Critical and biographical information on Henry Reed, World War II British poet, critic, translator, and radio dramatist — author of "Naming of Parts"
Henry Reed, poet and radio dramatist
The Poetry of Henry Reed Homepage
Savage, Roger. "The Radio Plays of Henry Reed." In British Radio Drama, edited by John Drakakis. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1981. 158-190, 247-248, 273-276.

6                    The radio plays of Henry Reed

                       ROGER SAVAGE

Love... art... scholarship... the classical heritage: even a Third Programme that has recently been (as our dear, dear Janet would say) so rudely castrated, must find a place, a brief moment, to honour them.
(Herbert Reeve, in The Primal Scene, As It Were...)

British Radio Drama At one time or another, Henry Reed has been celebrated in three different roles: as the radio dramatist who created the memorable 'composeress' Hilda Tablet, as the translator who in a single season had three of his translations (all from the same playwright) running in the West End, and as the poet whose 'Naming of Parts' is 'probably the most widely quoted and anthologised single poem written in the Second World War'. (The opinion is Vernon Scannell's, in his book on the poetry of that war, which takes its title Not Without Glory from Horace via another of Reed's war-poems.) 1 The roles are various enough for some of his admirers in one of them not to be quite sure whether the others were played by the same man. Could there be two Henry Reeds perhaps, or even three? Certainty on the point has been made harder by Reed's never having had more than a handful of his books in print at any one time and by his keeping a low profile in the London literary circus. For instance, born in the same year as Dylan Thomas, he appears only rarely in the memoirs of the forties, fifties and sixties (though he can be found as 10557689 Pte Reed, H. in John Lehmann's autobiography I Am My Brother, as 'the most elusive of my friends' in Sir Arthur Bliss's As I Remember, and as an admired colleague in the Letters of J. R. Ackerley, who was literary editor of The Listener from 1935 to 1959). Again, certainty about his identity has not been helped by his all but sharing a name with Sir Herbert Read, in his day a much more public man. Henry Reed must have suffered too many confusions for comfort, though he does get a wry revenge in his cycle of radio plays about the eccentric circle of an imagi-


nary literary lion by giving the lion's much-put-upon biographer the name 'Herbert Reeve' and making a running joke of people getting it slightly wrong. Rest assured, however, that it is one indivisible Reed who plays all the roles. 'Poet, radio-dramatist, translator' is how his style runs in editions of Who's Who since 1977, and the fact that it ran 'poet, critic, and radio-dramatist' in earlier editions suggests that any serious account of his work must take some notice of the mass of his reviews, articles, essays, and talks, even if very few of them have found their way into hard covers. Any account of Reed's work must also be provisional, since he is — as his alter ego Reeve would say — 'happily still with us'. He celebrated his sixty-fifth birthday in 1979, and so presumably did Reeve, since he too was born on 22 February 1914. 2

It is typical of Reed's taste in literature that he should have included passages from the Agamemnon of Aeschylus and Sophocles' Antigone in a Personal Anthology he compiled for the BBC in 1970; and it is a pointer to the formation of that taste that the translations he used in the broadcast were by Louis MacNeice and E. R. Dodds, since both men were teaching at Birmingham University when he graduated BA with a First there in 1934. Around this time Reed was writing verse and travelling, notably in Italy, and after taking his MA he went into journalism, freelancing on literature and travel for the Birmingham Post and Manchester Guardian, among others. He has said that he was glad at Birmingham to have been 'one of a group of people which included Auden and MacNeice, John Hampson and Walter Allen, the painter John Melville, the critic Robert Melville and the sculptor Gordon Herrick'; 3 and one fruit of this connection is the painting of Reed by John Melville which is reproduced in the twenty-seventh Penguin New Writing. His poems were beginning to be published in national journals when the Second World War broke out, and in 1941, after he had taught for a year at his old school, King Edward VI's in Birmingham, he was conscripted into the Royal Army Ordnance Corps before being transferred to the Foreign Office to work in Naval Intelligence. Though his first book of verse, A Map of Verona, did not come out until after peace had been declared, there are at least three poems in it — making up the celebrated 'Lessons of the War' sequence — which grew out of Reed's experiences as an RAOC trainee; and even 'Chard Whitlow', the delightful T. S. Eliot parody in the same collection, is a document of the war. It was written as an entry in a New Statesman


competition calling for speculations as to what contributions certain modern poets would make to The Postscript, the wartime BBC's regular uplift talk after the Nine O'Clock News on Sunday evenings. It may seem odd that a pastiche Eliot Quartet-movement about the London Blitz which bristles with allusions to Eliot's earlier verse should have no clear echoes of the Blitz sections of 'Little Gidding'; but in fact 'Chard Whitlow' is prophetic of 'Little Gidding'. Reed's poem first appeared in May 1941, and Eliot did not finish a preliminary draft of his last Quartet until the June of that year. 4 As a miniature parody BBC programme, 'Chard Whitlow' is of course also prophetic of Reed's later radio work:

                     Oh, listeners,
And you especially who have switched off the wireless,
And sit in Stoke or Basingstoke, listening appreciatively to the silence
(Which is also the silence of hell), pray not for yourselves but your souls. 5

As the war came to an end, Reed was publishing poems, book reviews, and a few longer critical essays such as the piece on Thomas Hardy's Dynasts in the eighteenth Penguin New Writing. Eventually he was able to leave Naval Intelligence et hoc genus omne, or as Who's Who puts it: 'Released VJ day, 1945; recalled to Army, 1945; did not go, 1945; matter silently dropped, 1945.' From then on he lived (mainly in London and Dorset) as a Man of Letters, one of the literate intelligentsia — often quite aggressively so. He could for instance stress in the Introduction to his little book on the wartime novel that 'I have written as an intellectual addressing other intellectuals', could begin a New Statesman review with 'Everybody will remember that encouraging moment on page 108 of Finnegans Wake when', could publish a sixteen-line poem in The Listener with the tag 'From the French of Arnauld and the Italian of Leopardi', and could roundly declare in the B.B.C. Quarterly that the launching of the Third Programme was to be welcomed because it acknowledged' the fact that some listeners are fools and some are not, and that we cannot wait for the fools to catch up with their betters'. 6 He published the Verona collection in 1946, an enlarged New York edition of it in 1947, and individual poems spasmodically up to 1950. Meanwhile he brought out two other books which were not much more than the tips of two icebergs in his post-war activity.


