Welcome to this cyberplace, set up as a space for news and reviews of A Gentleman of Pleasure and occasional jottings about John Glassco. Five years have now passed since publication, and I've moved on to other projects, but I'm leaving this up with the thought that those drawn to Glassco's writing will find something of interest.

17 January 2011

John Glassco's Montreal

I do not like you Jean Drapeau,
And well I know the reason why;
Your concentration on the cash
(That peasant passion)
Shows always in the lipless grin
Under the little merciless moustache,
Revealing what ideas swim within
The circle of your skull
To make our city — in the modern fashion —
Not beautiful
But only big, and rich, and dull.

— John Glassco,
Montreal, 1973

John Glassco had a complicated relationship with the city of his birth. At eighteen, he saw it as a place of provincialism and famously fled for Paris, where he enjoyed and endured Montparnassian adventures and was very nearly felled by tuberculosis. Yet, this same Montreal – the Royal Victoria Hospital, to be precise – held the knowledge and talent that saved his life. After his recovery, Glassco again escaped the city, settled in the Eastern Townships, and lived as a semi-recluse. It was only in his last two decades that he truly returned. Many of his final years were spent on an unpublished novel, Guilt and Mourning, set in a fantastic Montreal that has been spared the destruction of the 20th century.

Above is the westernmost entrance to the Guy-Concordia Metro station, located at the northwest corner of St-Mathieu and de Maisonneuve. In 1909, it was the site of a grand house in which the poet was born. This stretch of de Maisonneuve was then known as St-Luc – hence, "Jean de Saint-Luc", the pseudonym he claimed to have used for Contes en crinoline, his faux first book. St-Luc was made part of de Maisonneuve in the 1950s (following modifications to the intersection at Guy).

Simpson Street's Chelsea Place, looking towards Sherbrooke. A large gathering of Neo-Georgian homes with pleasant courtyard, it rests on the foundation and grounds of Edward Rawlings' mansion. Rawlings, the founder of the Guarantee Company of North America, was Glassco's maternal grandfather. The poet often claimed the mansion as his birthplace – not true, though he did live there for several years as a boy. In 1925, it was sold and razed; the gardens were plowed over and its peach orchard was destroyed. All that remains is a lone chestnut tree (to the left of the passing PT Cruiser).

St James the Apostle, at the corner of Ste-Catherine and Bishop, was the church he attended as a child. His parents were married there, as was he (twice). On 2 February 1981, it served as the location of his funeral.

Glassco never raised a glass at O'Regan's Irish Pub, though he drank plenty within its walls. In the 'sixties and 'seventies the address 1224 Bishop Street (less than half a block south of St James the Apostle) was a flat that he rented as his Montreal pied-à-terre.

3663 Jeanne-Mance (right door, two uppermost floors), Glassco's final Montreal address. He shared this flat with his second wife, Marion McCormick, for nearly ten years. On 29 January 1981, the poet died in a small room on the top storey.

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