A Mixture of Frailties, the third volume of Robertson Davies Salterton Trilogy, is his first extended engagement with one of the great neuroses of Canadian culture: Canada's artistic relationship to Europe, and particularly to Britain.
Davies begins his story with the funeral of Louisa Bridgetower, the Salterton matron whose imposing presence ranges throughout the earlier volumes of the ''Salterton'' Trilogy. The substantial income from her estate is to be used to send an unmarried young woman to Europe to pursue an education in the arts. Mrs. Bridgetower's executors end up selecting Monica Gall, an almost entirely unschooled singer whose sole experience comes from performing with the Heart and Hope Gospel Quartet, a rough outfit sponsored by a small fundamentalist group. Monica soon finds herself in England, a pupil of some of Britain's most remarkable teachers and composers, and she gradually blossoms from a Canadian rube to a cosmopolitan soprano with a unique - and tragicomic - career.
''It's a muddle'', thought Monica. ''A muddle and I can't get it straight. I wish I knew what I should do. I wish I even knew what I want to do...I want to go on in the life that has somehow or other found me and claimed me. And I want so terribly to be happy. Oh god, don't let me slip under the surface of all the heavy-hearted dullness that seems to claim so many people....''
A Mixture of Frailties is so much more than the story of Monica Gall's life in London and her education as a singer. It is an account of her education as a human being, and the result is an absorbing novel, comic in the true sense, vivid and frequently moving.
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Robertson Davies (1913–1995) was born and raised in Ontario, and was educated at a variety of schools, including Upper Canada College, Queen’s University, and Balliol College, Oxford. He had three successive careers: as an actor with the Old Vic Company in England; as publisher of the Peterborough Examiner; and as university professor and first Master of Massey College at the University of Toronto, from which he retired in 1981 with the title of Master Emeritus.
He was one of Canada’s most distinguished men of letters, with several volumes of plays and collections of essays, speeches, and belles lettres to his credit. As a novelist, he gained worldwide fame for his three trilogies: The Salterton Trilogy, The Deptford Trilogy, and The Cornish Trilogy, and for later novels Murther & Walking Spirits and The Cunning Man.
His career was marked by many honours: He was the first Canadian to be made an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he was a Companion of the Order of Canada, and he received honorary degrees from twenty-six American, Canadian, and British universities.
ROBERTSON DAVIES (1913-1995) was an internationally acclaimed author, actor, publisher, and, finally, professor at the University of Toronto. The author of twelve novels and several volumes of essays and plays, he was the first Canadian to be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
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