One of the books was The Novel since 1939. It was published for the British Council in 1946, and the Reed who wrote it was kept busy at the time as a reviewer, mainly but not exclusively of new fiction, mainly signing his pieces but also contributing extensively to the anonymous Book Chronicle in The Listener. As a reviewer he was not easy to please. The style was urbane but the approach highly serious; so it is interesting that the few books which he welcomed with real warmth between 1945 and 1950 should include Brideshead Revisited, Dangling Man, The Shrimp and the Anemone and Titus Groan ('I do not think I have ever so much enjoyed a novel sent me for review'). 7 It is also interesting that his inwardness with the novel seems not to have led to his writing novels himself, especially when a later play of his, Return to Naples, has a 'wholly autobiographical' hero ambitious to be a great novelist. 8 Perhaps too much reviewing sapped the impulse, or perhaps the answer lies in Reed's profound admiration for James Joyce:

It is my tentative belief that Ulysses has completed the history of the novel, at all events for a time; and that there has been no great novelist to emerge since Ulysses appeared in 1922. There is a good deal of readable fiction still being written; as a reviewer one may praise and welcome it, for we do welcome pictures of ourselves in our own time pinned down and wriggling under competent and intelligent pens, of whom there are no fewer, probably, than at any other time. As a reviewer, one praises them, I have said; if one is able intermittently to attain to any critical sense, which it is very difficult for a reviewer to do, one is forced to disregard them. I think Ulysses stands as a barrier, which our novelists have not yet surmounted... I remember that Mr T. S. Eliot, writing of Virgil, suggested that he realised to the full, for the first time, the possibilities of a great language; and thereby finished it off. Can it be that James Joyce has done as much for English prose? 9

This obituary comes from a radio talk which Reed gave in 1950, and radio was of course his other major sphere of activity in these years, as critic (on both sides of the microphone), arranger, and creative writer. He wrote the radio column for the New Statesman and Nation from October 1947 to February 1948, and as a broadcaster was involved in much reviewing and discussion of the arts, notably in the Sunday lunchtime programme The Critics. He also read his own poems on the air, selected extracts from other authors (Defoe for example) to provide interludes between Third Programme broadcasts, and in 1946 made a radio piece of his


own, first in a fifteen-minute and then in a half-hour version. It was called Noises, and a friendly review described it as 'a short essay on the psychology of noises in which noises were used to play, wittily and suggestively, on the imagination of the listener'. 10 But the most spectacular radio project to involve him at this time was Stephen Potter's production of Moby Dick in January 1947, with Ralph Richardson as Captain Ahab and an ambitious orchestral score by Antony Hopkins. Reed made the adaptation, and the printing of this was his other book for the late 1940s. Moby Dick: A Play for Radio from Herman Melville's Novel is dedicated to Edward Sackville-West, Reed's colleague as radio critic on the New Statesman and the author of The Rescue, another radio version of a sea-dog epic — this time Homer's — which had itself been published in 1945. Like the radio scripts which Reed's friend MacNeice published about that time (Christopher Columbus and The Dark Tower), The Rescue and Moby Dick have pioneering Prefaces. The creative radio writers clearly felt the need to get a solid body of theory and practice into print. Reed himself stressed this a few years later in a combative essay in the B.B.C. Quarterly for 1949 called 'What the Wireless Can Do for Literature':

So far, I believe, when the radio faces us with a work of art created specially by and for it, we do not quite know what to expect from it nor quite how much of ourselves to give it. We do not know how much weight to put on our own end of the rope. Nor, usually, does the script-writer at the other end... The radio is, so far, a part of only the passive intellectual life of our time, not of the active or donative. We need not despair over this fact: it must have been equally so during the time of pre-Elizabethan drama... When all is said, the best service that the B.B.C. can do for literature — and indeed the only way in which serious radio can, in the end, keep alive — is by creating literature of its own, and by aiming not merely to create in it a specialised and separate body of eccentric and quickly fading works, but to add to the general corpus of English literature... Radio must realise that though it too [like the stage] may be the immediate medium through which a literature comes into being, even this literature will aim at a permanence beyond performance. In the last resort, the printed page must become the easily available repository of all good talk and writing... If the B.B.C. is to lose its sense of being concerned only with ephemera, its authors must be encouraged to feel that their radio-writings may have a permanent value on the printed page... I think that one of the most notable steps forward towards maturity in radio-drama is the fact that an increasing number of radio-plays are finding their way into print ... Only when an author's radio-drama is to be observed as being a part of his seriously developing

oeuvre will radio show signs of being reliable: then indeed shall we know what to expect, how much to 'give' to it as we listen. 11

On a physical level one could observe Reed's Moby Dick of 1947 as being part of his developing oeuvre: Jonathan Cape printed it in the same format and with the same green cover as the Map of Verona of 1946. But after that, no radio play of Reed's (translations apart) saw print until 1971, and this in spite of the fact that over a dozen were broadcast, of which it could be argued that several — I would venture The Streets of Pompeii, The Great Desire I Had, A Very Great Man Indeed, and Vincenzo — are radio literature of real importance.

