Jul 122011

You could do an interesting anthology of major literary figures who wrote porn/erotica on the side: Voltaire, Diderot, Byron, Swinburne, Wilde, James, etc. (Sacher-Masoch is a different case, a writer who is remembered only for writing erotica, when he is remembered at all.)

Canada’s entry in this particular literary field is John Glassco, who was quite prolific under several pseudonyms.

From a review of a biography of Glassco, published in The Walrus:

Glassco was a prolific author of elegant, sadomasochistic pornography; his internationally bestselling whipping classic, Harriet Marwood, Governess, is stylistically superior to many revered creations of CanLit. Yet in contrast to the reception received by the work of Henry Miller or Charles Bukowski, Glassco’s naughty books never attracted an underground following in his own country. Even Memoirs of Montparnasse, praised everywhere, fell into neglect after accusations that it caught the spirit rather than the letter of the lost generation.

The author’s blog also discusses Glassco’s pornographic offerings in detail:

In his seventy-one years, John Glassco produced five books of verse, eight volumes of translation, and the prose masterpiece Memoirs of Montparnasse, but not one approached the sales he enjoyed with The English Governess and its sister book Harriet Marwood, Governess. Both stories of flagellantine romance between a boy, Richard Lovel, and his beautiful governess, Harriet Marwood, they’re easily confused and are often described as being one and the same. Harriet Marwood, Governess, though published second, is actually the older of the two. In 1959, it was offered to Maurice Girodias, but the publisher thought it too tame. Glassco then rewrote the novel – apparently with the help of his wife – slashing it by more than half and ramping up the sex. Made to order, as The English Governess it was quickly accepted and appeared within ninety days under Olympia’s Ophelia Press imprint.

Publication by Olympia put Glassco (or “Miles Underwood”) in august company, including Henry Miller, Samuel Beckett, Nabokov, Burroughs and Reage/Aury/Desclos.

There are also discussions of Glassco’s flagellant poem and literary hoax Squire Hardman, another pornographic hoax called The Temple of Pederastry, completing Aubrey Beardsley’s Under the Hill/Die Venusberg, and the rubber fetishist novel Fetish Girl (written as “Sylvia Bayer”)(Further discussion)

A discussion of different editions of The English Governess.

As a Canadian, it’s nice to know people of Canada are keeping the end up. More on that in another post.

Addendum: Busby as another blog dedicated to promoting his book and discussing Glassco.

Addendum: I think Glassco may have been the author of the mysterious excerpt from Beardsley’s Under the Hill printed in Gerald and Caroline Greene’s S-M: The Last Taboo.

  One Response to “John Glassco and “Harriet Marwood, Governess””

  1. I read this novel at 22. Breathlessly. Realized my high school girlfriend was Harriet. Too late. Eventually married a v strict beauty.
    Piquant. My name is Richard.

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