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date: 27 June 2022

Henry Green’s Late Modernism

Abstract and Keywords

This article discusses the novels of Henry Green in relation to late modernism. It begins by discussing Green’s placement within current debates regarding the nature and scope of modernism. Paying particular attention to Party Going, it argues that what makes Green’s novels quintessentially late modernist is the way that they thematize their own untimeliness. Green’s novels are obsessed with all manner of belatedness: journeys are delayed and parental origins questioned, events and images repeat themselves endlessly, and lost treasures return only to be lost again. The article ends by considering how, through the displacement of images from his earlier novels—particularly that of dead birds—Green’s later novels reveal the repetition, bathos, and obsession with nothingness that are the hallmarks of his singular style.

Keywords: Henry Green, late modernism, Party Going, novels, repetition, birds, death

I. Placing

Eudora Welty considered him to have “the most interesting and vital imagination in English fiction in our time.”1 According to Elizabeth Bowen his novels “reproduce as few English novels do the real sensations of living.”2 And yet, as Frank Kermode points out, “a confession that one had not read him would not be humiliating (a rule of thumb of canonicity).”3 The son of an aristocratic family, he attended Eton with Anthony Powell and Oxford with Evelyn Waugh. His mother’s accent was apparently so posh you could hear her drop “g”s from words that did not actually have any.4 But he also wrote what both Christopher Isherwood and Michael North have described as the “finest proletarian novel of his period,” and he spent the better part of his life managing his family’s Birmingham ironworks, writing fiction over his lunch break.5 In terms of the formal experimentation of his novels, and his apparent range of influences—Proust, Celine, Woolf, and Faulkner, to name a few—he would seem to be unquestionably a self-conscious heir of high modernism, a proud member of la garde après l’avant-garde. And yet he claimed immediately to “forget everything [he] read at once including [his] own stuff.”6 His preoccupation with the lives of the working class in novels such as Living (1929), Loving (1945), and Back (1946) often sees him camped with fellow writers of the 1930s such as Walter Greenwood and George Orwell, with whom he also attended Eton. His at times sardonic, at times sympathetic, and at all times comic preoccupation with the rich in his other works, and in particular his final two novels Nothing (1950) and Doting (1952), would similarly put him in the tradition of Nancy Mitford and Beverly Nichols, perhaps even P. G. Wodehouse. Of his nine novels, six are given active verbs as titles: Living, Loving, Concluding (1948), Doting, Party Going (1939), and, though not quite a gerund, Nothing. Of the nongerundial titles, all suggest a kind of deprival or withholding: Blindness (1926), Caught (1943), and Back, though we could again include Nothing. In other words, his titles either move forward or hold back, with the exception of Nothing, which goes nowhere. Such are the many contradictions of Henry Green.

Or maybe they are the contradictions of Henry Yorke, Green’s real identity. The son of the industrialist Vincent Yorke and the socialite Maud Wyndham, Green once explained that he wrote under a pseudonym because he did not want his business associates to know he was a novelist, but curiously he chose the name while still a student.7 The use of a pseudonym, especially when combined with his desire to have all of his publicity shots feature the back of his head, would seem to suggest an author singularly concerned with privacy—but not so concerned as to stop him from writing an autobiography. In Pack My Bag (1940)—a “self-portrait” written at the onset of the Second World War, under the assumption that one must “put down what comes to mind before one is killed, and surely it would be asking much to pretend one had a chance to live”—Green recalls writing on the back of a photograph taken of him for the Eton College Society of Arts:

I flatter myself that this is not in the least like me: how could it be what with the irritation at the photographer and the idiocy of being photographed. I resolutely posed myself and looked out with an easily recognizable defiance at the paste board I was to mesmerize. There is anger and resignation in that futile flabby sneer of the lips, there is a terrible lankness, toughness almost in the figure. Altogether a horrible photograph.8

It is the contrived, deliberately defiant pose that makes for the horrible photograph, “not in the least like me.” And yet Henry Green’s literary career is seemingly made up of contrived pose after contrived pose, all of which make his work so singular in the canon of modernist writers.9 According to Marina MacKay, Green is a “misfit,” and because he “is not like anyone else … he is more legible in relation to an idea of modernism that has always been committed to unlikeness.”10 The difficulty, though, is that Green is not just unlike anyone else, but very rarely even like himself.

The version of modernism that Green makes legible is one that, in MacKay’s words, canonizes “on the basis of the one-off-style.”11 However, defining a literary movement—or even a single writer’s canon—by the dissimilarity of its constituent works raises a number of challenges. For, as Fredric Jameson has put it, “any theory of modernism capacious enough to include Joyce along with Yeats or Proust, let alone alongside Vallejo, Biely, Gide, or Bruno Schulz, is bound to be so vague and vacuous as to be intellectually inconsequential.”12 What Jameson is attacking here is the drive within the so-called new modernist studies toward expansion in which, as Douglas Mao and Rebecca Walkowitz have put it, “once quite sharp boundaries between high art and popular forms of culture have been reconsidered; in which canons have been critiqued and reconfigured; in which works by members of marginalized social groups have been encountered with fresh eyes and ears; and in which scholarly inquiry has increasingly extended to matters of production, dissemination, and reception.”13 Measured against these lines of expansion, Green appears almost shockingly retrograde. Though influenced by cinema and popular culture, his work is unapologetically high and at times forbiddingly stark; for instance, in Green’s second novel, Living, almost all articles are omitted in an attempt to make the prose “as taut and spare as possible.”14 As an English aristocrat, Green belongs to perhaps the least marginalized social group in the history of the world, no matter what his class sympathies.15 Even his choice of publication venues was predictable: most of his novels were published through Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press, and the bulk of his shorter pieces appeared in Horizon and Penguin New Writing, which is largely as “establishment” as modernism gets.

But in spite of all this, MacKay is right to suggest that Green is a misfit, and that there is something unique in his writing that makes it highly revealing of the way modernism evolves beyond the 1920s. As she puts it, “what Green’s persistently under-read novels contribute to political readings of late modernism is this: a sympathetic fascination with the working classes is not, it turns out, exclusively the preserve of left politics in the 1930s.”16 In MacKay’s view, what is most striking about Green in relation to his contemporaries is that while he has the “perfect biographical profile for the 1930s writer, the novels he wrote … bore no resemblance to the hectoring and self-regarding tone … considered definitive of the 1930s.”17 But we can push the boundaries of this observation beyond the politics of the Auden generation. That is, what Green’s “persistently under-read novels” reveal to us is something profound about the nature of what is increasingly becoming referred to, by MacKay and others, as “late modernism.”

