Green, Henry (1905–1973) By Shuttleworth, Antony
Henry Green was the pen name of Henry Yorke, a well-regarded novelist working in the mid-twentieth century. Living in London, Yorke worked much of his life as a businessman for his family’s engineering firm. He published nine novels between 1926 and 1952. In the later part of his life he was affected by worsening alcoholism, and became increasingly housebound. He died in 1973.
Born to a family with aristocratic connections, Green was educated at Eton, which he described as ‘a humane concentration camp’, and Oxford, where he was a contemporary of Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Powell and where he published his first novel. Blindness (1926) examines the effects of a blinding injury on a young man’s development into an artist. In 1929 Green married Mary Adelaide (‘Dig’) Biddulph.
Most of Green’s novels draw on autobiographical experience. Living (1929), a depiction of factory life in the English Midlands, is informed by a period Green spent working on the factory floor of the family firm. Caught (1943) makes use of his work with the London Fire Service. Although Green’s early writing dealt with similar subjects to his contemporaries’ (working-class life, the threat of war), it did so in distinctive ways. Living and Party Going (1939) employ an unusual syntax, in which grammatical articles are used sparingly if at all. The prominent use of gerunds (‘doting’, ‘loving’) is a noticeable Green trait.