W. H. Davies

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W. H. Davies
Davies in 1913 (by Alvin Langdon Coburn)
Davies in 1913
(by Alvin Langdon Coburn)
Born(1871-07-03)3 July 1871
Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales
Died26 September 1940(1940-09-26) (aged 69)
Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, England
OccupationPoet, writer, tramp
GenreLyrical poetry, autobiography
SubjectsNature, begging, the life of a tramp
Literary movementGeorgian poetry
Notable worksThe Autobiography of a Super-Tramp, "Leisure"
SpouseHelen Matilda Payne[1]
(m. 5 February 1923)

William Henry Davies (3 July 1871[a] – 26 September 1940) was a Welsh poet and writer, who spent much of his life as a tramp or hobo in the United Kingdom and the United States, yet became one of the most popular poets of his time. His themes included observations on life's hardships, the ways the human condition is reflected in nature, his tramping adventures and the characters he met. He is usually classed as a Georgian Poet, though much of his work is not typical of the group in style or theme.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Plaque commemorating Davies' supposed place of birth, at "The Church House Inn", in Pillgwenlly, Newport, Wales.

The son of an iron moulder, Davies was born at 6 Portland Street in the Pillgwenlly district of Newport, Monmouthshire, a busy port. He had an older brother, Francis Gomer Boase, who was considered "slow." In 1874 a sister, Matilda, was born.

In November 1874, William was aged three when his father died. The next year his mother, Mary Anne Davies, remarried as Mrs Joseph Hill. She agreed that care of the three children should pass to their paternal grandparents, Francis and Lydia Davies, who ran the nearby Church House Inn at 14 Portland Street. His grandfather Francis Boase Davies, originally from Cornwall, had been a sea captain. Davies was related to the British actor Sir Henry Irving, known as Cousin Brodribb to the family. He later recalled his grandmother speaking of Irving as "the cousin who brought disgrace on us." According to a neighbour's memories, she wore "pretty little caps, with bebe ribbon, tiny roses and puce trimmings."[3] Osbert Sitwell, introducing the 1943 Collected Poems of W. H. Davies, recalled Davies telling him that along with his grandparents and himself, his home held "an imbecile brother, a sister... a maidservant, a dog, a cat, a parrot, a dove and a canary bird." Sitwell also recounts how Davies's grandmother, a Baptist, was "of a more austere and religious turn of mind than her husband."[4]

In 1879 the family moved to Raglan Street, Newport, then to Upper Lewis Street, where William attended Temple School. In 1883 he moved to Alexandra Road School and the following year was arrested, as one of five schoolmates charged with stealing handbags. He was given twelve strokes of the birch. In 1885 Davies wrote his first poem entitled "Death."

In Poet's Pilgrimage (1918), Davies recalls that at the age of 14 he was left with orders to sit with his dying grandfather. He missed the final moments of his grandfather's death as he was too engrossed in reading "a very interesting book of wild adventure."[5]

Delinquent to "supertramp"[edit]

After school, Davies worked as an ironmonger. His grandmother in November 1886 signed Davies up for a five-year apprenticeship to a local picture-frame maker. Davies never enjoyed the craft. He left Newport, took casual work and began his travels. The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp (1908) covers his American life in 1893–1899, including adventures and characters from his travels as a drifter. During the period, he crossed the Atlantic Ocean at least seven times on cattle ships. He travelled through many states doing seasonal work.

Davies took advantage of the corrupt system of "boodle" to pass the winter in Michigan by agreeing to be locked in a series of jails. Here with his fellow tramps Davies enjoyed relative comfort in "card-playing, singing, smoking, reading, relating experiences, and occasionally taking exercise or going out for a walk."[6] At one point on his way to Memphis, Tennessee, he lay alone in a swamp for three days and nights suffering from malaria.[2]

The turning point in Davies's life came after a week of rambling in London. He spotted a newspaper story about the riches to be made in the Klondike and set off to make his fortune in Canada. Attempting with a fellow tramp, Three-fingered Jack, to jump a freight train at Renfrew, Ontario on 20 March 1899, he lost his footing and his right foot was crushed under the wheels of the train. The leg was amputated below the knee and he wore a pegleg thereafter. Davies' biographers agree the accident was crucial, although Davies played down the story. Moult begins his biography with the incident,[7] and his biographer Richard J. Stonesifer suggested this event, more than any other, led Davies to become a professional poet.[8] Davies writes, "I bore this accident with an outward fortitude that was far from the true state of my feelings. Thinking of my present helplessness caused me many a bitter moment, but I managed to impress all comers with a false indifference.... I was soon home again, away less than four months; but all the wildness was taken out of me, and my adventures after this were not of my seeking, but the result of circumstances."[9] Davies took an ambivalent view of his disability. In his poem "The Fog", published in the 1913 Foliage,[10] a blind man leads the poet through the fog, showing the reader how someone impaired in one domain may have a big advantage in another.



