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 Conservative 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.).
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, Tasmania. 11 February 1950. p. 3. Retrieved 13 September 2015 – via National Library of Australia. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "'GREAT HE WAS, HOWEVER UNDERRATED HE MAY BE NOW' Pulling up mandrakes". The Canberra Times. 2 May 1981. p. 13. Retrieved 13 September 2015 – via National Library of Australia. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)