Henry Vincent Yorke Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Henry Green, the pen name of Henry Vincent Yorke, a wealthy industrialist from Birmingham, England, is often referred to as one of the most notable English novelists of the 1930’s. His name was often mentioned along with that of George Orwell in a discussion of pre-World War II realistic fiction writers. Known for his characteristic foreshortened and elliptical style, as well as for his focus on everyday life and people, Green gives readers the fascinations of surface life while hinting at the depth of subterranean struggles. Green’s novels center on ordinary things and have universal themes: boy meets girl, friend loses track of friends, characters grow up and grow old. His characters are often unremarkable and live in easily recognizable settings; for them life is a series not of heroic actions but rather of scattered yet oddly unified happenings. These, taken together, create a vivid sense of real life. Green’s seemingly inconsequential anecdotes, reminiscences, observations, and tangential dialogue have, when viewed in retrospect, a luminescence that indicates artistic power.{$S[A]Yorke, Henry Vincent;Green, Henry}

Through his realistic writing Green was able to re-create the sensation of life. His use and buildup of detail should place him in the category of a Depression-era experimentalist, yet his work resists such placement. In a strange way, what Green wrote was orthodox—his novels were replete with realistic settings and recognizable characters—but he experimented with the way people talk and communicate with one another. His people do not communicate the way the characters of a novel by Charles Dickens or Jane Austen do; rather, they fall back on such nonverbal mannerisms as facial expression and the cadence of speech to convey their meaning. When they do actually speak to one another, it is in a terse manner in which meanings are implied rather than directly delivered. Yet Green is not to be confused with social reformers such as George Orwell and H. G. Wells. He does not write to effect social changes but to portray life in the twentieth century by presenting the most ordinary situations imaginable. He makes no...

(The entire section is 880 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Henry Green was born Henry Vincent Yorke at Forthampton Court, near Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, England, on October 29, 1905. He was the third son of a wealthy Midlands industrialist whose business concern, H. Pontifex and Sons, Green was later to manage. Like others of his social class, Green was sent away to school when he was quite young, in his case before he was seven years old. At the age of twelve, he went to Eton and from there to Oxford, where he studied with C. S. Lewis.

While at Eton, Green began writing Blindness, whose self-conscious, awkward, dilettantish, yet introspectiveprotagonist, John Haye, is a self-portrait. Like Haye, Green was a member of an art society, an avid reader, and a self-styled aesthete. By the time he arrived at Oxford, however, already somewhat of a celebrity because Blindness was about to be published, Green was beginning to question his privileged position and his right to an inherited fortune. This dilemma led him to leave Oxford at the end of his second year without earning a degree. As he reports in Pack My Bag, he went to Birmingham “to work in a factory with my wet podgy hands.” Far from feeling superior to the laboring class, Green found these working people full of life and humor. His experiences among them inspired Living, published in 1929.

That same year, Green married Mary Adelaide Biddulph, with whom he had a son, Sebastian, born in 1934. From 1931 to...

(The entire section is 445 words.)