History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - People - Bios

Glenway Wescott


Primary Involvements:

Literary Figure





Glenway Wescott (1901-1987) was a major American novelist during the 1920-1940 period and a figure in the American expatriot literary community in Paris during the 1920s. Wescott was a homosexual.

Wescott was born on a farm in Kewaskum, Wisconsin in 1901. He briefly studied at the University of Chicago on a scholarship, but dropped out after a year and half with Spanish Flu. He began his writing career as a poet, but is best known for his short stories and novels, notably The Grandmothers (1926). He lived in Germany (19211922), and in France (c.19251933), where he mixed with Gertrude Stein and the American expatriate community.

His novel, The Pilgrim Hawk: A Love Story (1940), was praised by the critics. Another novel, Apartment in Athens (1945), the story of a Greek couple in Nazi-occupied Athens who must share their living quarters with a German officer, was a popular success. From then on he ceased to write fiction, although he published his essays and edited the works of others.

According to author Jery Rosco, Wescott did earn decent money as a writer by the late 20s, and again with the WWII bestseller Apartment in Athens (1945), but otherwise he earned very little as a writer. His brother Lloyd married a wealthy woman, Barbara Harrison, and he lived most of his life on their gentleman's farm in western New Jersey (or possible near Hampton), with weekends at the New York City apartment of his lover, Monroe Wheeler. But he seldom had money of his own, and missed out on return trips to Europe for most of his life, until late in life.

Wescott was the model for the character Robert Prentiss in Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.

(Information from various Internet sources, including Wikipedia, and Jerry Rosco, author of the biography Glenway Wescott Personally.)

Editorial Reviews for the book, "Glenway Wescott, Personally- A Biography", include:

    From Library Journal
    The life of Glenway Wescott (1901-87) spanned an interesting range of eras, from 1920s Paris, where he was acquainted with Hemingway (who despised him for his homosexuality), Fitzgerald, and Stein; through the world wars; to 1950s and 1960s New York, where a sexual revolution was taking place. There he found himself in the middle of a remarkable group of gay artists, including Christopher Isherwood, W.H. Auden, and E.M. Forster. Though Wescott is best known in modern American literature courses for the lyric 1927 novel The Grandmothers and the novella The Pilgrim Hawk, Rosco, who coedited a volume of Wescott's journals (Continental Lessons), focuses on the way this Wisconsin farm boy came to terms with his sexuality in a world still governed by a strict Victorian code of conduct. Although he learned early to be a master storyteller largely from the example of his friend W. Somerset Maugham he was unable to complete a novel after the age of 45. His energy was channeled into other interests, among them Museum of Modern Art curator Monroe Wheeler, with whom he fashioned a lifelong and stabilizing relationship, and Alfred E. Kinsey, in whose work on American sexuality he became immersed in the 1950s. More than a biography of an unjustly ignored American writer, Rosco's work portrays a fascinating panorama of the evolution of America's gay artistic community. Recommended for libraries with holdings in gay studies.
    Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

    From Booklist
    Wescott (1901-87), born a Wisconsin farm boy but destined to live a cosmopolitan literary life, loved language so much he not only devoted himself to reading and writing but also to speaking well, and he's remembered as much for being a splendid conversationalist and lecturer as he is for his few indelible novels, masterful essays, and celebrated journals. Wescott is also cherished for his candor about his homosexuality in overtly homophobic times. Rosco, who knew Wescott, answers the big question about his subject's infamous writer's block by explaining that Wescott never stopped writing; he just lost the feel for fiction and had a curious aversion to being published. "Happiness was his real distraction," Rosco writes, detailing Wescott's complex and sustained relationship with curator Monroe Wheeler, a string of complementary involvements, friendships with a veritable writers' who's who, and, in the book's most dramatic revelations, his close association with sex researcher Alfred Kinsey. Fluently anecdotal and analytical, Rosco's engrossing biography of this seminal man of letters neatly fills a gap in literary and gay history.
    Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved


Cover of book,
"Glenway Wescott, Personally- A Biography"
by Jerry Rosco

Credits: contributeions by author Jerry Rosco.
Web site concept and design by Don Schwamb;
Last updated: May-2010.