George Woodcock


George Woodcock was the principal authority on Canadian literature and a leading authority on anarchism, though he always thought of himself primarily as a poet.

He divided his life between two worlds. Although he was born in Canada, in 1912, his Anglo-Welsh parents soon brought him back to Britain, where he spent his first 37 years. He went to Borlase School in Marlow, but was unable to go on to university because of family poverty. For 11 years he worked as a railway clerk, wrote for little magazines and joined the London literary Bohemia; and became involved in left-wing politics, moving from socialism to pacifism and also to anarchism.

During the Second World War he was a conscientious objector and worked on the land, and produced his own little magazine Now from 1940 to 1947. For seven years he worked with the Freedom Press, the anarchist publishing organisation, and in 1945 he founded the Freedom Defence Committee on behalf of dissenters who were too unpopular for anyone else.

In 1949 he returned with his German wife to Canada, where he spent the last 45 years of his life. They had a hard struggle at first, but he earned a precarious living as a busy writer and broadcaster. For a time he taught at the University of Washington (until he was excluded from the United States because of his anarchism) and then at the University of British Columbia. He became the leading advocate of Canadian literature, and was the founding editor of the prestigious quarterly Canadian Literature, from 1959 to 1977. He and his wife spent much time travelling, and they were involved in Indian and Tibetan relief work. They also established a fund for impoverished writers in Canada.

Over more then 60 years he produced an enormous amount of journalism and well over a hundred books. The latter included biographical studies of H.W. Bates, Aphra Behn, Gabriel Dumont, Gandhi, Godwin, Aldous Huxley, Kropotkin, Malcolm Lowry, Orwell, Proudhon, Herbert Read and Oscar Wilde; works of criticism and travel, history and politics (including standard studies of anarchism and of Canada); collections of essays and poems; and three volumes of memoirs.

Woodcock was an elegant as well as a prolific writer (rather impatient of what he saw as the pedantry of academic scholarship), a courteous controversialist, a loyal comrade and a valued colleague. He and his wife had no children but a large family of friends all over the world. He received many honours and awards, but refused those offered by governments, preferring the respect of his peers.

Nicolas Walter

George Woodcock, writer and editor: born Winnipeg 8 May 1912; Editor, Now 1940-47, Canadian Literature 1959-77; married 1949 Ingeborg Roskelly; died Vancouver 28 January 1995.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits