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Graham Greene papers

Collection MS-1995-003: Graham Greene papers


  • Creation: 1807 - 1999
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1940 - 1989

Scope and Contents

The Graham Greene papers document the life and work of Greene, including his childhood and family, as well as his career as a journalist and writer. The collection is global, with material from and concerning a variety of countries. Topics include literary culture, film history, mid-to-late twentieth century global history, wars, revolutions, counterintelligence, communism, and Catholicism.

The correspondence series documents Greene’s publishing career, involvement in the film and television industry, and interest in world politics, as well as his relationships and broad circle of acquaintances. Included are correspondence with family, business agents, attorneys, and publishers; correspondence related to Graham Greene Productions, a production company established by Greene and Alexander Korda, and Vivien Greene’s dollhouse museum, the Rotunda; as well as fan mail and interview requests. Of special interest are exchanges with film, literary, and political figures, as well as fellow operatives in British intelligence.

Greene’s work as an author is represented in the Literary Works series through a variety of genres: articles and essays, children’s books, editorial work, films scripts, introductions, letters to the editor and editorials, nonfiction, novels, plays, poetry, reviews, short stories, radio scripts, and television scripts. Also included in the series are essays Greene and his siblings wrote and submitted pseudonymously to newspaper contests seeking entries written in Greene’s style and two bound volumes containing a handwritten Greene family newspaper produced from 1911-1912 entitled The Schoolhouse Gazette.

Travel is a theme throughout the collection, evidenced by maps, passports, and even a Travel Scrabble game, as well as correspondence, manuscripts of articles and books, and photographs. Greene visited countries in turmoil, which not only informed his journalism, but also inspired his fiction and and long-form nonfiction writing.

Materials types found in the papers include correspondence and literary drafts, proofs, and reviews, as well as art, clippings, ephemera, legal documents, maps, passports, photographs, postcards, posters, playbills, programs, research material, scrapbooks. The bulk of the materials date between 1950-1990, with some dating to 1807 and other papers, collected after Greene’s death, dating to 1999.


Language of Materials

Materials in this collection are primarily in English, with small amounts of Czech, French, German, Polish, Spanish, and possibly Chinese, Kikuyu, Swahili, and Vietnamese.

Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research; some folders are closed for privacy or condition concerns. Audiovisual materials may not be immediately available due to formatting issues. End dates for restrictions are indicated at the folder-level.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical Note

Graham Greene was born in Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire on October 2, 1904, to Charles Henry Greene and Marion Raymond Greene. Greene’s father was the headmaster of Berkhamstead School, where Greene was an unhappy pupil for sixteen years. When Greene was thirteen, his parents moved him from the headmaster's residence to room with the boarding students, where he was bullied. Following several suicide attempts, he attempted to run away, at which point his parents removed him from the school for six months. He then lived in London under the care of Kenneth Richmond, an amateur psychoanalyst inspired by Carl Jung.

Greene finished his education at Berkamstead and attended Balliol College at Oxford, where he studied history and wrote poetry for the Weekly Westminster Gazette and the student magazine Oxford Outlook. In his last year at university, Greene published a poorly-received collection of poetry and abandoned his ambitions to become a poet. After leaving Oxford, Greene became a journalist and, in 1926, worked as a subeditor at The Times. During the same year, Greene converted to Roman Catholicism. In 1927, he married the Catholic Vivien Dayrell-Browning. The couple lived in London and had two children, Lucy Caroline (b. 1933) and Francis Hugh (b. 1936).

In 1929, Greene wrote and published The Man Within, a critical and commercial success that enabled him to leave his job at The Times. Greene’s next two novels were less successful; however, Stamboul Train was written to have popular appeal and draw a wide readership. Greene labelled it the first of his “entertainments”; a term he used for work sharing many characteristics with popular thriller fiction, but which he felt more deeply explored the moral complexities of their situations and characters. He later abandoned the term.

Greene was an avid cinemagoer, first writing on film at Oxford, where he reviewed film for Oxford Outlook. During the 1930s, he reviewed over four hundred films for The Spectator. His passion for the cinema led him to work as a screenwriter for producer and director Alexander Korda during the 1940s. Greene’s screenwriting method was to produce a very detailed treatment of the narrative before developing the screenplay, which he called a “film story.” Some of these treatments were themselves published as novels, including The Third Man. The narrative techniques of cinema, such as rapid cutting between scenes, became a part of Greene’s stylistic repertoire, not only as a screenwriter, but as a novelist, too.

When World War II broke out, Greene began working at the Ministry of Information commissioning and editing war propaganda, while also serving as an air raid warden at night. Greene moved to the Secret Intelligence Service in 1941, and was sent to Sierra Leone from 1941 to 1943 as a counter espionage officer. Greene’s cover story while in Sierra Leone was the persona of a police officer in the Colonial Office. After returning to Britain in 1943, he moved to the Iberian branch of the Intelligence Service where he monitored intelligence operations in Gibraltar, Lisbon, Madrid, and Tangier. While working at the Iberian Branch, Greene’s superior officer was Kim Philby, who was to later become notorious for his defection to the Soviet Union. Greene’s experience of espionage work informed the plots of a number of his most celebrated novels, including Our Man in Havana and The Third Man. For many years after the war, Greene continued to carry out work unofficially for the Intelligence Service, which supported his extensive travels in the 1950s and 1960s. These foreign experiences generated material for much of his fiction of the same period. The Heart of the Matter drew on Greene’s experiences in Sierra Leone, while The Quiet American grew out of Greene’s visits to Asia, and A Burnt Out Case from his travels in Africa.