Considering his unhappiness with the bagginess with which the term modernism is used as a catch-all banner for every manner of twentieth-century literary experimentation, it is somewhat surprising that it is Fredric Jameson himself who is most often credited with popularizing “late modernism.” Jameson employs the term to describe “the last survival of a properly modernist view of art and the world after the great political economic break of the Depression, where, under Stalinism or the Popular Front, Hitler or the New Deal, some new conception of social realism achieves the status of momentary cultural dominance by way of collective anxiety and world war.”18 Late modernism, for Jameson, is a period of transition, exemplified by writers such as Vladimir Nabokov, Samuel Beckett, and Charles Olson, all of whom, like Green, “had the misfortune to span two eras and the luck to find a time capsule of isolation or exile in which to spin out unseasonable forms.”19 As a category, late modernism fills the gap between the stylistic innovations of modernism, as exemplified by James Joyce and Gertrude Stein, and those of postmodernism, as typified by Thomas Pynchon and J. G. Ballard. However, as a label, late modernism poses a number of problems. It risks reducing all the varieties of modernism—pre, high, late, and post—into a sequence of distinct periods, with the attendant difficulties of how to police the boundaries. At the same time, it reduces all the modernisms into a set of discrete styles, as if the best answer to Jameson’s charge of vagueness against the way modernism is used as a term is to break the movement up into a few component parts: modernism phase one, phase two, and so on. Nevertheless, “late modernism” fulfills the need for a more copious understanding of the full range of literary experimentation as it evolved through the 1930s into the 1950s, a need that is still unfulfilled even after the expansions offered by the new modernist studies. We need it as a term so that we can make sense of misfits such as Green, who are, as MacKay puts it, “not like anyone else.”20

The difficulty of placing Green in relation to both his own generation and that of the writers who preceded him has, in a sense, been the major problem of Green criticism since Edward Stokes published the first monograph on Green in 1959. For Stokes, Green is “one of the most elusive, tantalizing, and enigmatic of novelists” precisely because he does not clearly follow in the footsteps of his modernist predecessors.21 The two major studies published in the 1980s by Rod Mengham and Michael North argued for Green’s work as being, in Mengham’s words, “not simply reflective of its time” but important precisely because of the way it “brings in question received ways of thinking” about the genealogy and scope of the modernist novel.22 According to Green’s biographer Jeremy Treglown, while “there are ways in which he can be compared with his peers … not only with Lawrence and Woolf but with Kafka, Gertrude Stein, William Faulkner … what is most important about [Green] is how unlike anyone else he is.”23 And more recently, Marius Hentea has noted that because of the way he “straddled modernism and post-war realism … our critical categories do not provide a space to position Green.”24 Yet for the seeming impossibility of situating Green, he is being increasingly mentioned in revisionary accounts of modernism. Beyond MacKay’s study of how modernism extends into and beyond the Second World War, Green can be found in Jessica Burnstein’s list of “cold modernists” who reject the more typically modernist obsession with interiority and psychology in favor of exteriority, the body, and the mechanical, and who spurn the modernist obsession with the radically new, preferring instead “the prosthetic, the copy, and imitation.”25 For Beci Carver, Green is a “granular modernist,” a writer who sustains “techniques of irrelevance, plotlessness, miscellaneousness, convolution, and confusion … in an attempt to describe a semi-aware exercise in futility,” presumably in opposition to referential maniacs such as Joyce and Proust for whom everything is relevant and meaningful.26 Don Adams has argued that Green, along with Ronald Firbank, Jane Bowles, and James Purdy, constitutes an “alternative paradigm of literary realism,” and Kristen Bluemel has listed Green as a preeminent “intermodernist.”27

The point here is not that the seemingly unplaceable Green has all of a sudden finally found a home within new accounts of modernism—whether of the high, inter-, or late variety—but rather that something about the current climate of modernist studies makes a reckoning with Green both necessary and inevitable.28 While his writing makes legible a certain kind of late modernism, it is not simply a “self-conscious recapitulation of high modernism.”29 Rather, what Green offers us is a way of understanding the lateness of late modernism. Unseasonable forms themselves, Green’s novels are obsessed with all manner of belatedness: journeys are delayed and parental origins questioned, events and images repeat themselves endlessly, and lost treasures return only to be lost again. The protagonists of Blindness, Back, and Caught are trapped in the perpetual aftermath of trauma, tangled in the wake of a past that cannot be dispelled; those of Living, Party Going, and Concluding are suspended in the anticipation of events that will occur only after the novel’s end, if they occur at all. Nothing and Doting are set in a prolonged present in which events repeat themselves over and over, spiraling into banality; as the final line of Doting puts it, “the next day they all went on very much the same.”30 Even the opening words of Loving, which seem to promise that the novel will take place in the timeless world of a fairy-tale, are quickly subverted by repetition:

Once upon a day an old butler called Eldon lay dying in his room attended by the head housemaid, Miss Agatha Burch. From time to time the other servants separately or in chorus gave expression to proper sentiments and then went on doing what they had been doing.31

What should be a day of death and succession, in which an old butler dies and a new one is appointed—a day, that is, of endings and new beginnings—quickly becomes a day like any other, in which routines are followed as they always have been and always will be. What makes Green so vital to discussion of late modernism is the way that his works thematize their own untimeliness, and none do this more than Party Going. Paradoxically, it is also Green’s most timely novel.

