Arthur Greening:
That Damned Elusive Publisher


Published - 1 December 2015

Hardbound: 15.6 x 23.4 cm., 276 pp. 47 black and white illustrations

ISBN 978 1 904301 27 4
£40.00 / $60.00

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Arthur Greening: That Damned Elusive Publisher

by David Wilkinson

Arthur Greening (1865-1939) an enterprising song and dance man, the son of a Clapham greengrocer, was torn between business and the stage. In 1897, after serving an apprentice with a provincial newspaper and in partnership with Clement Scott, the drama critic of the Daily Telegraph, he founded his own publishing house. Constantly under-capitalized, the company struggled until success followed the publication of Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel in 1905.

Seven years later Greening & Co Ltd went into liquidation after a High Court case involving a shareholder and Lord Alfred Douglas. Greening’s elusive nature involved dividing himself between two women; he had lived with the shadowy Irene Nason in Surrey since exiling Martha and his two children to Zennor in West Cornwall in 1903. As business dwindled he began to relax in Zennor and, aside from founding the local cricket club, he took to the stage again. Then, in 1925 he and Irene married and set sail for a new life in Australia where they lived on a coral-fringed desert island for a year.

In a pioneering essay, Cecily Close confirmed that gaps remain in Greening’s life story, which private papers, and business records might fill if they appeared. Most of those hopes remain unfulfilled to this day. Whatever mystery surrounded Arthur Greening is not just in the mind of the bystander. Close contact with Greening’s equally puzzled descendents has failed to turn up anything of defining significance.

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