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Augustus - Non-Fiction
Published 1937


The most impressive testimony to Buchan's classical scholarship remains the biography of Julius Caesar (1932) and that of Augustus (1937). The former is slighter, both in length and scholarship, and was intended for schoolboys, who, guided by an excellent bibliography, could pursue their interest further. The New Statesman, quoted by Andrew Lownie in his biography of Buchan (1995, 189), felt that too much detail was provided for schoolboys and too little for scholars, a valid criticism, even more valid today. C G Stone, in the Classical Review of 1938, implied that Buchan attributed too little ruthlessness and ambition and too much idealism to Caesar, the same criticism that modern scholars made of Augustus. The narrative as usual is lively and the account of Caesar's career clear and interesting throughout. The bibliography shows that thirty years after his last examination Buchan was still well aware of the virtues and vices of all the sources.

Augustus is on an altogether higher level. It covers an enormous subject at a gallop and its style is a delight. As a politician and administrator (he was Governor-General of Canada at the time) Buchan showed real insight into Augustus's achievement in establishing an empire that lasted one thousand five hundred years (if the Byzantine empire is included).

Michael & Isobel Haslett 2001

(taken from their article 'Buchan and the Classics: Part 2: The Classics in Buchan's work', published in The John Buchan Journal, available through Journal Orders.)

A substantial article on 'Buchan's Roman biographies' by classicist James Chlup was published in the Spring 2000 issue of The John Buchan Journal, available through Journal Orders.

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