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.

26 January 2011

The Olympia Glassco - Book the Second

The English Governess
Miles Underwood [pseud. John Glassco]
Paris: Ophelia, 1960 [sic]

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.

Though published second, Harriet Marwood, Governess 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 – perhaps with the help of Elma, 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.

Glassco chose not to be identified as the author, selecting Miles Underwood as a nom de plume. He kept his secret for over a year, and only began to reveal himself when seeking legal advice from F.R. Scott concerning Girodias' non-payment.

The English Governess was a immediate success, a favourite in a market that relied almost exclusively on word of mouth. Reprinted after just three months, on 10 January 1961 it was suppressed by French authorities under a decades-old decree targeting périodiques et ouvrages de provenance étrangère. As was his practice, Girodias reissued the banned novel using a different title: Under the Birch: The Story of an English Governess. Not much of a disguise, but more than enough to baffle the brigade mondaine. The novel has since appeared as The Governess (a pirated edition) and in a bowdlerized edition published under the catch-all title The Authentic Confessions of Harriet Marwood, an English Governess.

Note: My two volume copy, printed by Taiwanese pirates, is a cheap reproduction of the first edition. I'm assuming that these disreputable souls divided the novel in half so as to enable the rusting staple binding.

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