Our Quarterly Magazine
A Sort of Newsletter: A Quarterly Magazine
The Trust publishes a quarterly magazine, each February, May, August and November, titled A Sort of Newsletter (ASON). Friends of the Trust receive free print copies as part of their membership. Each issue contains a rich mix of articles, reviews, correspondence and news. ASON is not intended to be an academic journal; there is something for everyone with an interest in the writer.
Rarely does a month go by without Graham Greene featuring in the news in some form or other. A Sort of Newsletter will keep you bang up to date with information about the latest Greene-related books, films, reviews and associated news from around the world.
The annual Graham Greene International Festival, held in September each year in Berkhamsted is the principal event in the Birthplace Trust’s calendar. Naturally, it features prominently in the pages of the newsletter with information about forthcoming festival appearing in the May and August issues followed by retrospectives on each event in the November issue.
So, if you are interested in Graham Greene, his life and his books and you are not currently a Friend of the Graham Greene Birthplace Trust, then you are urged to turn to the Members’ page on this website which gives all the details about joining and receiving A Sort of Newsletter.
To give you a flavour of what to expect to find within the pages of the magazine, we are publishing some sample features from recent issues:
Issue 84 November 2020
The Problematic Chronology of Greene’s ‘The Basement Room’
In the essay entitled ‘The Fallen Idol: From Story to Screen’ in Studies in Victorian and Modern Literature: A Tribute to John Sutherland, ed. William Baker (London: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press and Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2015), pp. 275-81, Professor David Lodge claims that there is a radical flaw in the chronology of the story ‘The Basement Room’ (which evolved into the excellent film, The Fallen Idol). In the story, the young protagonist is called Philip. David Lodge says:
In describing Philip on his deathbed, sixty years after the main action, the narrator is not prophesying, but reporting. Because the story was first published in 1936, the character cannot have died at a later date; therefore, the main action, when Philip was seven years old, must be taking place no later than 1869. In fact, it is represented as taking place well into the twentieth century – there are references to motor-cars and airplanes [sic], and to the Artillery Memorial at Hyde Part Corner (erected in 1925) – and in the absence of any contrary indication one assumes that it is set in the mid-1930s. I am not aware that this anomaly has ever been commented on before… [p. 278,]
Lodge says that the story was first published in 1936. Certainly ‘1936’ is the date appended to the tale in Graham Greene’s Complete Short Stories: see p. 131 of the volume published by Penguin in 2005. In fact, the tale was first published in ‘The Basement Room’ and Other Stories (London: Cresset Press) in 1935, a year earlier; and this is the text I quote below. Certainly, the London described seems to be the London of 1935. There are references not only to the cars, aeroplanes and the Memorial mentioned by Lodge, but also to fish-and-chip shops, celluloid collars, the Daily Mail for a penny, and a cinema with a commissionaire; and the presence of a policewoman at the police station is regarded as normal. Philip knows Emil and the Detectives, which was first published in 1929. The butler, Baines, refers to a time when, at the Coast in Africa, he commanded forty indigenous men. This is probably a memory of service in the Great War in the British Gold Coast (subsequently Ghana). Baines now seems to be about 45, his wife about 50, and Philip is certainly said to be seven years old.
There are several references to Philip’s death sixty years later. On learning from Philip that Mr Baines is spending the night with a young woman, Mrs Baines tells Philip that if he promises not to reveal her knowledge, she will give him a Meccano set. The narrator comments:
He was only anxious to forget. He had already received a larger dose of life than he had bargained for, and he was scared. ‘A 2A Meccano set, Master Philip.’ He never opened his Meccano set again, never built anything, never created anything, died, the old dilettante, sixty years later with nothing to show rather than preserve the memory of Mrs. Baines’ malicious voice saying good-night, her soft determined footfalls on the stairs to the basement, going down, going down. [p. 23]
Mrs Baines goes downstairs to intercept her husband and his partner; Philip shouts a warning; Baines and his wife tussle on the stairs; and Mrs Baines falls to her death in the hallway. Philip hurries outside. In the garden, he reflects:
Let grown-up people keep to their world and he would keep to his, safe in the small garden between the plane trees. ‘In the lost childhood of Judas Christ was betrayed’: you could almost see the small unformed face hardening into the deep dilettante selfishness of age. [p. 38]
(The passage of poetry by George William Russell, from ‘Germinal’, is correctly ‘In the lost boyhood of Judas / Christ was betray’d’: i.e., a marred childhood mars the man.) As a result of remarks by Philip, Baines’s attempt to depict the death as an accident is foiled, and later Baines will presumably be hanged for murder or given a long prison-sentence for manslaughter. When Philip is on his deathbed, the only watcher is his secretary (p. 52). We realise that Philip was so traumatised by his early encounter with adulterous passion, jealousy and the resultant death that his subsequent life has been characterised by retreat from the world of passion, of commitments. That recurrent word ‘dilettante’ suggests that he has been a mere dabbler in life. There is no wife, lover or offspring at his bedside as he dies.
