DAVIS, Arthur Hoey, Steele Rudd (1868-1935)

DAVIS, Arthur Hoey, Steele Rudd (1868-1935)
writer of humorous sketches and novels
was born at Drayton near Toowoomba, Queensland, on 14 November 1868. His father, Thomas Davis, was a blacksmith of Welsh descent, his mother was Irish. The boy was the eighth child in a family of 13. The father later on took up a selection at Emu Creek, and there Davis was educated at the local school. He left school before he was 12 and worked at odd jobs on a station, and at 15 years of age became a junior stockrider on a station on the Darling Downs. When he was 18 he was appointed a junior clerk in the office of the curator of intestate estates at Brisbane. In 1889 he was transferred to the sheriff's office and in his spare time took up rowing. This led to his contributing a column on rowing to a Brisbane weekly paper, and finding that he required a pseudonym he adopted that of "Steele Rudd". The first name was suggested by the name of the English essayist, the second was a shortening of rudder; he had wanted to bring into his name some part of a boat. Towards the end of 1895 he sent a sketch to the Bulletin which appeared on 14 December 1895. This afterwards became the first chapter of On Our Selection when it was published in 1899. Encouraged by Archibald (q.v.), Davis continued the series of sketches, 26 of which were included in the volume. Within four years 20,000 copies had been printed. It afterwards appeared in numerous cheap editions and by 1940 the number of copies sold had reached 250,000. It has also been the subject of a play and more than one picture. In 1903 appeared Our New Selection and in the same year Davis, who had reached the position of under-sheriff, retired from the public service, and in January 1904 brought out Rudd's Magazine, a monthly magazine published at 6d. a copy, which continued for nearly four years. It was issued first from Brisbane and was afterwards transferred to Sydney. It had a much longer life than most Australian magazines, but there was not then a large enough public in Australia to enable a cheap popular magazine to be successful. It was revived under various names between 1923 and 1930. Davis published a long series of volumes continuing the On Our Selection series, including Back at Our Selection (1906), Dad in Politics (1908), From Selection to City (1909), Grandpa's Selection (1916), and others. Most of them were successful, but there could not have been a great deal of profit for the author from the cheap editions. Towards the end of his life appeared two capable books The Romance of Runnibede (1927), and Green Grey Homestead (1934). But Davis found that having established a reputation in one direction, it was difficult to find a public for books written in more serious vein, and during his last years he had to struggle to make a living. He died at Brisbane on 11 October 1935. Davis was twice married and was survived by three sons and a daughter by the first marriage. In addition to the volumes mentioned others will be found listed in Miller's Australian Literature.
Davis was a tall, ruddy-faced man of mercurial temperament, kind of heart, fiery of temper, an excellent talker and a charming companion. He had a great love for horses and for 20 years was a well-known polo player. His books were written largely from the experiences of his own early days, and they were thoroughly appreciated by a generation that was familiar with characters on the land who had all the courage, optimism and humour of dad and mum and the other members of the family.
The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, 12 October 1935; The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 October 1935; The Bulletin, 16 and 23 October and 13 November 1935; E. Morris Miller, Australian Literature; Steele Rudd manuscripts at the public library, Melbourne.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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