That Reed soldiered on with them — writing, often extensively revising between broadcasts, taking a major role himself in the broadcasting of at least one of them (The Great Desire I Had), and winning an Italia Prize for another (The Streets of Pompeii) — must in part have been due to the buoyant state of the medium. Unlike the novel, it had not just been killed by a James Joyce. Significant creative talents, MacNeice and Sackville-West among them, were keeping it very much alive, and other such talents were always very welcome. Indeed, perhaps the BBC was too welcoming. For many years Reed was to give by far the greater part of his creativity to radio, so much so that, in the period between the summer of 1950 and the autumn of 1969, he published hardly any new poems, except for a free adaptation of Theocritus ('The Enchantress') made in 1951 for Arthur Bliss to set, an Aubade also set by Bliss as one of a group of modern madrigals for the 1953 Coronation, and 'The Auction Sale', a narrative poem which appeared in Encounter in 1958. In the same period he wrote, adapted or translated no fewer than three dozen dramatic works and feature programmes for the BBC.

His first full-length original play, Pytheas: A Dramatic Speculation, dates from May 1947, only four months after the Moby Dick adaptation, and like Moby Dick it has the form of a sea-quest. Pytheas, the hero, is the contemporary of Aristotle who sailed from Marseilles through the Pillars of Hercules to discover 'Ultima Thule' in the northern ocean. Two years later speculation was followed by biography in the two parts of a play about the Italian romantic poet Giacomo Leopardi: The Unblest of 1949, dealing with his adolescence, and The Monument of 1950, leading from his young manhood to his early death. Later in 1950 came


Canterbury Cathedral, whose sub-title An Exploration in Sound describes it well, provided 'sound' is taken to mean music and evocative studio voices rather than radiophonics and documentary material on tape. In the same year Reed contributed a piece to a series of programmes with the group title Return Journey: his Return to Naples is an autobiographical play tracing sixteen years of his relationship with a vivid and endearing Neapolitan family. In 1952 two more plays of his were given which deal with Britons and Italians in Italy, The Streets of Pompeii and The Great Desire I Had. Pompeii is another exploration in sound, this time of the Roman city before and after the fatal eruption and of the reactions to it of various twentieth-century tourists. The Great Desire is another dramatic speculation, which sends William Shakespeare to Ferrara, Verona, Padua, Venice, and Mantua in the early 1590s and has him involved there with a brilliant commedia dell'arte troup, the Gelosi, as vivid and endearing in their way as the family in Return to Naples. One more play has Mantua Castle and environs as its setting, Vincenzo, first broadcast in 1955 and billed in Radio Times as a tragicomedy. Like the Leopardi diptych it is a dramatic biography: we follow the hero's life from his eighteenth year till his death. And like The Great Desire I Had the period is Late Renaissance: the hero is the Gonzaga duke Vincenzo I, patron of Claudio Monteverdi and murderer of the Admirable Crichton.

These plays of 1947 to 1955 form a group, which is overlapped in time by another and seemingly very different group of pieces written between 1951 and 1959: A By-Election in the Nineties, A Very Great Man Indeed, The Private Life of Hilda Tablet, Emily Butter, A Hedge, Backwards, The Primal Scene, As It Were..., Not A Drum Was Heard, and Musique Discrète. A By-Election in the Nineties, a study of Realpolitik in Victorian Wessex, has an impish mood in common with the others, but is set apart from them by its period. The others, from a Very Great Man Indeed to Musique Discrète, form a cycle — dramatic roman fleuve cum highbrow soap opera — although they were not at first planned as such. 12 The cycle is set in the 1950s, presupposes a great late-lamented novelist Richard Shewin (rhyming with 'go in'), and presents the circle of his surviving friends and relations. The relations comprise a widowed sister-in-law Nancy (mother to a large brood of pop-musical sons and one Scrutiny-reading daughter), a hugely self-pitying and Freud-fancying brother Stephen, Stephen's cat-


fixated wife Connie, and Connie's brother and sister: the dotty, bell-fixated General Arthur Gland and Miss Alice Gland (who practises creative sleep). The friends range from the demi-mondaine to the very blue-blooded, but the most formidable of them is the composer Hilda Tablet, who has a memorable circle of her own, Viennese soprano companion (manic-depressive and food-fixated), very gay young secretary, tame music critic, rather less tame librettist, lachrymose Greek multi-millionaire patron, and so on. Into this singular world comes the earnest scholar Herbert Reeve, prim, proper, and very wet behind the ears; and to the extent that the series of plays has a plot at all, Reeve is at the centre of it. He has plans to write Richard Shewin's biography; but he is soon hijacked into undertaking a twelve-volume life of Hilda Tablet. He is released from this in the long run, however (while he and most of the friends and relations are enjoying a Mediterranean cruise on the millionaire's yacht), by Miss Tablet's giving the task to General Gland. En route to this happy outcome, and to Herbert's engagement to Nancy Shewin's daughter (who has by now deserted Dr Leavis for Melanie Klein), we are present at the premières of two masterworks: Miss Tablet's all-female opera Emily Butter and a posthumous play by Richard Shewin which seems to be cousin to E. M. Forster's Maurice and which has to be drastically rewritten before it is made safe for the Shaftesbury Avenue of the 1950s. Then, as epilogues to the plot proper, the BBC itself is shown interviewing General Gland in an attempt to secure his war memoirs and mounting a request programme of the music of Miss Tablet, by now Dame Hilda. (Her music, and the pop-songs of Owen Shewin, were pastiched for the series by Donald Swann.)

