Midwinter (novel)

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Midwinter
Author John Buchan
Country Scotland
Language English, Lowland Scots
Genre Historical novel
Publisher Thomas Nelson
Publication date
1923
Media type Print (Hardcover)
ISBN NA

Midwinter is a 1923 novel by John Buchan, set during the Jacobite rising of 1745, when an army of Scottish highlanders advanced into England seeking to place Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Stuart), the grandson of ousted King James II, on the throne.

Plot summary[edit]

Alastair Maclean, a Scotsman who has been living in France with the exiled Stuarts, comes to England to join the Scottish army as it advances towards London. But on the way he discovers that agents (Sir John Norreys and Nicholas Kyd) supposedly helping the Jacobite cause by encouraging various nobles to commit to the cause, are actually in English pay, and are passing on to the English government the letters from these nobles to Charles Stuart promising him men and money. These agents are acting purely as mercenaries, hoping to gain part of the estates that the nobles will forfeit to the Crown when their treasons is revealed.

Maclean falls in love with Claudia, the Jacobite wife of Norreys, and is torn between taking time out from his own mission to use his own knowledge of Norreys' treason to the Jacobite cause to kill Norreys and gain the love of Claudia for himself, and speeding off on his own mission to join Prince Charles himself.

The novel also features a young Samuel Johnson as Claudia's tutor, and the mysterious Midwinter, a fiddler and a sort of gypsy king who leads the Spoonbills, a 'secret army' of innkeepers and peasants of 'Old England' who are above politics, but assist Maclean in return for aid Maclean gave them early on in the novel.

In the end, Maclean decides not to kill Norreys, but shames him into giving up his mercenary treason and returning to his wife to live a respectable life worthy of her love. Norreys' employer, Kyd, is also permitted to live, but is exiled to France. Maclean is too late getting to Derby to join the Young Pretender, but he remains loyal to the cause, and joins the retreating Stuart for the Culloden campaign, and is eventually returns to France with the defeated remnants of the Stuart army. Johnson goes on to write his Dictionary, and uses the publisher's advance to repay a loan to Maclean. The two remain friends for life.

Structure[edit]

The book is written with a framing narrative of the 20th-century discovery of a manuscript that tells Macleans story, and that explains a period of Johnson's life that is missing from his biography by James Boswell. The story itself is the supposed manuscript, fleshed out by the discoverer for publication.