On today’s date in 1913, Canadian novelist, playwright, critic, journalist and professor William Robertson Davies was born in Thamesville, Ont.
The 100th anniversary of Davies’ birth was marked with a 63-cent stamp (Scott #2660) issued by Canada Post in 2013. Celebrating Davies life, during which he rose to become a prominent author and founding master of Massey College, the stamp was printed by Lowe-Martin on Tullis Russell paper using six-colour lithography, one foil stamping and embossing plus varnish. It was issued in booklet panes of 10 stamps, and an official first-day cover serviced with a Toronto cancellation is also available.
“Robertson Davies was an ambassador of Canadian literary talent to readers abroad—and he was an ambassador of great literature to the world,” said then Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, who served in that role from 2013-15.
“We are honoured to recognize the life and legacy of such an outstanding essayist and brilliant novelist with this stamp.”
Decades after being published, Davies’ books remain popular, former Canada Post President and CEO Deepak Chopra said in 2013.
“It’s a true testament to his power to inspire readers through great stories that transcend the era in which they were written. It’s why we pay tribute to him today.”
FROM LITERATURE TO TEACHING
When Davies’ father purchased the Kingston Whig-Standard in 1925, the family made the move to Kingston, Ont.
Davies attended Toronto’s Upper Canada College and then Queen’s University before receiving his Bachelor of Literature from the University of Oxford’s Balliol College in 1938.
While in the U.K., he met and married stage manager Brenda Mathews.
In 1940, Davies returned to Canada as the literary editor of Saturday Night. Two years later, he became the editor and then publisher of the Peterborough Examiner.
He eventually published 18 books, produced several of his own plays and served on the board of the Stratford Festival.
By the 1960s, Davies was teaching at Trinity College, and in 1961, he became the founding master of Massey College, which would open two years later.
In 1970, Davies published his best-known novel, Fifth Business, which appeared on the Toronto Star bestseller list for nearly a year. It was followed by The Manticore (1972) and World of Wonders (1975), which became known as The Deptford Trilogy.
“The typography is based on Carl Dair’s Cartier, acknowledged as Canada’s first typeface. Dair’s important type archive and a press donated by Davies’ father are housed in the Robertson Davies Library at Massey College,” said designer Steven Slip.
“As a cultural luminary who helped to form the Canadian identity, a portrait of him by Yousuf Karsh was essential. The stamp frames an all-knowing academic figure, with his trademark beard worthy of a mythic god.”