II. Displacing

Considering that it was published in September 1939, a mere few days after Hitler’s invasion of Poland and the start of the Second World War, it perhaps should not be too surprising that Party Going is so filled with premonitions of impending apocalyptic doom. Indeed, for a novel that is really about little more than, in John Updike’s words, “the neurotic anxieties and erotic maneuverings of a few conspicuously spoiled, silly young rich waiting for a train,” Party Going is so death-filled as to be almost ostentatious.32 “What targets for a bomb,” mutters an unnamed character as he surveys the train station packed with stranded commuters; “my darling, my darling, in this awful place I wonder whether we aren’t all dead really,” sighs one of the partygoers surveying the same scene.33 The train station hotel in which the party wait is hung with pictures of Nero fiddling while Rome burns, and on the novel’s very first page a bird drops dead from the sky. Critics have likened the train station itself to Hell, Hades, Limbo, and Purgatory, and no less an astute reader than Frank Kermode has gone so far as to describe Party Going’s locale as straight out of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land: “death’s dream kingdom, this concourse, this place of departures … in the unreal City of London, full of commuters, brothers and sisters of that crowd that flows over London Bridge at nine and back at five-thirty: I had not thought death had undone so many.”34

All this would seem to make Party Going a prime example of what Samuel Hynes has described as the kind of “melancholy waiting for the end” so prevalent in the literature of the late 1930s.35 Like Cecil Day Lewis’s Overtures to Death, say, or Auden and Isherwood’s Journey to a War, Party Going seemingly imagines doomsday as lying just over the horizon, with carnage and destruction ready to break with the dawn. As Hynes puts it, paraphrasing E. M. Forster, “in the last year of the ‘thirties despair was to be a sign of grace”: “the more despair a man can take on board without sinking the more completely is he alive.”36 Impending doom, in other words, has a way of spurring the imagination, something that the opening sentence of Pack My Bag suggests Green knew only too well. With war coming tomorrow, and death shortly after that, the only thing one can do today is write. And as in Pack My Bag, the disaster-mindedness of Party Going is shot through with an even less subtle gallows’ humor that its earliest reviews immediately picked up on. David Garnett, in the New Statesman, described the novel as “screamingly funny,” “the perfectly inappropriate book for the times,” one that might have been “written by Groucho Marx if he had fallen under the spell of Virginia Woolf and sat down to write a novel about the rich.”37

Garnett’s assessment, like so many later critiques, implies that Party Going is a novel inspired by high modernism. While Kermode compares it to The Waste Land, others see similarities to both “The Hollow Men” (specifically, in reference to a brief mention of a “prickly pear”) as well as “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (all that yellow fog).38 That the novel takes place over the course of a single day invites comparisons to both Ulysses and Mrs. Dalloway.39 The mysterious figure with the ever-shifting array of accents who moves between the station hotel and the throbbing crowd below and whom the partygoers mistake for the hotel detective has been likened to the red-headed stranger who haunts Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, and both figures have been compared to Hermes, the god who “conducts the dead to the underworld.”40 Michael North pushes the comparisons to a decade later, noting that the novel, which ends with the subscript “London, 1931–1938,” spans the 1930s “not just chronologically, but in the way it brings the subject matter and the stock imagery of the early thirties into collision with the political realities of 1939.”41 North is thinking here of not just the novel’s portrayal of a Waugh-like party of bright young things, but of the novel’s central situation of a train station paralyzed by fog—straight out of the journey-mad 1930s, with the notable difference that the trains refuse to run.

And yet, for all of these points of comparison, Party Going is both decidedly unmodernist and un-thirties-like. If the novel was written under the spell of Virginia Woolf, its characters nevertheless lack any Woolf-like depth of consciousness. As James Wood has pointed out, Green “never internalizes his characters’ thoughts [and] hardly ever explains a character’s motive.”42 In spite of its portrayal of the working-class crowds at the station—the “thousands of Smiths, thousands of Alberts, hundreds of Marys, woven tight as any office carpet”—the novel lacks the clear focus on the condition of the working class that marks much writing of the 1930s, including Green’s earlier novel Living.43 The anonymous crowd remains, for the most part, an anonymous crowd. Green’s focus is on the partygoers themselves, and though they are hardly portrayed in the most positive light, neither are they explicitly condemned or satirized either. Party Going, in other words, offers a hollow reflection of the aesthetic hallmarks of modernist and 1930s writing alike. It has all the right forms and images, but none of the right content, which makes the novel emblematic of a certain kind of late modernism. According to Tyrus Miller, in their “struggle against what they perceived as the apotheosis of form in earlier modernism, late modernist writers conjured the disruptive, deforming spell of laughter”:

They developed a repertoire of means for unsettling the signs of formal craft that testified to the modernist writer’s discursive mastery. Through a variety of satiric and parodic strategies, they weakened the formal cohesion of the modernist novel and sought to deflate its symbolic resources, reducing literary figures at points to a bald literalness or assimilating them to the degraded forms of extraliterary discourse. They represent a world in free fall, offering vertiginously deranged commentary as word, body, and things fly apart with a ridiculous lack of grace.44

Unlike Jameson’s conception of late modernism, in which writers cling to modernism’s “unseasonable forms” as the world around them crumbles, according to Miller late modernism emerges “in the empty spaces left by high modernism’s dissolution”—“late modernists reassembled fragments into disfigured likenesses of modernist masterpieces: the unlovely allegories of a world’s end.”45 For Miller, late modernism melancholically creates a dying world out of modernism’s heap of broken images: “sinking themselves faithlessly into a present devoid of future, into a movement grinding to a halt and an aesthetic on the threshold of dissolution, the writers of late modernism prepared themselves, without hope, to pass over to the far side of the end.”46 The connection that Miller makes among laughter, deflation, and imagining the end of the world would seem to make his analysis particularly germane when it comes to Party Going; however, what the novel shows us is that such a pantomiming of the world’s end need not be necessarily allegorical or even all that melancholic, but bathetic for the sheer sake of it, celebratory of the very belatedness and failure that drive Miller’s late modernists to hopelessness. By bathetic I do not mean an “unintentional descent … into the trivial or ridiculous,” as M. H. Abrams’s Glossary of Literary Terms would have it, but something closer to Alexander Pope’s original sense of a deliberately artful sinking through the hollowed-out bottom of the profound.47 As Pope puts it in Peri Bathous, “many there are that can fall, but few can arrive at the felicity of falling gracefully.”48 Unlike Miller’s late modernists for whom “things fall apart with a ridiculous lack of grace,” in Party Going deflation, belatedness, and muddle are motivating principles.

While writing the novel, Green copied into his notebook a passage from Henry James’s preface to What Maisie Knew: “The great thing is … that the muddled state too is one of the very sharpest of realities, that it also has colour and form and character, has often in fact a broad rich comicality.”49 Accordingly, Party Going gives us the chief muddle of whether the partygoers will be able to get to their holiday destination, their prospective journey muddied and muddled by fog. The novel’s title is itself a kind of verb manqué, describing what should have happened, but not what has: the partygoers do not go anywhere, their trip is interminably postponed. Communication is also muddled in the novel: the partygoers gossip, manipulate each other, but do not ever really say anything. Conversations are constantly interrupted—the characters incessantly “lose track” or “change ground” or “lose the thread,” and never find their way back. Human relations in the novel are muddled into the most banal of sexual intrigues, most notably the ménage among Julia, Amabel, and Max, whose indecision when it comes to his lovers is never resolved. But the novel’s most serious muddle is one of torturously overdetermined signs and portents.

