Sir Edward Leithen is a fictional character in several of John Buchan's novels: The Power-House, John Macnab, The Dancing Floor, The Gap in the Curtain and Sick Heart River. These were published over a number of years, the first in 1916 (although "The Power House" was originally published in a magazine in 1913), and the last in 1941, one year after Buchan's death. Leithen's name is borrowed from the Leithen Water, a tributary of the River Tweed, one of many references to the Scottish Borders in Buchan's novels.
In the books, Leithen is a Scottish barrister and a Tory politician (and MP) and, at one point, an Attorney General. He is also described as an excellent fly fisherman (which forms an important part of John MacNab.).
He served in the army during World War I.
In a number of ways, Leithen resembles Buchan himself, moving amongst high society, and espousing Conservative values. However, Leithen also has a playful side, as can be seen in John Macnab. Because of the long period over which the Leithen novels were written, and the autobiographical element, we can see a real progression and change in the character: by Sick Heart River (1941), the character is old and weary.
In Sick Heart River Leithen is diagnosed with terminal tuberculosis. He decides to spend his last days tracking down a missing financier who has had a nervous breakdown and fled to Canada. Leithen finds the man but decides to stay with some Indians and help them fight a disease epidemic. Leithen succeeds in helping the Indians and dies a happy man.
- "A Combination Of Modesty And Chivalry.". The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954). Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia. 11 February 1950. p. 3. Retrieved 13 September 2015.
- "'GREAT HE WAS, HOWEVER UNDERRATED HE MAY BE NOW' Pulling up mandrakes.". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995). ACT: National Library of Australia. 2 May 1981. p. 13. Retrieved 13 September 2015.
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