Few writers have left a mark like Robertson Davies. On this day in history he was born in Ontario, Candida in the town of Thamesville. He was the son of a publisher and politician. His dad owned the Peterborough Examiner, a small paper in Canada. He attended school in Ontario and later traveled to Oxford, England, staying there to finish his degrees in acting, directing and teaching.
He taught at the legendary Old Vic Theater, a place where House of Cards’ Kevin Spacey recently portrayed King Richard the III in the Shakespeare Classics. It is a huge honor to be placed as a teacher or actor in this space and Robertson knew this. He took his time and developed many skills there. After teaching for a while Robertson Davies started to write drama in the 40’s and 50’s but didn’t come to a lot of success.
After his tenure in Britain he returned to Canada to become the literary editor of a Toronto magazine. He edited for his father’s paper during the year of 1962 and onward to 1963. Of course he went back to teaching and changed the focus from theater to English at the University of Toronto in 1960. He continued there for more than 20 years.
He ended up writing novels during this time as well and published over 30 books of fiction. Talk about prolific writing, he also wrote essays and articles. He even tried his hand at nonfiction works. His love for theater never really manifested into a career, but he discovered that teaching was equally fulfilling and that’s why he spent most of his career educating others on the value of English, letters and of course drama. That didn’t make him stop writing though.
He was best known for three specific trilogies. His most popular effort is the Deptford trilogy. The three books are titled Fifth Business, The Manticore and World of Wonders. The trilogy centered on a small provincial Canadian town called Salerton. Its main focus was the small town events of the city. This work is some of the most specific and realistic of his career. It was a hit because it felt very close to home with Canadian readers. It was like Davies was taking a page from their book of life. People love to have their experiences corroborated. Some of the experiences were taken from his life as well.
The books chronicled a production of The Tempest, family feuds and the plight of a young lady trying to become an opera singer. He also wrote nearly 30 0other titles. He became the first Canadian who was admitted to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and continued to write until his death after a long life in 1995. Davies was 82 years old and is celebrated as one of the greatest Canadian writers of all time. And ultimately, one of the best teachers too.