Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Graham Greene letters, 1933-1990

Summary Information


The collection consists primarily of letters and postcards from Graham Greene to his close friend Mercia Ryhiner Schwob Tinker Harrison, widow of actor Rex Harrison.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#0518
Bib ID 4079892 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Greene, Graham, 1904-1991
Title Graham Greene letters, 1933-1990
Physical Description .42 linear feet (1 document box)
Language(s) Material is primarily in English with some French.

This collection has no restrictions.

This collection is located on-site.



Material is arranged into one series.



This collection of correspondences consists almost entirely of letters to Greene's close friend, Mercia Ryhiner Schwob Tinker Harrison, from 1953 to 1990. The letters describe personal matters as well as events in Greene's career as a writer, playwright, and journalist. Most of the letters are correspondences describing Greene's whereabouts and his plans to visit Harrison; the letters briefly address Greene's literary pursuits and his personal relationship with Harrison. Four letters to Harrison from other people are included in this collection as well. The collection also contains many postcards and Christmas cards from Greene to Harrison, spanning almost twenty years from the 1950s to 1969.

  • Series I: Graham Greene Letters, 1933-1990, undated

    This collection is arranged in a single series, and contains 3 folders: Graham Greene Letters to Mercia Ryhiner Schwob Tinker Harrison, 1933-1990, undated; Letters to Mercia Ryhiner Schwob Tinker Harrison, 193-1990; and Postcards, 1950's-1969.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection has no restrictions.

This collection is located on-site.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known);Graham Greene Letters ; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Selected Related Material-- at Columbia

Dorothy Craigie Papers, Columbia University Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Graham Greene papers, 1892-1999 (bulk 1950-1990), Burns Library, Boston College

Gerald C. Walling-Graham Greene Collection, Burns Library, Boston College

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Letters of Graham Greene Cataloged HR 10/29/1996.

Papers Processed Robyn Hjermstad, MSLIS, Pratt Institute, 2011 10/--/2010.

Finding aid Written Robyn Hjermstad, MSLIS, Pratt Institute, 2011 10/--/2010.

Letters from Graham Greene to Mercia Harrison Cataloged HR 10/29/1996.

Revision Description

2010-12-22 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Postcards Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Authors, English Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Christmas cards Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
English literature -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Greene, Graham, 1904-1991 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Harrison, Rex Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Novelists Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

Graham Greene was one of the most widely read authors, playwrights and literary critics of the twentieth century. Born in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, in 1904, Henry Graham Greene was the fourth of six children. Greene was first educated at the Berkhamsted School where his father was headmaster. He left the school at age 15, and moved on to study modern history at Balliol College in Oxford. It was there that Greene was able to hone in his interests in politics and writing, and worked as editor for The Oxford Outlook. After college, Greene converted to Roman Catholicism in 1926, partially under the influence of his future wife, Vivien Dayrell-Browning, whom he married in 1927. Greene's interests in Catholicism and international politics would continue to influence his work throughout his lifetime. Shortly after college, Greene moved to London and worked as a copy editor for The Times for 4 years, and upon the success of his first novel, The Man Within (1929), he quit The Times and traveled for three years as a freelance journalist.

In 1941, Greene began working for the British Foreign Office, and was stationed at Freetown, Sierra Leone, for a good portion of Word War II, which was the setting for his well known novel, The Heart of the Matter (1948; filmed 1953). The Quiet American (filmed 1958, 2002) also draws upon Greene's experiences as an agent in Sierra Leone and on his experiences in Saigon. Greene wrote many short stories, novels, and "entertainment pieces" (such as comedies and thrillers) throughout his lifetime; his travels and experiences as both an agent and journalist greatly influenced his writing. The Lawless Roads (1939) and The Power and the Glory (1940), for example, were written after Greene traveled to Mexico to witness religious purges.

In 1966, Greene became Companion of Honour, and in 1986 he received an Order of Merit. Greene's success as a writer enabled him to live comfortably in London, Antibes, and Capri, and he would continue to travel and write until old age prevented him from doing so. Greene died at the age of 86 in Vevey, Switzerland, on April 13th, 1991.