I Met A Man Today, a Scholar, Who is Very Much Alive

As a bookseller I meet a lot of dead people, or rather, obtain their books, see mementos of them, and meet their spouses, family members, neighbors and colleagues. It’s nice to meet a man who is very much alive.

It was nice to pull in yesterday to the parking lot at Bickfords Senior Living in Iowa City, Iowa and meet Dr. Peter Morris Green. I spent a fine, memorable hour with him.

I was drafted by Dr. Green’s daughter, the cultural anthropologist Dr. Sarah Green, to obtain, sort through and, on consignment, sell, the remaining library of her father, a British classical scholar (and also novelist!). Dr. Green, the Elder, has specialized in the Greco-Persian Wars, written biographies of Alexander the Great, and worked in the period from the death of Alexander in 323 B.C. up to and including the Battle of Actium and the death of Augustus in 14 A.D.

Two among his many major works are Alexander of Macedon (first issued in 1970, reissued in 1974, published in the U.S. first in 1991) and Alexander to Actium, a brilliant, accessible general account of the Hellenistic Age. He has translated the Satires of the Roman poet Juvenal, contributed to and edited many poetry and literary critical journals including Arion and the Southern Humanities Review, and even penned two Greece-themed novels, including Sappho, written when he was raising his family on the Greek island of Lesbos. Really!

Born the son of Arthur Green and Emily Slaughter, he attended school at Charterhouse and served admirably during World War II in Burma. His friend in India, the eventual and quite successful novelist, Paul Scott, author of the justifiable classic, The Raj Quartet, even patterned one of his characters (Sergeant Guy Perron) after him. Post-war, he attended Trinity College of Cambridge University. Dr. Green earned a rare Double First in Classics, became a fiction critic for the Daily Telegraph (1953–1963), book reviewer for the Yorkshire Post (1961–1962), a television critic for The Listener (1962–1963), and reviewed new films for John O' London's (1961–1963). On Lesbos, he taught, translated, wrote, edited and published, and helped to raise remarkable children. The man is a mensch. Bob Dylan even used Dr. Green's translations of Ovid with which to craft song lyrics on several albums.

In the back of my 26’ U-Haul truck now as I drive from Loudonville, New York, to Spray, Oregon are about 175 boxes of the remains of his estimable library. Those include Loeb Classics, pristine copies, signed by him, of his own works, poetry journals, and works of contemporary literature at (last) mid-century. Born December 22, 1924, soon to be a centenarian, and even though blind, Dr. Green remains a working scholar, engaged now on a new translation, with annotations, of Herodotus—his favorite historian.

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