Graham Greene

Journalist / Novelist / Playwright

Portrait of G.Greene by Margaret Wood
Graham Green's home 14 Clapham Common, North side London
Plaque on Birthplace
Berkhamsted School, Headforshire
Balloli College
Achill Head.
Achill Island, Co. Mayo
Antibes, France.
Vevey Switzerland
Filming at graveside for Documentary Dangerous Edge.

Journalist / Novelist / Playwright

He was one of the foremost authors of the twentieth century.  He was a Novelist, Short – Story Author, Playwright, Journalist.  He explored the ambivalent moral also political issue of the modern world plus he had an avid interest in the workings or intrigue of international politics and espionage. [i]


Graham Greene’s parents were members of well-known brewers the Greene King family who amongst them included many bankers plus statesmen.  His parents were actually first cousins.  His mother was a cousin of Robert Lewis Stevenson.  Henry Graham Greene was born into this distinguished family on 2nd October 1904.  He was the fourth child of six children.  His father, Charles Henry Greene was a teacher: he later held the position of headmaster during 1910 of the Berkhamsted School, Headforshire, England.  His mother was Marion Raymond Greene.[ii]

Graham Greene was known as Henry Graham Greene in his youth.  He was born on 2nd October1904 at Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire in England. [iii]

Graham Green’s father was the headmaster of Berkhamsted School at which Greene attended for several years. (Amy Tikkanen) [iv]

Delightful Reading

As a young child he spent several summers with his uncle, Sir William at Harston House.  He described his delight when he found he could read!  ‘It was at Harston I found quite suddenly I could read – the book was ‘Dixon Brett, Detective.’  I didn’t want anyone to know of my discovery, so I read only in secret, in a remote attic, but my mother must have spotted what I was at all the time, for she gave me Ballanlyna’s ‘The Coral Island’ for the train journey home…’  He attended as a boarder at Berkhamsted School until age sixteen years when he became a day pupil there.  He graduated from Balliol College, Oxford with a second class Degree in History during 1925.[v]


Aged fifteen he visited Ireland with a cousin.  They witnessed firsthand the effects of The Civil War plus The War of Independence as they walked from Waterford to Dublin.[vi]

Green studied at Balliol College, Oxford according to this site:


Greene converted to Roman Catholicism in 1926, partly through the influence of his future wife Vivien Dayrell – Browning.  They had married during 1927. (Amy Tikkanen) [vii]

He converted to Catholicism after he met his future wife, Vivian Daydell – Browning on 26th February 1926.  They were married at St. Mary’s Church, Hamstead in London on 15th October 1927.  They had a son Francis plus daughter Lucy Caroline.  He found domestic life very tedious as he wished to travel also broaden his horizons.  Vivian refused to divorce so he remained estranged from his family.  He remarked in later years that ‘I think my books are my children. [viii]


Graham Greene was recruited during W.W. 2 into the Foreign Office – M16: – he started at Freetown following recruitment by his sister Elizabeth who worked for the Organization.  He was posted to Sierra Leone.  He travelled to Liberia during 1935 then Mexico in 1938, followed by Haiti. [ix]


Graham Green moved to London to work for ‘The Times’ as a Copy Editor from 1926 to 1930. (Amy Tikkanen)  He departed from ‘The Times’ then worked as a film critic & literary editor for ‘The Spectator’ until 1940.  Greene  travelled worldwide the next three decades as a freelance Journalist whilst he searched out locations for his novels in the process. (Amy Tikkanen) [x]

First Greene was employed as a private tutor prior to a Journalistic Career with the Nottingham Journal.  He then acted as Sub – Editor of ‘The Time’s newspaper from 1926 to 1930.  He was a film critic plus journalist for ‘The Spectator’ up to 1940.  Green Co – Edited the magazine ‘Night and Day.’  He supplemented his income with film plus books reviews.  As a Journalist he covered numerous dangerous events that included Kenya’s Mau Mau Rebellion, The Vietnam War, Haiti’s ‘Nightmare Republic,’ the rise of Castro plus the Fall of Soviet Russia.  Greene penned his ‘Collected Edition’ (published in twenty – two volumes between 1970 – 1982)  [xi]

A collection of his film criticism is available in ‘Mornings in the Dark: The Graham Greene Film Reader’ produced during 1993:


His first published work was a book of verse ‘Babbling April’ 1925.  The modest success of his first novel ’The Man Within’ during 1929 ensured it was adapted as the film titled ‘The Smugglers’ 1947. (Amy Tikkanen)  Greene’s first three novels were held to be of little account.  His thriller ‘Stamboul Train’ of 1932 was also published as ‘Orient Express during 1934.  It was followed by three more ‘entertainments’ (as he called those particular publications.)  Green’s ‘A Gun for Sale’ in 1936 was actually produced as two films published as ‘This Gun for Hire’ in 1942, then as ‘Short Cut to Hell’ during 1957.  ‘The Confidential Agent’ penned in 1939 again was made into a film during 1945.  Another  ’entertainment’ ‘ The Ministry of Fear’ of 1943 was adapted as the film ‘Ministry of Fear’ during 1945. (Amy Tikkanen) [xii]

A fifth  composition ‘The Third Man’ published in novel form during  1949 was originally a screenplay for a classic film directed by Carol Reed.  One of Greene’s finest novels ‘Brighton Rock’ in 1938. (films 1947 & 2010) shared several elements with his ‘entertainments’ but explored the contrasting moral attitudes of its main characters with a new degree of intensity & emotional involvement.  Greene’s finest novel ‘The Power and the Glory’ 1940 was later published as ‘The Labyrinthine Ways’ again this publication was adapted as the film ‘The Fugitive’ in 1947. (Amy Tikkanen) [xiii]

Another of his best – known novels ‘The Heart of the Matter’ written during 1948 was produced as a film in 1953. Green’s ‘The End of the Affair’ 1951 was also produced as in 1955 & 1999.  His next four novels were each set in  various Third World nations on the brink of political upheaval.  The protagonist of ‘A Burnt-Out Case’ in 1961 was set in the Belgian Congo. ‘The Quiet American’ penned in 1956 featured Vietnam: this was made into films during 1958 & 2002.  Greene’s 1958 work ‘Our Man in Havana’ set in Cuba was adapted into a film during 1959.  Graham Greene’s last four novels adapted as films were: ‘The Honorary Consul’ in 1973 titled  ‘Beyond the Limit’ in 1983, the 1978 ‘The Human Factor’ during 1979, ‘Monsignor Quixote’ 1982 also ‘The Tenth Man’ 1985.  Greene published several collections of short stories: among them ‘Nineteen Stories’ in 1947.  He revised that as ‘Twenty – one Stories’ during 1954. (Amy Tikkanen) [xiv]

Greene’s works included four children’s books, twenty–six novels, four travel books, eight plays, ten screen plays, fifteen nonfiction works plus two poetry volumes.  His first novel ‘The Man Within’ was published during 1929.  He disowned his next books as they were unsuccessful, ‘The Man of Action’ (1930) plus ‘Rumour at Nightfall’ (1931)!!  During 1932 his ‘Stamboul Train’ was his first major achievement; it also was adapted as a film during 1934 titled ‘Orient Express’ in the U.S.A.  Greene wrote two autobiographies ‘A Sort of Life’ (two editions 1925 plus 1983) plus ‘Ways to Escape.’  His ‘Power and Glory’ was published as ‘Labyrinthine Way’ during 1940.  Other titles included ‘The Quite American’ 1958, ‘Our Man in Havana’ set in Cuba during 1958, The ‘Comedians’ 1966.  His last four novels were ‘The Honorary Consul’ 1973, ‘The Human Facto’ 1978, ‘Monsignor Quixote’ 1982 plus ‘The Tenth Man’ in 1985. [xv]


Among Graham Green’s plays were ‘The Living Room’ performed in 1952 & ‘The Potting Shed’ composed in 1957. (Amy Tikkanen) [xvi]

Greene’s first play ‘The Living Room’ debuted during 1953:


Greene published his  ‘Collected Essays’ during 1969. (Amy Tikkanen) [xvii]


A Sort of Life’ penned in 1971 was a memoir to 1931: his ‘Ways of Escape’ 1980 was published as a sequel. (Amy Tikkanen) [xviii]

He wrote the Intro to Kim Philip’s 1968 Memoir ‘My Silent War.’  While in Switzerland during 1980 he penned ‘Doctor Fischer of Geneva or the Bomb Party’ that based his themes on a combined philosophic also geographic influence.[xix]