Here is the opening scene:

Fog was so dense, bird that had been disturbed went flat into a balustrade and slowly fell, dead, at her feet.

There it lay and Miss Fellowes looked up to where that pall of fog was twenty foot above and out of which it had fallen over once. She bent down and took a wing then entered a tunnel in front of her, and this has DEPARTURES lit up over it, carrying her dead pigeon.50

As if picking up a dead pigeon was not strange enough, Miss Fellowes, thinking it must be dirty, takes it to the toilet, washes it, and carefully ties it up in paper and string. Her real reasons for doing so, though, are left unexplained:

And there was that poor bird. One had seen so many killed out shooting, but any dead animal shocked one in London, even birds, though of course they had easy living in towns. She remembered how her father had shot the dog when she was small and how much they had cried. There was that poor boy Cumberland, his uncle had been one of her dancing partners, what had he died of so young? One could not seem to expect it when one was cooped up in London and then to fall like that dead at her feet. It did seem only a pious thing to pick it up, though it was going to be a nuisance even now it was wrapped up in paper. But she had been right she felt, she couldn’t have left it there and besides someone might have stepped on it and that would have been disgusting. She was glad she had washed it.51

In washing the pigeon and wrapping it in brown paper—mummifying it, in a way—Miss Fellowes performs a pious act of sanctification, preserving the pigeon’s body from decay (or, at least, a careless shoe). And like any good holy relic, the pigeon seems to act as a talisman of death. Not only does it remind Miss Fellowes of her earliest experiences with mortality—the death of her dog and Cumberland’s Uncle, her old dancing partner—but it apparently ushers in the grim reaper himself. Taking the pigeon’s wrapped corpse with her to the station bar where she orders herself a whisky, Miss Fellowes holds an imaginary argument with the indifferent waitress and we are told by the narrator that “it might have been an argument with death.”52 Needless to say, Miss Fellowes then falls ill, which only threatens to delay the party further. As Edwards, one of the partygoers’ servants puts it, “if she did die why you’d never be the same, none of them would, not for three days at all events.”53

The pigeon infects not just Miss Fellowes, but seemingly the narrative itself, cropping up unexpectedly in the midst of other conversations:

“‘If he were a bird,’ he said, ‘he would not last long.’”54

“‘Go on if you like and pick up some bird, alive or dead.’”55

“That is what it is to be rich, he thought, if you are held up, if you have to wait then you can do it after a bath in your dressing gown and if you have to die then not as any bird tumbling dead from its branch … but here in bed, here inside, with doctors to tell you it is all right and with relations to ask if it hurts.”56

Noting these passages, Rod Mengham claims that each time it appears, “it looks as if the image of a dead bird has been displaced from somewhere else.”57 The bird, that is, becomes an object of compulsive repetition, something incessantly returned to after its moment has passed, and always ushers in further deathly associations. But even the very image of the bird itself has been displaced from elsewhere—namely, one of Green’s earlier novels.

Birds, from the peacocks that lounge in the estate gardens in Loving to the swallows that swarm above the boarding school in Concluding, hold a rather privileged place in Green’s work, and none more so than pigeons. They especially proliferate in Living, the novel immediately preceding Party Going, where their communal flight is associated with the fluttering indirection of mental thought: “When we think—it might be a flock of pigeons flying in the sky so many things go to make our thought, the number of pigeons, and they don’t fly straight.”58 One of Living’s main protagonists is a pigeon fancier, and the novel even ends with the image of a baby gurgling in rapturous delight at a pigeon fluttering about her pram:

… one by one pigeon fluttered off the roof onto hood of this pram. As they did so they fluttered round heads of those people in the yard, who kept heads very still. Then the fancier put grain onto apron of the pram in front of the baby and one pigeon hopped from hood down onto the apron right in front of the baby. This baby made wave with its arm at the pigeon which waddled out of reach. Mrs Eames looked at its fierce red eye and said would it peck at her daughter but fancier said not on your life. Soon all were laughing at way this one pigeon, which alone dared to come onto apron, dodged the baby which laughed and crowed and grabbed at it.59

The pigeon in Party Going, on the other hand, couldn’t flutter if it tried. Nevertheless, a comparison between the two novels is telling. Take, for instance, another scene from late in Living, that Green used both as the novel’s epigraph and as the epitaph for his own tombstone. A pregnant woman, Mrs. Eames, is thinking of her child:

Is nothing wonderful in migrating birds but when we see them we become muddled in our feeling, we think it so romantic they should go so far, far. Is nothing wonderful in a woman carrying but Mrs Eames was muddled in her feeling by it. As these birds would go where so where would this child go?60

There is little wonder to be found in either pigeons or pregnancy, only muddled feelings. Mrs. Eames is as ignorant of the life her unborn child will lead as she is of the migratory patterns of birds. As with all things that flutter and stray, the migrating path of life is unknown, and the unknown destination makes for the muddled sensation of living (and Living).

In Party Going, though, everyone knows where the birds are going. Even beyond the mummified pigeon, birds in the novel augur fortunes. On her way to the train station, Julia Adey has a vision: “three seagulls flew through that span on which she stood and that is what happened one of the first times she met [Max], doves had flown under a bridge where she had been standing when she had stayed away last summer. She thought those gulls were for the sea they were to cross that evening.”61 Although the hopeful doves have in this vision been replaced by verminous gulls, Julia later forgets this and “thought they had been doves and so was comforted.”62 But not all of Julia’s visions are quite so comforting. Looking down at the tumultuous crowd from the station hotel, Julia “thought how strange it was when hundreds of people turned their heads all in one direction, their faces so much lighter than their dark hats, lozenges, lozenges, lozenges … one must not hear too many cries for help in this world.”63 Julia’s perspective is typical of the aerial viewpoints that the novel constructs, from which individual faces are erased into pale pill-like shapes. Such anonymity necessarily hinders fellow feeling. After all, it is only really from a bird’s-eye vantage that one can look down at a crowd, marvel “what targets for a bomb,” and then drop something deadly.64 It is all too clear where these children will go—like the pigeon at the beginning, they are about to fall dead, and join Green in the grave. Which brings us back to the novel’s eerie timeliness.

