There is another world, but it is in this one.

Paul Eluard. Œuvres complètes, vol. 1, Gallimard, 1968.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Buchan, Weird Pagan Survivals, and the Weird Mind of Imperialism: Reading notes on Weird Fiction in Britain 1880–1939 by James Machin (Palgrave 2018).

Weird Fiction in Britain 1880–1939
by James Machin (Palgrave 2018).

Chapter 4: Buchan

....if Machen, Stenbock, Shiel, and Gilchrist represent weird fiction's provenance within the Poe tradition valorized at the fin de siècle, both in terms of form (the commercial viability of the short story) and content (Decadence), then Buchan represents a comingling of this tradition with the (more popular) colonial weird of Haggard and Kipling. I will argue in the final section of this thesis that the content of Weird Tales was iterative of the genre tensions thrown up by its accommodation of these two traditions. I will look at how Buchan anticipates these tensions, between the psychological horrors of introspective Decadence and the more outward-facing engagement with colonial liminalities. I will examine relevant aspects of Buchan's life and posthumous reputation, Buchan and his relationship with Decadence, and Buchan as a writer and critic of weird fiction. I will also posit Paganism as a key commonality working across Buchan's weird and other fiction, one which ties together—through the notion of 'backsliding'—the Decadent and the colonial, and also serves to situate his weird fiction more firmly within the same tradition as that of the 'martyr' writers discussed in previous chapters.

....his avoidance of genre cliché was intentional, and contrasts with his contrived exploitation of genre cliché in his thriller writing. Because this aspect of his fiction doesn't neatly dovetail with his image as an establishment figure and author of jingoistic adventure novels, it is—again—usually sidelined or simply ignored within the context of wider literary scholarship.

....Buchan's particular resistance to Gothic cliché and the obviously horrific, meaning that his weird fiction is difficult to place within such traditions. Rather, it is perhaps more comfortably positioned within his own wider oeuvre. Juanita Kruse's comment that Buchan's 'best fiction contains a sense of an uncanny world beneath the veneer of civilization—a world both fascinating and terrifying'—is not aimed at his weird fiction only (Kruse 1989, 7:7). Similarly, Christopher Hitchens observed, referring to Buchan's writing generally rather than his supernatural fiction specifically, that 'the occult […] provides a continual undertone of fascination, attractive and repulsive in almost equal degrees' and that generally Buchan's 'writing shows an attraction […] to the exotic and the numinous' (Hitchens 2004).

....Buchan's weird fiction has a particular focus on that 'sense of the uncanny' that, while less immediately obvious, still underpins his other writing, and his entire worldview. John Clute's term 'equipoise' is a particularly useful referent when considering the operation of this worldview on the interplay between the quotidian and supernatural in Buchan's fiction: Equipoise describes […] a very loose category of stories which—rather than 'failing' to achieve generic closure, or 'failing' to give birth phoenix-like to some new form of genre—can be seen as taking their nature precisely from their refusal of closure. (Clute 2006, 63)

Equipoisal writing credits the reader with the wherewithal to deal with not only a 'duration of uncertainty' but with uncertainty itself, and the resulting frisson and/or jolt is the reader's reward, not, necessarily, the narrative conclusion. Contrary to Buchan's enduring reputation, 'full-blooded' and 'healthy' it is not.
[Emphasis mine. J.R.]

....Buchan's weird fiction is on the whole a more sophisticated venue for his anxieties regarding the fragility of civilization and modernity than the more reductive propagandizing of the work for which he is more well known, and which was often written with explicitly that agenda. Like much adventure fiction of the time, Buchan's casual racism and imperialist flagwaving make it difficult if not impossible for the contemporary reader to engage with it other than at arm's length. Buchan's weird fiction, however, is often free from explicit and problematic politicking and it has been argued that 'Buchan perhaps revealed more of himself in apparently ephemeral magazine fiction than in the works by which he was best known during his lifetime' (Freeman 2008, 25). The 'thinness' of civilization with which many of these stories is concerned is more an existential anxiety than a political one, relating to human vulnerability in a chaotic and hostile cosmos.

In his weird fiction, this concern of Buchan's slips easily into outright horror, and what he identified in Poe's work as the revelation of 'the shadowy domain of the back-world, and behind our smug complacency the shrieking horror of the unknown' (Buchan 1911, 7). Although it is his adventure fiction which has been described as being based upon the notion of 'something familiar, reliable, and dearly loved threatened by the unknown and the incomprehensible,' this theme is addressed even more explicitly in his weird fiction....

.... I shall examine Buchan's pre–Thirty-Nine Steps literary career, partly to reclaim this aspect of his output from comparative disregard, and also to look at how Buchan's weird fiction tracks a course—both stylistically and in terms of publishing history—between the 1890s and the Modernist period. Buchan was not only a transitional figure in terms of this imperialism, but also between the literary cultures of the 'yellow nineties' and the age of pulp modernism. As I shall argue in the Conclusion and with specific regard to Weird Tales, these two ostensibly very different cultures were in fact intractably entangled, especially through and with regard to weird fiction....

....expression of Buchan's anxiety over his reactions to Decadence and Paganism: fascination and repulsion in equal measure, and a palpable sense of psychological, as well as social, threat.

....This same admixture is situated in a colonial context—informed by Buchan's familiarity with the South African landscape—in 'The Grove of Ashtaroth'. Despite the remoteness of the story's setting from Vigo Street, Buchan's preoccupation with Decadence and 1890s aestheticism remains a reference point. The story is presented as an account by a represented narrator of his friend Lawson—'one of those fellows who are born Colonial'— and his efforts to establish a permanent residence ('a civilised house') in a particular range of isolated country 'some thirty miles north of a place called Taqui' (Buchan 1910, 805). While Lawson is immediately smitten with the spot, the narrator is perturbed by one feature of the landscape:

It was no Christian wood. It was not a copse, but a 'grove,'—one such as Artemis may have flitted through in the moonlight. It was small, forty or fifty yards in diameter, and there was a dark something at the heart of it which for a second I thought was a house. (805)

....The temenos is a space dedicated to ritual and which has a function identical to that of the magic circle which 'delimits a boundary between law and transgression, the legitimate and illegitimate, the sacred and profane' (Thacker 2011, 57). This concept resonates with a childhood conceit of Buchan's which persisted into adulthood:

I came to identify abstractions with special localities. The Soul, a shining cylindrical thing, was linked with a particular patch of bent and heather, and in that theatre its struggles took place, while Sin, a horrid substance like black salt, was intimately connected with a certain thicket of brambles and spotted toadstools. This odd habit long remained with me. (Buchan 1941, 16–17)

....Clute's 'equipoise' is doubled in both the content and the form of weird fiction: both its liminal generic status and the liminality of the 'spectral intimations', bordering the known and the unknown, the mimetic and the fantastic. Eugene Thacker has delineated a difference between the 'supernatural' as employed by weird fiction and that which 'is so often confirmed within the labyrinths of Scholastic theology', which is useful when considering Buchan's weird fiction: 'in the horror genre the supernatural is duplicitous; it is the name for something that is indistinct and yet omnipresent, something that defies easy categorization and that is, nevertheless, inscribed by a kind of logic' (Thacker 2015, 113–114).

....As a reader for John Lane in the 1890s, Buchan demonstrated well-- developed and clearly articulated beliefs on what sort of supernatural fiction was credible for the modern reader, using these distinctions as the basis for his advice to Lane as to whether to accept or decline manuscript submissions for publication. Advising Lane to decline a manuscript titled Miss Crump by a C. H. Campbell, Buchan acknowledges that as 'a ghost-- story this book is quite well-done' and that 'the mystery is kept up till quite the end, and the explanation is most credible'. 9 However, one of the grounds upon which Buchan advises against publication is that 'the ghosts, though well-done, are a little out-of-date', adding that 'we want something a little more recondite nowadays than sheeted monks, vaults, iron chests and missing marriage certificates'. He concludes that the interest of the novel is 'narrow, conventional and [again] out-of-date' and would therefore 'not be successful'.

....['Basilissa'] potent example of both the Gothic's preoccupation with the sublime affect of infinite recession and spatial disorientation, and weird fiction's distortion of architectural space.

....Buchan's deployment of what he had previously suggested as out-of-date and conventional language of horror works here because of the sudden gear change after this episode, where the main narrative of the novel [The Dancing Floor] begins in earnest.

