsmuir. It was a controversial move and John Buchan himself didn't want a peerage, but felt he could not oppose the king's wishes. Canada welcomed him as a self-made man, though, and in turn he would write to friends not long after taking up his duties there, "I am a passionate Canadian in my love for the country and the people." During his tenure as Governor-General he traveled the length and breadth of the country, the first to visit the Arctic and the Pacific Coast naval base at Esquimalt. He died suddenly in 1940, in Canada, while Governor-General.

Further reading: J. William Galbraith, John Buchan: Model Governor General (Dundurn Press, Toronto, 2013)

But John Buchan was first and foremost a writer. His writing fever started early, and by the time he graduated from Oxford, he had already published several books, naturally including A History of Brasenose College, his alma mater; he would go on to publish an average of about two books a year for the rest of his life, over a hundred in all. About half of them are fiction, most of them historical novels or thrillers — his best-known, The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915), served as the canvas for several film adaptations — but he also wrote profusely on Scots history, as well as British history, essays, travel literature, even some poetry; and several biographies, among them Lord Minto, a Memoir (1928) — whose subject had been Governor-General of Canada — Sir Walter Scott and Julius Caesar, both published in 1932, and Oliver Cromwell (1934).

Whereas Julius Caesar was relatively short, somewhat romanticized, and written for schoolchildren ("too much detail was provided for schoolboys and too little for scholars" is pretty much the consensus opinion), the consensus is also that with Augustus Buchan achieved something considerably more than a bare biography, and the book met with wide critical praise: he makes a very solid attempt at getting to the heart of what Augustus and his recasting of the Roman Republic was about. He does present Rome's first emperor in an ideal light, which is problematic when he has to deal with the triumviral proscriptions; but then no one else either has succeeded in resolving the inconsistency between Augustus' part in them and the generally benign character of his later rule. Yet Buchan is not so blinded by admiration as not to see his subject's flaws, and even writes (p328), "Close-lipped, tenacious, cautious and yet intrepid, [Augustus] is amazing, but he is not attractive."

The printed book is inscribed,

To my friend
William Lyon Mackenzie King
four times Prime Minister of Canada


Prefaceº 7
Book I. Octavius
I Winter at Apollonia 19
II The Disputed Inheritance 38
Book II. Caesar Octavianus
I The Triumvirate: Philippi 65
II East and West 76
III The Breach with Antony: Actium 96
Book III. First Citizen
I Foundations 125
II Respublica Conservata 142
III Creative Evolution 164
Book IV. Pater Patriae
I The Complete Principate 195
II Caesar's Household 235
III Anima Romae 252
IV The Augustan Peace 277
V The Shadow in the North 303
VI The Close 319



Household Chart

page 16

The Empire under Augustus

at end

Technical Details

Edition Used

These webpages transcribe my copy of the July 1947 reprint of the first edition (1937), Hodder and Stoughton, St. Paul's House, London, E. C. 4. (hardback). Since John Buchan died in 1940, his book has been in the public domain since Jan. 1, 2011.

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line); p57  these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the authors' own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

My transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents below, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree; a red background would mean that the page had not been proofread. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The running text of the printed book was remarkably well proofread, with only four typographical errors. Two were trivial and I marked them with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the underscored words to read what was actually printed. Two others were important, and are marked with a bullet like this.º

The footnotes, however, were poorly proofread, especially as to the section, chapter, or book numbers in citations of ancient sources. I was able to correct most of them; some proved resistant to my best efforts, and as a result I've been unable to provide a few links.

Before measurements, bullets indicate conversions to metric; glide your cursor over them in a similar fashion to read them; e.g., 10 miles.

A small number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any other mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed book in front of you.

[image ALT: A photograph of an ancient Roman sculpture: the head of a handsome young man with wavy hair and a forthright air; he wears a short veil on the back of his head. He is the Roman emperor Augustus as a young man. The image serves as the icon on this site for John Buchan\'s biography of Augustus.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is the photo of the portrait of Augustus that serves as the book's frontispiece (above) and figures on its front jacket.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Site updated: 5 Aug 19