That death takes place in 1995, sixty years after the main action described. And why not? David Lodge says of Philip that ‘the character cannot have died at a later date’ than the date of publication of the tale. To which I reply, ‘There is no such rule!’ No rule forbids, in a fictional work, the description of an event which takes place after the time of publication of that work. In a science-fiction novel, Wells’s The Time Machine, the setting is more-or-less the time of publication, 1895; the hero travels to times in the distant future; and on a second attempted journey, he apparently dies. In the last paragraph of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, we are told of Scrooge, ‘He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived on the Total-Abstinence-Principle ever afterwards’. As the main action of the Christmas Carol is set in approximately the time of publication (1843), that glimpse of Scrooge ‘ever afterwards’ must surely take us decades into the future. Dickens’ Hard Times (1854) has a concluding section in which the narrator tells us of the futures of various characters – including Josiah Bounderby, who, ‘five years to come’, dies in the street. And, once again, I ask, ‘Why not?’. In ‘The Basement Room’, Greene has exploited the chronological flexibility available to all fiction-writers, and it is strange that David Lodge, himself a brilliant fiction-writer, has forgotten this law of permissive flexibility.
Issue 83 August 2020
ASON Editor writes:
Luis Poirot was a photographer who accompanied Graham Greene on part of his tour of Chile in 1971. Here he writes of that time. Many thanks to Luis Poirot for allowing this memoir to be reprinted, and to Professor Richard Greene for drawing my attention to it and putting me in touch with him.
The socialist Salvador Allende won the Chilean presidential election in September 1970 and became President in November. He was ousted from power in a coup in September 1973. Graham Greene’s article ‘Chile: The Dangerous Edge’ appeared in the Observer on 2 January 1972, and in Harper’s Magazine in March the same year.
Graham Greene in Chile
September has always been my favorite month. Winter is over and it seems that everything is getting better, days are longer and the sky is always blue. It is the month we celebrate the independence from the Spanish and it is always commemorated with many official acts and popular festivals.
It was 1971 and Salvador Allende’s government was commemorating its first anniversary, besieged from the beginning by Nixon’s government and the Chilean conservatives. Intellectuals, especially Europeans, visited our country drawn by this socialism and experience of freedom.
La Moneda, a colonial building and symbol of our democracy that houses the presidency, was also a public square and a road that was freely used to shorten the path between two streets. One of its yards, called Los Naranjos, was usually a meeting place for friends and lovers.
It was September 17, 1971 around noon and I was returning home located on the urban edge of that Santiago, after running some errands in the city center. It was already warm and my car was parked a couple of blocks from La Moneda. Upon entering the first patio, the one with the cannons, I saw Payita (Miriam) Contreras, Salvador Allende’s private secretary, come down from the presidential offices.
Payita: ‘Hi Lucho, do you have anything to do right now?’ she said in a shaky voice. ‘Could you go to the airport to receive the writer Graham Greene who will arrive in an hour from Buenos Aires?’
Me: ‘But Payita, I am an anonymous citizen who doesn’t hold any position in the government.’
Payita: ‘It doesn’t matter, all the Foreign Relations officials are busy with the diplomatic delegations that have come to the Independence celebrations and only now did we know about his arrival. You will be the president’s personal representative and would welcome him on his behalf, then you will take him to the Hotel Carrera where we have made reservations. That’s where your assignment ends.’
I left to the airport in my mother-in-law’s red Austin Mini. The Ambassador’s Aston Martin and his driver were already there, at the illustrious visitors’ sector of the track. My English has never been very fluent and since Graham Greene had been living in France for years, I welcomed him in French, which is almost my native language. Already in his room and while I was waiting for Payita’s call to free me, he opened his suitcase and took out an old teddy bear that he placed in the middle of the bed, and a bottle of whiskey that he put on the nightstand. Although I did not have a camera, I mentally took a picture of the moment, which remains in my memory until today.
Me: ‘Why are there so few portraits of you?’
It was the beginning of the dialogue.
Graham Greene (G.G): ‘I don’t like photography and portraits even less. I never recognise myself in that image, I see myself different. I also don’t like children; I think they are very noisy.’
All of this was said in a soft, polite voice. Fortunately, I had not revealed my true profession and the attraction that portraits had for me, I only spoke vaguely of my career as theater director, which was not a lie, but rather concealment of an important part of my life. After an hour of pleasant conversation, rather an interrogation to which he submitted me about the situation in the country, Payita’s call came, but not to free me.
Payita: ‘Lucho, could you please cross the street and come with him to La Moneda? Allende wants to greet him now.’
I went to La Moneda and became a French interpreter in the conversation that Graham Greene and Salvador Allende (pictured left) had, that lasted more than one hour and of which I don’t remember a thing. I felt that the conversation did not concern me, just like a couple of years later in Paris I had to translate the conversation between Carlos Altamirano [Chilean lawyer and socialist politician] and François Mitterrand. At the end, Allende commissioned me to take him to the Cathedral the next day to attend the Te Deum ceremony, where members of the State and all religious believers attended, and added that the following day I must take him to the Military Parade, which was supposed to represent the obedience of the arm services to the civil power and where the celebrations would finally end.
