Robertson Davies

Franklin Library Robertson Davies books

Lyre of Orpheus - signed first edition - 1988
Murther and Walking Spirits - signed first edition - 1991


Author Robertson Davies

Robertson Davies (1913-1995) was a Canadian novelist, playwright, critic, and professor, renowned for his richly imaginative storytelling and keen observations of human nature. Born on August 28, 1913, in Thamesville, Ontario, Davies developed a lifelong passion for literature and the arts. After completing his education at Upper Canada College and Queen's University, Davies embarked on a career that spanned several decades and encompassed various facets of the literary world. He initially gained recognition as a journalist and editor, contributing to publications such as The Peterborough Examiner and Saturday Night magazine. His early experiences in journalism and drama criticism laid the foundation for his later work as a playwright and novelist.

Davies' breakthrough as a novelist came with the publication of Tempest-Tost in 1951, the first installment in the Salterton Trilogy. This trilogy, followed by Leaven of Malice (1954) and A Mixture of Frailties (1958), established Davies as a master of satirical wit and intricate plot construction. The novels, set in the fictional town of Salterton, showcased his ability to blend humor, social commentary, and compelling characters. His literary prowess expanded with the completion of the Deptford Trilogy, comprising Fifth Business (1970), The Manticore (1972), and World of Wonders (1975). These novels explored themes of identity, Jungian psychology, and the complexities of human relationships. Fifth Business, in particular, is considered a masterpiece and a classic of Canadian literature.

Apart from his achievements in fiction, Davies had a distinguished academic career. He served as the Master of Massey College at the University of Toronto from 1963 to 1981, leaving an indelible mark on the institution. His influence extended beyond the classroom, as he continued to contribute to the cultural landscape through essays, reviews, and plays. In addition to his novels and plays, Davies wrote essays, collected in works such as A Voice from the Attic (1960) and The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies (1990). His writing reflected a deep appreciation for the arts, mythology, and the human condition. Robertson Davies received numerous accolades during his lifetime, including the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction and the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. His literary legacy endures, and his impact on Canadian literature remains significant. Robertson Davies passed away on December 2, 1995, leaving behind a body of work that continues to captivate readers with its intelligence, wit, and profound insights into the complexities of life.


Lyre of Orpheus

Hailed as a literary masterpiece, Robertson Davies' The Cornish Trilogy comes to a brilliant conclusion in the bestselling Lyre of Orpheus.

There is an important decision to be made. The Cornish Foundation is thriving under the directorship of Arthur Cornish when Arthur and his beguiling wife, Maria Theotoky, decide to undertake a project worthy of Francis Cornish connoisseur, collector, and notable eccentric whose vast fortune endows the Foundation. The grumpy, grimy, extraordinarily talented music student Hulda Schnakenburg is commissioned to complete E. T .A. Hoffmann's unfinished opera Arthur of Britain, or The Magnanimous Cuckold; and the scholarly priest Simon Darcourt finds himself charged with writing the libretto.

Complications both practical and emotional arise: the gypsy in Maria's blood rises with a vengeance; Darcourt stoops to petty crime; and various others indulge in perjury, blackmail, and other unsavory pursuits. Hoffmann's dictum, "the lyre of Orpheus opens the door of the underworld," seems to be all too true especially when the long-hidden secrets of Francis Cornish himself are finally revealed.

Baroque and deliciously funny, this third book in The Cornish Trilogy shows Robertson Davies at his very considerable best.

"Robertson Davies is the sort of novelist readers can hardly wait to tell their friends about." - The Washington Post Book World

Murther and Walking Spirits - Toronto Trilogy Book 1

Murdered by his wife's lover, Gil must spend his afterlife seated next to his murderer at a film festival, where he views the exploits of his ancestors from the Revolutionary era to his parents' time.

Connor Gilmartin’s inauspicious, but much beloved, mortal life comes to an untimely end when he discovers his wife in bed with one of his more ludicrous associates, theater critic Randall Allard Going. Death becomes a bit complicated when Gilmartin’s out-of-body experience stays an out-of-body experience.

Enraged at being so unceremoniously cut down by his wife’s lover, Gil vows revenge against the now panic-stricken Going. But first, Gil must spend his afterlife seated next to his killer at a film festival, where he views the exploits of his ancestors from the Revolutionary era to his parents’ time, an experience that changes the way he views his life and death.

“Mr. Davies is a tremendously enticing storyteller, whether his characters are cajoling in Welsh brogue or portaging a canoe through the northern wilderness, but it’s possible to ask now and then just how such and such an incident fits in the master plan of the book. On most occasions, however, the author, as if sensing our restiveness, provides an answer.” - The New York Times
“Davies’s depiction of how the descendants of Samuel Gilmartin came to emigrate to British North America convincingly blends gritty humor including a hilarious Welsh cursing contest with sympathetic portrayals of his characters.” - Kirkus Reviews
“The unexpected conceit devised by the author of the Deptford trilogy will surprise but likely not disappoint his fans.” - Publishers Weekly

Best books in order by author list:

A    B    C    D    E    F    G    H    I    J    K    L    M    N    O    P    Q    R    S    T    U    V    W    X    Y    Z

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