And yet, when you consider the fascinating and unconventional life that this Welsh man led, it is hard to understand why this is.
I was recently given an ancient copy of Davies’s autobiography, curiously entitled The Autobiography of a Super-tramp.
I was told that it was one of my grandfather’s favourite books, and assured that I would benefit from reading it.
In case the blog name didn’t give it away, I too am Welsh. My last name is also Davies, so I automatically felt some kind of affinity with William Henry Davies, as if – no matter how good the book actually is – I’d like him.
Luckily, the autobiography is in fact very good. Not that I thought this at first; it took me numerous chapters to actually engage with what Davies was saying. Usually I’d put a book down if it hadn’t gripped me by a quarter of the way through, but something about the book’s quiet, subtle and unassuming tone made me continue to turn the pages.
If you haven’t heard of this book, I can confirm that it actually is about living life as a hobo. Davies spent a lot of time in the UK and US homeless – sometimes sleeping in prisons just to escape the cold.
Parts of the book are written so beautifully I actually wanted to underline certain sentences so that I wouldn’t forget them – perhaps a legacy of my days studying English Literature at University.
I noticed that Davies is particularly talented when describing nature. For example, this paragraph had me spellbound for a good couple of minutes before I could tear my eyes away and continue reading:
“At this place I remained several weeks, watching the smiling Spring, which had already taken possession of the air and made the skies blue – unloosing the icy fingers of Winter, which still held the earth down under a thick cover of snow.”
It goes on. Wordsworth, anyone?
As well as truly beautiful prose, much merit also lies in the book’s content. There is one chapter that relays a particularly tragic and significant moment in Davies’s life, and yet – in keeping with his nonchalant tone – it is described in such a way that does not agitate a reader, but only elicits sympathy.
If I’m completely honest, I need to read The Autobiography of a Super-tramp a second time in order to truly understand and appreciate it. But, after a first reading, all I can say is that this Welsh writer has made me proud of my country, and will never been forgotten.