In addition to writing his own plays, Reed was in these years involved with adapting and interpreting the work of other English-speaking writers for radio audiences. The writers ranged from Ruth Draper (four selections from her monologues) through William Plomer and Walt Whitman to Thomas Hardy. There were programmes of and about Hardy's verse, an arrangement of The Dynasts in six ninety-minute episodes epically transmitted by the combined forces of the BBC Features and Drama departments in one week of June 1951, and Thomas Hardy: A Radio Portrait by His Friends, Reed was also making a name in the 1950s as a translator and adapter for radio from the French and Italian. Notable here was his dramatisation in 1954 of Jules Laforgue's


'moral legend' Hamlet, or The Consequences of Filial Piety. But more often he was concerned with plays of the twentieth century, and his versions included Henry de Montherlant's Malatesta and The Land Where the King Is a Child, Luigi Pirandello's All for the Best, Jacques Audiberti's Alarica (from Le Mal Court) and Silvio Giovaninetti's One Flesh. However, the writer most closely associated with him in this respect was the Italian dramatist Ugo Betti. Betti died in 1953, and in the next eight years the BBC broadcast seven of his plays in Reed translations: Crime on Goat Island, Irene, The House on the Water, Corruption in the Palace of Justice, Holiday Land, The Queen and the Rebels and The Burnt Flower-Bed. The translations of the last three (with Holiday Land renamed Summertime) were published in 1956 as Three Plays by Ugo Betti. In his Foreword, Reed asserts that 'the series of thirteen plays which Betti produced between 1941 and his death in 1953 must be among the greatest creative outbursts in dramatic literature', and it seems that, for a few years at least, the theatrical impresarios were inclined to agree. Several of Reed's translations were taken over by the conventional theatre, notably in the autumn of 1955, when stage premières of 'his' Queen and the Rebels, Summertime, and Burnt Flower-Bed were given in London.

Reed's career as a translator continued through the sixties and seventies, embracing several novels (Balzac's Père Goriot and Eugénie Grandet among them) and a quantity of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Italian drama, especially works by Giacosa, Pirandello, Dino Buzzati, and Natalia Ginzburg. And though this period saw a reduction in the quantity of his written criticism, his spoken criticism must have flourished during the several academic terms of the mid-1960s he taught in Seattle as professor at the University of Washington. However, by that time he had stopped writing creatively for radio, and to date — with the exception of a reworked, more Melvillian finale to his Moby Dick adaption for a new production in 1979 — he has not started again. The reasons for this silence are doubtless complex, but they may well include the vexed matter of publication, and the matter of finance too. After all, he had written in 'What the Wireless Can Do for Literature' that serious radio dramatists have problems

because they are not certain of receiving the permanence of print afterwards; and the radio's rewards to the dramatic writer are almost always bound to remain, both presentationally and financially, meagre. I had


hoped not to mention the finances; but they are of basic importance: a serious work of art takes much time to compose; the fees for the regulation three performances of a long radio-play are not great. 13

Then there was possibly the matter of television: the leap to prominence of TV drama and the feeling among pioneer radio dramatists that the new, less imaginatively rewarding medium was blighting their own before radio — like pre-Virgilian Latin or the pre-Shakespearean stage — had been realised to the full. ('It is melancholy to reflect', wrote W. H. Auden in his introduction to a posthumous collection of MacNeice's plays, 'that, since the advent of television, radio drama is probably a dying art.') 14 A photograph has been published of writers at a BBC television course in 1952 grouped round the fateful screen, but it is difficult to penetrate Reed's sphinx-like expression. 15 It is easier to interpret his attitude ten years later when introducing one of his programmes of Ruth Draper's monologues. He quotes Draper as saying that it is her audience that 'must supply the imagination. All I can do myself is to make the audience give it to me. I suppose my work needs more of this than most acting does, for I give people no help in the way of scenery, lighting or stage effects.' He goes on to contrast Draper's art with cinema and television, which impoverish active imagination, and the implications for his own radio art are clear.

However, whatever the causes of his silence as original dramatist from 1959 until the present, it is ironic that he should have had to wait a dozen years before the BBC published two collections of his plays in 1971: Hilda Tablet and Others: Four Pieces for Radio (comprising four of the seven parts of the Shewin sequence) and The Streets of Pompeii and Other Plays for Radio, the other plays being the Leopardi pair, Return to Naples, The Great Desire I Had, and Vincenzo. 16 The Tablet collection is dedicated to George Painter in return for the dedication of the first volume of Painter's life of Proust (the two men had first read Proust together when schoolboys at Birmingham), and the Dedicatory Letter talks rather darkly of a biography on which Reed himself had been working for some years. The Foreword to the Pompeii collection discusses the difference in status between a radio script and a theatrical one, reminding the reader that 'these scripts were all written a long time ago'. Still, it was perhaps as a result of his long-time withdrawal from creative radio that Reed began to publish poems frequently again in the late sixties, mainly in The


Listener, The 'Lessons of the War' sequence, which stood at three poems in A Map of Verona and had a fourth ('Movement of Bodies') added in 1950, was completed with 'Returning of Issue' in 1970, when the five were published together in a limited edition. Seven years later, a further collection was mooted, to be called The Auction Sale and Other Poems. However, though mentioned in the 1977 Who's Who, it has yet to see print.

Reed's four careers — as poet, critic, translator, and dramatist — have something of that 'faculty of sudden appearance and sudden disappearance, with long periods of invisibility between' which Arthur Bliss in his autobiography found in Reed the man. 17 But one feels that he now might take up or extend any of them in combination with any other. And, of course, however much the four careers go their own way and have their own active and latent phases, they are the careers of one individual and cannot be wholly compartmentalised. There are overlaps, common preoccupations, shared methods. Thus the poet who hides quite a long translated Rimbaud quotation (from 'Villes') in the title poem of the Verona collection is the dramatist who hides even longer translated Leopardi quotations (notably from 'La Ginestra') in the Sibyl's speeches of The Streets of Pompeii. The lover of Greek drama who requires a decent knowledge of Sophocles from his readers if they are going to a get a great deal from poems like 'Philoctetes', 'The Interval', 'Antigone', or 'Chrysothemis' is the lover of Elizabethan drama who requires considerable knowledge of half a dozen Shakespeare plays in his listeners if they are fully to savour The Great Desire I Had. The writer of a British Council booklet on the English novel 1939-45 primarily so that foreigners can be helped to catch up with the best of the native product after the breakdown in communications in the 1940s is the translator from foreign tongues who communicates recent work of Audiberti, Montherlant, Giovaninetti, Paride Rombi, Samy Fayad, and Virginio Puecher to the English in the 1950s. The translator of Dino Buzzati's novel Il Grande Ritratto as Larger than Life in 1962 is also its radio dramatiser as Zone 36 in 1965. The regular reviewer of fiction in The Listener and New Statesman and Nation is himself the creator of the novels of Richard Shewin, whose styles glance roguishly at James, Lawrence, Graham Greene et al., and whose titles (The Hot and the Cold, The Floor and the Ceiling, The Arse and the Elbow, and so on) tap a rich vein of thirties and forties titling (The Root and