From this northern Gothic beginning, the action abruptly shifts to a Greek island and a discussion of pre-Olympian paganism, of satyrs, pan pipes, and Attic mysteries. Milburne and Leithen are now on a yachting holiday some time later and alight on a small, obscure island. Both are immediately affected by some quality of the landscape and Milburne launches into a lengthy disquisition on the origins of Catholicism in antique paganism, thus establishing the subsequent tone of the narrative. However effective the atmosphere created by the notion of an inexorable doom steadily approaching through an impossibly arranged series of rooms may be, Buchan's use of traditional Gothic tropes at the outset of the novel lulls the reader into a false sense of familiarity, resulting in the novel being all the more effective for being not really 'a thing like a ghost story' at all.

.... 'I use the word legitimate merely from the commercial point of view, as equivalent to what is read and tolerated by readers of fiction.' Once again, however, he emphasizes the importance of the recondite: 'In a book of horrors we demand that the absorbing interest does not lie in the horrors themselves, but in some mystery, intrigue, or some human passion of love or sacrifice.' Buchan regards Henham's tale [The Fratricide, later published as Tenebrae] as a failure in at least this respect, although he does acknowledge that 'the book is ably written and in parts very powerful'.

....Buchan negatively compares Henham's execution of the story with three writers who, in the context of this thesis, are by now familiar names: Stevenson, Poe, and Machen:

Take Dr. Jekyll. What made that book a great work of art was the sense of indefinable mystery which hung over it to the very end, as also the genuine romantic quality of contrast between the horror and the humdrum life around. Take Poe's better tales. All have some plot, mystery, tragic adventure, as the framework on which their web of horrors is woven. Take Arthur Machen's Great God Pan. There is the romantic element, the feeling of impossible adventure, which gives credence to the horror and makes the book tolerable to the reader.

....Buchan concludes his analysis by stating unequivocally that a text which is no more than an 'exclusive analysis of madness and horrible nightmare is an offence against art and the ordinary interests of men'. His strength of feeling is also suggested by his statement that he 'cannot recommend any alterations, for the error seems to […] lie very deep', regardless that 'the author has genuine talents'. Buchan is not interested in, and actively dislikes, prurient depictions of the horrific for their own sake, but accepts the horrific if it is employed towards a larger end of evoking a 'sense of indefinable mystery' which 'hangs over […] to the very end'; in other words, the unresolved equipoise typical of weird fiction. Buchan's theorizing here is subsequently put into practice in his own later output in this vein....

....One work that succeeded in meeting Buchan's criteria for successful supernatural fiction while he was a reader for Lane was 'Twixt Dog and Wolf by C. F. Keary (1848–1917), submitted to Lane for consideration in 1897. Charles Francis Keary is described in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as a 'numismatist and writer', which gives only an indication of the polymath range of his career ("Oxford DNB Article: Keary, Charles Francis" 2004). He was, additionally, a scholar and antiquarian, a spiritualist, he worked in the Department of Coins at the British Museum, and was a reasonably successful novelist, as such described by the Academy as one whose failures were 'more interesting than the successes of most people' (Academy 1899, 689).

....The strength of the impression made on Buchan by 'Twixt Dog and Wolf is also evident in Buchan's own subsequent career as an author. As mentioned above, a trope frequently employed by Buchan in his weird fiction was that of sacred grove, or temenos. This is anticipated and explored in Keary's 'The Four Students', in which Keary makes the chilling geographical association between the site of the mass executions of the Terror and that of the hideous rites of antique pagan ritual, suggesting that the influence of the same maleficent genius loci is responsible for both. Both this theme and Keary's 'witch-tale' 'Elizabeth' clearly resonates with, and perhaps directly influenced, Buchan's own novel of seventeenth-century 'diablerie', Witch Wood (1927), arguably the template for the 1970s 'folk horror' films Blood on Satan's Claw (1970) and The Wicker Man (1973). The structural theme common to both Keary's work and Buchan's is the conflict between pre-Classical paganism and modern religion, a theme which underpins so much of Buchan's weird and other fiction that it demands to be examined in further detail.

....The structural theme common to both Keary's work and Buchan's is the conflict between pre-Classical paganism and modern religion, a theme which underpins so much of Buchan's weird and other fiction that it demands to be examined in further detail.

