Golden Days of Yore

Richard Harding Davis exemplified the all-American ideal of Anglo-Saxon manhood—a chivalrous adventurer of spotless character and intentions, sporting, always in favor of the underdog, not too intellectual, and never without a clean starched shirt and a portable bathtub, no matter where his career as an intrepid reporter and war correspondent might take him.

At the turn of the century he was the most celebrated war correspondent in the country. He was also a successful short-story writer, novelist, and playwright, as well as the square-jawed male counterpart to the Gibson Girl. As a star reporter he crafted rather creative crime stories, was on the scene at the Johnstown flood, immortalized Teddy Roosevelt's charge up San Juan (actually Kettle) Hill and was captured and nearly sentenced to death by the Germans at the start of the First World War.

David also covered the Boer War—a war that brought out much of his character in fine form. Though Davis had many English friends and idealized the English country gentleman, he sided with the Boers. Not only were they the underdog, but, as his biographer points out, Davis saw the war "as a clash of cultures, and characteristically, he favored the old-fashioned and picturesque over the brutally modern." The war also touched his sense of chivalry. Though this might not shock our coarser natures today, Davis believed, "It is not becoming that the British...

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