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Vivien Greene

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Vivien Greene (née Dayrell-Browning) (1 August 1904[1] - 19 August 2003) was the widow of the distinguished novelist Graham Greene and an authority on doll's houses.

At the age of 13, Vivien Dayrell-Browning published a collection of poetry and prose, The Little Wings,[2] with an introduction by G. K. Chesterton, who was a family friend. In 1925 she started a correspondence with Graham Greene, and they married two years later. The Greenes had two children, Lucy (born 1933) and Francis (born 1936).

Graham left the family in 1948 for Catherine Walston, but in accordance with Roman Catholic teaching (Vivien was a convert, and Graham converted in order to marry her), the couple were never divorced and the marriage lasted until Graham's death in 1991.

During World War II, Vivien and her children lived in Oxford after their home in London had been bombed. At a local auction she was charmed by an old doll's house; she bought it and took it home on the bus with her. As the war dragged on and her marriage disintegrated, she devoted herself to restoring and furnishing the doll's house. Materials were scarce; she recalled scraping off old paint and wallpaper with shards of broken glass. "I needed a hobby, the wartime evenings in the black-out were long and dark, so I started to furnish the house, to make carpets and curtains for it."[3]

She then began seeking out other antique dolls' houses and furnishings, researching their history, and restoring the houses, filling the Greenes' rented home with her miniature world.

After her marriage to Greene ended, she travelled the world to add to her collection, becoming a noted authority in the field of antique dolls' houses and their social history. Her notes record 1,500 dolls' houses that she examined in North America, Europe and South Africa. She even made the journey to Communist East Germany to research 19th century makers of miniature furniture. In the 1960s Greene gave her the money to build the Rotunda, a doll's house museum at her home near Oxford. By the mid-1990s, the Rotunda contained some 41 miniature castles, cottages and manors, all furnished down to the last tiny piece of porcelain. Her collection was auctioned off in London in 1998.

Vivien Dayrell-Browning Greene died in Oxfordshire, aged 99.[4]


  • The Little Wings: Poems and Essays (1921) (as Vivienne Dayrell)
  • English Dolls' Houses of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (1955)
  • Family Dolls' Houses (1973)
  • The Vivien Greene Doll's House Collection (1995) (with Margaret Towner)
  • Laurel for Libby: A Story with Cuts (2006)


  1. Deaths England and Wales 1984-2006
  2. Jessica Amanda Salmonson, "Girl Writers: Nathalia Crane, Vivienne Dayrell & Daisy Ashford". This article briefly discusses The Little Wings and quotes seven lines from one of the poems.
  3. Charlotte Cory, "Escape from the doll's house", The Independent, 29 November 1998.
  4. Danielle Demetriou, Graham Greene's widow Vivien dies at 98, The Independent, 21 August 2003. Actually, Vivien Greene died at 99, not, as the article reports, at 98.

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