Edgar, Oscar Pelham

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French and English


Pelham Edgar was born in Toronto, to James David Edgar and Matilda Ridout. Following study at Upper Canada College, he attended the University of Toronto, from which he received the BA degree in 1892 (as a Governor-General medalist in Modern Languages). At this point, he returned to Upper Canada College as modern language master, for the period from 1892 to 1895. He then proceeded on to Johns Hopkins University for graduate study, receiving his PhD in 1897. In that same year, he was appointed Lecturer in French Language and Literature in the Department of French at Victoria College. In 1901 he became Head of Department and Elizabeth Gooderham Professor of French, a position he held until 1911, when he transferred, as William Gooderham Chair in English Language and Literature, to the Department of English, in which he had been teaching as well, as Professor of the History and Criticism of English Literature, since 1902. He remained a member of that department until his retirement in 1938, serving as Head for a period of twenty-eight years. 

Pelham was the first Canadian Henry James scholar. He was also a strong advocate for Canadian writing, and is particularly remembered for his work in establishing what became in 1945 The Canadian Writers' Foundation (originally the Canadian Authors Foundation, when first instituted in 1931). The primary focus of the foundation was the support of indigent Canadian authors. (See: http://www.canadianwritersfoundation.org/interest.html )


FRSC (1915)

Lorne Pierce Medal (1936)


A Study of Shelley with Special Reference to his Nature Poetry (1899)

Henry James, Man and Author (1927)

The Art of the Novel from 1700 to the Present Time  (1933)

Across My Path (edited by Northrop Frye,1952)

In addition to these monographs, Edgar contributed a chapter on Canada to The Cambridge History of English Literature (1915), and served as Canadian advisor for the Dictionary of National Biography (1911)


  Robin S. Harris, English Studies at Toronto: A history. Toronto:University of Toronto Governing Council, 1988.