And there I was, on September 18 a national holiday, at the Cathedral in front of the president and authorities, with a borrowed tie that made me uncomfortable, answering the writer’s questions. I will not forget the observation he made about the president of the Senate Patricio Aylwin. He said: ‘I do not like this man, he is not to be trusted.’
After the ceremony, the place was quickly empty, we were left alone and I did not know where to take him.
Me: ‘Mr Greene, you must be tired of eating in hotels and restaurants. Would you like to have lunch at my house and learn a little about daily life in our country?’
GG: ‘I would be delighted’ was his immediate response.
September 18 at noon in Santiago was tricky, there were no taxis and there was no other alternative than, like most regular citizens, take the public bus (micro) that was always crowded. Graham seemed to be having a great time, and after a half an hour’s ride we reached my house. After the initial surprise, my family welcomed him without further ceremony. After coffee he took a book from the shelf, the Spanish edition of The Living Room and wrote a note thanking me for making his visit ‘friendly and not official’.
Surrounded by official black cars we arrived at the Parade the next day in the little Red Mini, from which he got out, not without difficulty. I did not ask him what he thought about all the Prussian ceremonial and military uniforms during that long and hot afternoon. The next day, a deputy was appointed to accompany him on his tour to the copper mines in the north and the coal mines in the south. Later I would read his three extensive chronicles in The Observer, where he affectionately referred to those miners with whom he had taken down the pikes. He also talked about the distrust of the Christian Democrats and made an enigmatic final comment in which he expressed that our experience of socialism with a human face had a ‘sporting chance to win’. In 1973 we spoke briefly on the phone as I came to Paris in exile and he was living in the south. I don’t have paper photos of his stay, but have that image in my head: the hotel, the teddy bear and a Cutty Sark bottle.
Luis Poirot (Quarantined in Bucalemu, Chile, April 2020)
Issue 82 May 2020
ASON Editor writes:
In a year which sees the publication of Richard Greene’s biography of Graham Greene, and Richard giving the David Pearce Memorial Talk at this year’s Festival, it seems particularly appropriate to publish the following piece of research by David.
Richard Greene gives the background to David’s research as follows: ‘Some years ago, I found myself doubting the chronology of Graham’s flight to the Common. The ages, dates, and number of terms just did not add up, so I asked David what he made of it. He delved into the subject most impressively…’
What follows is what David sent to Richard, challenging what Graham Greene himself had to say in A Sort of Life, and the account given in the first volume of Norman Sherry’s biography. The research is presented as far as possible as David sent it to Richard, with underlinings, sections in bold, abbreviations, and even an invented bit of dialogue (I can hear David’s voice now). Only in omitting the use of different colours, and a tweaking with layout on the summary timetable at the beginning, have I amended what David wrote.
Graham Greene, 1918-1922
Fixed points (1 to 7)
The Deduced Timetable (a to c)
1 School Cert. Summer 1920
a 1st Crisis. Sept, 1920 Escape to Common
2 VIth Form Sept 1920
b 2nd Ultimatum. April 1921
3 ‘Lost Silk Hat’ June 1921
c Dayboy in John’s boarding house
4 Richmond June/July-Dec 1921
Carter leaves Apr 1921
5 Oxford Schol Feb 1922
6 Left School April 1922
7 Oxford Oct 1922
The fixed points are not disputed.
The point to understand is that Graham, after his treatment in London with Kenneth Richmond, has only one more term at School. In that term he was cramming for Oxford School. There is no question of Graham’s living in that one term the full life that he describes in Chap 5.
In other words that great sense of freedom and widening studies must come before Richmond, and after his joining the VIth form. Graham’s arrival in the VIth form in September 1920 is the key factor.
Graham in A Sort of Life makes his enfranchisement entirely dependent upon Richmond and the London experience – the reading in Kensington Park, museums, plays, and Zoe. The truth is that it was a longer process of healing than that, though Richmond – and Zoe – were the culmination.
Charles Greene’s anxieties, too, extend over a longer period.
Sherry and Graham talk about the ‘crisis’, the ‘escape’, the ‘being nearer a nervous breakdown’ as if these were a single moment – there! – at the end of a summer’s holiday. They were not. The psycho-analysis did not follow on directly from the Escape to the Common. They were nearly a year apart.
Graham telescopes these memories together, but in reality they were spread through the whole year – Sept 1920 to June 1921.
Kenneth Richmond was a salvation almost at the very end of Graham’s school career. Graham was 17 while he was at Lancaster Gate. He might have been expected by that age to have come to terms with his problems. (Normal boys would have done so – Charles would have thought that.)
From September 1920, Graham had the privileges of the VIth form. He had proved himself academically against Carter and Wheeler who were still in the 5th form. (The realisation that Graham turned 17 while he was in London came to me as something of a surprise, but it accords well with his sexual interest in Zoe.)
Graham sets us off on the wrong track when he suggests that all the new-found freedoms and friends come after Richmond. They came before. The new routines and intellectual challenges of the VIth form played an important part, though it is clear that life in St John’s over-clouded his mind more and more during this period until at least the summer of 1921.