Weird Pagan Survivals

....Christianity is generally supposed to have annihilated heathenism. […] In reality it merely smoothed over and swallowed its victim, and the contour of its prey, as in the case of the boa-constrictor, can be distinctly traced under the glistening colours of its beautiful skin. Paganism still exists, it is merely inside instead of outside. (Wood-Martin 1902, I: viii)

....The insistence that Christianity wins out over the older faiths it supplanted in truth suggests not that it has conquered them outright but that the island is a form of spiritual palimpsest where the Christian overlays and partially obscures something far more ancient and perhaps more powerful. (Freeman 2008, 30)

....While at Brasenose, Buchan had discussed the possibility of the survival of such 'ancient cults' with his tutor, Dr F. W. Bussell, college chaplain and erstwhile friend of Pater (Richards 1976, 41).

....This 'shattering' of the modern world by ancient mysteries is, in this instance, a purely subjective experience for Leithen, and, typically of the equipoise of Buchan's writing of this type, there is no conclusively supernatural manifestation. The work remains generically slippery: not quite a thriller, certainly not realism in the widely understood sense, but also lacking a tangible representation of the supernatural, only the perception by the represented narrator of some immanence which 'smites the brain', and, in Lovecraft's words, a 'breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces', a facility for which Buchan demonstrated time and again in his fiction.

....The survival of the pagan and its threat to modernity was a concern sustained by Buchan over the course of his writing career, informed by his family background, his education, and his wider experiences as a colonial administrator. Buchan's upbringing in a Calvinist household, the son of a minister of the Free Church of Scotland, was tempered by his enthusiastic interest and education in the Classics, including works of late Roman pagan philosophy: he described the 'Latin and Greek classics' as his 'first real intellectual interest' (Buchan 1941, 39). This interest was nurtured under the tutelage of Gilbert Murray, 'then a young man in his middle twenties and […] known only by his Oxford reputation', who left an indelible impression on Buchan at Glasgow University:

To me his lectures were, in Wordsworth's phrase, like 'kindlings of the morning.' Men are by nature Greeks or Romans, Hellenists or Latinists. Murray was essentially a Greek; my own predilection has always been for Rome; but I owe it to him that I was able to understand something of the Greek spirit and still more to come under the spell of the classic discipline in letters and life. (34)

....I think I was born with the same temperament as the Platonists of the early seventeenth century, who had what Walter Pater has called 'a sensuous love of the unseen,' or, to put it more exactly, who combined a passion for the unseen and the eternal with a delight in the seen and the temporal. (Buchan 1941, 39)

....Buchan's fin-de-siècle Paganism was learned in schoolrooms and lecture theatres rather than in occult lodges and Bohemian salons, and, far from instilling in him any antiestablishment animus or moral incontinence, inculcated him with 'classic discipline':

This preoccupation with the classics was the happiest thing that could have befallen me. It gave me a standard of values. […] The classics enjoined humility. The spectacle of such magnificence was a corrective to youthful immodesty, and, like Dr. Johnson, I lived 'entirely without my own approbation.' Again, they corrected a young man's passion for rhetoric. This was in the 'nineties, when the Corinthian manner was more in vogue than the Attic. Faulty though my own practice has always been, I learned sound doctrine—the virtue of a clean bare style, of simplicity, of a hard substance and an austere pattern. (35)

....Throughout his corpus, many of Buchan's characters reveal a pragmatic loyalty to Christianity while regularly being tempted or part-seduced by the dark glamour of paganism. Despite the fact that his upbringing was not blighted by the grim repression experienced by, for example, Algernon Blackwood, and often associated with Calvinism's sometimes dour doctrine of predestination, Buchan's sustained occupation with this dissonance between his faith and his fascination with Roman antiquity demonstrates that it was clearly on some level a troublesome one for him.

....For Buchan there was no disputing either Paganism's dark seductive power nor the vigilance against which that power must be resisted if modernity is to remain civilized. His attitude in this respect informed the equivocalness of his view of literary Decadence and resonated with contemporary concerns discussed in previous chapters. Buchan's discomfort with valences of contemporary culture that he thought resulted from dangerous atavism informed his fiction for decades into the twentieth century.

....the term 'Pagan' would have evoked a complicated set of resonances for Buchan and many of his contemporaries. The education of many was built upon the valorization of the historical pagan culture of the Classical age as a model for an Empire partly justified by its attempts to eradicate paganism from the territories it controlled. Although often discussed only in terms of bohemian 'occulture', in actuality Classical Paganism was as much of an intellectual and philosophical bedrock of the establishment Right as Christianity: every eager public-school boy being groomed for imperial and public service would have been weaned on Homer and Virgil and known his Greek and Latin tags. Buchan, no public-- school boy, nevertheless found his Calvinism to be 'confirmed' by his study of the Classics.

