Welcome to The British Literary Ballads Archive, a site dedicated to a unique genre of literary imitations of traditional ballads. The site contains a growing archive of over 700 poems, as well as short biographical sketches of the poets who wrote them.

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William Plomer (1903-73)



Poet and novelist, born in Pietersburg, South Africa, of British parents. Turbott Wolfe (1926) is Plomer’s first novel, portraying South African life, including inter-racial love and marriage. He spent a period teaching and writing and travelling in Japan in the late 1920s, an experience reflected in his poems, in Paper Houses (stories, 1929), and in Sado (a novel, 1931). He then moved to England in 1929, and settled in Bloomsbury, where he was befriended by Leonard and Virginia Woolf, and entered the London literary circles.

Plomer’s first volume of poetry, Notes for Poems, was published in 1927, followed by several others, and his Collected Poems appeared in 1973. He states about his creative mind: “A concern with persons, in their times and places, has always been a main motive force in my poetry. Because of that, my poems have narrative and dramatic tendencies, and a good many have taken ballad-like forms, sometimes being concerned with the blending or juxtaposition of the monstrous with the commonplace, or the pathetic and absurd with the tragic or ominous.” [Rosalie Murphy, ed., Contemporary Poets (London: St. James P, 1970) 861] Plomer’s chain of literary ballads written in the 1940s and 50s is largely satirical and urbane, and has been called ‘a treasure of Plomer’s’. (M. Y.)

1.Anglo-Swiss: or, a Day among the Alps
2.Atheling Grange: or, the Apotheosis of Lotte Nussbaum
3.The Dorking Thigh
4.French Lisette: a Ballad of Maida Vale
5.Mews Flat Mona: a Memory of the ’Twenties
6.The Murder on the Downs
7.The Naiad of Ostend: or, a Fatal Passion
8.The Self-Made Blonde
9.A Shot in the Park
10.Slightly Foxed: or, the Widower of Bayswater
11.The Widow’s Plot: or, She Got What Was Coming to Her