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Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, 1893-1973
6 boxes (2.5 linear ft.)
Collection number: RG 32

Abstract:
Fourth president of Smith College, Professor of English, and world renowned expert on Jonathan Swift. Contains material primarily related to his personal life including correspondence, speeches, publications, photographs, newspaper articles, and memorabilia.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The papers are open for research according to the regulations of the Smith College Archives without any additional restrictions.

Restrictions on use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the documents must be requested from the Smith College Archives. Smith College owns copyright to any published material relating to college events and activities. Provenance and copyright ownership of other materials is unknown and researchers are responsible for determining any question of copyright.

Smith College Archives
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

Herbert John Davis was born on May 24, 1893 in Northamptonshire, England, where he received his elementary and secondary education. He later attended Oxford University (St. John's College) from which he graduated in 1914. He then served in France and Belgium during WWI and in 1919 he returned to Oxford to earn his A.M. In 1922, Davis married Gertrude Lucas of Opladen, Rheinland, Germany but she died tragically just six years later. In 1930, Davis married Gladys Wookey of Toronto and the couple had two daughters, Charlotte Elisabeth Ann and Jane.

In 1920, Davis acquired a position at the University of Leeds where he taught for two years. He then moved to the University of Toronto where he remained for sixteen years. Davis was hired as an Associate Professor of English, and later promoted to a full Professor. He also served as Chair of the English department. In 1938, Davis accepted a position as Chair of the English department at Cornell University.

In 1939, Davis succeeded William Allan Neilson as president of Smith College and he assumed this role for the 1940-1941 school year. Davis served as the fourth president of Smith College until 1949 when he returned to Oxford as a reader in textual criticism. Davis retired from Oxford in 1960.

During his academic career, Davis made several notable contributions. Following his passion for poetry and prose, Davis became a world renowned expert on Jonathan Swift and wrote several books on his work including Swift's View of Poetry (1931) and Stella, a Gentlewoman of the Eighteenth Century (1942). The latter is an account of the friendship that existed between Swift and Esther Johnson. Davis also edited the fourteen volume work, The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift (1939-68). Davis' distinguished literary contributions were well recognized and he received several honorary degrees including a Doctorate of Laws from Amherst College in 1940.

In addition to his enthusiasm for the English language, Davis was also extremely socially conscious and particularly concerned with WWII raging overseas. Perhaps his most memorable act of charity was providing a home to five British refugee children for several years during the war. Many of his colleagues and friends followed his lead and opened their doors to children in need. Davis died on March 28, 1967.

1893 Born on May 24, at Long Buckby, Northamponshire, England. Son of Carter and Martha Ann (Sheldon) Davis.
1905 Educated at Northampton Grammar School.
1911 St. John's College, Oxford.
1912 Pass Moderations (Classics)
1914 B.A.; Honour School of English Language and Literature.
1915 Reading for Anglican Orders, Wells Theological College.
1916-1919 War Service--gunner, R.G.A.; subaltern with 301 Siege Battery, France and Belgium; acting-adjutant, 4th Brigade, R.G.A., Army of Occupation.
1919 M.A., Oxford.
1920 Lecturer in English, University of Leeds.
1922 Associate Professor English, University College, Toronto. Married Gertrude Lucas of Opladen, Rheinland, Germany.
1924-1925 Guest Professor in the University of Cologne, Germany.
1925-1935 Professor of English, University College, Toronto. Elected Chairman of the Department of English, University of Toronto.
1928 Gertrude Lucas Davis died.
1930 Married Gladys Wookey of Toronto. Children--Charlotte Elisabeth Ann Davis (Falconer) and Jane Davis (Knowles).
1937
Appointed Professor of English at Cornell University; granted leave of absence for one year in England.
Frederic Ives Carpenter Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago, summer quarter.
1938 Chairman of the Department of English, Cornell University.
1939 Appointed Goldwin Smith Professor of English Literature at Cornell University.
1940 Accepts position as fourth President of Smith College; L.L.D. from Amherst College.
1949 Leaves Smith College; Returns to Oxford to teach English.
1960 Retires from Oxford.
1967 March 28, 1967--Died.
Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Herbert John Davis Personal Papers are primarily related to his personal life. Types of material include correspondence; speeches; publications; photographs; newspaper articles; and memorabilia. Although the chronological focus of the collection is Davis' presidential years, the records pertain to life outside his presidential duties.


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The papers are open for research according to the regulations of the Smith College Archives without any additional restrictions.

Restrictions on use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the documents must be requested from the Smith College Archives. Smith College owns copyright to any published material relating to college events and activities. Provenance and copyright ownership of other materials is unknown and researchers are responsible for determining any question of copyright.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Box #, Smith College Archives.

History of the Collection

These papers were transferred to the College Archives from the Office of the President after President Davis left the College in 1949.

Processing Information

Processed by Tamara Weiner.


Additional Information
Contact Information
Smith College Archives
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Email: nyoung@smith.edu
URL: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/archives

Language
English.