John Davidson (poet)

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John Davidson (April 11, 1857 – March 23, 1909), Scottish poet and playwright, best known for his ballads.

He was born at Barrhead, East Renfrewshire as the son of a Dissenting minister and entered the chemical department of a sugar refinery in Greenock in his 13th year, returning after one year to school as a pupil teacher. He studied at the University of Edinburgh. He was afterwards engaged in teaching at various places, and having taken to literature went in 1889 to London.

He achieved a reputation as a writer of poems and plays of marked individuality and vivid realism. His poems include In a Music Hall (1891), Fleet Street Eclogues (1893), Baptist Lake (1894), New Ballads (1896), The Last Ballad (1898), The Triumph of Mammon (1907), and among his plays are Bruce (1886), Smith: a Tragic Farce (1888), Godfrida (1898). He also wrote novels. From 1901 he wrote pessimistic blank verse Testaments. He was given a Civil List pension in 1906.

Davidson disappeared on March 27, 1909, under circumstances which left little doubt that under the influence of mental depression he had drowned himself at Penzance. Among his papers was found the manuscript of a new work, Fleet Street Poems, with a letter containing the words, "This will be my last book." His body was discovered a few months later.


  • Diabolus Amans (1885), verse drama
  • Fleet Street Eclogues (1893)
  • Contributor to The Yellow Book
  • Ballads and Songs (1894),
  • Fleet Street Eclogues (Second Series) (1896)
  • New Ballads (1897)
  • The Last Ballad (1899).
  • John Davidson, First of the Moderns; A Literary Biography (1995) by John Sloan

This article incorporates public domain text from: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London, J.M. Dent & sons; New York, E.P. Dutton.

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