Roger Lancelyn Green, the great authority on children’s literature from 1800 to 1950 who also wrote and edited many children’s books of fantasy and legend, died on 8 October 1987 aged 68.
Jessica Yates recalls his life and literary achievements.
Born in 1918 and widely-read as a child in Victorian and Edwardian children’s books, adventure stories, narrative poetry and drama, he wrote his thesis at Oxford University on the author and critic Andrew Lang. This later developed into a book published in 1946, the same year as was his history of the great children’s authors of the past from Lear and Carroll to Kipling and Potter, entitled Tellers of Tales and addressed to child readers.
On his father’s death in 1947 he inherited Poulton Hall, a Norman manor house with its own estate and a marvellous library, and from then on he combined managing the estate with his literary career and family life (he leaves a wife and three children). Amateur theatricals were also a feature of life at Poulton Hall.
A painstaking scholar who always researched his subjects to the limit of perfection, he communicated with his adult readers in an enjoyable. literate way. He wrote the Bodley Head Monographs on Lewis Carroll, J M Barrie, Mrs Molesworth, Andrew Lang and C S Lewis, and many other books including an edition of Lewis Carroll, guides to reading Kipling, and the biography of C S Lewis.
For children he wrote eight holiday adventure stories and fantasies, of which The Luck of Troy is still in Puffin; and in 1953 he began a sequence of retellings from myth and legend for Puffin Books, which make up an essential library for young reading and comprise: King Arthur, Tales of the Greek Heroes, The Tale of Troy, Myths of the Norsemen and Tales of Ancient Egypt. He also contributed to the Hamish Hamilton fairy-tale series with the books of Dragons, Magicians and Other Worlds, and compiled several short-story collections for Dent Children’s Illustrated Classics which featured his beloved authors of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, e.g. Modern Fairy Stories, The Book of Nonsense.
A complete bibliography can be found in the second edition of Twentieth-century Children’s Writers (Macmillan 1984), to which he was also an adviser and contributor. As well as writing many articles and reviews, he also corresponded extensively with scholars and amateur researchers in his specialist fields, and wrote articles on Sherlock Holmes and Lewis Carroll for their respective societies.