Pelham Edgar

Fonds number:
Title: Pelham Edgar
Dates of Material:
84 cm of textual records
25 photographs plus 1 album: b&w
4 photographs: 35 mm b&w negatives
2 audio reels
1 audio cassette
Biographical sketch

Oscar Pelham Edgar (1871–1948) was a teacher and an academic. He was born in Toronto, Ontario, the son of James David Edgar and Matilda Ridout. He married Helen Madeline Boulton in 1893. She died in 1933. He married Dona Gertrude Cameron Waller in 1935, and they had one daughter, Katharine Jane.

Edgar was educated at Upper Canada College. He received his B.A. from the University of Toronto in 1892 and a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland in 1897. He began his teaching career as modern-language master at Upper Canada College (1892-1895). He was appointed to the staff of the Department of French at Victoria College, Toronto, as Lecturer in 1897, then as Head from 1901 to 1910. He also began to lecture in the Department of English in 1902, later transferring permanently to the latter, where he held full professional rank until 1938 and served as Head for twenty-eight years.

Edgar was a member of the Athenaeum Club, London, England; of the Canadian Society of Authors where he served as Secretary; of the Tennyson Club, Toronto, where he served as President; of the Modern Language Association, Ontario, where he served as President; of the Ontario Education Society, where he served as Secretary from 1908 to 1909; and of the Canadian Writers' Foundation which was founded by Edgar. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1915 and received its Lorne Pierce Medal for distinguished service to Canadian literature in 1936.

Edgar published many reviews and articles, along with three monographs: A Study of Shelley with Special Reference to his Nature Poetry (William Briggs, 1899), Henry James: Man and Author (Macmillan Company of Canada, 1927), The Art of the Novel from 1700 to the Present Time (Macmillan Company, 1933). He also contributed a chapter on Canada to The Cambridge History of English Literature (Cambridge University Press, 1916), and acted as Canadian advisor for the Dictionary of National Biography (1911). Some autobiographical material was published after his death under the title Across my Path (Ryerson Press, 1952), edited by Northrop Frye, including a complete bibliography of Edgar's publications, compiled by Margaret Ray.

Custodial history

The custodial history is unknown.

Source of supplied title

Title based on contents of the fonds.


The fonds is stored in 8 boxes plus 1 separate folder.

Immediate source of acquisition

Most of the material was acquired from Dona Edgar in 1948–49. Two audio reels of a broadcast by Oscar Pelham Edgar were acquired from Kathleen Coburn in 1967. Portions of Across my Path, correspondence between Oscar Pelham Edgar and several authors (including Audrey Alexandra Brown, Robert Falconer, Northrop Frye, E.J. Pratt, Charles G.D. Roberts and Duncan Campbell Scott) and other unspecified material was acquired from his daughter Jane Conway in 1979.


At Victoria University Library the material was arranged into “sub-collections” relating to Oscar Pelham Edgar, the Edgar family, Audrey Alexandra Brown, Charles G.D. Roberts, and Duncan Campbell Scott. This arrangement is used as the basis for this description since the original order and context have been lost.

Language of material


Access restrictions

Restrictions on access: No restrictions on access.

Finding aids

File list available (see “Scope and content” for series level descriptions)

Related material

Victoria University Archives has a biographical file relating to Pelham Edgar.

Archival materials relating to Duncan Campbell Scott are located  in Library and Archives Canada (Ottawa, Ontario), reference number: R2938-0-5-E; was MG30-D100 and Archives of Ontario (reference number: C 275).

Major collections associated with Charles G.D. Roberts are at Library and Archives Canada (reference number: R2256-0-3-E; was MG30-D32) and McMaster University Library William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections.  

University of Victoria Libraries and Special Collections and University of British Columbia Library Special Collections include files related to Audrey Alexandra Brown. 


No further accruals are expected.

Access points

Provenance access point: Edgar, Pelham, 1871–1948

Names as subject access point:
Edgar, J.D. (James David), 1841–1899
Edgar, Matilda Ridout, Lady, 1844–1910
Scott, Duncan Campbell, 1862–1947
Brown, Audrey Alexandra, 1904–1998
Roberts, Charles G.D. (Charles George Douglas), Sir, 1860–1943

Related special collections at Victoria University Library

The A.J. Bell collection contains correspondence between Pelham Edgar and Charles G.D. Roberts. 

The Marjorie Pickthall fonds include letters from Pickthall to Edgar. 

The collection of Sandra Campbell consists of records relating to research done for a doctoral dissertation on Edgar.

Related resources

Edgar, Pelham. Henry James: Man and Author. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1927.

Edgar, Pelham. The Art of the Novel from 1700 to the Present Time. New York: Macmillan, 1933.

Edgar, Pelham and Northrop Frye, ed. Across My Path. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1952.
Includes a complete bibliography of Edgar’s works, compiled by Margaret Ray. 

Edgar, Matilda Ridout. Ten Years of Upper Canada in Peace and War, 1805–1815: Being the Ridout Letters with Annotations. Toronto: William Briggs, 1890.

Edgar, Matilda Ridout. General Brock. Toronto: Morang & Co., 1904.

Edgar, Matilda Ridout. A Colonial Governor in Maryland: Horatio Sharpe and His Times, 1753–1773. London, Long, 1912.

Edgar, J.D. and W.H. Howland. “Ontario and Pacific Junction Railway.” 1875. 

Edgar, J D. The Commercial Independence of Canada: An Address Delivered 26th January, 1883, to the Reform Associations of Centre Toronto, on “The Right of Canada to make her own Commercial Treaties.” Toronto: Grip Printing and Publishing Co., [1883?].

Edgar, J.D. This Canada of Ours and Other Poems. Toronto: William Briggs, 1893. 

Dawson, Walter. The Foundation & the Man. Manotick: Penumbra Press, 2007.

Campbell, Sandra. “The Canadian Literary Career of Professor Pelham Edgar.” uO Research Theses, 1910–2010. Accessed 31 May 2017. 

McLean, Maud J., and Robert M. Stamp. My Dearest Wife: The Private and Public Lives of James David Edgar and Matilda Ridout Edgar. Toronto: Natural Heritage/Natural History, 1998.

Related resources

In Hindsight Episode 17: Duncan Campbell Scott, Victoria College, April 1925
Episode 17 of In Hindsight, a podcast series presented by Donald B. Smith and produced by the Ontario Historical Society.