The Madras College Archive


Former Pupil Biographies

Victor Gustave Plarr (1863 - 1929)

Victor Gustave Plarr (June 21, 1863 January 28, 1929) was an English poet; he is probably best known for the poem Epitaphium Citharistriae.

Victor Plarr was English to the core, and yet he was born in Alsace, near Strasbourg, France. under the French flag; his father was a professor in Strasbourg University; his mother, an Englishwoman and poetess, traced her descent from an Aberdeenshire baronet, Sir Alexander Cumming.

In 1870, when he was 7 years of age, his parents came to England rather than pass under the German flag. Victor was sent to school, first at St. Andrews and afterwards to Tonbridge, passing to Worcester College. Oxford in 1882, at the age of 19. He obtained a second class in modern history in 1886, and then sought a livelihood in London. As an undergraduate at Oxford the gift of verse, which he had inherited from his mother became manifest, and he was received by the young poets of London who forgathered at the Rhymers' Club, with acclamation.

He worked as a librarian, first (from 1890) at King's College London, then at the Royal College of Surgeons of England from 1897 until his death. The following year, the first two volumes of Lives of the Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons were published under the editorship of D'Arcy Power. Often known as Plarr's Lives, the biographies of the original 300 fellows are considered an early social history of English medicine.

In 1891 Plarr edited the 13th edition of Men of the Time, changing its title to Men and Women of the Time - a publication which was supplanted by the appearance of Who's Who.

A generally uncongenial figure, he was befriended in 1909 by Ezra Pound, who enjoyed Plarr's tales of the "decadent nineties".

Other Works include:

  • In the Dorian Mood (1896)
  • Thor and the giants; or, Some very old stories for very young people (1901)
  • The Tragedy of Asgard (1905)
  • A School History of Middlesex including London (1905) (with Francis W. Walton)
  • Ernest Dowson 1888-1897 (1914)
  • Lives of the Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons (1930)