What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad day light,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

from Songs of Joy and Others (1911)

Davies returned to Britain, to a rough life, largely in London shelters and doss-houses, including a Salvation Army hostel in Southwark known as "The Ark",[11] which he grew to despise. Fearing contempt from fellow tramps, he often feigned slumber in the corner of a doss-house, mentally composing his poems, then later committing them to paper in private. At one point, he borrowed money to print poems, which he sold door-to-door in residential London. After that enterprise failed, he returned to his lodgings and burned all of the printed sheets.[8]

Davies self-published his first slim book of poetry, The Soul's Destroyer, in 1905, again by means of his savings. It proved to be the beginning of success and a growing reputation. To publish it, Davies forwent his allowance to live as a tramp for six months (with the first draft of the book hidden in his pocket), just to secure a loan of funds from his inheritance. After it was published, the volume was ignored. He resorted to posting individual copies by hand to prospective wealthy customers chosen from the pages of Who's Who, asking them to send the price of the book, a half crown, in return. He sold 60 of the 200 copies printed.[2] One of the copies went to Arthur St John Adcock, then a journalist with the Daily Mail. On reading the book, he later wrote in his essay "Gods of Modern Grub Street", Adcock said he "recognised there were crudities and doggerel in it, there was also in it some of the freshest and most magical poetry to be found in modern books."[8] He sent the price of the book, then asked Davies to meet him. Adcock is seen as "the man who discovered Davies."[8] The first trade edition of The Soul's Destroyer was published by Alston Rivers in 1907. A second edition followed in 1908 and a third in 1910. A 1906 edition, by Fifield, was advertised but has not been verified.[12]

Rural life in Kent[edit]

On 12 October 1905 Davies met Edward Thomas, then literary critic for the Daily Chronicle in London, who did more to help him than anyone else.[8] Thomas rented for Davies the tiny two-roomed Stidulph's Cottage in Egg Pie Lane, not far from his own home at Elses Farm near Sevenoaks in Kent. Davies moved to the cottage from 6 Llanwern Street, Newport, via London, in the second week of February 1907. The cottage was "only two meadows off" from Thomas's house.[13] Thomas took the role of protective guardian for Davies, on one occasion even arranging for the manufacture by a local wheelwright of a makeshift replacement wooden leg, which was invoiced to Davies as "a novelty cricket bat".

In 1907, the manuscript of The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp drew the attention of George Bernard Shaw, who agreed to write a preface (largely through the efforts of his wife Charlotte). It was only through Shaw that Davies' contract with the publishers was rewritten to retain him the serial rights, all rights after three years, royalties of 15 per cent of selling price, and a non-returnable advance of £25. Davies was also to be given a say in the style of illustrations, advertisement layouts and cover designs. The original publisher, Duckworth and Sons, rejected the new terms and the book passed to the London publisher Fifield.[8]

Several anecdotes of Davies's time with the Thomas family appear in a brief account later published by Thomas's widow Helen.[14] In 1911, he was awarded a Civil List pension of £50,[15] later increased to £100 and then to £150.

Davies began to spend more time in London and make many literary friends and acquaintances. Though averse to giving autographs himself, he began to make a collection of his own and was particularly keen to obtain that of D. H. Lawrence. The Georgian poetry publisher Edward Marsh secured this and also invited Lawrence and wife-to-be Frieda to meet Davies on 28 July 1913. Lawrence was captivated by Davies and later invited him to join them in Germany. Despite his early enthusiasm, however, Lawrence's opinion changed after reading Foliage and he commented after reading Nature Poems in Italy that the verses seemed "so thin, one can hardly feel them."[8]

