Biography and History

John Davidson was a late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Scottish poet hailed for his provincial, melancholy body of work. Born in Barrhead, Renfrewshire, Scotland in 1857, Davidson had a conflicted young adulthood, dabbling in different areas. During his teaching years, he made contact with different literary groups, and in 1890 he moved to London with his wife and two sons to pursue a career as a writer.

Davidson achieved moderate success with In a Music Hall (1891), Fleet Street Eclogues (1893). He is also known for being the first to translate the works of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche into English. However, during his final years, not one of his twelve published original plays was produced and few of his plays or novels received any critical acclaim. Davidson suffered greatly from his lack of acceptance. His health deteriorated as he battled with asthma and bronchitis, and perhaps cancer at the end. He suffered from depression and in 1909 his body was discovered in the sea with a wound to the skull. Although it appeared to be a suicide, he was considered "found dead" and later buried at sea.

Although Davidson has been remembered primarily as a minor poet of the 1890s, his poetry and talent for capturing the urban experience was an important contribution to more modern verse. He is associated with the Rhymer's Club, and considered a part of Yeats's "Tragic Generation"; his poetry attracted the attention and admiration of such major modern writers as T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf.

Source: From the finding aid for C0215

  • John Davidson Collection. 1879-1945 (inclusive), 1890-1909 (bulk).

    Call Number: C0215

    John Davidson was a late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Scottish poet hailed for his provincial, melancholy body of work. This collection contains letters, manuscripts, reports, galley proofs with Davidson's holograph corrections, documents, and clippings pertaining to his literary career.