Graham Greene Papers - Josephine Reid Collection

Scope and Content

Personal papers: This collection of original archival material is mostly new to scholarship; Josephine Reid preserved her Foreign Office-trained confidentiality throughout her life, and refused access to both Richard Greene, anthologist of Graham Greene’s letters, and Norman Sherry, his official biographer – whose work does not mention her. The hitherto unexplored correspondence contains many details of Greene’s working practices, including word counts for novels at particular dates, publication details, his movements around the world, his relationships with friends and people he did business with. From Greene himself there are autograph letters, typed signed letters, signed post cards and a number of signed letters inserted in the books. These letters often usefully flesh out details of Greene’s life not given in Sherry’s work nor others’, and are often very evocative.

The collection of documents and ephemera provides further information on work in progress. The main component is 86 pages of transcripts of Greene’s dictation of about 220 working letters to Josephine on the Dictaphone system, which show that even in his last year at 86, and with the illness that took his life, his rate of work was still considerable. Other papers clarify the nature of Greene’s beliefs about religion, contraception and the Liberation Theology movement in Latin America; his relationship with Philby, the Third Man; the nature of the literary permission given to Norman Sherry his authorised biographer and Greene’s crucial insertion of a comma into it when on his deathbed; other material on his death; obituaries of his family, etc.

Administrative / Biographical History

Josephine Reid was born in 1925 and spent her childhood on her parents’ fruit farm in Argentina before coming to school in England at St George’s, Ascot, Berkshire. She was at the War Office in her late teens, possibly her first job after leaving school, and returned to Argentina after the War until 1950. She worked at the British Embassy in Athens for a time and then returned to England to a post in the Foreign Office. She began working for Graham Greene in 1959, not only dealing with normal secretarial matters but also typed Greene’s manuscripts from his readings onto blue plastic “dictabelts”, recorded by a Dictaphone machine, which he posted to her, particularly when on his frequent travels. In 1975 she moved permanently to Minehead and gave up the more secretarial side of the job, but continued to type Greene’s literary manuscripts until the year after his death in 1991. She died in 2012 aged 86.


14 series of papers, preserving Josephine Reid’s arrangement throughout. Series 14 is directly related to and cross-referenced to the printed books in the collection.

Access Information

This archive is held at Balliol College Historic Collections Centre, St Cross Church, Manor Road. To consult the archive, please contact the archivist ( to arrange an appointment.

Other Finding Aids

The formal title of the collection is The Cherry Record Collection of Josephine Reid’s Papers and Books Relating to Graham Greene.

The archival catalogue of the papers is online at; printed books in the collection are catalogued on Oxford's SOLO union catalogue

Conditions Governing Use

Balliol College does not own copyright in the contents of any part of this collection. Permission must be obtained in writing for any quotation, reproduction or publication.