Graham gives us a second mis-direction with his detailed and imaginative account of that dramatically successful summer escape – on the last day of the summer holidays. It is all so easy to visualise. It is the sort of thing that a schoolboy might write as a story. Well, if you were a schoolboy like Graham. He runs away, throws down a gauntlet. There it all is with: books, blackberries, meeting Molly, return to School House – never, never go back to Johns, ‘general filth’ of life there, Raymond summoned, Richmond suggesting, psycho-analysis.
The implication is that all that came at once, and after 8 terms in St John’s. It was not like that. The whole sequence is romantic almost-fiction. Kipling, Buchan stuff. ‘Maquis’, ‘franc-tireurs’. The last day of the summer holidays would have been about 15th September. In 1921 Graham had already been staying with Richmond for over two months.
The escapade must go back into the summer of 1920. Graham actually writes ‘an astonishing thing in 1920’. (Though when Raymond gave the advice it was 1921.) Then two facts become apparent:
1 The truancy was not after 8 terms in St John’s.
2 The course of treatment with Richmond did not begin for nearly another year, i.e. June/July 1921. Yet again, Graham has telescoped Time either out of forgetfulness or for the sake of effect.
Of course, we could set the running-away – the ‘Crisis’ – in April of 1921, and at the end of Graham’s eighth term in St John’s. This is what Sherry does. I think he is wrong. I think we must accept the summery version of what happened, but place it in the previous year, 1920
So, what do we have?
Graham has taken School Cert in the summer of 1920. There is a post-examination weariness. Although he will go into the VIth form he regards the prospect of two more years in St John’s with horror. He takes stock of his humiliations, and he looks around at the comforts of his parents’ house. He wants a life of the mind and of beauty. He is grown up; he will not put up with the situation. So he runs away. Not desperately; not like a child, but making a calculated challenge to his father. He lays down the terms.
When he is brought back home his father talks to him ‘seriously and tenderly’. Graham states his objections to all the vulgarity, bullying, and sex (perhaps) in the boarding House. What does his father do?
No, not what he wants; not take him away. He explains that he, the Headmaster, will talk to Mr Cox; look into it. Charles probes for clues about sexual goings-on.
‘Now, my dear boy, you will find that things are quite different in the VIth form. So much better … interesting. You will be working for an Oxford Scholarship. You must aim for that, and those masters who teach you will help you in every way. I will ask Mr Cox that you should not have to participate in games. There is much that you can do for St John’s – as a senior boy – to make it … er … a more humane place. Mr Cox will want you to stay. I really think you should. Just throw yourself into these marvellous opportunities that you have won for yourself, my boy. You should be proud of yourself. You could take up horse-riding with Quennell. I will talk to Sergeant-Major about that. Really, your mother and I hope that you will not give in now, when you are on the very threshold of academic success. Just think of your brother, Raymond, and all he has achieved.’
Well, something like that. Graham said that ‘investigations’ were started in St John’s. Bullying and sexual practices. Boys were interrogated, warned. ‘If this happens again…’
And so it is, in this autumn of 1920, that Graham stays on in St John’s – and life is more acceptable. He can drop the subjects that he does not like. He describes his greater happiness on page 106 of ASOL. (But he implies that this is happening after Richmond. It is not; it is the year before.) He tells us of: being in the ‘main stream’ of the School with Cockburn, Quennell and Guest, of riding lessons and riding on the Common – ‘passing on a hot summer’s day the trudging ranks…’ (There was only one term after Richmond, and no ‘summer’s day’). He writes about his reading for pleasure, about being excused all games, about walking in the Chilterns, of writing a play, writing poetry (Public School Verse).
In spite of all this, Graham still has dark moods, morbidity – this fastidiousness and depression that is linked with St John’s and with Carter. He is able to escape in a small measure from Carter and Wheeler because they are still in the 5th Form. They are still in classes whereas Graham speaks of being able to associate with like-minded fellows, and having a more relaxed, tutorial, type of studying. He is free to work up his interests in the library.
However, Graham still has the routines of St John’s life to endure, and those have not changed very much for him. Seniority counted for little in terms of seclusion. There were no studies for the senior boys. All boys (perhaps not prefects) worked together in the Common Room, and they slept in communal dormitories. (In my House, Incents, there were two dormitories – Senior and Junior, and it would have been much the same in John’s.) The dreaded Carter and Wheeler were still prowling. Those two had some prowess in physical activities – Carter was in the John’s gym squad for three years, and Wheeler played rugby in the School 2nd XV. They were the sort of boys who would make capital out of sporting achievements – slight though the achievements were.
Graham’s father and mother continue to be anxious about the way that their son does not fit in as Raymond did.
Once again, matters come to a head at the end of the Hilary Term 1921. The 8 terms are now up. Graham is on the verge of a breakdown. Carter leaves then. Has that anything to do with it? Has he been expelled? Housemaster Cox has surely been watching him. Graham does not run away, but says that he cannot go on. Raymond is asked for his advice. Charles accepts that psycho-analysis may be the solution, ‘and my father – an astonishing thing in 1920 – agreed’. But it is not 1920 now, it is 1921. There is time during that summer term to decide everything. Arrangements are not made in a rush. Raymond has his medical contacts now.
