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Selected Poetry of John Davidson (1857-1909)


from Representative Poetry On-line
Prepared by members of the Department of English at the University of Toronto
from 1912 to the present and published by the University of Toronto Press from 1912 to 1967.
RPO Edited by Ian Lancashire
A UTEL (University of Toronto English Library) Edition
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries
© 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto

Index to poems

I mean that having children and a wife,
With thirty bob on which to come and go,
Isn't dancing to the tabor and the fife ...
        (Thirty Bob a Week, 38-40)
  1. Battle
  2. A Runnable Stag
  3. Thirty Bob a Week


Notes on Life and Works

Poet, translator, novelist, and man of letters, John Davidson spent the first part of his life as a teacher in Greenock, Glasgow, Perth, Crieff, and other places. In 1884 he married Margaret Macarthur, who bore him two sons. In 1899 he moved to London and earned a living by journalism. His second and third volumes of verse, Fleet Street Eclogues (1893), proved popular, established his reputation, and earned the respect of T. S. Eliot, who wrote a preface to a selection of Davidson's poems in 1961 edited by Maurice Lindsay (PR 4525 D5A17 1961 Robarts Library). Little after these books, whether poetry, novels, or translations, did well, and Davidson moved depended on his friends for support until getting a Civil List pension in 1906 and moving to Penzance a year later. The last half of his literary career was devoted to unsuccessful philosophical poems and tragedies promoting a new world order. Depressed and ill, Davidson committed suicide March 23, 1909, but his body was only found on the seashore months later. He was buried at sea on September 21, 1909. The best modern edition of his Poems is edited by Andrew Turnbull (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1973; PR 4525 D5A17 1973B Robarts Library). The best life is John Sloan's John Davidson, First of the Moderns (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995; PR 4525 D5Z82 Robarts Library).

Biographical information

Given name: John
Family name: Davidson
Birth date: 11 April 1857
Death date: 21 September 1909
Nationality: Scottish
Family relations
          father: Alexander Davidson
          mother: Helen Davidson
          wife: Margaret Davidson (from 1885)
          son: Alexander Davidson
          son: Menzies Davidson
Language: English
Education
          Highlanders' Academy, Greenock to 1870
          Edinburgh University: 1876 to 1877
          Highlanders' Academy, Greenock: 1872 to 1876
Religion: Evangelical
Literary period: Victorian
Occupations
          Teacher
          Assistant chemical analyst: 1871 to 1872
Residences
          Barrhead, Renfrewshire: 11 April 1857
          London: 1889 to 1908
          Penzance: 1908 to 23 October 1909
Illness: Depression
Cause of death: Suicide
Buried at: sea
First RPO edition: 1998