According to Anthony Burgess, when reading Party Going one ought to remember that the novel was published at the very moment “when the peace-dove fell dead at our feet, and the fog of war stopped everyone’s party-going.”65 But a pigeon is, at best, only a disfigured likeness of a peace-dove. Trying to comfort Miss Fellowes’s niece, another of the partygoers, Evelyn, contemplates Miss Fellowes’s mysterious actions:

She can’t have bought it or she would have had it delivered, unless she got it off a barrow, but then they don’t sell them on barrows. D’you see what I mean? But if she just found it dead and picked it up what did she want it for, it was so dirty? I’m sure that’s what’s been worrying us, but when you come to think of it, darling, there’s nothing in it is there? What is it after all? Now if it had been a goose or some other bird. No, that isn’t so I don’t suppose it would have been any less odd. Anyway it is definitely not a thing to worry about.66

And Evelyn is right. The pigeon really is not anything to worry about. Miss Fellowes recovers. The trains start to run. The threatening pale lozenges in the crowd turn back into “dear good English people,” and an “English crowd,” we are told, is “the best behaved in the world.”67 No bombs fall. The novel sets up our expectations of death and disaster only to deflate them. But then again, as we are told by one of the servants near the end of the novel, “[d]eath’s a bloody awful thing … it isn’t as easy as all that, it takes time to die.”68 Which is to say that it is better to play dead than to be dead; the end will come soon enough—let it take its time. Better yet, let us arrive at our final destination, like any good partygoer, fashionably late.

Near the novel’s end, the narrator offers us a vision of the station crowds:

They were like ruins in the wet, places that is where life has been, palaces, abbeys, cast aside and tumbled down with no immediate life and with what used to be in them lost rather than hidden. Ruins that is not of their suburban homes for they had hearts, and feelings to dream and hearts to make up what they did not like into other things. But ruins, for life in such circumstances was only possible because it would not last, only endurable because it had broken down and as it lasted and became more desolate and wet so, as it seemed more likely to be permanent, at least for an evening, they grew restive.69

It is the very finite and broken nature of things that makes life, in Party Going, “endurable;” or, to put it another way, the inevitability of ruination is what gives a “rich comicality” to the muddle of life. Indeed, mortality is the greatest muddler of all, forcing us to turn what we do not like “into other things” in an attempt to forestall an ending. Party Going, then, offers the most radical kind of late modernism. It does not simply present an image of subjectivity “at play in the face of its own extinction,” but plays with the very idea of extinction itself.70 As Gillian Beer has put it, what is most disturbing about the novel’s deathly signs is that they are ultimately “without signification”—the novel “seems full of distant thunder. It is both packed with the present and yet leans endlessly towards a future that may never happen, and that promises nothing better.”71 Party Going offers us an aura of the portentous, but nothing that is portended ever occurs—the novel is filled with disturbing presences that fail to disturb. Rather than respond to the anticipation of death with anxiety and seriousness, Party Going instead stages a mock apocalypse, transforming the threat of aerial bombardment into bird droppings. The novel ends with the sudden appearance of the much gossiped about, but heretofore never seen, Embassy Richard, who interrupts his own journey to join the partygoers as they depart for the Continent:

“But weren’t you going anywhere?” Amabel said to Richard …

“I can go where I was going afterwards,” he said to all of them and smiled.72

With their final departure delayed yet again, Party Going’s partygoers can continue going nowhere.

III. Replacing

Of course, the war that really followed the publication of Party Going disturbed every presence it touched, and, in contrast to Party Going’s “screaming” inappropriateness, in his wartime novels Caught and Back, Green offers, in Lyndsey Stonebridge’s words, a “weirdly powerful historical appropriateness.”73 Both novels are concerned with forms of traumatic repetition. Set during the Phoney War and the early days of the Blitz, Caught features two main protagonists, Pye and Roe—firemen, naturally—who are each caught by a past that cannot be dispelled: in Pye’s case the suspicion that he committed incest with a woman who may have been his sister, and in Roe’s the tragically early death of his wife and the abduction of his son by the same disturbed woman who obsesses Pye. Roe associates both losses with a memory of a dying rose garden. Charley Summers, in Back, is also obsessed with roses—an amputee and prisoner of war, he returns to England fixated on the image of his dead girlfriend, Rose, an obsession that leads him to see roses everywhere. What makes Green’s wartime interest in trauma and repetition “historically appropriate,” according to Stonebridge, is that it amounts to “a form of protest against death or, at the very least, an effort to master trauma through the authoring of images.”74 Repetition offers a way of keeping death at bay because it shatters temporal distinctions—past, present, and future conflate into a sameness in which memory and lived experience become identical. As we saw with Party Going, the effect of such repetition is that all final endings are forestalled by a perpetual monotony—nothing quite literally happens. But unlike with Party Going, in which an image heavily loaded with meaning recurs with such frequency that it is hollowed into meaninglessness, and its deathly suggestions bathetically sunk, repetition in Caught and Back creates a world that means all too much; Pye, Roe, and Summers endlessly return to their moment of trauma, a moment that echoes through their every personal interaction. The difference, no doubt, is the war—where Party Going anticipates disaster, Caught is caught in its midst, and Back in its aftermath. As Green himself puts it in Pack My Bag, “there must be a threat to one’s skin to wake what is left of things remembered into things to die with.”75

As much as Party Going seems to anticipate the threat of war, what is so strikingly odd—and singularly Green—about Miss. Fellowes’s pigeon is that it is not a “thing to die with;” Caught, on the other hand, ends with Pye’s suicide, and Back with Summers fully convinced that Rose’s half-sister, Nancy, is his dead lover (Nancy, in a sense, dies so that Rose can live again). But for all their apparent differences from Party Going, Caught and Back also have their fair share of dead birds. In Caught, Roe’s son Christopher plays a game of war with pigeons:

“Look,” his father interrupted, “haven’t you knocked those branches about enough? There’s hardly a bird left in the garden since you’ve been out. You’d do better to put out food for them. They starve in this weather you know.”

