Greene, GrahamGraham Greene was born in Berkhamsted on 2nd October, 1904. Growing up, he lived with his parents and five siblings at Berkhamsted School, where his father was the headmaster. He was a quiet child predisposed to bouts of depression that would lead to a fascination with suicide; on a number of occasions he attempted to take his own life, and it was for these reasons that Greene was eventually sent to a London psychoanalyst. Greene’s interest with suicide would never fully leave him, and the subject was discussed in a number of his literary works, including Brighton Rock.
As a student, Greene studied at Balliol College, Oxford, and graduated with a second-class degree in History. It was while he was studying that his first collection of poems was released in 1925, though it was not well received. During his time at Oxford, Greene met Vivien Dayrell-Browning and fell in love with her. She was a Catholic convert and refused to become involved with him unless he too converted to Catholicism.
After graduation, Greene moved to Nottingham, where he worked as a journalist on the Nottingham Journal. At this time he began the process of converting to Catholicism and was baptised in February of 1926. A year later, he and Vivien were married. However, Greene did not remain faithful to Vivien and he embarked upon a series of affairs, and although the couple did eventually separate, they made the decision not to get divorced.
In later years, Greene worked as a spy for the British government as part of MI6, and was posted to Sierra Leone during the Second World War. Greene’s superior officer was a man named Kim Philby, who gained notoriety when it was discovered he was a Soviet double agent during the Cold War.
Greene’s literary career included 27 novels, numerous collections of short stories, books of travel writing, essays, plays, autobiographies, biographies and children’s books, but these were just the tip of the iceberg. He worked as a book and film reviewer for The Spectator and Night and Day magazines, and was subeditor of The Times newspaper. Greene got into the habit of writing 500 words a day, and often worked for only two hours a day.
Greene courted controversy with some of his works, most notably a review for a Shirley Temple film, Wee Willie Winkie (1937), in which he implied that the child actress’s success was mostly due to middle-aged men and clergymen with paedophilic leanings watching her films. The furore and the libel lawsuit that followed his acerbic review was a direct cause of the collapse of Night and Day magazine, for which the article was written.
Greene died in 1991 at the age of 86.