Collected essays, p.1
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       Collected Essays, p.1

           Graham Greene
Collected Essays


  * * *

  Graham Greene was born in 1904. On coming down from Balliol College, Oxford, he worked for four years as sub-editor on The Times. He established his reputation with his fourth novel, Stamboul Train. In 1935 he made a journey across Liberia, described in Journey Without Maps, and on his return was appointed film critic of the Spectator. In 1926 he had been received into the Roman Catholic Church and visited Mexico in 1938 to report on the religious persecution there. As a result he wrote The Lawless Roads and, later, his famous novel The Power and the Glory. Brighton Rock was published in 1938 and in 1940 he became literary editor of the Spectator. The next year he undertook work for the Foreign Office and was stationed in Sierra Leone from 1941 to 1943. This later produced the novel, The Heart of the Matter, set in West Africa.

  As well as his many novels, Graham Greene wrote several collections of short stories, four travel books, six plays, three books of autobiography – A Sort of Life, Ways of Escape and A World of My Own (published posthumously) – two of biography and four books for children. He also contributed hundreds of essays, and film and book reviews, some of which appear in the collections Reflections and Mornings in the Dark. Many of his novels and short stories have been filmed and The Third Man was written as a film treatment. Graham Greene was a member of the Order of Merit and a Companion of Honour. Graham Greene died in April 1991.



  The Man Within

  It’s a Battlefield

  A Gun for Sale

  The Confidential Agent

  The Ministry of Fear

  The Third Man

  The End of the Affair

  The Quiet American

  A Burnt-Out Case

  Travels with my Aunt

  Dr Fischer of Geneva or

  The Bomb Party

  The Tenth Man

  Stamboul Train

  England Made Me

  Brighton Rock

  The Power and the Glory

  The Heart of the Matter

  The Fallen Idol

  Loser Takes All

  Our Man in Havana

  The Comedians

  The Honorary Consul

  Monsignor Quixote

  The Captain and the Enemy

  The Human Factor

  Short Stories

  Collected Stories

  The Last Word and Other Stories


  Journey Without Maps

  The Lawless Roads

  In Search of a Character

  Getting to Know the General


  Yours etc.


  Mornings in the Dark


  Collected Plays


  A Sort of Life

  Ways of Escape

  Fragments of an Autobiography

  A World of my Own


  Lord Rochester’s Monkey

  An Impossible Woman

  Children’s Books

  The Little Train

  The Little Horse-Bus

  The Little Steamroller

  The Little Fire Engine


  Collected Essays



  This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

  Epub ISBN: 9781409040323

  Version 1.0

  Published by Vintage 1999

  3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

  Copyright © Graham Greene, 1951, 1966, 1968, 1969

  This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

  First published in Great Britain by

  The Bodley Head 1969

  First published in the United States of America by

  The Viking Press 1969

  Published by Penguin Books 1970


  Random House, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road,

  London SW1V 2SA

  Random House Australia (Pty) Limited

  20 Alfred Street, Milsons Point, Sydney,

  New South Wales 2061, Australia

  Random House New Zealand Limited

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  Random House (Pty) Limited

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  South Africa

  The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009

  A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

  ISBN 0 09 928267 4


  Author’s Note



  The Lost Childhood



  Henry James: The Private Universe

  Henry James: The Religious Aspect

  The Portrait of a Lady

  The Plays of Henry James

  The Dark Backward: a Footnote

  Two Friends

  From Feathers to Iron


  Fielding and Sterne

  Servants of the Novel

  Romance in Pimlico

  The Young Dickens

  Hans Andersen


  François Mauriac

  Bernanos, the Beginner

  The Burden of Childhood

  Man Made Angry

  G. K. Chesterton

  Walter de la Mare’s Short Stories

  The Saratoga Trunk

  Arabia Deserta

  The Poker-Face

  Ford Madox Ford

  Frederick Rolfe: Edwardian Inferno

  Frederick Rolfe: From the Devil’s Side

  Frederick Rolfe: A Spoiled Priest

  Remembering Mr Jones

  The Domestic Background

  The Public Life

  Goats and Incense

  Some Notes on Somerset Maugham

  The Town of Malgudi

  Rider Haggard’s Secret

  Journey Into Success

  Isis Idol

  The Last Buchan

  Edgar Wallace

  Beatrix Potter

  Harkaway’s Oxford



  Poetry from Limbo

  An Unheroic Dramatist

  Doctor Oates of Salamanca

  Anthony à Wood

  John Evelyn

  Background for Heroes

  A Hoax on Mr Hulton

  A Jacobite Poet

  Charles Churchill

  The Lover of Leeds

  Inside Oxford


  George Darley

  The Apostles Intervene

  Mr Cook’s Century

  The Explorers

  “Sore Bones; Much Headache”

