07 August 2020

What's This?

I purchased Robertson Davies' What's Bred in the Bone upon publication, the exchange taking place in 1985 at the old Coles bookstore on the corner of St Catherine and Stanley in downtown Montreal. The second book in Davies' Cornish Trilogy, it is the earliest Canadian edition of a Davies book to feature a cover by Anna Bascove. Prior to this, she'd provided illustrations for the American editions of The Rebel Angels and High Spirits. Following What's Bred in the Bone, her work came to take over Davies' Penguin backlist. It also graced his final novels.

High Spirits (Toronto: Penguin Canada, 1982)
and High Spirits (New York: Viking, 1983)
Whoever hired the artist deserves recognition; Bascove and Davies were a perfect match. In my mind, they're forever linked.

I've been thinking about Davies because this year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death. His star shone so brightly back then... but not so much now. Some Davies titles are still in print, though most are not.

I don't think of Davies as a neglected writer, which is why he hasn't featured much in this blog or in my books. Here and there, I've mentioned that Davies' What's Bred in the Bone shares its title with Grant Allen's 1891 Tit-Bits £1000 award-winning novel. How odd, then, that I happened upon this rip-off being sold by a print on demand vulture using CreateSpace.

Someone call a lawyer. Anna Bascove is owed recompense.

Related post:


  1. I very much enjoyed all of his books and saw a strange production of--was it FIFTH BUSINESS? at Stratford one year. Have to see when.

  2. ORONTO--Playwright Elliot Hayes has accomplished the formidable task of tailoring Robertson Davies' theme-packed novel into a two-act play with varied degrees of success. The compelling story of a magician's true beginnings unfolds amid a flurry of underlying themes. The account is passionately told by a solid cast of performers, but there were times when an abundance of activity onstage added more confusion than substance. (1992)

    1. Thank you, Patti. I can't imagine Fifth Business onstage. Better than the Duddy Kravitz musical, I'm guessing.

      Now that I think about it, cover aside, is this not the time to bring the Deptford Trilogy to the small screen? It seems so perfectly suited.

  3. Ballsy! It's amazing the kind of conscienceless "borrowing" that proliferate in the age of the internet where the motto of everyone born in 1995 or later seems to be: "It's on the internet! It's up for grabs!"