Robertson Davies (1913–1995) was born and raised in Ontario, and was educated at a variety of schools, including Upper Canada College, Queen’s University, and Balliol College, Oxford. He had three successive careers: as an actor with the Old Vic Company in England; as publisher of the Peterborough Examiner; and as university professor and first Master of Massey College at the University of Toronto, from which he retired in 1981 with the title of Master Emeritus.He was one of Canada’s most distinguished men of letters, with several volumes of plays and collections of essays, speeches, and belles lettres to his credit. As a novelist, he gained worldwide fame for his three trilogies: The Salterton Trilogy, The Deptford Trilogy, and The Cornish Trilogy, and for later novels Murther and Walking Spirits and The Cunning Man.His career was marked by many honors: He was the first Canadian to be made an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he was a Companion of the Order of Canada, and he received honorary degrees from twenty-six American, Canadian, and British universities.
Robertson Davies first hit upon the notion of writing ghost stories when he joined the University of Toronto’s as the first Master of Massey College. Wishing to provide entertainment at the College’s Gaudy Night, the annual Christmas party, Professor Davies created a "spooky story," which he read aloud to the gathering. That story, "Revelation from a Smoky Fire," is the first in this wonderful, haunting collection. A tradition quickly became established and, for eighteen years, Davies delighted and amused the Gaudy Night guests with his tales of the supernatural. Here, gathered together in one volume, are those eighteen stories, just as Davies first read them.
Baroque and deliciously funny, this third book in The Cornish Trilogy shows Robertson Davies at his very considerable best.There is an important decision to be made. The Cornish Foundation is thriving under the directorship of Arthur Cornish when Arthur and his beguiling wife, Maria Theotoky, decide to undertake a project worthy of Francis Cornish—connoisseur, collector, and notable eccentric—whose vast fortune endows the Foundation. The grumpy, grimy, extraordinarily talented music student Hulda Schnakenburg is commissioned to complete E.T.A. Hoffmann’s unfinished opera Arthur of Britain, or The Magnanimous Cuckold; and the scholarly priest Simon Darcourt finds himself charged with writing the libretto.Complications both practical and emotional arise: the gypsy in Maria’s blood rises with a vengeance; Darcourt stoops to petty crime; and various others indulge in perjury, blackmail, and other unsavory pursuits. Hoffmann’s dictum, "the lyre of Orpheus opens the door of the underworld," seems to be all too true—especially when the long-hidden secrets of Francis Cornish himself are finally revealed.
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