the Flower, The Light and the Dark, The Ballad and the Source, and so forth). The presenter of Hardy's life, poetry, and epic-drama to the radio audience also contributes a series of learned reviews of Hardiana to the book pages of The Listener, 18 appears among the two dozen acknowledgements in R. L. Purdy's weighty bibliographical study of Hardy, and is reliably rumoured to have made Hardy the subject of the biography-in-progress mentioned in the Tablet dedication. The critic who in his journalistic work so often cites Joyce and Eliot as the true touchstones of excellence in modern literature not only gives lengthy and searching radio talks about them as well, 19 but also works unattributed quotations from the first part of 'The Dry Salvages' and the last part of Finnegans Wake into the final section of his first radio piece, Noises. Not content with which, he pays homage to The Rock and Murder in the Cathedral in his Canterbury exploration and to 'The Hollow Men' in the title of Richard Shewin's most often quoted novel, The Bang and the Whimper, while giving a stream of consciousness a la Molly Bloom to the feather-headed opera-singer in Vincenzo and centring The Great Desire I Had on a Finneganesque pun on a line from Twelfth Night: 'This is the heir, that is the glorious son'.

On this fairly superficial level, Reed's work is all of a piece throughout. But the consistency goes deeper and can perhaps tell us something useful about the achievement of the original radio plays which are at the centre of that work. 'His three volumes of lyric poetry, his three collections of short stories, and his single short novel have a distinction of their own; but they can fairly be regarded as the marginalia to the succession of twenty-five dramatic works which they accompanied, and whose thought and preoccupation they echo, underline and occasionally anticipate.' 20 Mutatis mutandis, this remark of Reed's about Ugo Betti can be applied to his own poetry, criticism, and translations as they relate to his radio drama. And it is the plays' relationship with the poetry which is of course the most important. For one thing, one can only assert that Reed 'began as a poet, went on as a dramatist and then became a poet again' if one defines 'poet' simply as a publisher of individual poems; and even then the assertion is not wholly accurate. With a broader definition of poetry, it is arguable that he is as much a poet in The Streets of Pompeii as in A Map of Verona. ('Though most of it is in prose,' he writes in a Radio Times introduction to Pompeii, 'it has worked out as a sort of dramatic poem.') 21 And with the narrower


definition 'poetry equals verse', no one could deny that Reed the poet is in evidence in almost all the plays, since almost all are either in or contain verse.

The two Leopardi pieces are the most consistently versified. They are written in a very flexible 'sprung' pentameter throughout, and it is surely not accidental that they were first given in May 1949 and March 1950 and so flank the first performances of Eliot's Cocktail Party in August 1949. Significantly, when Reed gave a couple of penetrating radio talks soon afterwards on the functions of verse and prose in the theatre (especially the Shakespearean and modern theatre), he called them 'Towards The Cocktail Party'. 'What I want', he says in the first talk,

is the restoration of verse to its dominant position on the stage, because only thereby can the drama, I think, regain a position where it will command the respect we normally accord to the novel or to the poetry printed in books... In English, only the use of verse on the stage can elevate the drama... This elevation has been achieved with illuminating certainty and success only once in the last two hundred years, in Mr Eliot's The Cocktail Party. 22

Though the sound of the Leopardi plays is only occasionally Eliotesque (since, among other things, the metre is different), Reed is clearly attempting to write them throughout in the sort of verse he describes Eliot as achieving, 'a verse equidistant between prose and poetry [which] can with equal consistency move towards the state of either'. 23 But such a verse is not the norm of Reed's drama as a whole. This is possibly because he felt that, since the radio audience's mode of listening and degree of imaginative participation are (or should be) more intense than those of a conventional theatre audience, a high degree of concentration and a proper emphasis on the spoken word can be achieved in radio without verse predominating. Be this as it may, verse is largely saved in his other plays for choric sequences or for scenes of exaltation and celebration. Thus in Moby Dick Reed takes away the reporting role which Melville gives young Ishmael and instead presents the action of the novel directly through an adaptation of such parts of Melville's prose as he has radio space for; but at the same time he creates an observing, reflecting choric group out of Ishmael and the godly Father Mapple and writes a series of very telling poems for them which punctuate the action and encapsulate Melville's expansive reflections on the nature of whaling, the whiteness of Moby Dick, the immensity of the


Pacific, and so on. Again, in The Streets of Pompeii, where ideas of fecundity and sterility, imagination and pedantry, love and death are woven together through the patterning of the experiences of a dozen Pompeian natives and visitors, several modes of speech are woven and patterned too; and they include, along with colloquial and heightened prose, a formal verse for the elegies of the Cumaean Sibyl and a more relaxed pentameter for the young lovers, Attilio and Francesca. (The lovers are even given a full-dress sonnet apiece as a soliloquy at their moment of most intense feeling.) Then in the Richard Shewin sequence, celebration almost always involves verse set to music, songs which are generally the original creations of Nancy Shewin's boys. This allows Reed the pasticheur to produce some memorably awful pop lyrics for Donald Swann to set, their awfulness only partly disguising the fact that they deal with subjects close to Reed's heart. Even in a play for which Reed's words are wholly in prose, intensification and crystallisation come from verse and music. The scene in Vincenzo where the Duke talks sotto voce with his illegitimate son Silvio during a court performance of the opera Arianna is not only a comic image of the fine flower of Renaissance civilisation growing from some pretty twisted roots. It is also a tragic image of the play as a whole. Passionate woman deserted by a lord of creation is portrayed definitively in Rinuccini's verse and Monteverdi's music; and in Reed's prose the play at large probes the feelings of a succession of such women, dazzled and deserted by Duke Vincenzo.

