John Stinson Glassco, poet, writer, translator (born at Montréal, Qué 15 Dec 1909; died there 29 Jan 1981). Glassco will be remembered for his brilliant autobiography, his elegant, classical poems and for his translations.
John Stinson Glassco, poet, writer, translator (born at Montréal, Qué 15 Dec 1909; died there 29 Jan 1981). Glassco will be remembered for his brilliant autobiography, his elegant, classical poems and for his translations. Born into a wealthy, respectable Montréal family, his early years were marked by privilege. At 15 he enrolled at McGill University, where his father served as bursar. There he moved on the fringes of a literary circle that included F.R. Scott, A.J.M. Smith and Leon Edel, and was a contributor to the McGill Fortnightly Review and McGill Daily. At 17, Glassco abandoned his studies and in February 1928 escaped to Paris with his friend Graeme Taylor, where he lived for 3 wild, exhilarating years. This period is recalled in Memoirs of Montparnasse, written well after his return to Canada in 1931 with tuberculosis, and not published until 1970. It is a dazzling book: witty, precocious, outrageous, combining a supreme evocation of Paris in the 1920s with a profound examination of the author's own fascinating character. The deception of the narrative stance (the fact it was not written until the mid-1960s) only adds another layer of interest to the book's status as autobiography.
For the first 3 decades after his return, Glassco lived a semi-reclusive life with Taylor in Québec's Eastern Townships, emerging only after Taylor's death in 1957. His first book, The Deficit Made Flesh (1958), a collection of poetry, marks the beginning of an unusual and diverse bibliography that includes verse, fiction, erotica, translation and anthologies. Glassco's Selected Poems won the Governor General's Literary Award in 1971. Amongst his fiction is the accomplished completion of Aubrey Beardsley's unfinished novel Under the Hill (1959) and The Fatal Woman (1974), a collection of three erotic tales. Glassco wrote, with customary elegance and wit, what he himself called "aphrodisiac works ... as an article of commerce," the most noteworthy being The English Governess (1960), published by the infamous Olympia Press, and his preferred "cleaner" version Harriet Marwood, Governess (1967). A man who delighted in hoaxes, Glassco published works of poetry and prose he attributed to others imagined or deceased. He was instrumental in laying the foundation of modern translation in Canada. Glassco's translations of French Canadian poetry are, along with F.R. Scott's, the finest yet to appear - his greatest achievements being the Complete Poems of Saint-Denys Garneau (1975) and the anthology The Poetry of French Canada in Translation (1970).