By this time Davies had a library of some 50 books at his cottage, mostly 16th and 17th-century poets, among them Shakespeare, John Milton, Wordsworth, Byron, Robert Burns, Shelley, Keats, Coleridge, Blake and Herrick. In December 1908 his essay "How It Feels To Be Out of Work", described by Stonesifer as "a rather pedestrian performance", appeared in The English Review. He continued to send other periodical articles to editors, but without success.[8]

Social life in London[edit]

Davies in 1915

After lodging at several addresses in Sevenoaks, Davies moved back to London early in 1914, settling eventually at 14 Great Russell Street in the Bloomsbury district,[b] Here he lived from early 1916 until 1921 in a tiny two-room apartment initially infested with mice and rats and next door to the rooms of a noisy Belgian prostitute. During this London period, Davies embarked on a series of public readings of his work, alongside others such as Hilaire Belloc and W. B. Yeats, impressing fellow poet Ezra Pound. He soon found he could socialise with leading society figures of the day, including Arthur Balfour and Lady Randolph Churchill. While in London he also took up with artists such as Jacob Epstein, Harold and Laura Knight, Nina Hamnett, Augustus John, Harold Gilman, William Rothenstein, Walter Sickert, Sir William Nicholson and Osbert and Edith Sitwell. He enjoyed the society and conversation of literary men, particularly in the rarefied downstairs at the Café Royal. He also met regularly with W. H. Hudson, Edward Garrett and others at The Mont Blanc in Soho.[17]

For his poetry Davies drew much on experiences with the seamier side of life, but also on his love of nature. By the time he took a prominent place in the Edward Marsh Georgian Poetry series, he was an established figure, generally known for the opening lines of the poem "Leisure", first published in Songs of Joy and Others in 1911: "What is this life if, full of care / We have no time to stand and stare...."

In October 1917 his work appeared in the anthology Welsh Poets: A Representative English selection from Contemporary Writers collated by A. G. Prys-Jones and published by Erskine Macdonald of London.

In the last months of 1921, Davies moved to more comfortable quarters at 13 Avery Row, Brook Street, where he rented rooms from the Quaker poet Olaf Baker. By that time he began to find prolonged work difficult and had increased bouts of rheumatism and other ailments. Harlow (1993) lists a total of 14 BBC broadcasts of Davies reading his work made between 1924 and 1940 (now held in the BBC broadcast archive)[18] though none included his most famous work, "Leisure". Later Days, a 1925 sequel to The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp, describes the beginnings of Davies's writing career and his acquaintance with Belloc, Shaw, de la Mare and others. He became "the most painted literary man of his day", thanks to Augustus John, Sir William Nicholson, Dame Laura Knight and Sir William Rothenstein. His head in bronze was the most successful of Epstein's smaller works.[17]

Marriage and later life[edit]

Davies' last home "Glendower", Watledge Road, Nailsworth, Gloucestershire

On 5 February 1923, Davies married 23-year-old Helen Matilda Payne at the Registry Office, East Grinstead, Sussex, and the couple set up home in the town at Tor Leven, Cantelupe Road. According to a witness, Conrad Aiken, the ceremony found Davies "in a near panic".[8][19]

Davies's book Young Emma was a frank, often disturbing account of his life before and after picking Helen up at a bus-stop in the Edgware Road near Marble Arch. He had caught sight of her just getting off the bus and describes her wearing a "saucy-looking little velvet cap with tassels".[20] Still unmarried, Helen was pregnant at the time.[c] While living with Davies in London, before the couple were married, Helen suffered a dramatic, almost fatal miscarriage.

Although Davies eagerly sent the manuscript for Young Emma to Jonathan Cape in August 1924, he later changed his mind and asked for it to be returned and the copies destroyed. Only Davies' lack of direct instructions prompted Cape to keep the copies secretly in a locked safe. After Davies's death, George Bernard Shaw was asked by Cape for his views and advised against publication. The book eventually appeared only after Helen's death in 1979.[21]

The couple lived quietly and happily, moving from East Grinstead to Sevenoaks, then to Malpas House, Oxted in Surrey, and finally to a string of five residences at Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, the first being a comfortable, detached 19th-century stone-built house. Axpills (later known as Shenstone), with a garden of character. In the last seven years of his life he lived in four different houses, all within a mile and the first three all within 300 yards (270 m) of one another.[17] His last home was the small roadside cottage Glendower in the hamlet of Watledge. The couple had no children.

