The Call of the Wild: John Buchan’s Heroes and the Decline of British Aristocracy


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John Buchan, Scottish literature, decline of the British aristocracy, Victorian chivalric revival


The article will look at how John Buchan (1875–1940) has traced the decline of British aristocracy in his novels that cover the time period when the power radically shifted from the landowning to the middle class, with concomitant feelings of confusion, loss, disillusionment and inadequacy on the part of the class whose very existence was being undermined. Buchan wrote at the time when the spirit of chivalry, so carefully cultivated by the Victorian chivalric revival, still coloured the thinking of the aristocracy and the upper middle class, soon to be extinguished by the trenches of the Great War. This spirit abhorred middle-class mercantilism and pragmatism. Thus we see Buchan’s aristocratic heroes, beleaguered by the encroaching spirit of worldliness, going questing in the wilderness to regain their mental balance and purpose. Romantically communing with nature and following their ideals, they fulfil their personal quests, thus reasserting the concepts of duty and selfless service that had been part of the aristocratic code of honour before it was made redundant by middle-class materialism.


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