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High Spirits Paperback – 28 Oct 1982

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; Reprint edition (28 Oct. 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140065059
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140065053
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.1 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 385,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on 21 Jun. 2001
Format: Paperback
Robertson Davies as ever writes wittily and fascinatingly, a better collection of stories than any of those they parody.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Item described perfectly on the web.
It was delivered promptly and was well packaged
A good read to dip into for a short ghost story.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Entertaining read, witty & well-educated. Book in good condition, as described
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
very good
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x94e5acd8) out of 5 stars 16 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x94bbda20) out of 5 stars High spirited stories by the master of high literature 5 July 2001
By Chess - Published on
Format: Paperback
The late Robertson Davies is perhaps best known for his works of heady literature. Some of the most well-known works by him are "Fifth Business", "The Manticore", "What's Bred in the Bone" and "Murther and Walking Spirits." Most readers of Davies will know him first and foremost as an author and second as a scholar of Elizabethan theatre; "Shakespeare's Boy Actors" is but one of his more academic works on the subject.
However, most Americans do not know of the years that Davies was the Master of Massey College at the University of Toronto in Canada. While there, it became his habit to tell a ghost story every year for the college's Christmas staff party. Thirteen of these ghostly (yet often quite hysterical stories) are contained here. Beginning with the first, "Revelation from a Smoky Fire", in which Davies is visited by an apparition who seems to be from the college's FUTURE, and moving on through "The Ugly Spectre of Sexism" and "The Pit Whence Ye Are Digged", these ghost tales are far less horrific and spooky than they are highly amusing. For example, when dealing with the sudden appearance of what is most likely a ghost that has appeared in his own office and, furthermore, assumes that Davies has come down the chimney, he writes, "I grasped immediately the sort of man I was dealing with. This was a madman! It is one of my cardinal rules to always humor madmen. It comes second nature to me. I do it several times each day."
These stories, like much of Davies's work, is highly scholarly, with a turn of phrase and vocabulary that often verges on that seen in Victorian English novels. People who have read a great deal, or who have gone to graduate school in the fine arts or for literature, will catch the subtle barbs and digs that Davies directs at the ivory tower nature of academia and even himself as Master of the college. The stories were first intended to be read aloud for an academic audience of professors, so they are meant more to amuse and tickle the wit than to accompany the more traditional Halloween stories or his other novels or scholarly works.
Potential readers should note that there was at one time an audio version of this book published with an introduction by the author with the reading performed by Christopher Plummer. As I understand it, this audio version is currently out of print. This is a dreadful shame because Mr. Plummer gives an exceptional performance of Mr. Davies's work. Also, as mentioned, these stories were intended to be read aloud for a gathering of people on an evening, and what could be better than HEARING these ghostly tales?? If anyone finds themselves enjoying these stories, they would be well advised to track down the audio version!
Canada lost a fine writer, critic, playwright and journalist in 1996 when Mr. Davies passed away. His books are still enjoyed today as much as ever, and for those who are seeking out a less heavy, light and amusing work by him, one simply cannot go wrong with "High Spirits." Highly recommended- by this Davies fan!!
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x94bbdb04) out of 5 stars 18 highly entertaining ghost stories 7 Feb. 1998
By David Graham - Published on
Format: Paperback
These are definitely not typical ghost stories. They aren't scary but humorous. While he was master of Massey College at the University of Toronto, Davies wrote and read a new ghost story each year at the college Christmas party. They are quite entertaining and jolly good fun. They are among the more entertaining things Davies wrote in a lifetime of interesting writing.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x94bbdf00) out of 5 stars A romp through the graves of academe 5 April 2005
By The Sanity Inspector - Published on
Format: Paperback
What a fun book this is! These pieces, originally written for the amusement of his colleagues from the early 60s to the late 70s, work just fine as cozies for an educated general audience. The stories are literate, if somewhat samey, and very droll, in that understated Canadian way reminiscent of Stephen Leacock. It would indeed be great to have an audiotape of this, as many of the passages beg to be read aloud. Some fair use excerpts:

"Women always think that if they tell a man not to be pompous that will shut him up, but I am an old hand at that game. I know that if a man bides his time his moment will come."

"I am a democrat. All of my family have been persons of peasant origin, who have wrung a meagre sufficiency from a harsh world by the labour of their hands. I acknowledge no one my superior merely on grounds of a more fortunate destiny, a favoured birth. I did what any such man would do when confronted with Queen Victoria; I fell immediately to my knees."

"The devil gave me a look which made me profoundly uneasy. 'Just because I am enjoying your sympathy, don't imagine that I cannot read you like a book,' he said. 'You think you are cleverer than I; it is a very common academic delusion.'"

I'm unfamiliar with Davies' "serious" works, but any major writer who isn't afraid to show his readers a good time is all right with me.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x94bc02c4) out of 5 stars The dance of his macabre! 10 April 1999
By Johann G. Thorarensen ( - Published on
Format: Paperback
This wonderful collection of ghost stories gives a new view of the macabre and of Davies' view of it. This book combines his scholarly mind with his subtle humour and understanding of human nature. A glorious asset to any lover of ghostly tales.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x94bc03a8) out of 5 stars For Hardcore Davies Fans Only 5 Nov. 2004
By Kevin Kochanski - Published on
Format: Paperback
The prospect of Davies penning ghost stories delighted me, so I purchased High Spirits for my annual October spooky reading. These stories are fun, but there's no getting around the fact that I was hugely disappointed. They are comic, not scary or even groteque. They were written to entertain his colleagues and students, and they are kind of dull for the general public...especially as the premise is basically the set-up for all 18 stories. Nevertheless, even without enjoying the tales themselves, Davies never fails to be an engaging writer, and his first person narration is often clever and amusing in his own unique style. Worth the read, but for Davies fan's only.
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