In 1930 Davies edited the poetry anthology Jewels of Song for Cape, choosing works by over 120 poets, including William Blake, Thomas Campion, Shakespeare, Tennyson and W. B. Yeats. Of his own poems he added only "The Kingfisher" and "Leisure". The collection reappeared as An Anthology of Short Poems in 1938.

Decline and death[edit]

Davies returned to Newport in September 1938 for the unveiling of a plaque in his honour at the Church House Inn, with an address by the Poet Laureate, John Masefield. He was unwell and this proved to be his last public appearance.[2]

Before his marriage to Helen, Davies had regularly visited London and stayed with Osbert Sitwell and his brother Sacheverell. He enjoyed walking with them along the river from the Houses of Parliament to the Physic Garden, near their house in Chelsea. On these visits, he often called on a Sunday afternoon for recitals on the harpsichord and clavichord by Violet Gordon Woodhouse. Having moved to Watledge, William and Helen continued to visit her at her house in Nether Lypiatt, near Stroud, to dine with the Sitwells.

About three months before he died, Davies was visited at Glendower by Gordon Woodhouse and the Sitwells, Davies being too ill to travel to dinner at Nether Lypiatt. Osbert Sitwell noted that Davies looked "very ill", but that "his head, so typical of him in its rustic and nautical boldness, with the black hair now greying a little, but as stiff as ever, surrounding his high bony forehead, seemed to have acquired an even more sculptural quality." Helen privately told Sitwell that Davies's heart showed "alarming symptoms of weakness" caused, according to doctors, by the continuous dragging weight of his wooden leg. Helen kept the true extent of the medical diagnosis from her husband.

Davies himself confided in Sitwell:

I've never been ill before, really, except when I had that accident and lost my leg.... And, d'you know, I grow so irritable when I've got that pain, I can't bear the sound of people's voices.... Sometimes I feel I should like to turn over on my side and die.[4]

Davies' health continued to decline. He died in September 1940 at the age of 69. Never a churchgoer in adult life, Davies was cremated at the Bouncer's Lane Cemetery, Cheltenham, and his remains interred there.[22]


From 1949, Glendower was the home of the poet's great-nephew Norman Phillips. In 2003, Phillips had a heart attack and had to move into council accommodation. He later spent £34,000 on the house, hoping to move back, but faced a further five-figure sum for essential maintenance. Local residents such as Anthony Burton and biographer Barbara Hooper formed The Friends of Glendower to help save the property and promote the poet's work.[23][24]

In December 2012 signed copies of five of Davies' books were found during restoration of his cottage, along with letters to family members. The restorers hoped that the books would remain in Nailsworth and the cottage become a Davies study centre. The plans included its use as a home by Phillips, who was among the last direct descendants of the Davies family.[25]

Literary style[edit]

Davies's principal biographer Stonesifer likens the often childlike realism, directness and simplicity of Davies' prose to that of Defoe and George Borrow. His style was described by Shaw as that of "a genuine innocent",[8] while the biographer L. Hockey said, "It is as a poet of nature that Davies has become most famous; and it is not surprising that he should have taken nature as his main subject."[26]

For his honorary degree in 1926, Davies was introduced at the University of Wales by Professor W. D. Thomas with a citation that may still serve as a summary of Davies' themes, style and tone:

"A Welshman, a poet of distinction, and a man in whose work much of the peculiarly Welsh attitude to life is expressed with singular grace and sincerity. He combines a vivid sense of beauty with affection for the homely, keen zest for life and adventure with a rare appreciation of the common, universal pleasures, and finds in those simple things of daily life a precious quality, a dignity and a wonder that consecrate them. Natural, simple and unaffected, he is free from sham in feeling and artifice in expression. He has re-discovered for those who have forgotten them, the joys of simple nature. He has found romance in that which has become commonplace; and of the native impulses of an unspoilt heart, and the responses of a sensitive spirit, he has made a new world of experience and delight. He is a lover of life, accepting it and glorying in it. He affirms values that were falling into neglect, and in an age that is mercenary reminds us that we have the capacity for spiritual enjoyment."[8]

