It is hard to think of a poet who, despite persistent interest in his work, has remained more deeply in the shade than John Davidson (1857–1909). Most probably, the poems by which he wanted to be remembered have discouraged would-be readers: long, blank-verse declamations meant to advance his militant materialist ideas. Wisely, John Sloan, in his selection from Davidson’s poetry, gives us no more than tolerably short extracts from them. Then, too, Davidson stifled his reputation by leaving a foolish will that in effect kept the bulk of his work from being reprinted for fifty years. As a result, he has posthumously suffered indifference and neglect, as he did in life.

At least, since his death in the first decade of this century, his poems have drawn high praise from notables. Virginia Woolf once expressed perplexity that a writer of such caliber could be “so little famous,” while both T. S. Eliot and Hugh...


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