The collection consists of four series, as follows: a small Correspondence series, largely relating to Massey College; a series of Robertson Davies' Literary Works, including a few of his manuscripts; a series of Robertson Davies' Memorablia, including programmes and other material; and a series of Material About Robertson Davies, including Moira Whalon's records of his speeches, readings, interviews and reprint permissions. Fonds also includes sound recordings pertaining to the life and work of Davies, as well as a recording of a retirement party held for Whalon at which Davies speaks. The recordings include copies of a CBC radio broadcast of Davies' funeral, CBC radio tributes to him after his death, radio interviews of or about Davies, readings by Davies from his works, and events at Massey College of the University of Toronto during the period when Davies was the Master of the college.
Whalon, Moira, 1925-1998: Moira Whalon was born in England and moved to Canada at the age of five. She trained as a secretary and bookkeeper and in 1956 began working for the Canadian author Robertson Davies in Peterborough, Ontario, where he was editor of the "Examiner". When Davies was appointed Master of Massey College at the University of Toronto in 1963, Whalon remained in Peterborough but commuted weekly to Toronto to continue working as his secretary. As well as organizing his schedule and maintaining most of his correspondence, Moira Whalon prepared the manuscripts of all Davies' literary work and gained a highly respected reputation as his right-hand. Suffering from ill-health, she largely retired in 1994, the year before Robertson Davies died, and she herself died in 1998 in Peterborough.
Davies, Robertson, 1913-1995: Born in 1913, William Robertson Davies, author, playright and critic, was raised in the Ontario towns of Thamesville, Renfrew, and Kingston. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Queen's University, and Balliol College, Oxford, and spent two years with the Old Vic Company before returning to Canada in 1940.
For twenty years, Davies was publisher and editor of the Peterborough "Examiner". During this period, he was actively involved in theatre and wrote plays for both amateur and professional theatre, including "Overlaid" (1948), "Fortune, My Foe" (1949), "At My Heart's Core" (1950), "A Jig for the Gypsy" (1954) and "Hunting Stuart" (1955).
Davies' weekly columns for the "Examiner" were collected in "The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks" (1947) and "The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks" (1949), and other journalism pieces were collected in "A Voice from the Attic" (1960). He wrote introductions to reprints of the work of humorist Stephen Leacock, edited an anthology, and published a critical study, "Stephen Leacock" (1970). He also wrote extensively about Shakespeare and the Stratford Festival, on whose board he sat, 1953-1971, and about theatre in general. From 1960 to 1981, Davies taught English and drama at the University of Toronto, where he was appointed the founding Master of Massey College in 1961.
In 1951, Davies published his first novel, "Tempest-Tost", the introduction to what is now known as the Salterton trilogy, along with "Leaven of Malice" (1954) and "A Mixture of Frailties" (1958). This trilogy was followed by the Deptford trilogy, which included the novels "Fifth Business" (1970), "The Manticore" (1972) and "World of Wonders" (1975), and by the Cornish trilogy, which included the novels "Rebel Angels" (1981), "What's Bred in the Bone" (1984) and "The Lyre of Orpheus" (1988). Davies drew on his own family history for the novel "Murther and Walking Spirits", which was published in 1991. His last novel, "The Cunning Man", appeared in 1994. Davies was also the author of a collection of short stories, "High Spirits" (1982).
Robertson Davies was the subject of a biography, "Robertson Davies: Man of Myth" (1994), by Judith Skelton Grant, as well as the subject of a number of critical studies. He received many honours for his literary achievements during his lifetime, including the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, Governor General's Award, Lorne Pierce Award, Order of Canada, and many honorary degrees. He was a member of the Royal Society of Canada and the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Robertson Davies died in December 1995.