17 January 2022

The Dustiest Bookcase: U is for Underwood

Short pieces on books I've always meant to review (but haven't).

The English Governess
Miles Underwood [John Glassco]
Paris: Ophelia Press, 1960 [sic]
290 pages (in two volumes)

Is The English Governess Canada's biggest selling work of erotica? If not, then the honour goes to Harriet Marwood, Governess, its non-identical twin. I don't suppose we'll ever know; they've both appeared under different titles and disguises, most often clothed and sold by pirates. The above was printed by Taiwanese freebooters. Glassco spent much of the 'sixties and 'seventies going after Collector's Publications of Covina, California for this unauthorised edition:

Publisher Marvin Miller may not have paid the author, but he at least gave credit; most pirated editions of The English Governess are attributed to Anonymous.

Miles Underwood was just one of Glassco's many noms de plume. The novel's original publisher, Maurice Girodias of Olympia Press, claimed the pseudonym to be of his own making, when in fact it was Glassco’s creation alone. In a 1967 letter to his friend Milton Kastello (aka Milton Douglas) wrote that it was “dreamed up on an hour’s notice to meet a printer’s deadline in Paris in 1959 [sic]. It signifies a man who would be under by miles and miles."

It's entirely possible that the Underwood name inspired Under the Birch, the title Girodias slapped on the novel after French authorities seized and destroyed copies of The English Governess

The English Governess was the subject of the seventh Dusty Bookcase postnearly thirteen years ago! I covered the novel exhaustively in A Gentleman of Pleasure, my biography of Glassco, but have never written what might be termed a "review."

One day.

For now, I'll encourage you to hunt down the novel. There's a reason for the sales.

A bonus: An edition of The English Governess I'd not seen before today.

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