More surprisingly, his friend and mentor Edward Thomas likened Davies to Wordsworth: "He can write commonplace or inaccurate English, but it is also natural to him to write, such as Wordsworth wrote, with the clearness, compactness and felicity which make a man think with shame how unworthily, through natural stupidity or uncertainty, he manages his native tongue. In subtlety he abounds, and where else today shall we find simplicity like this?"[27]

Daniel George, reviewing the 1943 Collected Poems for Tribune, called Davies' work "new yet old, recalling now Herrick, now Blake – of whom it was said, as of Goldsmith, that he wrote like an angel but according to those who had met him talked like poor Poll, except that he was no parrot of other people's opinions."[28]

Appearance and character[edit]

Osbert Sitwell, a close friend, thought Davies bore an "unmistakable likeness" to his distant actor cousin Henry Irving. Sitwell described him as having a "long and aquiline" face and "broad-shouldered and vigorous".[4]

In an introduction to his 1951 The Essential W. H. Davies, Brian Waters said Davies's "character and personality rather than good looks were the keynote to his expressive face"[17]

Honours, memorials and legacy[edit]

As I walked down the waterside
This silent morning, wet and dark;
Before the cocks in farmyards crowed,
Before the dogs began to bark;
Before the hour of five was struck
By old Westminster's mighty clock:

As I walked down the waterside
This morning, in the cold damp air,
I saw a hundred women and men
Huddled in rags and sleeping there:
These people have no work, thought I,
And long before their time they die.

from "The Sleepers", Songs of Joy and Others (1911)

In 1926 Davies received a degree of Doctor Litteris, honoris causa, from the University of Wales.[8] He returned to his native Newport in 1930, where he was honoured with a luncheon at the Westgate Hotel.[29] His return in September 1938 for the unveiling of the plaque in his honour proved to be his last public appearance.[2]

A large collection of Davies manuscripts, including a copy of "Leisure" dated 8 May 1914, is held by the National Library of Wales. It includes a copy of "A Boy's Sorrow", an apparently unpublished poem of two eight-line stanzas relating to the death of a neighbour. Also present is a volume (c. 1916) containing autograph fair copies of 15 Davies poems, some apparently unpublished, submitted to James Guthrie (1874–1952) for publication by the Pear Tree Press as a collection entitled Quiet Streams; annotations have been added by Lord Kenyon.[29]

The British writer Gerald Brenan (1894–1987) and his generation were influenced by Davies's Autobiography of a Super-Tramp.[30]

In 1951 Jonathan Cape published The Essential W. H. Davies, selected and introduced by Brian Waters, a Gloucestershire poet and writer whose work Davies admired, who described him as "about the last of England's professional poets". The collection included The Autobiography of a Super-tramp, and extracts from Beggars, A Poet's Pilgrimage, Later Days, My Birds and My Garden, along with over 100 poems arranged by period of publication period.

Many Davies poems have been set to music.[31] "Money, O!" was set for voice and piano in G minor, by Michael Head, whose 1929 Boosey & Hawkes collection included settings for "The Likeness", "The Temper of a Maid", "Natures' Friend", "Robin Redbreast" and "A Great Time". "A Great Time" has also been set by Otto Freudenthal (born 1934), Wynn Hunt (born 1910) and Newell Wallbank (born 1914).[32] There are also three songs by Sir Arthur Bliss: "Thunderstorms", "This Night", and "Leisure", and "The Rain" for voice and piano, by Margaret Campbell Bruce, published in 1951 by J. Curwen and Sons.

Stand and Stare, statue by Paul Bothwell-Kincaid, Commercial Street, Newport

The experimental Irish folk group Dr. Strangely Strange sang and quoted from "Leisure" on their 1970 album Heavy Petting, with harmonium accompaniment. A musical adaptation of this poem with John Karvelas (vocals) and Nick Pitloglou (piano) and an animated film by Pipaluk Polanksi can be found on YouTube. Again in 1970, Fleetwood Mac recorded "Dragonfly", a song with lyrics from Davies's 1927 poem "The Dragonfly", as did the English singer-songwriter and instrumentalist Blake for his 2011 album The First Snow.[33] In 1970 British rock band Supertramp named themselves after The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp.[34][35]

On 1 July 1971 a First Day Cover with a matching commemorative postmark was issued by the UK Post Office for Davies's centenary.