During the 1960s, Greene gave up his British residence in favor of the homes he owned in Capri and Paris, as well as Antibes, where he eventually spent the majority of his time. In 1978, Greene's fictional settings returned to London with The Human Factor, which, though set in the 1970s, drew on Greene’s experiences while serving in the Secret Intelligence Service in the 1940s. Greene continued to write throughout the 1980s, producing the nonfiction Getting to Know the General in 1985, about General Omar Torrijos of Panama.

Greene’s marriage broke down in the 1940s as a result of his infidelities. He and Vivienne lived apart from 1946 onwards, though they never divorced. After the war, Greene began an affair with Catherine Walston, an American married to an English baron, which served as the inspiration for his novel The End of the Affair. Later, Greene began an affair with another married woman, Yvonne Cloetta, who remained his companion until his death.

Greene and Cloetta moved to Corseaux, Switzerland in 1990, where Greene died of leukemia at the Hôpital de la Providence, Vevey, on April 3, 1991. Greene was buried on April 8 in Corseaux.


"Graham Greene (British author)." In Encyclopædia Britannica Online, July 21, 2017. Encyclopædia Britannica (Accessed April 3, 2020).

Pearce, Joseph. “Graham Greene: Doubter Par Excellence.” Lay Witness, June 2001,

Shelden, Michael. “Greene, (Henry) Graham (1904–1991).” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004,

Sherry, Norman. The Life of Graham Greene. 3 vols. New York: Viking, 1989-2004.


58.5 Linear Feet (104 containers)


The Graham Greene papers document the life and work of Greene, including his childhood and family, as well as his career as a journalist and writer. The collection is global, with material from and concerning a variety of countries. Topics include literary culture, film history, mid-to-late twentieth century world history, wars, revolutions, counterintelligence, communism, and Catholicism. The collection consists of art, artifacts, correspondence, ephemera, legal records, literary manuscripts, photographs, scrapbooks, and subject files.


The Graham Greene papers are arranged into eleven series: I. Art, artifacts and ephemera; II. Auction and manuscript sales; III. Correspondence; IV. Legal Records; V. Literary Works; VI. Loose materials removed from books; VII. Memberships and honors; VIII. Photographs; IX. Subject Files; X. Travel; and XI. Writings by Others.

Series III. Correspondence is divided five subseries: A. Business; B. Family; C. Fan Mail; D. General; and E. Interview Requests. Subseries A. Business is further divided into seven sub-subseries: 1. Agents; 2. Attorneys; 3. Graham Greene Productions; 4. Management; 5. Productions; 6. Publishers; and 7. Rotunda.

Series V. Literary Works is divided into thirteen subseries: A. Children’s books; B. Complimentary Copies; C. Editorial works; D. Essays and articles; E. Family Newspaper; F. Introductions; G. Letters to the editor and editorials; H. Nonfiction books; I. Novels, plays, films, and collected essays; J. Poetry; K. Reviews; L. Short Stories; and M. Television and radio scripts.

Series VIII. Photographs is divided into five subseries: A. Albums and scrapbooks; B. Family; C. Productions; D. Travel; and E. Unidentified.

Series XI. Writings by others is divided into three subseries: A. About Greene; B. General; and C. World War II children’s stories. Subseries A. About Greene is divided into five sub-subseries: 1. Biographies; 2. Clippings; 3. Essays and articles; 4. Genealogical information; and 5. Memorial service.

The majority of series are arranged alphabetically. The exceptions are Series III. Correspondence, Subseries C. Fan mail; Series V. Literary Works, Subseries G. Letters to the editor and editorials; and Series VIII. Photographs, Subseries B. Family, all of which are arranged chronologically.


The bulk of the collection was purchased in 1995 from Bloomsbury Book Auctions. The remainder is a compilation of gifts from Molly Walker (1995), Tennant C. Wright (1995), Thomas McCoog (1997), Roger Watkins (1999), Derek Parker (2011), and Dermot Keogh (2012), as well as purchases from Bertram Rota (1996), Gloucester Road Bookshop (1996), Bloomsbury Books Auctions (1999, 2004), and Richard Kelly (2013).

Related Materials

At Boston College: Gerald C. Walling - Graham Greene collection, MS.1993.007, John J. Burns Library, Boston College. Philip Caraman, S. J., papers, MS.1998.030, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

At other repositories: Graham Greene collection, 1924-1998, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin. Graham Greene papers, Georgetown University Manuscripts, Georgetown University Special Collections Research Center.

Separated Materials

The Burns Library also holds Graham Greene's personal library, which is described separately in the Library Catalog under the local collection name "Greene's Library." These books may be requested and used in the Burns Library Reading Room.

Processing Information

The Graham Greene papers consists of acquisitions made by the John J. Burns Library over the course of two decades. Each was individually described and made available to researchers for most of that time. In 2015, the collections were closed and reprocessed into a single collection. Clippings have been replaced with preservation photocopies; original clippings have been retained, but are restricted due to fragility.

  • Photocopies: all of MS.2006.053 consists of photocopied newspaper clippings pasted to 3-hole punch paper; there is also a box of photocopies originally sent to Norman Sherry (no accession record, not archival materials).
Graham Greene Papers
1807-1999 (bulk 1940-1989)
Annalisa Moretti and Xaviera Flores
February 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States