W. H. Davies

W. H. Davies

Essays on the Super-Tramp Poet

Edited by Rory Waterman

This book brings together, for the first time, a collection of articles from leading scholars on the writing, and literary and social contexts, of the ‘tramp-poet’ and memoirist W. H. Davies (1871–1940).

Hardback, 194 Pages


January 2021

£80.00, $125.00

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About This Book

This book brings together, for the first time, a collection of articles from leading scholars on the writing, and literary and social contexts, of the ‘tramp-poet’ and memoirist W. H. Davies (1871–1940). Though Davies is a well-known and unique literary figure of the early twentieth century, most famous now for The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp and poems such as ‘Leisure’, which came 14th in the BBC’s search to find ‘The Nation’s Favourite Poems’, no other volume of essays, or other critical monograph, concentrates on his work. This book not only provides a reassessment of Davies, putting him in his literary and cultural context (as a Welsh writer, the ‘tramp-poet’, a prominent Georgian poet, and a disabled writer), but also sheds light on the many more central literary figures he encountered and befriended, among them Edward Thomas, George Bernard Shaw, Edith Sitwell, Alice Meynell, D. H. Lawrence, and Joseph Conrad. The aim of the book is to reconsider the major works of the ‘tramp-poet’ and memoirist W.H. Davies, and his place in the literary and cultural milieu of his period. Davies spent several years in North America as a young man, traversing the continent and living mainly as a tramp, and losing a leg in the process, as he attempted to jump aboard a freight train in Ontario. These experiences are at the heart of his famous memoir, The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp (1908), which was edited by Edward Thomas and introduced by George Bernard Shaw. Davies also established a reputation as a poet and was included in all five of the immensely popular Georgian Poetry anthologies between 1912 and 1922. He continued to write, in particular about his life, and later books include many volumes of poetry and memoirs such as: A Poet’s Pilgrimage (1918), which details a walking tour across southern Britain and the people he encountered; Later Days (1924), about the literary and artistic communities he had recently belonged to; and Young Emma (written in the late 1920s but not published until 1980), a thinly anonymised memoir about how he met his wife, almost thirty years his junior. They are unique products of a unique life.

This is the first book of essays to be published on this fascinating author, who has largely been neglected by literary critics, despite his centrality to British memoir, travel writing, and poetry in the early twentieth century. It puts Davies in his literary and cultural context, provides reassessments of the work, and considers his influence as a writer and personality. It will be useful to readers coming new to the author and wanting a critical overview, while at the same time putting forward many new research findings and much new thinking.


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Author Information

Rory Waterman is a critic and poet, and Senior Lecturer in English at Nottingham Trent University.


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Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. The Soul's Destroyer (1905): a reassessment; 2. The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp and its enduring popularity/travel memoir; 3. Supertramps and Beggars: Davies and Begging in America in the 1890s and 1900s; 4. The novels and drama of W. H. Davies; 5. Davies, print media, journalism and criticism; 6. Davies and Georgian Poetry; 7.‘Stop and stare’: Davies and ‘nature poetry’; 8. Davies: a Welsh writer?; 9. Davies, society and gender; 10. Davies and Literary London; 11. Super-Tramp and Little Tramp: Davies, Chaplin and the landscapes of modernity; 12. Davies and Edward Thomas: literary and personal influences; 13. ‘Poisoned earth and sky’: Representations of War in Davies' poetry and memoir; Index.


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