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The Merry Heart: Reflections on Reading Writing & the World of Books

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  216 ratings  ·  22 reviews
Readers around the world continue to mourn the 1995 death of a beloved literary icon, but this rich and varied collection of Robertson Davies?s writings on the world of books and the miracle of language captures his inimitable voice and sustains his presence among us. Coming almost entirely from Davies? own files of unpublished material, these twenty-four essays and ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published July 1st 1998 by Penguin Books (first published 1996)
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Aaron Arnold
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
It would be weird to prefer Davies as an essayist or speaker, given his skills as a novelist and love for the form, but I'm nearly there, and I almost can't help it - if you enjoy his humor and insight, it's often "faster" to consume it in the form of his speeches than in his novels, as pleasant as those are, because without those cumbersome accoutrements of plot and characters, you can enjoy his sagacity in concentrated form. Much like in the earlier essay/lecture collection One Half of ...more
Dec 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
A bit of a mixed bag of lectures, some have become rather too dated, but there are interesting reflections on reading and writing.
Alan Swift
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book. It is perfect for dipping into to access the wisdom of Robertson Davies as offered in speeches in his later life. Robertson Davies wrote some wonderful novels which reach deep into human nature. Like his novels this book is packed with insight, truth and humour. Davies opines on a range of subjects and offers a mature, experienced and thoughtful perspective. At times he does come over as a tad arrogant. To use a old Scottish saying, "he has a right guid conceit of ...more
Rudy Seifert
Mar 25, 2019 rated it liked it
three plus
Sep 23, 2019 rated it liked it
The epitome of old white guy.
Jim Leckband
Mar 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
"The Merry Heart" collects short pieces that were relatively unpublished during Davies' lifetime. Speeches, occasional writings and tributes all show Davies' unwavering wit, humility and humor. I hate cigar smoke with all my being, BUT, as the cover picture shows Davies with a fat stinker, I would gladly try to hold down my gag reflex if I had been lucky to be in the same room with him.

The only quibbles I have with the book are that he recycles anecdotes and set pieces quite freely. Which is
Reader Variety
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays
If you love to read, and write, this is the book for you, and if you are one of the many who have not read anything by the underrated Robertson Davies, dive in.

"The two serpents on the staff, divided forever by Hermes, are knowledge and wisdom. - knowledge comes from outside, and wisdom from inside."

"For the novelist, indirectly perhaps but persuasively, he hopes, is pointing you in the direction of the new discovery, the new conquest, the great new adventure. That is, if you want to call it by
Aug 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
These are mostly addresses for graduation or to various gatherings. He speaks about writing and the joys of literature. He speaks to all of us. His love of language and story telling come out. He talks some about the process of writing, but makes it clear it is a labor of love and not necessarily something you can learn in a writer's workshop.

Re read it after a couple of years. Still excellent.
Karla Huebner
This collection consists largely of talks given at various places and events--at schools, newspapers, etc.--and a smaller number of pieces written for print. They all deal with the pleasures of reading and writing. While there is a certain amount of repetition of ideas and even phrases, this merely means one is better off reading these individually rather than one after another. Overall, they are enjoyable, opinionated, wise, and often funny.
Jun 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of reading and books and literature
I truly enjoyed reading this book, published posthumously, and I think it's among my favorites among books about reading and literature. It's a collection of essays and lectures given by Davies at colleges and such, and fully expresses his love of literature. Davies' style is easy and flowing in these essays, and they're quite insightful. I think most lovers of literature and books will enjoy savoring this book.
Aug 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
PR9199.3.D3 M47 1997

A collection of essays and addresses by Canadian novelist, playwright, and man of letters, Robertson Davies. The title comes from the proverb "A merry heart does good like medicine" and it is as full of wit and wisdom as his many novels. He writes about books, dramas, and the life of the mind.
Jack Coleman
Mar 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
What a fabulous book! Filled with Davies writings on the theatre and other lively arts.
For the bibliophile in you check out the first chapter.
"A Rake at Reading" His address at the University of Manitoba in 1980.
Where he accounts a lifetime involvement with books, from The Little Red Hen to Ulysses.
Mark Everton
Apr 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Some stunning insights into all manner of things but mostly the art of creation - how it works, how it doesn't work, the influences, the processes, the history, the characters and the charlatans. Oh to have been in the audience when Roberston delivered these lectures .. spellbinding.
Aug 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the third time I've read this, actually.

It was a difficult autumn (my husband was sick, so was I, etc.,) and reading these essays is like having a marvelous conversation with one of my oldest, wisest friends, so it was the perfect book to turn to in a tough time.
Oct 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read2012
At its best, tremendously illuminating. Some of the essays and lectures cover similar ground, though, and Davies's occasional bewilderment w/r/t sexuality can make for frustrating reading on the brief occasions when he addresses it.
Victoria Caplan
Aug 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Robertson Davies's essays are as fun and informative as his novels. The title comes from the proverb "A merry heart does good like medicine" and I think it is true. I've read it more than once.
Jan 10, 2009 marked it as to-read
Shelves: catalogued
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely love Robertson Davies fiction so I decided to try his essays and find that I share many of his very strong views on culture on writing, on reading--he continuously delights.
Mar 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just really like Robertson Davies. :)
Jun 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Oh, Robertson Davies, I do love you.
A book of many delights. Essay on Christmas books is particularly interesting.
Mar 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Robinson Davies continues to be witty and urbane in this posthumous collection of essays and speeches.
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William Robertson Davies, CC, FRSC, FRSL (died in Orangeville, Ontario) was a Canadian novelist, playwright, critic, journalist, and professor. He was one of Canada's best-known and most popular authors, and one of its most distinguished "men of letters", a term Davies is sometimes said to have detested. Davies was the founding Master of Massey College, a graduate college at the University of ...more
“So -- I confess I have been a rake at reading. I have read those things which I ought not to have read, and I have not read those things which I ought to have read, and there is no health in me -- if by health you mean an inclusive and coherent knowledge of any body of great literature. I can only protest, like all rakes in their shameful senescence, that I have had a good time.” 18 likes
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