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Poor old Edward Davies!

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Joined: 15 Mar 2003
Posts: 8
Location: Swansea

PostPosted: Sat Mar 15, 2003 1:31 pm    Post subject: Poor old Edward Davies! Reply with quote

I'm wondering whether many people have actually read poor old Edward Davies's 'Celtic Researches' or 'Myths and rites'. Peter Ellis claims that Davies is a load of baloney, and everyone else seems to make out that Davies was crazy, even graves. Yes, granted, but if you read the text you realize that it was enormously popular in its time, and provided the inspiration for Matthew Arnold's On Celtic literature lectures which were in many ways the foundation of modern Celticism in Wales and Ireland. Yes, of course it's an eccentric text- its 200 years old. What does anyone expect! yet davies's texts are masterly for the time and reveal a mischievous spirit. His observations on Druidic religion are pioneering. I urge people to try and get hold of a copy!!
Celtic researches, like The White Goddess is a wonderfully suggestive mythological sketch of ancient Europe - like Tolkien's historical sketch of middle earth in the Silmarillion - some of its based on fact, other parts complete fiction. Historians will inevitably be annoyed with individuals like Graves and Davies. But then isn't it easier to be a revisionist than a pioneer??
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Mark Carter

Joined: 01 Jun 2002
Posts: 28
Location: Bloomington, IL, USA

PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2004 5:42 pm    Post subject: Edward Davies is in print again Reply with quote

I have to admit, I had never read either Celtic Researches or Mythology and Rites of the British Druids. They're a little hard to find these days. However, I have read considerable sections of each work. They have been reproduced in various collections by John Matthews. Nearly a third of Mythology and Rites is reprinted in Matthews's Celtic Reader and almost as much of Celtic Researches has been printed in other Matthews books. Based on these parts alone I could easily retain my (low) opinion of Davies.

However, I'm glad to say that both books are again in print from a small "print on demand" publisher. You can find them here;


I ordered Mythology and Rites for myself and it showed up a few days ago. I spent two days hunched over it and plowed thru all 600+ pages in two sittings. This was no great feat on my part; the book is easy reading and in large print. After reading it I still retain my low opinion of Davies. I'm not going to write a long and detailed article on his work but I'll just say that he was crazier than even Graves depicts him. I think it's significant that even Graves refused to lean too much upon Davies. Notice that within White Goddess Graves is often inspired by Davies and draws ideas from him...but not once does Graves depend on Davies for either historical evidence or translations from the Welsh texts in question. Davies is good if you want to be inspired by crazy ideas but he's certainly not good for supporting them.

Eventually, I'll break down and buy Celtic Researches too. It seems that Graves drew more from this work than from Mythology and Rites. Still, I don't expect to find much of value. As for Davies being "enormously popular".....I'm not sure this has much meaning. Popular doesn't mean accurate. People flock to buy any book that creates a lot of hype and Davies could certainly do that. He certainly faced his critics in his time. He spends two pages of Myth and Rites defending himself from them. He spends time defending Bryant (his prime source) as well and a careful reading of Myth and Rites reveals that Davies was certainly aware that his opinion was not popular in his own life time.

Anyway....not to sound too negative. I am glad Davies is back in print and encourage everyone to judge for themselves.
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