Graham is allowed to live at home. His studies are directed from there. He has just one St John’s commitment and that is The Lost Silk Hat which is performed on 4th June that summer term, 1921. Graham was, I suppose, committed to that. He was still, after all, technically in St John’s even if he was enjoying preferential treatment.
He starts with Kenneth Richmond in June/July 1921 and remains in London until December. He is working on his own, and being ‘treated’.
When he comes back to Berkhamsted, he has one term left. He crams for History in the six weeks that Kenneth Bell speaks of. With all this dislocation of school life, it is a wonder that he got his place at Balliol. His reading in Kensington Park had been wide-ranging but undirected. We can see what Bell meant by his comments on Graham’s examination performance.
1918 Entered John’s in Sept. He is 14 in Oct. 1 term
Carter came in May
Wheeler would have entered in Sept. with Graham
1919 3 terms in John’s. 15 in Oct. 3 terms
1920 School Cert. June. Graham was 15.
16 in Oct. 3 terms
‘The Crisis’. Graham runs away, says he will not go back to John’s. Charles Greene initiates enquiries into bullying and sexual deviancy. Graham is persuaded to stay in John’s where life will be more tolerable now Graham is in the VIth Form.
VIth form (Modern side) from September. Graham is happier. See Chap 5.
But Graham is still in St John’s. Carter and Wheeler are still there, but are resitting School Cert. Does one more term in St John’s. 1 term (8 terms altogether)
End of Hilary Term. 2nd Crisis in April.
Carter left in April. Was he sacked?
Graham says he will not, cannot, go back to St John’s. Raymond advises. Through that summer term Graham still suffers from bouts of depression.
Graham is allowed to work from School House, though nominally in St John’s, and he acts in the House play ‘Lost Silk Hat’ in June
Starts treatment with Richmond at the end of June. (Sherry says July, but the first letter is 1st July, so he must have gone at the end of June.)
Graham stays with Kenneth Richmond until December.
Wheeler left in December.
1922 Back to Berkhamsted for one more term, and to cram for Oxford. Exam in February – hence Kenneth Bell’s ‘six weeks’.
Graham leaves school in April 1922. The Walter de la Mare summer.
Kenneth Bell’s letter.
Begins at Balliol in Oct.
David R.A. Pearce
Issue 81 February 2020
An Old Man’s Memory: The Strange Case of The Tenth Man
In March 1985 Graham Greene’s short novel The Tenth Man was published in the UK, to a great fanfare. Here was a new work from the Grand Old Man of English Literature, now eighty years old – and remarkably, a work actually written in the 1940s and, it was reported, newly-discovered. Greene wrote a short introduction to the published novel, relating how he had heard of the sale of the story in 1983, and remembered only ‘an outline’ he had written for the film company MGM towards the end of the Second World War: an outline of ‘two pages of typescript’. When sent the complete typescript, Greene found to his amazement ‘not two pages of outline but a complete short novel of about thirty thousand words.’ Moreover, Greene wrote, he found ‘this forgotten story very readable – indeed I prefer it in many ways to The Third Man’. No wonder The Tenth Man became something of a publishing sensation in 1985.
The idea that Greene had simply forgotten about the novel – that it was the victim of ‘An Old Man’s Memory’, to use the title of one of Greene’s own short stories – has been questioned. In particular, Michael Shelden, in his 1994 biography Graham Greene: The Man Within, as ever led the case for the prosecution against Greene. ‘There was nothing wrong with Greene’s memory, and the novel had not been lost’, Shelden wrote, quoting some evidence to this effect; ‘The “discovery” of The Tenth Man allowed Greene to have some fun at the expense of journalists who think only in terms of headlines. And, of course, there was always the added benefit of increased sales from the publicity.’ In turn, Shelden’s account has been challenged by W.J. West, in his 1997 book The Quest for Graham Greene. ‘Greene’s papers at Boston College’, West wrote, ‘demonstrate beyond doubt’ that Shelden’s version of the case was untrue. The Tenth Man, West asserted, was simply an ‘astonishing example of Greene’s very weak memory of his own work’.
Where is the truth in all this? The natural instinct in researching such matters relating to Greene’s life and work is to refer to the late Norman Sherry’s monumental three-volume biography, at least as a starting point. In this case, no help is forthcoming. Astonishingly, Sherry makes absolutely no reference to The Tenth Man – its writing in 1944, its ‘discovery’ in the early 1980s or its publication in 1985. There is no reference to the novel anywhere in the three volumes, in the index, not even in the listing of Greene’s work. If Greene was guilty of forgetting about the novel for very many years, his biographer went one better.
For guidance we must instead look at the various archives containing Greene material, in particular the one at Boston, referred to by West. It is worth pointing out at the outset that Michael Shelden did not visit the archives at Boston College, for the simple reason that Boston had not yet then (1994, when Shelden’s work was published) acquired its Greene material.
