Rehabilitating George Buchanan

Sybil M. Jack


In the early eighteenth century George Buchanan was still the subject of much admiration, controversy and scholarship. Thomas Ruddiman (1674-1757) collected together all the works he could find and published an edition that he hoped would be the last word in scholarship. 1 He was promptly criticised on all sides and a bitter row ensued. 2 This was partly because he sought to update Buchanan's history by bringing it into line with new internationally accepted norms ofhistoriography.3

Samuel Johnson, an Englishman not well disposed to the Scots, uniformly gave liberal praise to George Buchanan, as a writer saying that he was the only man of genius his country ever produced.4 Even at the end of the century when George Chalmers published a life of Ruddiman with new anecdotes about Buchanan he was still a major figure. 5 His icon in a catholic France by the 18th century was damaged by his heresy and by his treatment of Mary queen of Scots 'his benefactress' and his seditious maxims. But he was generally represented as a man whose talents had made him worthy of a universal esteem.6

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