As the greatest novelist

Greatest Novelist

Davies, whose family background was Welsh, had strong links with England, having studied at Balliol College, Oxford, and then worked at The Old Vic as a writer, teacher of drama history, and actor. It was there he met his Australian actress wife Brenda Mathews, with whom he had three daughters.

Newspapers were in his blood, too. His father owned a paper and his two brothers were reporters. Back in Canada, he spent time working as a journalist for The Peterborough Ontario Examiner, becoming the paper’s editor. He later recalled for The Paris Review: "I heard newspaper talk at every meal. In a newspaper family you learn not only all the news that’s fit to print, but all the news that is not fit to print and you acquire an insight into human nature and the essence of a community that is very hard to acquire, I think, in any other way. The world you report is rarely more than half the world you know."

I heard newspaper talk at every meal. In a newspaper family you learn not only all the news that’s fit to print, but all the news that is not fit to print and you acquire an insight into human nature and the essence of a community that is very hard to acquire, I think, in any other way. The world you report is rarely more than half the world you know

Yet it was when he moved into Canadian academic life – as master of Massey College at the University of Toronto – that he bloomed into what Malcolm Bradbury called "one of the great modern novelists". It's interesting to learn in his intriguing diaries, the first volume of which were published by McClelland & Stewart in November 2015, that he was in real torment about his talents as a novelist. In A Celtic Temperament: Robertson Davies as Diarist (edited by Jennifer Surridge and Ramsay Derry), which covers the years 1959-1963, it says that in 1963, when he is offered a regular newspaper column to write, he looks over old cuttings and writes: "Old newspaper stuff is good. If only I thought I had true worth as a novelist. I know I am a good journalist. Should I do what I do well, or continue with what I want to do well?"

Robertson Davies in 1992 Credit: AP
Source: www.telegraph.co.uk
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