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James Greene papers

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS82

Scope and Contents note

The James Greene Papers consist of an exchange of correspondence between the eminent British novelist Graham Greene and his nephew James Greene, son of Sir Hugh Greene, well-known BBC correspondent and official (director general, 1960-1969). The letters span over a decade from late 1977 to 1989. A total of forty-three original signed letters from Graham Greene respond to the thirty-six typescript letters from his nephew, which have been spiral bound in a paginated volume together with typed transcriptions of the original letters from Graham Greene. The collection offers a private view of the long-distance and primarily epistolary relationship between the writer and his nephew. In his avuncular role, Graham Greene appears both humorous and compassionate. His responses, though often brief, are full of literary as well as familial advice to his nephew whose letters range over a wide variety of topics from his own literary vocation and poet's aspirations to extremely personal experiences including the death of his father Sir Hugh Greene, his relationship with common law wife Clara Mafra and their daughter Camilla.

Bulk dates: 1977 1989 Span dates: 1977 1989 Extent: 0.25 linear feet, 1 box Processed March 19, 1990

NOTE: A second acquisition of correspondence from Graham Greene to James Greene has been appended to this register in the Addendum. This represents a revised finding aid together with a new index reflecting the new data.

Datespan: 1960 - 1990 Extent: 9 additional folders. Provenance: Acquired from James Greene, 1991. Processed August 13, 1991.


Series: 1. Graham Greene Correspondence (Box 1, Folders 1-43) This series contains forty three signed letters from Graham Greene to his nephew James Greene. The correspondence is arranged chronologically with one letter per folder. The letters reply to correspondence from JG (see typescripts of the entire exchange of correspondence in Series 2, Folder 44).

Series: 2. James Greene/Graham Greene Letters Typescript (Box 1, Folder 44)

This series contains one item: a spiral bound typescript of the entire exchange of correspondence between James and Graham Greene from November 22, 1977 through May 31, 1989. All of the transcribed letters here from Graham Greene correspond to the originals itemized in Series 1. Itemization of letters in Series 2 will therefore only cover the letters by James Greene. The order of itemization follows the sequence of letters as bound.

The total of thirty-six letters from James Greene are interspersed with copies of his poems originally included and sent to his uncle.

The whole bound volume is entitled "Nepotism," and includes a foreword by James Greene entitled, "On Not Getting to Know Graham: An Epistolary Relationship." Many of the letters are annotated by James Greene.

Note: In this finding aid, numbers appearing in brackets indicate the page number on which a letter appears in the spiral bound copy.

Series 3. Addendum (Folders 45-53)

This series constitutes a second acquisition of letters from Graham Greene to James Greene. Arrangement is chronological. Abbreviations ALS Autograph letter signed TLS Typed letter signed GG Graham Greene JG James Greene


  • 1977-1989

Collection-level Access Restrictions

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are solely responsible for determining the copyright status of the materials being used, establishing who the copyright owner is, locating the copyright owner, and obtaining permission for intended use.

Biographical note

James Greene and his elder brother Graham Carlton were born abroad in Berlin (January 1938 and 1936, respectively) at the time that Sir Hugh Greene was German correspondent for the "Daily Telegraph" (1934-1939). Sir Hugh married James Greene's mother, Helga Guinness, on October 24, 1934, having met her in Munich during his earliest days as foreign correspondent. She was the daughter of a Norwegian mother and of Samuel Guinness, the successful Irish director of the merchant bank Guinness Mahon. Helga and Sir Hugh were eventually divorced in 1946, after a period of separation. Graham and James Greene refer to this relationship in their correspondence, offering the different views of brother or brother-in-law and of son, respectively.

After receiving his early education at Eton, James Greene was graduated from Oxford with a degree in French and Russian. He also studied psychology and English Literature at London University. His poetry has appeared in various journals in Britain and the U.S., as well as in a volume, "Dead-man's Fall," published by the Bodley Head, 1980. Greene is perhaps best known for his translations of works by such poets as Afanasy Fet, I have come to you to greet you (Angel, 1982); of Osip Mandelstam, The Eyesight of Wasps (1989) and Osip Mandelstam (1977, revised 1980); and of Fernando Pessoa The Surprise of Being ( Angel, 1986).

In 1985, James Greene won first prize in the British Comparative Literature Association's translation competition (to which he refers in his correspondence) for his translation work on Pessoa. In 1986 he won second prize in the TLS/Cheltenham Festival of Literature poetry competition.


0.20 Linear Feet (1 Hollinger Slim Document Case)

Language of Materials



Acquired from James Greene, October 30, 1989.

James Greene papers
Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections, Washington, D.C.
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Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057