“I hasten to protest at the outset that I have no personal knowledge of the incorrigible super-tramp who wrote this amazing book,” is how George Bernard Shaw opens his preface. He was introduced to Davies’s writing when he received a volume of poems through the post and was later instrumental in bringing his work to the attention of critics and publishers. At the time he wasn’t aware that Davies was a tramp living in a London dosshouse.
The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp chronicles the years between 1893 and 1899 when Davies left his home-town, Newport, and spent time drifting, begging and taking on seasonal work in America and Canada. He spent a cold Michigan winter in jail, floated down the Mississippi on a house-boat and crossed the Atlantic Ocean back and forth as a cattleman. We’re introduced to Brum, New Haven Baldy, Australian Red, Cockney More, Scotty and many other characters who crossed Davies’s path. While heading to the Winnipeg Klondyke Davies and Three Fingered Jack jump a freight train in Renfrew, Ontario, Davies fell and crushed his foot – his lower leg had to be amputated but his tramping and walking days were far from over.