“They’re Polish people,” Christopher said, “and I’m a German policeman, rootling them about.”76

In Christopher’s game, living birds take on the role of those who have already died, or at least those for whom death is a constant threat. In Back, “parabolam”—a uniquely strong alloy being manufactured by the British army to help fortify their tanks against German bombs—is made out of “bird droppings”:

The swallows used to nest under the staging, where they charged the furnace. One day the foundry manager had all the nests cleared out, together with the filth below. And the labourer he gave the job, was too tired to take the mess down, he shoveled it in with the charge into the cupola. And what came out with their molten metal was so hard they couldn’t machine the casting.77

What was figured in Party Going as a kind of dropped bomb, in Back becomes a shield against the very threat that bird droppings previously signified. In the same way that Party Going displaces an image from the earlier Living only to deflate it of its significance, Caught and Back repeat Party Going’s central image only to replace its displaced associations. Meaning always seems to come either too early or too late in Green’s novels, and this is precisely what makes them quintessentially late modern—they are timely in their untimeliness.

Green’s final novel, Doting, opens with yet another dead bird at a train station interrupting a party:

So they were three in full evening dress apart from Peter’s tailored pin stripe suit in which, several weeks later, he was to carry a white goose under one arm, its dead beak almost trailing the platform, to catch the last train back to yet another term.78

We are never told why, precisely, Peter is carrying a dead goose on his way back to university. All we know is that this is the “last train back to yet another term”—a final trip toward a place that has already been visited multiple times. This event has not happened yet, but it will happen, “several weeks later.” Repetition is apparently something to look forward to. It has often been noted how closely Doting follows the plot of Green’s penultimate work, Nothing. According to Edward Stokes,

These books are disappointing for several reasons. One reason is that in them, for the first time, Green begins to repeat himself, for both deal with the same small segment of upper-class, well-to-do society in post-war London. One of the chief interests in these novels is that the people they introduce … are essentially the same people as the Max Adeys, Angela Crevys, Amabels and Alex Alexanders of Party Going, now some twenty years older, and the parents of children reaching adulthood, and now, as a result of the war and high taxation, not quite so privileged and affluent.79

The repetition and plotlessness that Stokes sees as “disappointing,” are the very things that I have been arguing make Green vital to our understanding of late modernism. Green himself saw these final two novels as a kind of break, writing both almost entirely in dialogue because he felt it was more up to date for “we do not write letters any more, we ring up on the telephone instead … if you want to create life the one way not to set about it is by explanation.”80 Dialogue, that is, offered Green the promise of not having to make his novels mean anything at all. In a talk given to the BBC, he explained that “the purpose of the novelist is to create, in the mind of the reader, life which is not, and which is non-representational.”81 The purpose of the novelist, in other words, is to make nothing happen in the mind of the reader. After completing Doting, Green ceased writing altogether; as his son, Sebastian Yorke, recounts, although Green “still read at least one novel a day from the Harrods library, he did not leave the house any more, even to go to the local pub, nor did he go out of his way to see his friends, whom he called ‘my much hated old friends.’”82 Having made Nothing happen not just once but twice, there was seemingly nothing left for Green to do, let alone write. In a sense, he had been writing nothing all along.


Works by Henry Green

Green, Henry. Surviving: The Uncollected Writings of Henry Green. Edited by Matthew Yorke. New York: Viking, 1992.Find this resource:

Green, Henry. Living, Loving, Party Going. 1978. Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1993.Find this resource:

Green, Henry. Living. London: J.P. Dent, 1929.Find this resource:

Green, Henry. Loving. London: The Hogarth Press, 1945.Find this resource:

Green, Henry. Party Going. 1939. London: Vintage, 2000.Find this resource:

Green, Henry. Pack My Bag: A Self-Portrait. 1940. London: Vintage, 2000.Find this resource:

Green, Henry. Concluding. 1948. Champaign, Ill.: Dalkey Archive Press, 2000.Find this resource:

Green, Henry. Nothing. 1950. Champaign, Ill.: Dalkey Archive Press, 2000.Find this resource:

Green, Henry. Blindness. 1926. Champaign, Ill.: Dalkey Archive Press, 2001.Find this resource:

Green, Henry. Caught. 1943. London: Harvill, 2001.Find this resource:

Green, Henry. Doting. 1952. Champaign, Ill.: Dalkey Archives Press, 2001.Find this resource:

Green, Henry. Back. 1946. Champaign, Ill.: Dalkey Archive Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Selected Criticism

Adams, Don. Alternative Paradigms of Literary Realism. Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave, 2009.Find this resource:

Beer, Gillian. “Modernist Futures.” In In(ter)discipline: New Languages for Criticism. Edite by Gillian Beer, Malcolm Bowie, and Beate Perry, 74–82. Oxford: Legenda, 2007.Find this resource:

Burstein, Jessica. Cold Modernism: Literature, Fashion, Art. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Carver, Beci. Granular Modernism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.Find this resource:

Feigel, Lara. Literature, Cinema, and Politics, 1930–1945: Reading between the Frames. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Feigel, Lara. The Love-Charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.Find this resource:

Hentea, Marius. Henry Green and the Ends of Modernism. Brighton, U.K.: Sussex University Press, 2014.Find this resource:

Hitchcock, Peter. “Passing: Henry Green and Working-Class Identity.” Modern Fiction Studies 40(1) (Spring 1994): 1–31.Find this resource:

Holmesland, Oddvar. A Critical Introduction to Henry Green’s Novels: The Living Vision. New York: St. Martin’s, 1986.Find this resource:

Jameson, Fredric. A Singular Modernity. London: Verso, 2002.Find this resource:

Jordan, Julia. Chance in the Modern British Novel. London: Continuum, 2010.Find this resource:

Kermode, Frank. The Genesis of Secrecy. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979.Find this resource:

McKay, Maria. Modernism and World War II. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Mengham, Rod. The Idiom of the Time: The Writings of Henry Green. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1982.Find this resource:

Miller, Tyrus. Late Modernism: Politics, Fiction, and the Arts between the World Wars. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.Find this resource:

North, Michael. Henry Green and the Writing of His Generation. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1984.Find this resource:

Russell, John. Henry Green: Nine Novels and an Unpacked Bag. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1960.Find this resource:

Stokes, Edmund. The Novels of Henry Green. London: Hogarth, 1959.Find this resource:

Stonebridge, Lyndsey. The Writing of Anxiety: Imagining Wartime in Mid-century British Culture. Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave, 2010.Find this resource:

Swinden, Patrick. The English Novel of History and Society, 1940–80. New York: St. Martin’s, 1984.Find this resource:

Taylor, Donald. “Catalytic Rhetoric: Henry Green’s Theory of the Modern Novel.” Criticism 7(1) (Winter 1965): 81–99.Find this resource:

Treglown, Jeremy. Romancing: The Life of Henry Green. New York: Random House, 2009.Find this resource:

Weatherhead, A. Kingsley. A Reading of Henry Green. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1961.Find this resource:

Wood, James. “A Plausible Magic: The Novels of Henry Green,” In British Fiction after Modernism: The Novel at Mid-Century. Edited by Marina MacKay and Lyndsey Stonebridge, 50–59. Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave, 2007.Find this resource:


(1) Eudora Welty, “Henry Green: A Novelist of the Imagination,” Texas Quarterly 4 (1961): 246–256, 246.

