Biography of Robertson Davies

Fiction writer, playwright, and professor, Robertson Davies was one of Canada’s literary giants.

Born in Thamesville, Ontario on August 28, 1813, Robertson Davies was the youngest of three sons. His father, a publisher and Liberal senator, was William Rupert Davies. His mother, a strict Presbyterian, was Florence Sheppard McKay Davies.

Davies spent much of his childhood in the city of Kingston, where his father owned a local newspaper. For preparatory schooling, he attended Colborne College, the very same college that is showcased in his famous Deptford trilogy (Fifth Business, The Manticore, and World of Wonders). Concerning his schoolwork, Robertson described himself as “hopeless in mathematics,” but he thankfully excelled at theatre and literature. He attended Queen’s University in Kingston, and remained involved in the theatre there.

After receiving his B.Litt in 1938, Davies joined a prominent theatre company in London, England. There, he met and married his stage manager, Brenda. Davies and his wife returned to Canada to become the editor of the political magazine Saturday Live. They had three daughters during their marriage.

Over the course of his career, Davies became world-renowned for both his fiction and non-fiction material. Davies described his writing as concerning "the isolation of the human spirit," and mankind's growth "from innocence to experience." His intimate and introspective writing style has a decidedly Canadian sensibility, but nevertheless resonates with people around the world. Though his best-known work remains Fifth Business, many of his works have remained in print since they were first published.

Robertson Davies died in Orangeville, Ontario on December 2, 1995.

Study Guides on Works by Robertson Davies

Fifth Business is a novel by the famed Canadian author, playwright and professor Robertson Davies. Published in 1970, it is the first work in his Deptford Trilogy.

The novel follows the life of its narrator and protagonist, Dunstan Ramsey, and...