But it is not only the craft of verse which Reed the poet lends Reed the dramatist. The interests and attitudes of the poetry are in the drama too. Take a group of the plays in relation to a single poem, the fine narrative piece 'The Auction Sale', in which a Paduan Mars and Venus is sold at an English country auction to a London dealer at a higher price than a captivated young farmer can afford. The poem is set in Dorset, as — fictionalised as 'Mulset' — are the whole of A By-Election in the Nineties and the rural scenes of the Richard Shewin plays. The subject of the poem is a thwarted quest, which relates it (matters of scale and intensity apart) to the Moby Dick adaptation. It celebrates Italian Renaissance painting, as do the Giulio Romano scenes in Vincenzo and The Great Desire I Had. It is concerned, like The Streets of Pompeii, with the holiness of the heart's affections. It juxtaposes hard cash and high art as ironically (if not as farcially) as does Aeschylus


Aphanisis in The Primal Scene, As It Were..., planning to buy up the Elgin marbles and re-erect them in Florida. And its final section raises the characteristic Reedian lump in the throat of the ends of several of the plays, notably The Monument.

Again, take a group of poems in relation to a single play: the Verona collection of 1946 and the 'dramatic speculation' Pytheas of 1947. The subject of the play, Reed's first full-length original radio piece, seems at first as recherché as the substance of many of the poems seems obscure: a Greek scientist disinterred from a classical dictionary. But the play soon clarifies into what promises to be a Romantic Tale of Ships and the Sea, and so shares an ambience with several of the Verona poems, especially 'Sailors' Harbour', 'The Captain', and 'The Return'. Pytheas himself is a Mediterranean voyager lured northward by curiosity and imagination, much as the northern voyager in the Verona title poem is lured southward to the Mediterranean. The evocation of the northern seas when Pytheas reaches them is similar to the seascapes in the 'Tintagel' sequence; and when Pytheas' companion Ctesiphon builds fantasies round the classical names of the crew members during the voyage, he is only following the example of his creator in such poems as 'Chrysothemis' and 'Philoctetes' (though his intentions are certainly different). Pytheas and Ctesiphon themselves — the one all questing idealism, the other all pragmatic immediacy — have a yin-yang relationship as polar as that of the dreamy private soldier and the RAOC instructor in 'Naming of Parts'. At the end of their journey they come, not to the tin-mines which Pytheas' commercial backers in Massilia have sent him to find, but to Thule, the ultimate place, a 'sharp black rock in the ice' which has a twin in Reed's Antarctic exploration poem 'South'. So, instead of tin, Pytheas will take the image of Ultima Thule back to his countrymen as a symbol:

At the end of a hill-road; and at the end of a life;
And at the end of a love; and at the end of youth;
And at the end of evening. Here can be there for them.
In taking report of this place, I only take them
A name for a place which they have always known. 24

In its highly circumstantial build-up to a climax of pure symbolism, the play is of a piece with Reed's long poem, 'The Place and the Person', with its very detailed narrative of a sinister dance and phantom ship which turn out to be essentially symbolic.


However, in Pytheas the solemn symbolic climax is preceded by comic antimasque: Pytheas and his crew land in a pantomime Ancient Britain and encounter (among other even wilder anachronisms) a shaggy chieftain who greets them with a Beowulfese harangue, a parodic tour de force from the ghost-writer of 'Mr Eliot's Sunday Evening Postscript'. Finally, the whole play is framed and interrupted by the choric conversations of a twentieth-century brother and sister who speculate freely in rhyming hexameters about Pytheas' experiences; and this way of mediating between legend and audience is akin to the presentation of the myth in 'Antigone', a poem Reed published in a 1947 Penguin New Writing, where one anonymous witness interrogates another about the martyrdom of the princess.

However, if Pytheas echoes Reed's earlier poetry, it also foreshadows aspects of his later drama. For instance, it has (in common with the Moby Dick adaptation of the same year) a questing voyager for a hero and a narrative chorus of two voices to give it a graspable shape. In almost all of his later plays Reed again uses choric narration in one form or another, and as for voyaging, he is a most assiduous courier. In The Great Desire I Had he escorts Shakespeare to five different Italian cities, and in Return to Naples takes 'H', his younger self, to the same city five times. He guides us with great care round the cathedral at Canterbury (outside first, then in) and round the ruins at Pompeii too, counterpointing plausible itineraries for four different groups of tourists and a resident lizard. At the climax of The Monument he gives the two selves of Giacomo Leopardi, man and boy, a vision of the cities which have meant so much to him in his two plays —

GIACOMO. My birthdays have all slipped from me.
LEOPARDI. And all the cities are silent under the sun,
Florence and Pisa, Rome and Bologna, peaceful.
GIACOMO. And Recanati and Naples are here in the sun!

— and in The Primal Scene, As It Were... he reverses the route of Pytheas to Ultima Thule, geographically, symbolically, and in dramatic tone, as most of the notables of the Richard Shewin cycle make their way back by yacht to the ruins of Ancient Greece. Pytheas also casts a forward shadow psychologically. In his voyage up the Atlantic coast, Pytheas is able to spy on the wild mysteries of an island of naked Bacchantes:


        Amnis, that small mysterious isle
Wholly forbidden to men, and echoing through the night
To the shrieks of maddened women in a secret mystical rite.