(2) Elizabeth Bowen, “Elizabeth Bowen Reviews: Back, Henry Green.” Tatler and Bystander (November 27, 1946): 292–293, esp. 292.

(3) Frank Kermode, The Genesis of Secrecy (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979), 5.

(4) Jeremy Treglown, Romancing: The Life and Works of Henry Green (New York: Random House, 2000), 9. Treglown attributes the observation of Maud Wyndham’s grand diction to the Oxford don, Maurice Bowra.

(5) Michael North, Henry Green and the Writing of His Generation (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1984), 1.

(6) Henry Green, Surviving: The Uncollected Writings of Henry Green (New York: Viking, 1992), 243.

(7) In an interview with Terry Southern given to The Paris Review, Green remarked that he cultivated enigma because he “didn’t want his business associates to know I wrote novels. Most of them do now though … know I mean, not write, thank goodness” (Surviving, 236). Such knowledge evidently made for a number of awkward transactions: “And as I was going round the iron-foundry one day, a loam-moulder said to me: ‘I read your book, Henry.’ ‘And did you like it?’ I asked, rightly apprehensive. He replied: ‘I didn’t think much of it, Henry.’ Too awful. Then you know, with a customer, at the end of a settlement which has deteriorated into a compromise painful to both sides, he may say: ‘I suppose you are going to put this in a novel.’ Very awkward” (Surviving, 236). Green had earlier toyed with the alternative pseudonym “Henry Michaelis.”

(8) Henry Green, Pack My Bag: A Self-Portrait (1940; London: Vintage, 2000), 1, 105.

(9) This being said, it could be argued that modernism itself can be defined as nothing but a series of contrived poses made through contrived prose. See, for instance, Aaron Jaffe, Modernism and the Culture of Celebrity (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2005); and Rochelle Rives, Modernist Impersonalities: Affect, Authority, and the Subject (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave, 2012).

(10) Marina MacKay, Modernism and World War II (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 92.

(12) Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity (London: Verso, 2002), 104.

(13) Douglas Mao and Rebecca Walkowitz, “The New Modernist Studies,” PMLA 123(3) (May 2008): 737–738, 738–748.

(14) Green, Surviving, 246. According to Green, this desire for sparseness was meant to reflect “the proletarian life I was then leading” (Surviving, 246). However, as Green was not only a factory manager but also the son and heir of Pontifex’s owner, it is hardly the case that his life was proletarian.

(15) Great disagreement exists as to just how class conscious Green was, to say nothing of how left his politics were. While Michael North affiliates him with the “Auden generation” of leftist writers, including Christopher Isherwood, Edward Upward, and Cecil Day-Lewis, in Marina MacKay’s view he was a “throwback to Tory radicalism” (92) and “coolly unpolitical (19). According to his biographer, Jeremy Treglown, Green’s working-class sympathies can be traced back to his “watchful childhood observation of servants and other staff and how they were treated” (Romancing, 8). Which is to say that, no matter his sympathies, Green could never escape his own privileged position. For a thorough treatment of the difficulty of Green’s class sympathy and its attendant posturing, see Peter Hitchcock, “Passing: Henry Green and Working-Class Identity,” Modern Fiction Studies 40(1) (Spring 1994): 1–31.

(17) MacKay, Modernism and World War II, 92. MacKay is thinking here of Virginia Woolf’s famous quip in “The Leaning Tower” that the politically motivated generation of writers of the 1930s, exemplified by Auden and Isherwood, are “profiting by a society which they abuse … flogging a dead or dying horse because a living horse, if flogged, would kick them off its back.” See “The Leaning Tower, The Moment and Other Essays (London: Hogarth Press, 1947), 118. For an extensive discussion of the question of the Auden generation’s bad faith, see Valentine Cunningham, British Writers of the Thirties (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).

(18) Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism; or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1991), 305. Jameson himself attributes the term to the architectural critic Charles Jencks. The first use of “late modernism” as a literary critical term can be found in Alan Wilde’s Horizons of Assent: Modernism, Postmodernism, and the Ironic Imagination (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981). According to Wilde, “Late modernism interposes a space of transition, a necessary bridge between more spacious and self-conscious experimental movements” (121).

(19) Jameson, Postmodernism, 305. More recently, Jameson has argued that late modernism is “a product of the Cold War, but in all kinds of complicated ways”: “what was wanted in the West and in the Stalinist East alike … was a stabilization of the existing systems and an end to that form of properly modernist transformation enacted under the sign and slogan of modernity as such, or in other words, classical or high modernism” (A Singular Modernity, 165–166). What late modernism offers, according to Jameson, is “not so much an artistic as an ideological opportunity,” which he affiliates with the New Criticism and the establishment of an institutionally sanctioned modernism (A Singular Modernity, 168).

(20) MacKay, more recently, has referred to the referential mania suffered by the shell-shocked Charley Summers in Green’s war novel Back as a “postmodern gesture avant la lettre, and for anticipating this gesture, Green could well take his place alongside Nabokov as an early postmodernist: a first step, potentially, towards resolving that enduring awkwardness about how mid-century fiction is to be categorized.” See “‘Is Your Journey Really Necessary?’: Going Nowhere in Late Modernist London,” PMLA 124(5) (October 2009): 1600–1613, esp. 1605.

(21) Edward Stokes, The Novels of Henry Green (London: Hogarth, 1959), 7.

(22) Rod Mengham, The Idiom of the Time: The Writings of Henry Green (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1982), viii. According to North, part of what makes Green’s writing typical of its generation is the way “is shows the fluid boundary between public materials and the most intimate parts of the self”: “Green’s novels are based on the belief that the self is not a truth to be expressed but an expression itself, a fiction” (12).

