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The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp

W. H. Davies

Book Overview: 

A large part of the book's subject matter describes the way of life of the tramp in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States in the final decade of the 19th century. George Bernard Shaw had become interested in Davies, a literary unknown at the time, and had agreed to write a preface for the book, largely through the concerted efforts of his wife Charlotte. Shaw was also instrumental in keeping the unusual title of the book, of which Davies himself was unsure, and which later proved to be controversial with some reviewers.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .sitors, who apparently held us in great respect, for they did not address us familiarly, but contented themselves with staring at a distance. We lay across their runs on the sands and their paths in the woods; we monopolised their nooks in the rocks and took possession of caves, and not a murmur heard, except from the sea, which of a certainty could not be laid to our account. No doubt detectives were in these places, but they were on the look out for pickpockets, burglars and swindlers; and, seeing that neither the visitors nor the boarding house keepers made any complaint, these detectives did not think it worth while to arrest tramps; for there was no promotion to be had by doing so. "Ah," I said to Brum, as we sat in a shady place, eating a large custard pudding from a boarding house, using for the purpose two self-made spoons of wood—"Ah, we would not be so pleasantly occupied as tramps in England. We would there receive tickets for soup; soup that could . . . Read More

Community Reviews

2.5 stars

The book is quite gentle in style and doesn't really dwell on the deprivations that people in Davies' position must have found themselves. It was an interesting read but I'm afraid I didn't find it a patch on Orwell's 'Down and and Out in Paris and London'. However what really left a nas...more

This book has a dated feel to it because of the style of writing. While the author did indeed seem to go through some very interesting experiences, it does leave a reader of the modern age feeling like there was a lot missing - such as emotions, thoughts, descriptions. There is some dialogue, but...more

As a son of Newport myself, I am somewhat partial to Davies, and I was entertained and informed about social conditions in late 19th century America by his firsthand account of tramping around the country. Nevertheless, Davies's Edwardian prose and occasional humor make his experiences seem easie...more

A book which I have read several times over the last 30 years - recommended by a much respected English teacher in my high school. Maybe one of the best 'road' stories, literally. In music we hear about some of this background in Woody Guthrie's songs, but this is raw and real. I'll put it back a...more

This is a fantastic and rare read. How many tramps from the late 19th century / early 20th century wrote books to give you a vivid picture of what it was like to be a tramp then? Not an outsider romanticizing it or trying to make it sound pitiable. This is the only one I know of. I love credible...more

An early entry in the line of ne'er-d'ye-well starving artist autobiographies that continues with books like You Can't Win (Jack Black) and Junky (William S. Burroughs).

This book is less interesting than those. It tells of an interesting life and interesting events and people, but not particularl...more

an interesting book of a flawed genius william davies born in newport wales and his tramping around the USA, canada and then his tragic accident which brings him back to England and trampling the highways of the counties with his wooden leg and his dream to have a book/poems published.. maybe cla...more

What it's about: The autobiography of poet W.H.Davies before he became famous. For much of the last years of the 19th Century he was a tramp, either by choice or latterly by circumstance. With a dispassionate voice given to seeing the good in almost everyone, he recounts ordinary and extraordinar...more

The book is good if you want to learn about the life of a
"tramp" or "hobo" during the late 19th century in Britain and North America. The people in this book are the what most people picture when they hear "hobo." They were the people with little tied-up bundles who would jump on trains and ride...more

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