A controversial statue by Paul Bothwell-Kincaid, inspired by the poem "Leisure", was unveiled in Commercial Street, Newport in December 1990, to mark Davies's work, on the 50th anniversary of his death.[36] The bronze head of Davies by Epstein, from January 1917, regarded by many as the most accurate artistic impression of Davies and a copy of which Davies owned himself, may be found at Newport Museum and Art Gallery, donated by Viscount Tredegar).[37]

In August 2010 the play Supertramp, Sickert and Jack the Ripper by Lewis Davies included an imagined sitting by Davies for a portrait by Walter Sickert. It was first staged at the Edinburgh Festival.[38]


  • The Soul's Destroyer and Other Poems (of the author, The Farmhouse, 1905) (also Alston Rivers, 1907), (Jonathan Cape, 1921)
  • New Poems (Elkin Mathews, 1907)
  • Nature Poems (Fifield, 1908)
  • The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp (Fifield, 1908) (autobiographical)
  • How It Feels To Be Out of Work (The English Review, 1 December 1908)
  • Beggars (Duckworth, 1909) (autobiographical)
  • Farewell to Poesy (Fifield, 1910)
  • Songs of Joy and Others (Fifield, 1911)
  • A Weak Woman (Duckworth, 1911)
  • The True Traveller (Duckworth, 1912) (autobiographical)
  • Foliage: Various Poems (Elkin Mathews, 1913)
  • Nature (Batsford, 1914) (autobiographical)
  • The Bird of Paradise (Methuen, 1914)
  • Child Lovers (Fifield, 1916)
  • Collected Poems (Fifield, 1916)
  • A Poet's Pilgrimage (or A Pilgrimage In Wales) (Melrose, 1918) (autobiographical)
  • Forty New Poems (Fifield, 1918)
  • Raptures (Beaumont Press, 1918)
  • The Song of Life (Fifield, 1920)
  • The Captive Lion and Other Poems (Yale University Press, on the Kinglsey Trust Association Publication Fund, 1921)
  • Form (ed. Davies and Austin O. Spare, Vol 1, Numbers 1, 2 & 3, 1921/1922)
  • The Hour of Magic (illustrated by Sir William Nicholson, Jonathan Cape, 1922)
  • Shorter Lyrics of the Twentieth Century, 1900–1922 (ed Davies, Bodley Head, 1922) (anthology)
  • True Travellers. A Tramp's Opera in Three Acts (illustrated by Sir William Nicholson, Jonathan Cape, 1923)
  • Collected Poems, 1st Series (Jonathan Cape, 1923)
  • Collected Poems, 2nd Series (Jonathan Cape, 1923)
  • Selected Poems (illustrated with woodcuts by Stephen Bone, Jonathan Cape, 1923)
  • 'Poets and Critics' – New Statesman, 21, (8 September 1923)
  • What I Gained and Lost By Not Staying at School (Teachers World 29, June 1923)
  • Secrets (Jonathan Cape, 1924)
  • Moll Flanders, introduction by Davies (Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent and Co, 1924)
  • A Poet's Alphabet (Jonathan Cape, 1925; illustrated by Dora Batty)[39]
  • Later Days (Jonathan Cape, 1925) (autobiographical)
  • Augustan Book of Poetry: Thirty Selected Poems (Benn, 1925)
  • The Song of Love (Jonathan Cape, 1926)
  • The Adventures of Johnny Walker, Tramp (Jonathan Cape, 1926) (autobiographical)
  • A Poet's Calendar (Jonathan Cape, 1927)
  • Dancing Mad (Jonathan Cape, 1927)
  • The Collected Poems of W. H. Davies (Jonathan Cape, 1928)
  • Moss and Feather (Faber and Gwyer No. 10 in the Faber Ariel poems pamphlet series, 1928; illustrated by Sir William Nicholson)
  • Forty Nine Poems (selected and illustrated by Jacynth Parsons (daughter of Karl Parsons), Medici Society, 1928)
  • Selected Poems (arranged by Edward Garnett, introduction by Davies, Gregynog Press, 1928)
  • Ambition and Other Poems (Jonathan Cape, 1929)
  • Jewels of Song (ed., anthology, Jonathan Cape, 1930)
  • In Winter (Fytton Armstrong, 1931; limited edition of 290, illustrated by Edward Carrick; special limited edition of 15 on handmade paper also hand-coloured)
  • Poems 1930–31 (illustrated by Elizabeth Montgomery, Jonathan Cape, 1931)
  • The Lover's Song Book (Gregynog Press, 1933)
  • My Birds (with engravings by Hilda M. Quick, Jonathan Cape, 1933)
  • My Garden (with illustrations by Hilda M. Quick, Jonathan Cape, 1933)
  • 'Memories' – School, (1 November 1933)
  • The Poems of W. H. Davies: A Complete Collection (Jonathan Cape, 1934)
  • Love Poems (Jonathan Cape, 1935)
  • The Birth of Song (Jonathan Cape, 1936)
  • 'Epilogue' to The Romance of the Echoing Wood, (a Welsh tale by W. J. T. Collins, R. H. Johns Ltd, 1937)
  • An Anthology of Short Poems (ed., anthology, Jonathan Cape, 1938)
  • The Loneliest Mountain (Jonathan Cape, 1939)
  • The Poems of W. H. Davies (Jonathan Cape, 1940)
  • Common Joys and Other Poems (Faber and Faber, 1941)
  • Collected Poems of W. H. Davies (with Introduction by Osbert Sitwell, Jonathan Cape, 1943)
  • Complete Poems of W. H. Davies (with preface by Daniel George and introduction by Osbert Sitwell, Jonathan Cape, 1963)
  • Young Emma (Jonathan Cape, written 1924, published 1980) (autobiographical)


