What's Bred in the Bone

What's Bred in the Bone

infobox Book |
name = What's Bred in the Bone


image_caption =
author = Robertson Davies
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = Canada
language = English
series = The Cornish Trilogy
genre = literary
publisher = Macmillan of Canada
pub_date = 1985
media_type = Print (Hardback, Paperback)
pages = 448 (1988 paperback)
isbn = ISBN 0140117938 (1988 paperback)
preceded_by = The Rebel Angels
followed_by = The Lyre of Orpheus

"What's Bred in the Bone" is the second novel in the Canadian writer Robertson Davies' Cornish Trilogy. It is the life story of Francis or Frank Cornish, whose death and will were the starting point for the first novel, "The Rebel Angels".

After a brief framing scene among characters from "The Rebel Angels", the novel turns to a conversation between the Recording Angel and the daimon in charge of Cornish's life. The main part of the book is that life as narrated by the Recording Angel, interspersed with comments in which the daimon explains how he worked to make Cornish a great man.

We follow Cornish's life from his two Canadian grandparents — part of "what's bred in the bone" — through his childhood as a wealthy and precocious misfit in a small Ontario town, his education in Toronto and Oxford, his unusual apprenticeship as a restorer and painter in Nazi Germany, his wartime experiences in England, and his later career as a collector and a patron of the arts in Toronto.

Cornish's daimon believes that people develop through adversity and provides Cornish with plenty, most obviously at the hands of his childhood classmates and his artistic master in Germany, but also in two love affairs and in a friendship with a young man who in some ways is Cornish's apprentice. Another form of adversity is Cornish's situation as a talented artist whose interests and skills are out of fashion.

First published by Macmillan of Canada in 1985, "What's Bred in the Bone" was on the short list for the 1986 Booker Prize.

"What's Bred in the Bone" is the second of the three connected novels of the "Cornish Trilogy". It was followed by "The Lyre of Orpheus". It is also connected to earlier novels; when Cornish is at school in Toronto, one of his teachers is Dunstan Ramsay from the Deptford Trilogy.

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