The Boston archive gives some detail of Greene’s original writing of The Tenth Man. There is a typescript of the novel, sent by Greene’s literary agent Laurence Pollinger to MGM’s man in London, Ben Goetz, on 19 December 1944. This was in part fulfilment of what Greene later described as ‘an almost slave contract’ with MGM to provide story ideas for two years. Greene had returned to England from service with the Secret Intelligence Service in West Africa in 1943, and resigned from the service altogether in June 1944. He was aware of the need to generate some income. He started work at the publisher Eyre & Spottiswoode in summer 1944, and in February 1944 he had signed a contract with MGM. Greene would produce ideas for stories which might become films, and the stories would then become MGM’s copyright – hence perhaps his reference to a ‘slave contract’. Under the contract, MGM would pay him £250 per week for not less than ten consecutive weeks in two years. (And rather bizarrely, the contract specified that Greene would not be called upon to ‘work on the script of WAR AND PEACE by Leo Tolstoy’.)
Nothing seems to have come of this contract by the time Greene left the SIS in June 1944, but in that month, V-1 flying bombs began to fall on London, where Greene was living most of the time. His wife and children were safe in Oxford, but Greene seems to have been genuinely concerned that he might die at any moment with his family unprovided for. ‘All our expectations of life these days are a little uncertain’, Greene wrote to Laurence Pollinger in July 1944 (the letter is in the David Higham files at Austin, Texas), and he suggested ways his family might be provided for ‘in the event of death’, by various reissuings of Greene’s existing writings. But the MGM contract represented another way of making money, by Greene writing something new.
What might he write? In a fragmentary diary he kept in the 1930s, Greene had recorded this: ‘December 26 [Greene puts the year as 1937, but it is actually 1936]. Discussed film with Menzies [an American film director]. Two notions for future films. One: a political situation like that in Spain. A decimation order. Ten men in prison draw lots with matches. A rich man draws the longest match. Offers all his money to anyone who will take his place. One, for the sake of his family, agrees. Later, when he is released, the former rich man visits anonymously the family who possess his money, he himself now with nothing but his life…’ Here, of course, is essentially the plot of The Tenth Man, originally conceived in the context of the Spanish Civil War, but nothing had come of it in the 1930s. Now, in the summer of 1944, in need of ideas for possible films, the story came out from what Greene called ‘the dark cave of the unconscious’. Following D-Day, France was being swiftly liberated – the German garrison in Paris surrendered on 25 August – and Greene now conceived his story based in France and in the context of the Second World War. By August 1944 Greene was writing to Ian Dalrymple at MGM’s London office, suggesting that he might be able to write ‘a long short story’ of about 20,000 to 25,000 words, to be written in around three months. By 6 November a new contract was signed to cover the story, with Greene being paid £1500 and copyright in the story assigned to MGM. By that date Greene was within 7,000 words of finishing the story (having gone through ‘a very sticky phase’ with it, as he wrote). He seems to have been put under pressure by MGM to get the story finished and sent off, and there is evidence that some of the writing was rushed – the character Thérèse is sometimes called Pauline; Greene had no time for revision, it seems. By December the story was at last finished, copies were made, and it was on its way to MGM in Hollywood.
MGM never made The Tenth Man into a film, and Greene’s contract with the company finally came to an end. Greene moved on to pastures new, and the typescript of The Tenth Man gathered dust in the MGM archives in Hollywood. Then in 1981, a man called Sam Marx discovered the manuscript at MGM. In January 1983, Greene received a letter (now in the Boston archive) from Professor David Leon Higdon, a fellow Conradian with whom he corresponded. Higdon reported that the work had been discovered, that it was to be published in England later that year, and that a film studio had secured the rights. Interestingly, Greene’s secretary replied in April that rumours about the work had been heard – but tantalisingly, with no details. Greene heard in May that the British publisher Anthony Blond had bought the publication rights for £12,000, and Greene’s agent Gerald Pollinger gave him details of his 1944 contract with MGM. Greene did not want the book to be published, but in November 1983 he read the story, provided for him by Blond. Greene’s publisher Max Reinhardt became involved, and by January 1984 it was agreed that it would be jointly published by The Bodley Head and Anthony Blond. This is what happened in 1985. In the meantime, Greene had heard from Sam Marx, telling his tale of the discovery, and inviting Greene to write the screenplay for a film version. Greene turned him down.
And so the ‘discovered’ book was published in 1985, alongside two ‘film sketches’ of other Greene stories, Jim Braddon and the War Criminal and Nobody to Blame. Greene wrote a brief introduction, recording his surprise at learning that what he had remembered as ‘an outline’ covering ‘two pages of typescript’ was in fact a substantial novella. The publication, and the tale of the discovery, caused quite a stir in literary circles. Keith Waterhouse wrote, ‘I was struggling over a half-cooked novel when I read that someone had turned up a 60,000-word [sic] manuscript that Graham Greene had written years ago and forgotten about. I thought briefly about doing away with myself. To me, forgetting having written a book is like forgetting having had heart surgery.’ For Michael Shelden, as we have seen, Waterhouse’s incredulity was well-founded. To forget a very substantial story, even after a gap of almost forty years, was inconceivable, he believed.
