Henry Green was born Henry Vincent Yorke in 1905, the son of a wealthy industrialist, near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire. He went to Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford. He published his first novel while still an undergraduate. He worked in the London office of his family firm, H Pontifex and Sons but frequently visited the factory in Birmingham, which he used in his second novel Living. During the war he served in the Auxiliary Fire Service. He died in 1973.
Green’s style has been called demotic as, though he was upper-class, he caught the speech of the average man. However, his style was not always colloquial; indeed, at times it could be difficult. He acknowledged the influence of a writer who is now little known, C M Doughty, whose Arabia Deserta is a remarkable work, not just because it tells the tale of an Englishman who travels with virtually no money, assistance or disguise in Arabia and is continually beset upon, not least because he trumpets his Christianity, but also because of the strange style which rejects Victorian English and espouses a strange mixture of Chaucerian, Elizabethan and Doughtian. Doughty also wrote the unread and unreadable six volume The Dawn of Britain which he thought would be a classic of English literature. Green was impressed. No-one else was. His style, also influenced by Céline and Ivy Compton-Burnett, relies heavily on dialogue. It is perhaps this style that has meant that he is often considered a writer’s writer.
Books about Henry Green
Michael North: Henry Green and the Writing of his Generation
Keith C. Odom: Henry Green
John David Russell: Henry Green: Nine Novels and an Unpacked Bag
Robert Stanley Ryf: Henry Green,
Jeremy Treglown: Romancing: The Life and Work of Henry Green