File NLW MS 23937D. - W. H. Davies letters and papers

Identity area

Reference code

NLW MS 23937D.


W. H. Davies letters and papers


  • 1908-1960 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

63 ff.

Placed in melinex sleeves within ringed box at NLW.

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

William Henry Davies (1871-1940), poet and writer, was born in Newport, Monmouthshire, the son of Francis Boase Davies and Mary Ann Evans. Following his father's death and his mother's remarriage he and his siblings were adopted by their grandparents. After leaving school he became a picture-frame maker's apprentice. In June 1893 he sailed to America, arriving in New York virtually penniless. He spent the next few years tramping across America, begging and undertaking casual labour, with occasional voyages to Britain working on cattle-ships. He then decided to go to the Klondike but while en route, he lost his right leg after falling under a train in Renfrew, Ontario, on 20 March 1899. After convalescing he returned to Britain. He lived in common lodging houses in London and survived by peddling wares and living off the weekly allowance of ten shillings left to him by his grandmother. He began writing poetry at this time but it was not until 1905 that he succeeded in getting his work published; he managed to save enough money to pay for the printing of two hundred copies of The Soul's Destroyer ([London], [1905]). Several further volumes of poetry and collections appeared between 1905 and 1939. His most famous prose work, Autobiography of a Super-Tramp (London, 1908), was followed by four novels, including The True Traveller (London, 1912) and The Adventures of Johnny Walker, Tramp (London, 1926). Other prose works include Beggars (London, 1909), Nature (London, 1914), My Birds (London, 1933) and My Garden (London, 1933). In 1905 he was befriended by the poet Edward Thomas (1878-1917) and his wife Helen, who in 1907 rented a cottage for him in Sevenoaks, Kent. He returned to London in 1914. Davies married Helen Payne (d. 1979) on 5 February 1923, having met her at a bus stop in London. They lived in East Grinstead, Sussex, before moving back to Sevenoaks, then Oxted, Surrey, and finally to Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, where Davies died on 26 September 1940.

Archival history

The Cazenove correspondence (ff. 1-29) and the three typescript poems (ff. 52-54) were purchased by Hockey from Bertram Rota in October 1947 (see ff. 38-39).

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

David J. Holmes Autographs; Hamilton, NY; Purchase; May 2005; 0200505378.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Letters and other papers of, or relating to, W. H. Davies, 1908-1960, accumulated by his biographer Lawrence Hockey of Newport.
The collection includes twenty-six letters and postcards from W. H. Davies to his literary agent C. F. Cazenove, concerning his literary activities, 1908-1910 (ff. 1, 3-29), and six, mainly personal, letters from Davies to Lawrence Hockey, 1930-1938 (ff. 30-35), as well as letters to Hockey, mainly concerning Davies, from Augustus John, 1941, 1942 (ff. 36-37), Bertram Rota, 22 October 1947 (ff. 38-39), Louis Blake Duff, 1 January 1949 (ff. 40-43), John Gawsworth, 1949 (ff. 44-45), and Huw Menai, 10 February 1955 (f. 51), and a letter from C[harlotte] F[rances] Shaw (wife of G. B. Shaw) to Cazenove, 1 August 1908 (f. 2). Also included are miscellaneous papers relating to W. H. Davies, including typescript copies for publication of three poems, 'The White Horse', [1927] (published in The London Mercury, 15 (1926-27), 344) and 'The Little Devil', [1930], and 'Love Lights his Fire', [1930] (both published in The London Mercury, 23 (1930-31), 105) (ff. 52-54); a photostat copy, [1946], of his will (f. 56); three photographs (ff. 57-59); and newspaper cuttings, [?1930s] (f. 60), 1960 (ff. 62-63); as well as an unpublished letter, 1 February 1955, from Hockey to the Western Mail, in defence of Huw Menai and criticising Dylan Thomas (ff. 47-50).

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Arranged at NLW as follows: letters (arranged chronologically); other papers.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to abide by the conditions set out in information provided when applying for their Readers' Tickets, whereby the reader shall become responsible for compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998 in relation to any processing by them of personal data obtained from modern records held at the Library.

Conditions governing reproduction

Usual copyright laws apply. Information regarding ownership of W. H. Davies and Augustus John copyrights can be found at (viewed June 2012).

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes


Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Folio 2 torn.

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies


Related units of description

A further letter from Davies to Cazenove, dated 2 November 1909, is now NLW MS 23981E, f. 54; an offprint of Louis Blake Duff's 1937 article, 'The journey of the printing press across Canada', purchased with the papers, is in the NLW collection of printed books (2012 MC 7372).

Related descriptions

Publication note

The papers were used by Hockey for his University of Wales MA thesis 'The Life and Work of W. H. Davies' (1956) (see NLW, University of Wales thesis 1956/20).

Notes area


Title based on contents.


Preferred citation: NLW MS 23937D.

Alternative identifier(s)

Virtua system control number


GEAC system control number


Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru = The National Library of Wales

Rules and/or conventions used

Description follows NLW guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd ed.; AACR2; and LCSH


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

August 2012.


  • English



Archivist's note

Description compiled by Rhys Morgan Jones;

Accession area