During 1949 when the New Statesman had a contest for parodies of Greene’s writing style, he submitted an entry as N. Wilkinson, he won second prize!  His entry ‘The Stranger’s Hand; Entertainment’ comprised of the first two paragraphs of a novel, apparently set in Italy. His friend, Mario Soldati novelist and film critic, believed it had the makings of a suspense film about spies in Yugoslavia in post war Venice.  Greene continued writing but eventually abandon the project.  He left it as a substantial fragment that was published posthumously in ‘The Graham Greene Reader’ of 1993 plus ‘No Man’s Land’ in 2005.  During 1965 he entered a similar competition then won an honourable mention.[xx]

Publishing Career

Between 1944 to 1948 Graham Greene was director at Eyre & Spottiswoode under Chairman Douglas Jerrold. Greene created The Century Library series.  It was discontinued following his departure.  During 1958 Greene was offered the position of Chairman by Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre but he declined the offer.  He was a director at The Bodley Head from 1957 to 1968 under Max Reinhardt.[xxi]

Achill Island

From 1946 to 1957 Graham Greene had an affair that lasted thirteen years with the wife of a millionaire farmer plus M.P. Lord Henry Walston.  He lived with Catherine Walston & her five small children in a traditional stone cottage at Dooagh Achill.  It was very basic with no electricity, an outside tap for water also a corrugated iron roof.  As they were friends of Ernie O’Malley they spent time also at Burrishoole.  Greene once commented that ‘I long for somewhere like Achill or Capri who have no telephones.’  Achill was a hugely symbolic place for him he described it as ‘opening of a door’ into a new world.  It offered him a peaceful sanctuary that allowed his creative imagination to work.  He was enamoured with the islands scenery.  Another favourite place was The Old Head Hotel at Louisburgh across Clew Bay from Achill. [xxii]


Graham Greene collected many Literary Awards for novels, including the Hawk London Prize in 1941 for ‘The Power and the Glory,’ the 1948 James Tait Memorial Prize for ‘The Heart of the Matter,’ the Shakespeare Prize in Hamburg during 1968 also during 1976 the Edgar Grand Master Award, the 1980 Dos Passos Prize plus the 1981 Jerusalem Prize for his works with the themes of human freedom in Society.  He was awarded Britain’s Order of Merit as an author during 1986 for his contribution to Literature.[xxiii]

Greene lived in Antibes France from 1966.  During 1973 he had an accredited cameo appearance as an insurance company representative in the François Truffaunt’s ‘Day and Night.’  During 1989 he presented John Banville with the GPA Book Award.  He received a Standing Ovation that moved him to tears as he said, ‘It was far better than a Nobel Prize.’ [xxiv]


On his eighty birthday the family Brewery (founded by his Great Grandfather during 1799) presented him with a special edition of its ‘St. Edmunds’ ale also with a special Label.[xxv]


Turtle Bunbury has written that Greene maintained his Irish links until his demise.  During the 1970’s he visited Joyce’s Martello Tower with Sean O ‘Faolain; a writer he admired as well as Flann O ‘Brien plus George Birmingham.  He met with the SDLP leader Gerry Fitt in Antrim to consider the Irish Question, years later Greene refused to attend any Literary Award in Dublin without Gerry Fitt in attendance!  He stayed at the Russel Hotel with Katherine Tynan while in Dublin.[xxvi]

Later Years

His final years were spent at Vevey Switzerland with companion Yvonne Cloella. [xxvii]


Graham Greene’s demise occurred on 3rd April 1991 with Leukaemia.  He is buried in Corseaux Switzerland.[xxviii]

Graham Green’s demise occurred in Vevey, Switzerland on 3rd April 1991:


The following tributes were recorded on this site: Michael Konda (a lifelong friend) observed Graham Greene at work as he wrote in small leather black notebooks with a black pen.  (He would write approximately five hundred words: then put his pen away for the day)  John Irving described Greene as ‘the most accomplished living novelist in the English Language’ as he had acquired a reputation by 1943 of being the leading English Novelist of his generation also that ‘at the time of his death he had a reputation as a great writer of deeply serious novels on the theme of Catholicism and of suspense–filled stories of detection.’   Sir William Golding observed that ‘Graham Greene was in a class by himself…he would be read and remembered as the ultimate chronicler of twentieth century man’s consciousness and anxiety.’  Richard Jones wrote a review in ‘The Virginia Quarterly’ that nothing deflected Greene from the main business of holding the reader’s attention because his novels often had religious themes at their centre.  V. S. Prichette described Green ‘as the last English novelist since Henry James to present and grapple with the reality of evil’.  According to Ernest Mandel in his ‘Delightful Murder; a Social History of the Crime Scene’ Graham Greene was a conservative agent of the British Intelligence Service: he upheld such reactionary causes on the struggle of the Catholic Church against the Mexican Revolution yet also argued ‘the necessary merciful function of religion in a context of misery.’ [xxix]