It is perhaps from their tribe that the variously formidable women of the later plays come: the monstrously repressive Countess Adelaide Leopardi, the gusty, domineering, mannish Hilda Tablet, and the stupendous Bianca Cappello, the only woman publicly to get the better of Vincenzo Gonzaga. More certainly the Quixote-Sancho relationship between Pytheas and Ctesiphon, questing intellectual and cheerful sensualist, announces a theme on which several later works play variations: the anxious Shakespeare and his 'dear transcendent child of the morning', Thomas Shewin; the tormented hunchback genius Leopardi and the sunny, straightforward man of the world Ranieri; the buttoned-up scholar Herbert Reeve and Miss Tablet's cheerfully homosexual secretary Evelyn —

REEVE. Don't... don't lean on my shoulder, Evelyn, there's a good chap.
EVELYN [gently]. Ticklish?

— and 'H' in Return to Naples earnestly reading Freud in a bookshop while one of the Neapolitan boys he is staying with couples uncomplicatedly with an Austrian girl friend ('twice'). In the brown-limbed Pytheas' discovery of a harmonious peace in remotest England, we may even find the beginnings of the idea of a happy adoption by a group of strangers which recurs in Reed's work: Shakespeare being drawn into the world of the Gelosi; Leopardi and 'H' each gaining a Neapolitan family; Herbert Reeve being absorbed into the Shewin-Tablet clan and eventually marrying Janet, the great novelist's niece.

Generically speaking, however, Pytheas is not so typical of Reed's other radio work. It is too volatile in tone. The realistic, the symbolic, the parodic, the introverted, the ancient, the modern, the grave, and the gay are there in fairly equal proportions. The other plays tend either to be predominantly funny (A By-Election in the Nineties, the Shewin cycle) or to be predominantly straight-faced (Canterbury Cathedral, the Melville and Hardy adaptations, the plays set in Italy). This is not to say that the predominantly straight-faced plays do not have some very funny scenes. Even the gravest of them, the Leopardi diptych, has room for a delightful pastiche of bad Italian translations of Shakespeare. Nor is it to claim that 'straight-faced' and 'funny' are particularly imposing


critical terms. 'Tragic' and 'comic' would certainly be more resonant, and if only because Reed's own criticism so often returns to concepts of tragedy and comedy, it is tempting to use them. 'Tragic' especially is a term of highest praise from Reed the reviewer; but he is aware of the rarity of the truly tragic, and so we should not assume that we shall find it in his own original work. As a dramatist, his own most direct investment in tragedy is probably through his adaptations and translations: Moby Dick, The Dynasts, some of the Betti pieces. Indeed, he describes Betti in his Foreword to Three Plays as 'a dramatist whose unusual maturity of vision gives us pity and terror, where we normally find only their modern substitutes, pathos and hysteria'; and he extends the idea in a soliloquy he gives the Shakespeare of The Great Desire I Had as he ponders the writing of tragedy: 'One is alone with it, as one is alone with it in life. Not, I suspect, that it ever happens in life. We confuse it with grief and loss and exile, with the breaking of the heart and the death or departure of the beloved... which are only minor ailments.' Pathos, hysteria, grief, loss, exile, and heartbreak are powerfully present in The Unblest and The Monument, in the eruption scenes of The Streets of Pompeii, and in the experiences of Margherita Famese and the choric ladies of Vincenzo. The presentation is compassionate, elegiac, humane, touching, rather than grandly tragic. And as for the grandly comic, several of Reed's plays have all the wit, satiric zest, and/or underlying warmth for the form, yet are not in the high comic league because of their episodic nature, their lack of ambitious intrigue. It is significant that Reed himself calls the published selections from the Shewin cycle not plays at all, but rather pieces for radio.

So perhaps 'straight-faced' and 'funny' will be allowed to serve to designate what clearly are two distinct streams of Reed's dramatic work, the work (in Roy Walker's phrase) of the Thinking Reed and the Winking Reed. 25 What determines the difference between the streams is Reed's characterisation of his choric narrators, which is why Pytheas is generically untypical. There the brother and sister who narrate may at any moment be roguish:

SHE. It is said they landed in Cornwall.
HE.           It is said they landed in Kent.
SHE. There are many conflicting reports of the places to which they went.
HE. It is said they wintered in England;

SHE.           That they also summered there.
HE. It is said that the weather was filthy;
SHE.           It is said that the weather was fair.
HE. One can imagine the wild rough hills, the roadless plains, the bogs.
SHE. One can imagine no end of bogus dialogues.

Or they may be high-Eliotesque:

HE. And there at last he stood, Pytheas at the world's end. Was it Orkney?
SHE.           Was it Norway?
HE.                      It does not matter. The end
Has various places to be; and this was the world's end.
SHE. Pytheas, the brown-limbed Greek; Pytheas at the world's end.
HE. And an end from which one returns is nevertheless an end.

The later plays, on the other hand, are either hosted chorically by figures of consistent fun (the orotund narrator of A By-Election, Herbert Reeve and sundry BBC personnel in the Richard Shewin cycle) or by figures we take quite seriously: the eloquent, not to say aureate, narrators of Canterbury Cathedral and The Great Desire, Reed's mature self in Return to Naples, the Sibyl and the Traveller in Pompeii, the soliloquising poet in the Leopardi plays, and some of the Duke's ladies in Vincenzo.

