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W.H. Davies

Authors: Lawrence Normand

Published by Seren

ISBN: 9781854112613

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The story of W.H. Davies is one of the most remarkable in twentieth century letters. Born in lowly circumstances in Newport, he moved to America where he lived as a hobo – a life he recorded in Autobiography of a Super-Tramp. During this period he lost a leg falling from a train and, manual work denied to him, Davies re-cast himself as a writer back in London.

A prolific poet, his memorable, accessible verse coincided with the rise of the Georgian Poets and he was championed by Edward Thomas, then a god-like maker of reputations. He became one of the most popular poets in Britain, many of his lines and poems entering the national vocabulary.

Davies also led the bohemian life to the full, with a string of lovers. Yet this complicated man continued to feel alienated from literary London by his lowly background, and at the age of fifty he met and married a twenty year old prostitute and went to live in Sussex, later in Gloucestershire. Here he continued to write poetry and explored his marriage in a book which would eventually be published in 1980, as Young Emma, a classic account of passion and morality.

This singular figure focuses themes of ethics, sex, creativity, national identity and, above all, class and English society. Lawrence Normand has written a fascinating life of Davies the nature poet and seeker of social justice, but has also added to our knowledge of the society in which he created. This welcome book is the first on Davies for many years, and the first to deal with the pivotal volume, Young Emma.

Lawrence Normand is Senior Lecturer in English, Cultural Studies and Communication Studies at Middlesex University.
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