In the Greene archives in Boston and Texas is evidence that might seem to support Shelden’s scepticism. A manuscript copy of The Tenth Man at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas was sold to the university in June 1967, so the idea that the story simply gathered dust at MGM until 1981 is certainly untrue. As Shelden points out, a bibliography of Greene’s work by R.A. Wobbe published in 1979 included a reference to the unpublished work The Tenth Man, and it seems certain that Wobbe had seen the manuscript in the Austin archive. There is no evidence to show that Graham Greene himself knew of the bibliography’s reference to The Tenth Man, and more frustratingly, no evidence that he knew of the sale of the manuscript to the Harry Ransom Center in 1967. That sale was a single-item purchase, and there is no record of where the copy came from. The sale was brokered through Lew Feldman’s House of El Dieff in New York, which in itself is suggestive: from 1964 onwards, Greene sold a series of manuscripts of his novels via Sotheby’s Auction House in London and El Dieff. But did Greene use this route again for the sale of a single manuscript of The Tenth Man in 1967? The answer is that we simply do not know.
However, we do have clear evidence that Greene became aware of The Tenth Man as a substantial story in the mid-1960s. In April 1966, a man called Charles Morris wrote to Greene from Stepney in London (this and the subsequent exchange of letters is in the Boston archive). Morris reported that ‘some time ago’ he had found a manuscript of The Tenth Man, inscribed ‘by Graham Greene’. ‘Until recently I am afraid you were not known to me’, Morris wrote, in a blow to Greene’s self-esteem, but now he had become aware of the novelist, and Morris offered to send him the manuscript. ‘The whole thing is rather a mystery’, Greene replied in May 1966, asking him to send it on to him in Antibes. After some delay, Morris sent Greene the manuscript in October, referring in his letter to an ‘East End stall’ – apparently, where he had first purchased the manuscript; it is not the least of the mysteries surrounding The Tenth Man as to how the story came to be on the stall where Charles Morris found it. Greene sent Morris a copy of his most recent novel, The Comedians, by way of thanks, and in his cover letter referred to ‘the strange missing manuscript’, adding, ‘I don’t ever remember having copies of this made [interestingly, he didn’t say he couldn’t remember having written such a long story] and I am certainly glad to be able to destroy one!’ There is no record in the archives of whether Greene actually destroyed this copy. However, there is a handwritten note on Greene’s reply to Morris saying ‘Found by E.D. [presumably Elisabeth Dennys, Greene’s sister and by then, secretary] in 1985 in an old and irrelevant file!’, as if the whole Charles Morris episode had by then been long forgotten.
Hard on the heels of the Morris discovery, another copy of The Tenth Man came to Greene’s attention. A Mrs Jill Phillips of Camberwell, London, wrote to Greene in February 1967, saying that she had a manuscript copy of The Tenth Man; perhaps she too bought it on an East End stall, but since her original letter has not survived, we do not know. What we do have is a reply to Mrs Phillips in March 1967 from Greene’s agent Laurence Pollinger (in the Texas files), informing her that the copyright in the story rested with MGM and that ‘you should take no action with your typescript copy without first having obtained permission from MGM.’ Pollinger’s letter added that ‘this is the second time the subject of a typescript outside the possession of MGM has come up in the last twelve months’ – clearly, a reference to Charles Morris’s earlier purchase. Sadly, there is no further evidence of what Mrs Phillips did with her copy. There is no indication that Graham Greene came in possession of it, but the exchange again clearly made Greene aware of the existence of the story.
What did Greene do with the copy he received from Charles Morris? Destroyed it, as he said he would? Sell it the following year to the archive in Texas? We do not know, but there is another piece of evidence, hitherto never remarked on in this mystery. In Yvonne Cloetta’s memoir, In Search of a Beginning: My Life with Graham Greene, published in 2004, Cloetta writes about the winter of 1970. She looked in the bedroom of his flat in Antibes, on the top of some cupboards, in search of some radiators. On finding ‘a whole lot of papers’ behind the radiators, she brought them down. ‘I started to pull out the papers and handed them to him’, Cloetta writes. ‘What were they? Well, he had a vague memory of some pages that he had completely forgotten from The Tenth Man. He thought it was only the synopsis. In fact, he discovered the entire manuscript.’ No more is made of this discovery in Cloetta’s book – she continues the story by talking about a dozen or so pages of an early draft of what eventually became The Human Factor, which were also found on top of the cupboard: it was these pages that caught Greene’s attention, not the typescript of The Tenth Man. There is no sense in Cloetta’s book of her story undermining the idea of Greene being surprised at the ‘discovery’ of The Tenth Man in 1983, merely a mention in passing that Greene had a copy of the manuscript, which he had clearly forgotten about. Was this the Charles Morris copy, which Greene had neglected to destroy? If so, it could not be the copy sold to the archive in Austin, Texas in 1967. And what did Greene do with this copy, newly-discovered on the top of the cupboard? Given his apparently greater interest in the discovery of some pages of the future novel The Human Factor, perhaps The Tenth Man was simply stuffed back up on top of the cupboard and again forgotten about? Again as so often in this story, we do not know.
