Novelist. The pseudonym of Henry Vincent Yorke who was born in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, the youngest son of a wealthy industrialist from the West Midlands. He was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford. His first novel, Blindness (1926) was published while he was still at university but he left Oxford without taking his degree, partly, it is said, because of his dislike of his tutor, C.S. Lewis. He started work in a lowly position in his father's engineering works, H. Pontifex & Co. in Birmingham, which formed the background for his next novel, Living (1929). He married in 1929 and he and his wife, the Hon. Adelaide Biddulph, had one son, Sebastian, who became the first husband of the novelist Emma Tennant in 1957. During the war Henry served with the Auxiliary Fire Service in London, returning to his father's firm as managing director. He dedicated himself to business interests while quietly publishing a series of carefully crafted masterpieces that were much admired by such authors as W.H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood and John Updike. His last completed book was the novel Doting (1952). Matthew Yorke, also a novelist, brought together some unpublished writings of his grandfather, Surviving; the uncollected writings of Henry Green, in 1992.
Hailed by some as one of the very best English novelists of the twentieth century, there are many well-read people who have never encountered his work. Henry Yorke, the real man behind Henry Green, the author, would probably have been quite pleased to have evaded the limelight in this way. Always one to shun publicity, never wanting to be photographed in public, he quietly honed his craft in a series of very fine and unique novels under a pseudonym carefully chosen to be unremarkable.
Henry Green developed a demanding style in his prose. In Living (1929), his novel set in the industrial landscape of Birmingham, he adopted a truncated style in an attempt to emulate speech patterns, most noticeably by missing out the definite and indefinite articles. He said that he wanted to make his writing as taut and sparse as possible to fit in with the proletarian life he was living in the years immediately following coming down from Oxford. Some of his prose passages, at their finest, are quite poetic in their conciseness, but the technique can become tiresome. What is indisputable is that Henry Green did not attempt to follow either traditional or established contemporary routes in order to make his writing easier, more readily digested or popular.
Henry Green wrote nine novels, listed here in chronological order by date of publication. All are available in the West Midlands Creative Literature Collection:-
Party going (1939)
The author also published an autobiographical account of his early life, entitled Pack by bag; a self-portrait (1948), which is also available in the collection.
The novels of Henry Green by Edward Stokes (1959)
Henry Green; Nine novels and an unpacked bag by John Russell (1960)
A reading of Henry Green by A. Kingsley Weatherhead (1961)
Toward "Loving"; the poetics of the novel and the practice of Henry Green by Bruce Bassoff (1975)
Henry Green by Keith C. Odom (1978)
The idiom of the time; the writings of Henry Green by Rod Mengham (1982)
Henry Green and the writing of his generation by Michael North (1984)
Romancing; the life and work of Henry Green by Jeremy Treglown
There are several articles about Henry Green on the web, including:-
A profile of Henry Green by Elizabeth Barry, University of Warwick in The Literary Encyclopedia.
Reading Henry Green by Brooke Allen from The New Criterion Vol. 11, No. 7, March 1993
Page created 21 November 2001 and last updated 7 April 2005
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