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Robertson Davies Biography

(1913–95), The Peterborough Examiner, The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks, The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks

Canadian novelist and dramatist, born in Thamesville, Ontario, educated at Queen's University and at Balliol College, Oxford. Davies worked as an actor in England before returning to Canada, where he became a distinguished academic and editor of The Peterborough Examiner to which he contributed a weekly column under the pseudonym ‘Samuel Marchbanks’. This writing is collected in The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks (1947), The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks (1949), and Marchbanks' Almanack (1967). His plays include A Jig for the Gypsy (1954) and Hunting Stuart and Other Plays (1972). It was, however, as a novelist that Davies was best known. Beginning with ‘The Salterton Trilogy’—Tempest-Tost (1951), Leaven of Malice (1954), and A Mixture of Frailties (1958)—he published three novel sequences. The finest of these is ‘The Deptford Trilogy’ (Fifth Business, 1970; The Manticore, 1972; and World of Wonders, 1975), each part of which is written in a confessional first-person mode, which in some way reflects the characters' common origins in the small Ontario town after which the trilogy is named; the trilogy is also a cosmopolitan work with a broad mythic framework and incorporates much specialist knowledge on such subjects as hagiography, Jungian psychology, and carnival shows. The Rebel Angels (1981), What's Bred in the Bone (1985), and The Lyre of Orpheus (1988) form ‘The Cornish Trilogy’. Murther and Walking Spirits (1991) explores ancestry and the derivation of individual identity via an inventive plot narrated by the deceased entertainments officer of a local newspaper who has been murdered by a film critic. Widely acclaimed for its scope, style, and narrative organization, The Cunning Man (1995) presents an overview of contemporary culture through three characters who thematically represent science, art/literature, and religion. He also published The Stage Is All the World: The Theatrical Designs of Tanya Moiseiwitsch (1994).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Cwmfelinfach (Cŏomvĕlĭnvahχ) Monmouthshire to Walter de la Mare Biography