There is, therefore, a considerable body of material dating from the mid-1960s that suggests that Graham Greene knew perfectly well that a complete story of The Tenth Man existed, indeed that there was one copy in Greene’s own possession. He received a copy from Charles Morris; he heard of another copy in Jill Phillips’s possession; he had a copy in his Antibes flat in 1970; and he may even have sold a copy to Texas in 1967. There are many references in the foregoing to Greene’s hazy memory of the story (‘the whole thing is rather a mystery’ … ‘a vague memory of some pages that he had completely forgotten’), but more than one occasion when Greene’s memory had been jogged. Surely Shelden is right? Graham Greene was feigning ignorance in 1983 when The Tenth Man was discovered, wasn’t he?
And yet, and yet. There is first the question of why Greene sat on his copy of The Tenth Man and didn’t try to get it published long before 1983. If he did not think much of it and thought it was not publishable, why did he later profess to thinking rather highly of it – as he wrote, ‘I prefer it in many ways to The Third Man’. Or perhaps we should merely join Shelden in his cynicism, assuming that Greene realised that since MGM held the copyright, he had himself no financial interest in seeing the novella published? Perhaps.
But there is another consideration. As mentioned earlier, W.J. West’s defence of Greene over The Tenth Man is based on his research in the archives in Boston – archives Shelden never had access to. There is at Boston College a considerable collection of correspondence from 1983 to 1985 concerning The Tenth Man – its ‘discovery’, the developments leading to its publication, and material relating to rights, serialisation and a possible film version. There is in all this correspondence not a single item where Greene admits to anyone that he already knew about the completed story The Tenth Man. More positively, when reading through this correspondence, there is an overwhelming feeling of Greene being genuinely puzzled by the gradual revelation of the existence of a finished novella. Professor Higdon’s letter of January 1983, reporting the discovery of the story, has a scribbled note ‘write and ask any more info?’, and this tone of Greene needing to be reminded of matters continues through the file. Greene’s agent Gerald Pollinger was asked to investigate, and in May Greene was told ‘It seems MGM bought this in 1944 in manuscript’. Later that month, Pollinger was able to give Greene fuller information about his 1944 contracts with MGM. In reply, in June, Greene wrote to Pollinger, ‘I am completely puzzled by all this. I seem to remember writing a short possible outline for a film but which would not have had the length which I should have thought would be publishable.’ As he learnt of Anthony Blond’s financial interest and intention to publish the story, Greene wrote to Blond in October, stating his opposition to having the novella published and asking him to send a photocopy of the story ‘to refresh my memory’. There is no indication that Greene believed he had had, or still had, a copy of the story on top of a cupboard in his Antibes flat.
This general tone of bafflement and vagueness could of course all have been bluff on Greene’s part, though that then invites the question as to why Greene might act in this way, and requires acceptance that Greene was willing to mislead not only the likes of Anthony Blond, but his own agent, Gerald Pollinger. Perhaps most tellingly, Greene’s amazement carried into other letters with personal friends. To Michael Meyer in November 1983, Greene wrote that Blond had sent him a copy of the story ‘which to my embarrassment seems to be rather good’. Greene continued, ‘In my memory it was just a sketch of an idea for a film of a few pages, but it proves to be 100 pages of typescript and I think rather better than its successor The Third Man but not so filmable.’ And in a letter to his Swiss lawyer and friend Jean-Felix Paschoud in February 1984, Greene referred to ‘a story of mine of which I had forgotten the existence called THE TENTH MAN!’ Greene added ‘I apparently wrote it somewhere around 1945 under contract to MGM’ – a misdating of the writing of the story even after Pollinger had made clear the details to Greene. This misdating continued in the first draft of Greene’s introduction to the novella, written probably in 1984 and held at Georgetown University, in which Greene wrote that the story had been written ‘just after the war’, changed in the published introduction to ‘towards the end of the war’. Greene was genuinely unsure about the genesis of the story, and his letters continually reveal his surprise that a complete story actually existed.
We have therefore a conundrum in relation to The Tenth Man. To accept Greene’s version of events we have to accept that his attention was more than once drawn to the existence of a finished story in the 1960s, and that indeed for a time he had a copy of the story in his Antibes flat – and yet that he managed not to realise all this in the early 1980s when the manuscript was discovered in the MGM archives. Yet the consistent tone of his letters of 1983-4 to a range of people is that this is precisely what happened. To believe otherwise is to assume an extraordinary level of deceit by Greene towards all those he corresponded with, for reasons that are not at all clear. Greene had a notoriously fallible memory for his own writings, and he seems in this case to have suffered from a persistent false memory of what work he had done on the Tenth Man story, which he stubbornly clung on to in the face of contradictory evidence. It may be hard to credit, but ‘An Old Man’s Memory’ is perhaps the likeliest explanation after all.