Robertson Davies An Author of Distinction
What do you get when you cross a Welsh gentleman and a strict Presbyterian woman? Robertson Davies. That's who. Although Robertson Davies, a renowned Canadian author, never enjoyed success like James Patterson or John Grisham and the like, he was a brilliant and skilled author. He enjoyed many eminent followers and led a productive literary career.
Davies inherited his love of reading from his parents and had a passion for the theatre. He was very educated and boarded at the Upper Canada College and then studied at Queen's University in Kingston, ON, and had the smarts and good fortune to attend the Balliol College at Oxford.
After getting married and returning to Canada, the Saturday Star hired him as their literary editor. Young and ambitious, his goals were bent on improving the quality and acclaim of Canadian drama. He worked tirelessly on his Dominion Drama Festival and became a member of the now-famous Stratford Shakespeare Festival Board. Although he garnered some success in theatre and some failures, his real talent lay in writing.
His Deptford Trilogy is a brilliant work of literature. Not only is it written with aplomb, for the reader, but it's also a feast on the world's smorgasbord of tidbit information. Davies convincingly layers each chapter and each character with such precise detail and consequential information that you ask yourself, can such a perfectly constructed world exist? Centered on Canadian art and culture, Davies has such depth and understanding of the environment he creates. Skillfully he develops his prose, which hopelessly enthralls the reader. If ever an author understood the hard chomp of satire, express it in such a manner as to stifle offense, it was and is Robertson Davies. Although the trilogy, set starting in 1970, 72, and 75, it resonates with relevance today.
In 1955, he received the Stephen Leacock Award for humor. Throughout his exemplary career, he earned 23 honorary degrees and many other accolades, all worthy of the man and his achievements. His white beard image is that of befitting a postage stamp and iconic on the Canadian literary landscape. Throughout his career, he was celebrated as a playwright, author, professor, journalist, and a distinguished man of letters. He was also instrumental in establishing Massey College, an extension of the University of Toronto.
Although his books didn't reach the success of today's mainstream authors, Robertson Davies wrote timeless pieces of fiction. For a more unobstructed view at the root of his wit, excerpts from the Diary of Samuel Marchbanks, a fictional persona he created, explain much. To be at the sharp end of his sarcasm must have been painfully embarrassing for his targets. He was an astute observer, had strong beliefs and opinions though both were sound and hard to argue. In one of his 'Friday' observations on the then-current British elections, dating in the 1940s, he writes, "It is a continual source of astonishment to me that prominent men always seem to be married to exceptional and attractive women."
"I wonder if the day will ever come when the wife of a new prime minister or president is described thus: "Mrs. Blank is a dumpy, unattractive woman, who dresses in the worst possible taste." Both of these statements are still accurate.
Just one more selection from the pseudonym Davies wrote under. "If we believe in the findings of astronomers and theologians and physicists, who are always proving each other wrong, I don't see why we should not believe astrologers, who are quite often right." This is an excellent sample of his sarcasm and deadly wit; he offends with style.
Robertson Davies passed away in December of 1995. Many prominent figures in Canadian society mourned his passing. Margaret Attwood delivered a eulogy, and the famous American author and good friend, John Irving, read a scripture reading at his funeral in the chapel at Trinity College in Toronto.
While it's been a few years since I've enjoyed the literary work of Davies, The Cornish Trilogy, remains my personal favorite, I know within a few years, I will return to those pages to be enlightened, inspired, and awed by his talent. And who doesn't like a book that starts with a good argument? Still available on Amazon.
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