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This article is taken from PN Review 47, Volume 12 Number 3, January - February 1986.

Recovering W.H. Davies Michael Cullup

W. H. Davies, Selected Poems, chosen and edited by Jonathan Barker (Oxford University Press) £3.95 pb.
Later Days (Oxford University Press) £2.50 pb.

William Henry Davies was born on 20 April 1871, in Newport, in the present county of Gwent. At the age of three, he was adopted by his paternal grandparents. His grandfather, who was a retired Cornish sea-captain, was responsible for Davies's lifelong interest in the sea. His grandmother was a strict Baptist with puritanical views. Both were strong characters and their differences must have had something to do with the conflict between conservative propriety and unconventional individualism in Davies's personality. He was a curious combination of pride, shyness, guile, ambition and gentleness. Though he rebelled against the puritanism of his grandmother, he did so discreetly, and it was not until her death in 1893, when he was twenty-two, that he fully exploited the taste for adventure and travel which his late grandfather had stimulated. After having to leave school at the age of thirteen because of a series of gang thefts from local shops, in which he had been involved, Davies worked for a few months for an ironmonger before becoming apprenticed to a picture-framer and gilder at the age of fourteen. He did not enjoy the work, and spent his leisure hours at the theatre or drinking with companions. What reading he did was mostly in popular novels, and his reading of poetry was confined more or less to the romantics like ...

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