  Francis Parkman

  Don in Mexico


  Samuel Butler

  The Ugly Act

  Eric Gill

/>   Herbert Read

  The Conservative

  Norman Douglas

  Invincible Ignorance

  The Victor and the Victim

  Simone Weil

  Three Priests:

  1. The Oxford Chaplain

  2. The Paradox of a Pope

  3. Eighty Years on the Barrack Square

  Three Revolutionaries:

  1. The Man as Pure as Lucifer

  2. The Marxist Heretic

  3. The Spy


  Portrait of a Maiden Lady

  Film Lunch

  The Unknown War

  Great Dog of Weimar

  The British Pig

  George Moore and Others

  At Home


  The Soupsweet Land


  In selecting what essays to reprint over a period of more than thirty years I have made it a principle to include nothing of which I can say that, if I were writing today, I would write in a different sense. The principle applies as much to my hatreds as to my loves. Some of these attacks, reprinted after so many years, are directed at what might seem now rather diminished objects, but I would feel a serious lack in the book if they were omitted. A man should be judged by his enmities as well as by his friendships.


  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS are due to the following publishers for permission to reprint essays contained in this volume :

  Chatto & Windus for ‘Henry James : The Private Universe’; Elkin Matthews for ‘Henry James : The Religious Aspect’; Oxford University Press for the introduction to The Portrait of a Lady; Hamish Hamilton for ‘The Young Dickens’ and for ‘Edgar Wallace’; Casselle for ‘Fielding and Sterne’; The Bodley Head for ‘The Burden of Childhood’; Faber & Faber for ‘Walter de la Mare’s Short Stories’; Librairie Plon for ‘Bernanos, the Beginner’; Methuen for ‘The Town of Malgudi’; Heinemann for ‘Norman Douglas’; and McGibbon & Kee for ‘The Spy’.

  Acknowledgements are also made to editors of the following periodicals.

  New Statesman, Spectator, Time & Tide, the London Mercury, Night and Day, France Libre, Horizon, the Month, the Tablet, the Listener, the Observer, the Sunday Times, London Magazine, Life, and the Daily Telegraph Magazine.

  ‘The Spy’ was first published in Esquire under the title ‘Reflections on the Character of Kim Philby’.


  Personal Prologue


  PERHAPS it is only in childhood that books have any deep influence on our lives. In later life we admire, we are entertained, we may modify some views we already hold, but we are more likely to find in books merely a confirmation of what is in our minds already: as in a love affair it is our own features that we see reflected flatteringly back.

  But in childhood all books are books of divination, telling us about the future, and like the fortune-teller who sees a long journey in the cards or death by water they influence the future. I suppose that is why books excited us so much. What do we ever get nowadays from reading to equal the excitement and the revelation in those first fourteen years? Of course I should be interested to hear that a new novel by Mr E. M. Forster was going to appear this spring, but I could never compare that mild expectation of civilized pleasure with the missed heartbeat, the appalled glee I felt when I found on a library shelf a novel by Rider Haggard, Percy Westerman, Captain Brereton or Stanley Weyman which I had not read before. It is in those early years that I would look for the crisis, the moment when life took a new slant in its journey towards death.

  I remember distinctly the suddenness with which a key turned in a lock and I found I could read – not just the sentences in a reading book with the syllables coupled like railway carriages, but a real book. It was paper-covered with the picture of a boy, bound and gagged, dangling at the end of a rope inside a well with the water rising above his waist – an adventure of Dixon Brett, detective. All a long summer holiday I kept my secret, as I believed: I did not want anybody to know that I could read. I suppose I half consciously realized even then that this was the dangerous moment. I was safe so long as I could not read – the wheels had not begun to turn, but now the future stood around on bookshelves everywhere waiting for the child to choose – the life of a chartered accountant perhaps, a colonial civil servant, a planter in China, a steady job in a bank, happiness and misery, eventually one particular form of death, for surely we choose our death much as we choose our job. It grows out of our acts and our evasions, out of our fears and out of our moments of courage. I suppose my mother must have discovered my secret, for on the journey home I was presented for the train with another real book, a copy of Ballantyne’s Coral Island with only a single picture to look at, a coloured frontispiece. But I would admit nothing. All the long journey I stared at the one picture and never opened the book.

  But there on the shelves at home (so many shelves for we were a large family) the books waited – one book in particular, but before I reach that one down let me take a few others at random from the shelf. Each was a crystal in which the child dreamed that he saw life moving. Here in a cover stamped dramatically in several colours was Captain Gilson’s The Pirate Aeroplane. I must have read that book six times at least – the story of a lost civilization in the Sahara and of a villainous Yankee pirate with an aeroplane like a box kite and bombs the size of tennis balls who held the golden city to ransom. It was saved by the hero, a young subaltern who crept up to the pirate camp to put the aeroplane out of action. He was captured and watched his enemies dig his grave. He was to be shot at dawn, and to pass the time and keep his mind from uncomfortable thoughts the amiable Yankee pirate played cards with him – the mild nursery game of Kuhn Kan. The memory of that nocturnal game on the edge of life haunted me for years, until I set it to rest at last in one of my own novels with a game of poker played in remotely similar circumstances.