(24) Marius Hentea, Henry Green and the Limits of Modernism (Brighton, U.K.: Sussex Academic Press, 2014), 2.

(25) Jessica Burnstein, Cold Modernism: Literature, Fashion, Art (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012), While Green is not one of Burnstein’s main objects of study, she does list him—along with Ivy Compton-Burnett, Evelyn Waugh, and “the more wintry climes of Wallace Stevens”—as one of “those whom I do not engage and who strike me as cold …. I have foregone them all, for reasons ranging from ignorance to space” (28).

(26) Beci Carver, Granular Modernism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 2. Carver fascinatingly affiliates Green with Evelyn Waugh and William Gerhardie as constituting a particularly Oxonian strain of “granular” modernism, obsessed with the purposeful wasting of time: “Oxford seemed to Green to be a waste of time not only because he wasted time there, but because he assumed that to have engaged … would have been pointless. Practically and hypothetically, Oxford offered him nothing” (68).

(27) See Don Adams, Alternative Paradigms of Literary Realism (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave, 2009), and Kristin Bluemel, “What Is Intermodernism?” Intermodernism: Literary Culture in Mid-Twentieth-Century Britain (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009). Like “late modernism,” the term “intermodernism” is meant, according to Bluemel to account for “the fascinating, compelling, and grossly neglected writing of the years of Depression and World War II” (1). Bluemel prefers the term intermodernism as most studies of late modernism, from Fredric Jameson to Tyrus Miller, take as their critical object writers who are already well placed within the modernist canon, such as Wyndham Lewis and Samuel Beckett.

(28) Other recent readings of Green within revisionary accounts of modernism include Julia Jordan, Chance and the Modern British Novel: From Henry Green to Iris Murdoch (London: Continuum, 2010); Lyndsey Stonebridge, The Writing of Anxiety: Imagining Wartime in Mid-Century British Culture (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave, 2007); Kristine Miller, British Literature of the Blitz: Fighting the People’s War (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave, 2010), Lara Feigel, Literature, Cinema, and Politics, 1930–1945: Reading Between the Frames (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010); and Leo Mellor, Reading the Ruins: Modernism, Bombsite, and British Culture (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2011). It is perhaps unsurprising that the resurgence of interest in Green—along with similarly anomalous figures such as Elizabeth Bowen and Patrick Hamilton—seems to be part of a larger critical reckoning with how modernism, forged in the trenches of the First World War, survives through the carnage of the Second World War. The majority of these studies have focused on Green’s “war novels,” Loving, Caught, and Back. His final three novels—Concluding, Nothing, and Doting—remain surprisingly neglected.

(30) Henry Green, Doting (1952; Champaign, Ill.: Dalkey Archive Press, 2001), 226.

(31) Henry Green, Loving in Loving, Living, Party Going (Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1993), 18. The novel’s final lines would seem to reassert the fairy-tale atmosphere: “The next day Raunce and Edith left without a word of warning. Over in England they were married and lived happily ever after” (204). However, as with the novel’s opening, a sudden change is quickly subverted by the stasis of “ever after.”

(32) John Updike, “Introduction” in Henry Green, Loving, Living, Party Going, 12–13.

(33) Henry Green, Party Going (1939; London: Vintage, 2000), 34, 109.

(35) Samuel Hynes, The Auden Generation: Literature and Politics in England in the 1930s (New York: Viking, 1977), 335.

(37) Cited in Treglown, Romancing, 119.

(39) Benjamin Kohlmann has noted the influence of Woolf on Green’s early writing. See “The Heritage of Symbolism: Henry Green, Maurice Bowra, and English Modernism in the 1920s,” Modern Language Notes 124(5) (December 2009): 1188–1210.

(42) James Wood, “A Plausible Magic: The Novels of Henry Green,” in British Fiction after Modernism: The Novel at Mid-Century, edited by Marina MacKay and Lyndsey Stonebridge, 50–59, esp. 50 (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave, 2007).

(44) Tyrus Miller, Late Modernism: Politics, Fiction, and the Arts between the World Wars (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 19. Interestingly, the writers whom Miller focuses on—Wyndham Lewis, Djuna Barnes, Mina Loy, and Samuel Beckett—can also quite rightly be considered high modernist.

(47) M. H. Abrams, A Glossary of Literary Terms, 3d ed. (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1971), 14–15.

(48) Alexander Pope, “Peri Bathous; or, Martinus Scriblerus, His Treatise on the Art of Sinking in Poetry,” Alexander Pope: The Major Works (Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics, 2006), 200. Sara Crangle and Peter Nichols have recently proposed the term “true bathos” to describe works that, like Party Going, are deliberately deflationary. See On Bathos, edited by Sara Crangle and Peter Nichols (London: Continuum, 2010).

(49) Cited in Treglown, Romancing, 107.

(58) Henry Green, Living in Loving, Living, Party Going (Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1993), 340.

(59) Green, Living, 382.

(60) Green, Living, 367. “As these birds would go where so where would this child go” is engraved on Green’s tombstone.

(63) Green, Party Going, 58–59.

(65) Anthony Burgess, The Novel Now: A Student’s Guide to Contemporary Fiction (London: Faber & Faber, 1967), 114.

(66) Green, Party Going, 123. Italics added.

(67) Green, Party Going, 145, 153.

(69) Green, Party Going, 123–124.

(71) Gillian Beer, “Modernist Futures,” in In(ter)discipline: New Languages for Criticism, edited by Gillian Beer, Malcolm Bowie, and Beate Perry, 74–82, 80 (Oxford: Legenda, 2007).

(76) Henry Green, Caught (1943; London: Harvill, 2000), 190.

(77) Henry Green, Back (1946; Champaign, Ill.: Dalkey Archive Press, 2009), 37.

(78) Henry Green, Doting (1952; Champaign, Ill.: Dalkey Archive Press, 2001), 3.

(79) Stokes, Novels of Henry Green, 20. Criticism of Green, as a whole, seems to be quite dismissive of both Nothing and Doting. Rod Mengham, for instance, argues that “there is almost nothing to read for in Doting” and in both novels Green becomes “recognizable by his own clichés” (215). It is for these precise reasons that I see these novels as the most fitting ending to Green’s career.

(82) Sebastian Yorke, “A Memoir,” in Green, Surviving, 286–302, esp. 301–302.