....Perhaps Buchan wore his Calvinism too lightly for there to be any similar transgressive appeal in abandoning it to pursue esoteric, Catholic-leaning branches of Christian ritualism. Buchan's interest in Classical paganism was, therefore, in no way an indication of any predisposal to involve himself in any of the occult societies flourishing at the time.

....Buchan's attitude to paganism can be contextualized within a wider establishment resistance to the appropriation of Classical paganism by what the Saturday Review described as 'les jeunes'. These two competing 'Paganisms', new and old, were already recognized by the Saturday Review in 1892:

There can be no better cure for the errors of Neo-paganism than a study of the old pagans: HOMER, SOPHOCLES, VIRGIL. They, not M. Paul Verlaine , not even Mr. George Meredith , not even Baudelaire (as the Pagan Review calls that author, who himself smote the Neo-Pagans in a memorable essay) are the guides to follow. (Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art 1892, 269)

....In Buchan's 1928 story 'The Wind in the Portico'....

....Buchan's presentation of the dangerous, destructive potential of Roman mysteries here is certainly far removed from the popular view of Classical paganism as 'an elegant and poetic Bank Holiday, a perpetual riot, a rosy debauch' (Machen 1924, 9). The Paterian seriousness with which Buchan approached Classical paganism was informed by and informed his experience of contemporary pagan cultures. Like other writers of his age, Buchan's position regarding the cultures of modernity and his anxieties over the dangers of pagan recidivism were reinforced by his first-hand experiences as a colonial. In 1900 he took a job on Lord Milner's staff as a colonial administrator in South Africa. His role was 'hands on' and he spent much of his time travelling on horseback and personally overseeing Lord Milner's efforts to ameliorate the worst effects of the Boer War, specifically the disastrous sanitation situations in the concentration camps (Adam Smith 1985b). He was keenly aware of the vulnerable attenuation of the colonial presence in some areas and saw this in terms of a conflict between 'civilization' and 'savagery'.

Janet Adam Smith identifies the central conflict of Buchan's 1910 colonial adventure novel Prester John (1910) as being 'not between black and white; it is between civilization […] and savagery' (Adam Smith 1985a, 144). In The Power-House (1913) the main antagonist Andrew Lumley opines at length on the contingency of civilization, arguing that its 'tenure' is 'precarious':

'You think that a wall as solid as the earth separates civilisation from barbarism. I tell you the division is a thread, a sheet of glass. A touch here, a push there, and you bring back the reign of Saturn.' (Buchan 1913, 731)

Furthermore, the fragility of civilization is actually exacerbated by modernity: 'Consider how delicate the machine is growing. As life grows more complex, the machinery grows more intricate, and therefore more vulnerable.' While Lumley sees this increased vulnerability precipitated by industrial modernity as a weakness to be exploited, Leithen is of the view that it is his responsibility to do everything in his (and by implication, the reader's) power to safeguard civilization's survival. Adam Smith draws a line between Buchan's alarum at civilization's fragility in The Power-House, written immediately before the Great War, and his earlier Classical interests as evident in 'The Watcher by the Threshold', where the bust of Justinian which obsesses one of the main characters has an expression suggestive of 'the intangible mystery of culture on the verge of savagery', Constantine being a liminal Janus figure between the Classical and Christian eras (Adam Smith 1985a, 253). In fact, Adam Smith asserts categorically that 'in all the tales there is a stress on the thinness of civilization' (103).

