About the Author

Robertson Davies

Robertson Davies, novelist, playwright, literary critic and essayist, was born in 1913 in Thamesville, Ontario. He was educated at Queen's University, Toronto, and Balliol College, Oxford. Whilst at Oxford he became interested in the theatre and from 1938 until 1940 he was a teacher and actor at the Old Vic in London. He subsequently wrote a number of plays. In 1940 he returned to Canada, where he was literary editor of Saturday Night, an arts, politics and current affairs journal, until 1942, when he became editor and later publisher of the Peterborough Examiner. Several of his books, including The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks and The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks, had their origins in an editorial column. In 1962 he was appointed Professor of English at the University of Toronto, and in 1963 was appointed the first Master of the University's Massey College. He retired in 1981, but remained Master Emeritus and Professor Emeritus. He held honorary doctorates from twenty-six universities in the UK, the USA and Canada, and he received numerous awards for his work, including the Governor-General's Award for The Manticore in 1973. It is as a writer of fiction that Robertson Davies achieved international recognition, with such books as The Salterton Trilogy (Tempest-Tost, Leaven Of Malice, winner of the Leacock Award for Humour, and A Mixture Of Frailties); The Deptford Trilogy (Fifth Business, The Manticore and World Of Wonders); The Cornish Trilogy (The Rebel Angels, What's Bred in the Bone, shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize, and The Lyre of Orpheus); Murther & Walking Spirits; and The Cunning Man. His other work includes One Half of Robertson Davies, The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies, Robertson Davies: The Well-Tempered Critic, The Papers of Samuel Marchbanks, High Spirits, A Voice From The Attic and The Merry Heart, a posthumous collection of autobiography, lectures and essays. Many of his books are published by Penguin.

Robertson Davies died in December 1995. Malcolm Bradbury described him as 'one of the great modern novelists', and in its obituary The Times wrote: 'Davies encompassed all the great elements of life...His novels combined deep seriousness and psychological inquiry with fantasy and exuberant mirth.'

Books by this Author

Cornish Trilogy

The Rebel Angels:whats Bred In The Bones;the Lyre Of Orpheus
edition:Paperback
tagged : literary
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Cunning Man

edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback
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High Spirits 25th Anniversary Edition

High Spirits 25th Anniversary Edition

A Collection Of Ghost Stories
edition:Paperback
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Manticore

edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback
tagged : literary
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Tempest Tost

edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback
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The Cornish Trilogy

The Cornish Trilogy

The Rebel Angels, What's Bred in the Bone, and The Lyre of Orpheus
edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback
tagged : literary
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The Deptford Trilogy

Fifth Business, The Manticore, and World of Wonders
edition:Foam book
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The Salterton Trilogy

A Mixture of Frailties, Leaven of Malice, and Tempest-Tost
edition:Foam book
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Trilogía de Deptford

El quinto en discordia, Mantícora, El mundo de los prodigios
edition:Paperback
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Voice From The Attic

Essays On The Art Of Reading
edition:Paperback
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Literary Lapses

Literary Lapses

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : classics
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Excerpt

“Now, ladies and gentlemen,” said the conjurer, “having shown you that the cloth is absolutely empty, I will proceed to take from it a bowl of goldfish. Presto!”

All around the hall people were saying, “Oh, how wonderful! How does he do it?”

But the Quick Man on the front seat said in a big whisper to the people near him. “He — had — it — up — his — sleeve.”

Then the people nodded brightly at the Quick Man and said, “Oh, of course”; and everybody whispered round the hall. “He — had — it — up — his — sleeve.”

“My next trick,” said the conjurer, “is the famous Hindostanee rings. You will notice that the rings are apparently separate; at a blow they all join (clang. clang, clang) — Presto!”

There was a general buzz of stupefaction till the Quick Man was heard to whisper. “He — must — have — had — another — lot — up — his — sleeve.”

Again everybody nodded and whispered. “The — rings — were — up — his — sleeve.”

The brow of the conjurer was clouded with a gathering frown.

“I will now,” he continued, “show you a most amusing trick by which I am enabled to take any number of eggs from a hat. Will some gentleman kindly lend me his hat? Ah. Thank you — Presto!”

He extracted seventeen eggs, and for thirty-five seconds the audience began to think that he was wonderful.

Then the Quick Man whispered along the front bench, “He — has — a — hen — up — his — sleeve.” and all the people whispered it on. “He — has — a — lot — of — hens — up — his — sleeve.”

The egg trick was ruined.

It went on like that all through. It transpired from the whispers of the Quick Man that the conjurer must have concealed up his sleeve, in addition to the rings, hens, and fish, several packs of cards, a loaf of bread, a doll’s cradle, a live guinea-pig, a fifty-cent piece, and a rocking-chair.

The reputation of the conjurer was rapidly sinking below zero. At the close of the evening he rallied for a final effort.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “I will present to you, in conclusion, the famous Japanese trick recently invented by the natives of Tipperary. Will you. Sir,” he continued, turning toward the Quick Man, “will you kindly hand me your gold watch?”

It was passed to him.

“Have I your permission to put it into this mortar and pound it to pieces?” he asked savagely.

The Quick Man nodded and smiled.

The conjurer threw the watch into the mortar and grasped a sledge hammer from the table. There was a sound of violent smashing. “He’s — slipped — it — up — his — sleeve,” whispered the Quick Man.

“Now, sir,” continued the conjurer, “will you allow me to take your handkerchief and punch holes in it? Thank you. You see, ladies and gentlemen, there is no deception, the holes are visible to the eye.”

The face of the Quick Man beamed. This time the real mystery of the thing fascinated him.

“And now, sir, will you kindly pass me your silk hat and allow me to dance on it? Thank you.”

The conjurer made a few rapid passes with his feet and exhibited the hat crushed beyond recognition.

“And will you now, sir, take off your celluloid collar and permit me to bum it in the candle? Thank you, sir. And will you allow me to smash your spectacles for you with my hammer? Thank you.”

By this time the features of the Quick Man were assuming a puzzled expression. “This thing beats me,” he whispered, “I don’t see through it a bit.”

There was a great hush upon the audience. Then the conjurer drew himself up to his full height and, with a withering look at the Quick Man, he concluded:

“Ladies and gentlemen, you will observe that I have, with this gentleman’s permission, broken his watch, burnt his collar, smashed his spectacles, and danced on his hat. If he will give me the further permission to paint green stripes on his overcoat, or to tie his suspenders in a knot, I shall be delighted to entertain you. If not, the performance is at an end.”

And amid a glorious burst of music from the orchestra the curtain fell, and the audience dispersed, convinced that there are some tricks, at any rate, that are not done up the conjurer’s sleeve.

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