Glenway Wescott Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111207122-Wescott.jpg Glenway Wescott Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Glenway Wescott, born in Kewaskum, Wisconsin, on April 11, 1901, was a midwesterner by birth and education. He attended public schools in various Wisconsin towns and spent two years (1917-1919) at the University of Chicago. His family had hoped he would enter the ministry, while he entertained some hope of becoming a professional musician. After World War I he spent a year in Germany, then returned to live for a short time in New Mexico. His first book was a volume of poetry, The Bitterns, published in 1920; this was followed by a second book of verse, Natives of Rock, in 1925. His first novel, The Apple of the Eye, was completed during a period of several months that Wescott spent in New York City. Set in rural Wisconsin, the novel relates the conflicts and forces involved in a boy’s search for an understanding of the world and sex, a series of problems similar to those probed by many contemporary novelists, who seemed to be fascinated by the problems of the adolescent in the modern world. After the publication of his novel Wescott went again to Europe, and during the next eight years he was one of a large colony of American writers who lived abroad in the 1920’s.

While in Europe he wrote The Grandmothers, which has received more acclaim from readers and critics than any of his other novels. It earned for Wescott the Harper Prize Novel Award for the year of publication. The novel, a saga of pioneer life in early Wisconsin, unfolds as it appears to Alwyn Tower, a young man who is very much like the author and who comes across an old family photograph album. His curiosity, awakened by the album,...

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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Glenway Wescott’s life is made up of two diametrically opposed phases. He was born on a farm in Kewaskum, Wisconsin, on April 11, 1901. Glenway was very close to his mother, who nurtured his interests in music, acting, and literature. He soon, however, proved to be a great disappointment to his father, Bruce Peters Wescott, because he hated the drudgery of farmwork. When Glenway was thirteen, his relationship with his father became openly hostile as the result of a minor incident, and he was shunted from relative to relative. During his last two years at Waukesha High School, Glenway lived with his father’s brother, a preacher named William Samuel Wescott. His uncle’s vast library opened an entirely new world for the young man, which he continued to explore in the literary society to which he belonged in high school.

By the time Wescott was sixteen, his experiences were no longer like those of other boys who had grown up on Wisconsin farms. After graduating from high school in 1917, Wescott went to Chicago. While he was living with the wealthy mother of his uncle’s wife, Wescott attended the University of Chicago. His new experiences, like his previous ones on the farm in Wisconsin, were later to serve as material for his fiction. Wescott had no interest in a literary career when he first entered the university, but his distaste for required courses led him to enroll in several literature courses during his first semester. His enthusiasm for literature soon led to his involvement in the university’s newly formed Poetry Club. Through the imagistic poetry that he wrote as a college student, Wescott learned how to solidify an intense moment and to etch it into the consciousness with sharp imagery.

In 1918, Wescott went...

(The entire section is 716 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Glenway Wescott was born in Kewaskum, Wisconsin, on April 11, 1901, the first of six children. According to the autobiographical portrait of Alwyn Tower in The Grandmothers, he was a sensitive, imaginative, and solitary child. His nature was antipathetic to the physical and cultural poverty of the farm life in which he spent his boyhood. At age thirteen, because of difficulties with his father, he left home, and he lived with an uncle and others while going to high school.

In 1917, Wescott entered the University of Chicago, began writing poetry, and soon joined the poetry club. The following year, he became engaged, but he did not marry then or later; the engagement was broken in 1921. During this period, Wescott tried fiction, beginning the story “Bad Han,” which became part of his first novel. Because of ill health, he withdrew from Chicago after a year and a half, thus ending his formal education. Shortly thereafter, he went to New Mexico for an extended visit with Yvor Winters, a period that he referred to as one of the happiest of his life.

In 1920, after a visit to his family, Wescott went to Chicago to stay with Monroe Wheeler, with whom he was to share his travels abroad and much of his life in the United States and to whom he dedicated his 1962 volume of essays. He traveled with Wheeler to New York City, then to England and Germany, before returning to the United States and embarking on a career of serious writing.


(The entire section is 554 words.)