  And here is Sophy of Kravonia by Anthony Hope – the story of a kitchen-maid who became a queen. One of the first films I ever saw, about 1911, was made from that book, and I can hear still the rumble of the Queen’s guns crossing the high Kravonian pass beaten hollowly out on a single piano. Then there was Stanley Weyman’s The Story of Francis Cludde, and above all other books at that time of my life King Solomon’s Mines.

  This book did not perhaps provide the crisis, but it certainly influenced the future. If it had not been for that romantic tale of Allan Quatermain, Sir Henry Curtis, Captain Good, and, above all, the ancient witch Gagool, would I at nineteen have studied the appointments list of the Colonial Office and very nearly picked on the Nigerian Navy for a career? And later, when surely I ought to have known better, the odd African fixation remained. In 1935 I found myself sick with fever on a camp bed in a Liberian native’s hut with a candle going out in an empty whisky bottle and a rat moving in the shadows. Wasn’t it the incurable fascination of Gagool with her bare yellow skull, the wrinkled scalp that moved and contracted like the hood of a cobra, that led me to work all through 1942 in a little stuffy office in Freetown, Sierra Leone? There is not much in common between the land of the Kukuanas, behind the desert and the mountain range of Sheba’s Breast, and a tin-roofed house on a bit of swamp where the vultures moved like domestic turkeys and the pi-dogs kept me awake on moonlit nights with their wailing, and the white women yellowed by atebrin drove by to the club; but the two belonged at any rate to the same continent, and, however distantly, to the same region of the imagination – the region of uncertainty, of not knowing the way out. Once I came a little nearer to Gagool and her witch-hunters, one night in Zigita on the Liberian side of the French Guinea border, when my servants sat in their shuttered hut with their hands over their eyes and someone beat a drum and a whole town stayed behind closed doors while the big bush devil – whom it would mean blindness to see – moved between the huts.

  But King Solomon’s Mines could not finally satisfy. It was not the right answer. The
key did not quite fit. Gagool I could recognize – didn’t she wait for me in dreams every night, in the passage by the linen cupboard, near the nursery door? and she continues to wait, when the mind is sick or tired, though now she is dressed in the theological garments of Despair and speaks in Spenser’s accents:

  The longer life, I wote the greater sin,

  The greater sin, the greater punishment.

  Gagool has remained a permanent part of the imagination, but Quatermain and Curtis – weren’t they, even when I was only ten years old, a little too good to be true? They were men of such unyielding integrity (they would only admit to a fault in order to show how it might be overcome) that the wavering personality of a child could not rest for long against those monumental shoulders. A child, after all, knows most of the game – it is only an attitude to it that he lacks. He is quite well aware of cowardice, shame, deception, disappointment. Sir Henry Curtis perched upon a rock bleeding from a dozen wounds but fighting on with the remnant of the Greys against the hordes of Twala was too heroic. These men were like Platonic ideas: they were not life as one had already begun to know it.

  But when – perhaps I was fourteen by that time – I took Miss Marjorie Bowen’s The Viper of Milan from the library shelf, the future for better or worse really struck. From that moment I begum to write. All the other possible futures slid away: the potential civil servant, the don, the clerk had to look for other incarnations. Imitation after imitation of Miss Bowen’s magnificent novel went into exercise-books – stories of sixteenth-century Italy or twelfth-century England marked with enormous brutality and a despairing romanticism. It was as if I had been supplied once and for all with a subject.

  Why? On the surface The Viper of Milan is only the story of a war between Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan, and Mastino della Scala, Duke of Verona, told with zest and cunning and an amazing pictorial sense. Why did it creep in and colour and explain the terrible living world of the stone stairs and the never quiet dormitory? It was no good in that real world to dream that one would ever be a Sir Henry Curtis, but della Scala who at last turned from an honesty that never paid and betrayed his friends and died dishonoured and a failure even at treachery – it was easier for a child to escape behind his mask. As for Visconti, with his beauty, his patience, and his genius for evil, I had watched him pass by many a time in his black Sunday suit smelling of mothballs. His name was Carter. He exercised terror from a distance like a snow-cloud over the young fields. Goodness has only once found a perfect incarnation in a human body and never will again, but evil can always find a home there. Human nature is not black and white but black and grey. I read all that in The Viper of Milan and I looked round and I saw that it was so.

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