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William Plomer

William Charles Franklyn Plomer CBE (he pronounced the surname as ploomer) (10 December 1903 – 21 September 1973) was a South African and British author, known as a novelist, poet and literary editor.[1]



Self-described as an "Anglo-African-Asian", Plomer was educated mostly in the United Kingdom. He became famous in the Union of South Africa with his first novel, Turbott Wolfe, which had inter-racial love and marriage as a theme. He was co-founder of the short-lived literary magazine Voorslag ("Whiplash") with two other South African rebels, Roy Campbell and Laurens van der Post; it promoted a racially equal South Africa.

He spent the period from October 1926 to March 1929 in Japan, where he was friendly with Sherard Vines. There, according to biographers, he was in a same-sex relationship with a Japanese man.[citation needed] He was never openly gay during his lifetime; at most he alluded to the subject.[2]

He then moved to England and, through his friendship with his publisher Virginia Woolf, entered the London literary circles. He became a literary editor for Faber and Faber, and was a reader and literary adviser to Jonathan Cape, where he edited a number of Ian Fleming's James Bond series. Fleming dedicated Goldfinger to Plomer.[3]

Plomer is known to have used the pseudonym 'Robert Pagan', notably for some of his poetry. He was also active as a librettist, with Gloriana, Curlew River, The Burning Fiery Furnace and The Prodigal Son for Benjamin Britten. He died at his home in Hassocks, West Sussex on 21 September 1973, aged 69.


  • 1925. Turbott Wolfe (novel)
  • 1927. Notes for Poems. Hogarth Press, London (poetry)
  • 1927. I Speak of Africa (short stories)
  • 1929. The Family Tree. Hogarth, London (poetry)
  • 1929. Paper Houses. Hogarth, London (short stories)
  • 1931. Sado. Hogarth, London (novel)
  • 1932. The Case is Altered (novel)
  • 1932. The Fivefold Screen (poetry)
  • 1933. The Child of Queen Victoria (short stories)
  • 1933. Cecil Rhodes (biography)
  • 1934. The Invaders (novel)
  • 1936. Visiting the Caves. Cape, London (poetry)
  • 1936. Ali the Lion (biography, reissued in 1970 as The Diamond of Janina)
  • 1937. William Plomer (editor): Haruko Ichikawa: A Japanese Lady in Europe. Cape, London
  • 1938. Selections from the Diary of the Rev. Francis Kilvert (1870–1879)
  • 1940. Selected Poems. Hogarth, London
  • 1942. In a Bombed House, 1941: Elegy in Memory of Anthony Butts (poetry)
  • 1943. Double Lives: An Autobiography. Cape, London.
  • 1945. Curious Relations. Cape, London. under pseudonym William D'Arfey. Collaboration with Anthony Butts (memoirs of Butts's family)
  • 1945. The Dorking Thigh and Other Satires (poetry)
  • 1949. Four Countries. Cape, London (short stories)
  • 1952. Museum Pieces (novel)
  • 1955. A Shot in the Park (poetry, published in U.S. as Borderline Ballads)
  • 1958. At Home: Memoirs. Cape, London.
  • 1960. Collected Poems. Cape, London.
  • 1960. A Choice of Ballads (poetry)
  • 1966. Taste and Remember (poetry)
  • 1975. The Autobiography of William Plomer. Cape, London (revision of Double Lives, he died before he could rework At Home)
  • 1978. Electric Delights. Selected and introduced by Rupert Hart-Davis. Cape, London (previously uncollected pieces, including the essay "On Not Answering the Telephone")[4]
  • Johannesburg (poetry)


  1. ^ Cheney, Matthew (n.d.). "William Plomer". Modernist Archives Publishing Project. Retrieved 2019-07-26.
  2. ^ Alexander 1989, p. 194.
  3. ^ Griswold, John (2006). Ian Fleming's James Bond: Annotations And Chronologies for Ian Fleming's Bond Stories. AuthorHouse. p. 243. ISBN 9781425931001.
  4. ^ Benny Green, "Dilemmas", The Spectator, 31 March 1978, p. 22.


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