  • R. Waterman, 2015, W. H. Davies, the True Traveller: A Reader, Manchester: Fyfield/Carcanet Press, ISBN 978-1-78410-087-2
  • M. Cullup, 2014, W. H. Davies: Man and Poet – A Reassessment, London: Greenwich Exchange Ltd., ISBN 978-1-906075-88-0
  • S. Harlow, 1993, W. H. Davies – a Bibliography, Winchester: Oak Knoll Books, St.Paul's Bibliographies. ISBN 1-873040-00-8
  • L. Hockey, 1971, W. H. Davies, University of Wales Press on behalf of the Welsh Arts Council, (limited edition of 750), ISBN 978-0-900768-84-2
  • B. Hooper, 2004, Time to Stand and Stare: A Life of W. H. Davies with Selected Poems, London: Peter Owen Publishers, ISBN 0-7206-1205-5
  • T. Moult, 1934, W. H. Davies, London: Thornton Butterworth
  • L. Normand, 2003, W. H. Davies, Bridgend: Poetry Wales Press Ltd, ISBN 1-85411-260-0
  • Richard J. Stonesifer, 1963, W. H. Davies – A Critical Biography, London: Jonathan Cape (first full biography of Davies), ISBN B0000CLPA3

Notable anthologies[edit]

  • Collected Poems of W. H. Davies, London: Jonathan Cape, 1940
  • B. Waters, ed., The Essential W. H. Davies, London: Jonathan Cape, 1951
  • Rory Waterman, ed. and introd., W. H. Davies, the True Traveller: A Reader (Manchester: Fyfield/Carcanet Press, 2015



  1. ^ Several sources give the birth as 20 April, which Davies himself believed, but his birth certificate gives 3 July
  2. ^ the address was used by Charles Dickens as the residence of one of his characters in his early story "The Bloomsbury Christening", later collected in Sketches by Boz.[16]
  3. ^ Stonesifier describes her as "a twenty-two-year-old Sussex girl, a nurse in a hospital to which he was sent for treatment" when very ill in the spring of 1922. While Dame Veronica Wedgwood, in her preface to the book, calls Helen "a country girl who had come to London, become pregnant by a man whom she could not marry, was without resources and afraid to go back to her people."