This concern was of course far from unique to Buchan, and shared by at least some of his contemporaries. Joseph Conrad, for example, begins 'Heart of Darkness' by foregrounding Britain's pagan past and the contingency of its Imperial dream with Marlowe's account of the Roman soldier 'in some inland post [feeling] the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed around him' (Conrad 1899, 195–196). The first part of 'Heart of Darkness' was published in Blackwood's (as 'The Heart of Darkness') the month after it concluded Buchan's 'No-Man's-Land', in which Buchan speculated on the survival of pre-Roman 'savagery' into the present day. Described by Griffith as a 'parallel journey into the remote anthropological past' to that of 'Heart of Darkness', 'No-Man's-Land' elaborates on the 'images of British barbarism at the beginning of Conrad's novella' (Griffith 1995, 118). Griffith regards the tale as 'an interesting example of the Victorian fascination with their own culture's past savagery, and, by implication, with the latent savagery still existing in some dark corner of their own mind' (Griffith 1995, 119). Although Griffith makes explicit the shared thematic concerns of 'No-Man's-Land' and 'Heart of Darkness', he is evidently reticent about acknowledging the fact that Buchan's story is unarguably weird where Conrad is realist, Buchan drawing heavily on Machen, the lost race stories of Rider Haggard, as well as the 'Turanian pygmy' theory of Scottish folklorist David MacRitchie (1851–1925), who argued that fairy lore was folkloric memory: the 'primitivism' of Buchan's text is represented by an actual relict population of prehuman hominins lurking in the Pentland Hills (Fergus 2015)....

The Weird Mind of Imperialism

In this chapter I have sketched out two fin-de-siècle contexts that provoked and informed the weird mode in Buchan's fiction: paganism and imperialism. The former obtrudes into Buchan's fiction, often destabilizing an otherwise ordered and stable establishment figure's life (Buchan's protagonists are predominantly politicians, aristocrats, soldiers, or a mix of all three). This destabilization can also occur in an imperial context, where the stakes are arguably higher since it calls into question the integrity of what Robinson and Gallagher called 'the official mind of imperialism'. This 'official mind' was the fardel of 'beliefs about morals and politics, about the duties of government, the ordering of society and international relations' (Robinson et al. 1981, 20).

Buchan may have been a participant in as well as a theorist of the British Empire (in, for example, The African Colony (1903) and A Lodge in the Wilderness), but his weird fiction was, in effect, a subversive challenge to the idea that the Victorian imperial psyche was unassailably, or even particularly, robust (Buchan 1903, 1906). On a fundamental level, it is confirmation that 'stereotypes of "colonialists" or similar convenient groupings are as superficial as stereotypes of nations' (N. Machin 1998). One of the characters in A Lodge in the Wilderness—a fictionalized discourse on the state of the British Empire in the aftermath of the landslide Liberal victory at the 1906 general election—argues that 'Imperialism, if we regard it properly, is not a creed or a principle, but an attitude of mind' (Buchan 1906, 77). Although much of Buchan's fiction and nonfiction celebrates this 'attitude of mind' as a strong and unhesitant force for good in the world, short stories like 'The Watcher by the Threshold' (1900), 'The Kings of Orion' (1906), 'The Grove of Ashtaroth' (1912), or 'Tendebant Manaus' (1926) conversely present the reader with characters whose psyches are vulnerable, damaged, and fragile....

....Buchan demonstrates a trait of Scottish literature identified by G. Gregory Smith, and described by him as 'Caledonian Antisyzygy', a 'combination of opposites' and 'the contrasts which the Scot shows at every turn' in his literature (Smith 1919, 4)....

....Buchan's reputation as a doughty servant of the Empire—dispensing solid good sense and Christian benevolence in his political office, and healthy invigorating diversion as a popular author—operated in tandem with a 'fey' aspect to his nature, which occasionally expressed itself in his fiction as both a visionary strain of mysticism and the troublesome nightmares and fever dreams of the otherwise stolid imperial mind. The claim that Conrad's fiction 'calls into question the rationalities that govern concepts of race, geography and history' applies equally well to Buchan in this respect (Baxter 2010, 14).

....Buchan's weird tales can be seen as an exercise in caution against imbalance, arguably what he feared as his own potential for imbalance in reconciling his imaginative life with his public life. When discussing the 'official thinking' of the oligarchy that controlled the British Empire, Robinson and Gallagher emphasize the importance of considering the wider beliefs and moral structures underpinning the 'mechanical choices and expedients' of colonialists: 'England's rulers shared an esoteric view of desirable and undesirable trends stretching from the past and present to the future' (Robinson et al. 1981, 21). Buchan's weird fiction demonstrates this argument well beyond its immediate and intended scope and application. Buchan's sense of the past was one that encompassed not just British imperial history but Old Testament lore and pre-Christian gods, and he saw the Empire as a contingency operating within this macroscopic context, with nebulous pagan forces and revenants from antiquity both pressing upon and latent within the modern mind; the civilized mind that must remain ever-vigilant against their potential to reassert themselves and destroy it utterly.

15 June 2019

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