Davies returned to Canada in 1940 as literary editor of Saturday Night. Two years later, he became editor of the Peterborough Examiner, a position that afforded him unlimited material for many characters and situations which appeared in his novels and plays. While editing this paper 1940-55, and when he was publisher 1955-65, Davies published 18 books, produced several of his own plays and wrote numerous articles for various journals.
Davies moved from the theory of acting outlined in Shakespeare for Young Players (1947) to the writing of plays with Eros at Breakfast, a one-act play which won the 1948 Dominion Drama Festival Award for best Canadian play. Eros at Breakfast and Other Plays and award-winning Fortune, My Foe were published in 1949; At My Heart's Core, a 3-act play based on the Strickland sisters, appeared in 1950. Meanwhile, Davies collected some of his humorous essays (under the pseudonym Samuel Marchbanks) from the Examiner in The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks (1947), The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks (1949) and Samuel Marchbanks' Almanack (1967).
In 1960 Davies joined Trinity College at University of Toronto, where he taught literature courses for the next 21 years. The next year he published a collection of essays on literature, A Voice from the Attic, and was awarded the Lorne Pierce Medal for his literary achievements. In 1963 he became master of Massey College, the university's new graduate college. By 1967 he was made an RSC fellow, and soon began receiving honorary degrees from many Canadian universities. Some of his best essays and speeches appeared later in One Half of Robertson Davies, The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies and The Well-Tempered Critic. In them, Davies explored his many esoteric interests with characteristic wit.
Davies found his metier neither in drama nor in occasional humorous essays, but in fiction. His first 3 novels, later known as the Salterton trilogy, were Tempest-Tost (1951), Leaven of Malice (1954)-which won the STEPHEN LEACOCK MEDAL FOR HUMOUR - and A Mixture of Frailties (1958). These novels explored the difficulty of sustaining a cultural life in Canada.
In 1970 Davies drew on Jungian psychology (a preoccupation which replaced his earlier interest in Freud) to produce his best novel to date, Fifth Business. The novel casts characters in roles that roughly correspond to Jungian archetypes to show Davies's belief that things of the spirit are more important than worldly concerns. He built on the success of Fifth Business with 2 sequel novels (the 3 later known as The Deptford Trilogy): The Manticore (1972), a novel cast in the form of Jungian psychoanalysis which won the Governor General's Award for fiction, and World of Wonders (1975). A seventh novel satirizing academic life, The Rebel Angels (1981), appeared at the close of Davies's academic career, and another, What's Bred in the Bone (1985), was published not long after. In 1983 Davies published The Mirror of Nature, an examination of 19th-century melodrama.
Author ELSPETH CAMERON
Links to Other Sites
A profile of acclaimed Canadian writer Robertson Davies. From "English-Canadian Writers" at athabascau.ca.
Impressions of Robertson Davies
Watch a 1973 interview in which literary great Robertson Davies reflects on being Canadian, writing, and life at Massey College. From CBC Digital Archives.
CANADIAN HISTORICAL DRAMA: PLAYWRIGHTS IN SEARCH OF A MYTH
A comparative analysis of landmark Canadian historical drama. From the journal "Studies in Canadian Literature/Études en littérature canadienne," University of New Brunswick.
Robertson Davies' wife, Brenda Davies, dies at age 95
An obituary for Brenda Ethel Davies, the wife of renowned Canadian author Robertson Davies. From thestar.com.
Robertson Davies Collection
An illustrated introduction to the Robertson Davies Collection at the Jordan Special Collections & Music Library, Queen's University.
Robertson Davies, The Art of Fiction No. 107
Author Robertson Davies offers his thoughts on the writing process in this interview from "The Paris Review".
A brief biography of Robertson Davies, novelist, playwright, literary critic and essayist. See also titles of his books published by Penguin Group (Canada).