  1. ^ Born 1899 in Sussex, died 1979 in Bournemouth; on Davies' death in 1940, probate awarded was £2,441.15s
  2. ^ a b c d e L. Normand, 2003, W. H. Davies, Bridgend: Poetry Wales Press Ltd.
  3. ^ Hando, Fred (1944). The Pleasant Land of Gwent. Newport: R. H. Johns.
  4. ^ a b c Collected Poems of W. H. Davies, London: Jonathan Cape (3rd impression 1943), pp. xxi–xxviii, "Introduction" by Osbert Sitwell.
  5. ^ W. H. Davies, 1918, A Poet's Pilgrimage, London: Melrose, pp. 42–44.
  6. ^ L. Hockey, 1971, W. H. Davies, University of Wales Press (on behalf of the Welsh Arts Council), p. 16.
  7. ^ Moult, T. (1934), W. H. Davies, London: Thornton Butterworth.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Richard J. Stonesifer (1963), W. H. Davies – A Critical Biography, London: Jonathan Cape, ISBN B0000CLPA3. The first full biography.
  9. ^ W. H. Davies, 1908, The Autobiography of a Super Tramp, London: Fifield, Chapter XX: "Hospitality".
  10. ^ Davies, William H. Foliage – via Internet Archive.
  11. ^ "The Salvation Army London City Colony: Statistics". .salvationarmy.org.uk. Archived from the original on 23 February 2012. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  12. ^ (Harlow, 1993).
  13. ^ W. H. Davies, 1914, Nature, London: Batsford, Chapter I.
  14. ^ Helen Thomas, 1973, A Memory of W. H. Davies, Edinburgh, Tragara Press, ISBN 0-902616-09-9.
  15. ^ Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES (7 July 1911). ""PENSION FOR TRAMP POET: W.H.Davies to Have 50 a Year - Conrad and Yeats Also Aided" at nytimes.com" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  16. ^ "Charles Kitterbell Historical Marker".
  17. ^ a b c d B. Waters, ed., 1951, The Essential W. H. Davies, London: Jonathan Cape: Introduction: "W. H. Davies, Man and Poet", pp. 9–20.
  18. ^ S. Harlow, 1993, W. H. Davies – A Bibliography, Winchester, Oak Knoll Books, St Paul's Bibliographies. ISBN 1-873040-00-8
  19. ^ The marriage certificate gives his occupation as "An Author", that of his father [sic] as "Able Seaman" and that of Helen's father as "Farmer".
  20. ^ "An Amazing Document – from the Tablet Archive". thetablet.co.uk. Archived from the original on 19 September 2015. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  21. ^ W. H. Davies, 1980, Young Emma, Sevenoaks: Hodder and Stoughton Ltd, ISBN 0-340-32115-6.
  22. ^ Hooper, Barbara (2004). Time to Stand and Stare: A Life of W. H. Davies with Selected Poems. London: Peter Owen Publishers. p. 156. ISBN 0-7206-1205-5.
  23. ^ "Campaign to save last home of poet WH Davies at bbc.co.uk". BBC News. 1 September 2010. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  24. ^ This is Gloucestershire (14 October 2009). "Poetry plan for historic Stroud home". Gloucester Citizen. Archived from the original on 19 September 2012. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  25. ^ ""WH Davies signed books found in Gloucestershire cottage" at". BBC. 24 December 2012. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  26. ^ L. Hockey, 1971, W. H. Davies, University of Wales Press (on behalf of the Welsh Arts Council), p. 89.
  27. ^ Quoted in P. Howarth, 2003, English Literature in Transition 1880–1920, Vol. 46.
  28. ^ The Complete Poems of W. H. Davies, ed. Daniel George, London: Jonathan Cape, 1963, pp. xxv–xxvi, "Foreword".
  29. ^ a b ""W. H. Davies Manuscripts" at". Llgc.org.uk. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  30. ^ Nicholson, Virginia (2003). Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900–1939. Harmondsworth: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-028978-7.
  31. ^ "Author: William Henry Davies (1871–1940)". recmusic.org. Retrieved 25 July 2013.[permanent dead link]
  32. ^ "Sweet Chance, that led my steps abroad (Davies, set by Otto Freudenthal, Michael Head, Wynn Hunt, Newell Wallbank) (The LiederNet Archive: Texts and Translations to Lieder, mélodies, canzoni, and other classical vocal music)". www.lieder.net.
  33. ^ "The First Snow by Blake". Thisisblake.bandcamp.com. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  34. ^ "Supertramp". classicbands.com. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  35. ^ Larkin, Colin, ed. (2011). The Encyclopedia of_Popular Music. Omnibus Press. p. 1988. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  36. ^ "Statues - Hither & Thither".
  37. ^ Steff Ellis (2 June 2013). "W. H. Davies". tredegarhouse.wordpress.com.
  38. ^ "Supertramp, Sickert and Jack the Ripper at". Theatre-wales.co.uk. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  39. ^ "Short Notices". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 11 November 1925. Retrieved 13 August 2017.

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