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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

What I most enjoyed about this autobiography was its measured style suggestive of a mind concerned to weigh up experience carefully and justly. Davies writes in his last two paragraphs: "Perhaps I am deceived as to the worth or worthlessness of certain people, but I have given my experience of th...more

Unusual reading material, some might say...but I thoroughly enjoyed this odd and epigrammatical title by an obscure Welsh hobo who traveled and wrote around the year 1900. As a sign that it is 'raw' and 'unvarnished' and may 'crimp our modern ears' there is not just one but three separate introdu...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

This is an autobiographical account of the life of W.H. Davies as a young man at the very end of the nineteenth century, and explains that he was motivated to travel because of the restricted opportunities open to him in his native Welsh town. He had done well at school, left early (as was normal...more

Great insight into conditions as a tramp in late 19th C

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

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 (

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

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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