‘Time Magazine’ dated 29th October 1951 provided an image of Graham Greene on its front cover.  It also chose ‘The Power and the Glory’ in 2005 as one of the best one hundred English Language novels since 1923.[xxx]

‘The Strand’ Magazine serialized the publication of a newly discovered Greene novel ‘The Empty Chair.’ [xxxi]

The British Library produced his ‘The Spoken Word’ a recording of Greene in the form of a CD with Booklet during 2002.[xxxii]

Wise Jon with Mike Hill during 2012 published ‘The Works of Graham Greene: A reader’s Bibliography and Guide’  A & C Books. [xxxiii]

This sites states that Graham Green the English novelist, short – story writer, playwright, also journalist penned novels that treat life’s moral ambiguities in the context of contemporary political settings. This interesting character acquired quite early in life a reputation as a great writer with widespread popularity during his sixty – seven years of penning material.  He explored the ambivalent moral also political issue of the modern world plus he had an avid interest in the workings or intrigue of international politics and espionage:

His stories were more often set in poor, hot, dusty lands perceived to be Mexico, West Africa, Cuba, Haiti, Argentina, his characters with their inner lives were his forte, that in turn led to the coining of the expression ‘Greenland’ to describe those settings. His books’ unusual popularity is partly due to his production of thrillers featuring crime & intrigue but more importantly to his superb gifts as a storyteller. Most especially his masterful selection of detail with his use of realistic dialogue in a fast – paced narrative:

Greene was honoured at the 2011 Henireich Böll weekend on Achill Island with discussions also Presentations.  During 2013 he was the subject of a Documentary film, ‘Dangerous Edge; a Life of G. Greene.’  The film was produced in 2009 with Director Thomas P. O’ Connor also videographer Allan Moore that included a scene at his grave in Corseaux.  The Graham Greene Birthplace Trust hosts an annual four day Festival in his honour.  They hold Lectures, Conference Papers, informal talks, Q + A Sessions, Films, dramatized readings, music, creative writing workshops also several social events.  The Trust presents a travel through Berkhamsted that highlights places connected with the author.  A portrait of Graham Greene is hung within Berkhamsted Town Hall.[xxxiv]

Greene’s Quotes

One quote from from Graham Green was that  ‘In human relationships, kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths’:  On his conversion he stated as he penned in ‘A Sort of Life’ I ought to at least learn the notions and limits of her beliefs.’:


In 2007 a selection of his letters was published as Graham Greene: ‘A Life in Letters.’ The unfinished manuscript ‘The Empty Chair’ a murder mystery that Greene had begun writing in 1926: was discovered in 2008.  The serialization of it began the following year. (Amy Tikkanen) [xxxv]

An article by Blake Eligh on the new Greene’s biographies published under different titles ie: ‘Russian Roulette: ‘The Life and Times of Graham Greene’ in the United Kingdom. ‘The Unquiet Englishman: A Life of Graham Greene’ made its North American début during November 2020 by University of T Mississauga English professor Richard Greene may be viewed at this site:

Irish singer Maxi penned an article on pages 64 / 65 in the St. Patrick’s Day Annual edition of ‘Ireland’s Own’ of 19th March 2021 on the life & works of Graham Greene titled ‘Graham Green – Grim, Grin & Grit.’(NBC)



[ii]   Ibid.


[iv] Ibid.


[vi] Ibid.



[ix]  Ibid.




[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Ibid.



[xvii]   Ibid.

[xviii]  Ibid.


[xx]   Ibid.

[xxi]  Ibid.

[xxii]  Ibid.

[xxiii] Ibid.

[xxiv]  Ibid.

[xxv]  Ibid.



[xxviii] Ibid.

[xxix] Ibid.








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