The plays of the Thinking Reed — those included in the Pompeii collection at least — are a close-knit group, for all their variety of tone, town, period, and language (language which runs from the impressive Sybilline oracles of The Streets of Pompeii itself to the fluently naturalistic chats and scats of Return to Naples). Of course Italy helps to unify the plays: Reed describes them in his Foreword as 'memorials, however ephemeral, to the love I have always felt for her'. Twenty-five years before, he had declared that 'it is a tempting preciosity to say that the Englishman's education and sensibility are incomplete without Mediterranean experience. It is also a palpable falsity; they are equally incomplete without experience of the South Seas, China, Russia and India. But to the English artist (to say nothing of anyone else) Italy has a strange power of benediction.' 26 The degree of benediction communicated to the listener varies from one play to another, but then they have more than simple geography to link them. For instance, Reed fashions climaxes for all of them which, however


different in mood, raise a similar lump in the throat. Shakespeare's elation at a future of fulfilment across a knife-edge of risk; the pathos of Margherita Famese as Vincenzo Gonzaga's death condemns her a second time to the arms of the Church; the brave compassion of Monaldo Leopardi's decision that his son shall go to Rome and the mingled triumph and defeat of Giacomo Leopardi's death; the solace for 'H' in the awareness of his adopted family's perennial welcome; the sense of a transcendent love when a young Italian couple and an elderly English one speak to each other in the dusk at Pompeii: these things are presented with a common warmth and humanity which come within an ace of sentimentality without actually succumbing. Again, the ordering of the plays in the Pompeii collection chains them firmly together. First comes the Leopardi diptych which bites its own tail, so to speak, in that it ends with a powerful scene of the poet at the moment of his death carried back to his happy childhood. The death-scene is set near Mount Vesuvius, where the historical Leopardi wrote one of his last poems, an elegy for the citizens of the buried Pompeii, so it is apt that the Leopardi plays should be followed by The Streets of Pompeii, especially since in it the Sibyl comes from the shades at Cumae to speak choruses which translate lines from Leopardi poem ('La Ginestra') and also from his 'Chorus of the Dead'. 27 Reed's dead city is visited by English tourists and Italian lovers (contrasted rather as in Forster's A Room with a View); and Return to Naples, the play which follows Pompeii in the collection, is concerned (rather as is Forster's Where Angels Fear To Tread) with a young Englishman's visits to an Italian family. At the very end of the Return Virgil and Leopardi are both evoked, which glances back to the Cumaean Sibyl at Pompeii; but the fact that the young Englishman has ambitions to be a great writer leads us on to the next play, The Great Desire I Had, where William Shakespeare, determined to write an epic on the fall of Troy, comes to the northern Italy of the 1590s for inspiration and a respite from the Globe and his 'dear, brave Anne'. The final scene of The Great Desire has Shakespeare waiting in an anteroom at the Gonzaga palace in Mantua, disdaining to attend a performance by the Gelosi troupe of a magical play which strikingly pre-echoes The Tempest ('Did you ever in your life hear of such ... trash?') and finding himself argued out of the great desire he has to be the English Homer by a total stranger, who is revealed after the event to be Vincenzo Gonzaga


himself, just returned unexpectedly from Vienna. 28 This scene leads naturally to the final play, Vincenzo, though in it the great artists at the Mantuan court are less verbal: Rubens only ventures a deferential monosyllable and Monteverdi does not speak at all.

Equally and more obviously, the Shewin plays of the Winking Reed make a group. Not that he was the first to take as leitmotiv the establishing of the facts of an artist's life. There were The Aspern Papers, The Quest for Corvo, and Cakes and Ale, the last doubtless especially interesting to Reed the intending biographer of Thomas Hardy in that it was generally believed that Hardy's circle provided Maugham with some of his characters. There was also one of Vladimir Nabokov's first English novels, which Reed reviewed just after the war:

In The Real World of Sebastian Knight, a novelist who comes to us with the blessing of Mr Edmund Wilson, does what Mr Maugham has done in one way or another several times already. He attempts to reconstruct the life of an imaginary famous artist, who has been misrepresented by another biographer. He collects material here and there, and unfolds his version with a cunning casualness. Unfortunately, neither Sebastian nor the other characters comes to life, and the amount of incident in the book is extraordinarily small. And though the outlines of Sebastian's books are engaging, the specimens of his prose which Mr Nabokov is daring enough to show us do not suggest a great writer. Nevertheless... one feels curiosity about Mr Nabokov's other novels, several of which apparently exist in Russian. 29

Whether or not Reed remembered Sebastian when he started A Very Great Man Indeed, he certainly gave any demonstration of Richard Shewin's 'greatness' a wide berth by making all the specimens of his prose parodic of different twentieth-century authors. Joyce is a significant exception, but then instead — as far as one can work out — Shewin more or less shares Joyce's dates of birth and death.) The greatness of Shewin is as much an unknown quantity as his true character in these plays. Their focus, at least until Hilda Tablet intervenes, is what we can learn from a naive scholar's investigations about the genteel-bohemian intellectual world Shewin left behind; and Miss Tablet's intervention serves to open the world out by enabling her unwilling Boswell to meet that many more artists, critics, gentry, and professionals. Although the amount of incident in the plays is as small as in Nabokov's novel, the characters certainly do come vividly alive, helped by obsessions which spring in part from Freud and in part


from traditional farce, and by catch-phrases which recall Tommy Handley's ITMA of the 1940s: General Gland's 'Say?', Stephen Shewin's 'A hedge, a dartboard', the 'I shall go back to Vienna' of Hilda Tablet's resident soprano, Elsa Strauss. 30 Of course, someone writing such a cycle now would doubtless not make so much play with the roman à clef, psychoanalysis, Schonbergian serialism, musique concrète (renforcée in Hilda Tablet's case), girls' public schools and the little idiosyncrasies of BBC Radio. Genteel intellectual bohemia is not what it was, and listeners in the 1980s may well find something quaint about a world where Karl Marx is never mentioned, where American culture, the cinema, and television hardly impinge, and where the pop music (though 'faintly terrifying' according to one stage direction) now seems very thin gruel. But that world is recorded with real wit in these plays, as when the Duchess of Mulset quizzes Mr Reeve about Miss Tablet's latest opera —

DUCHESS. You know the score of Emily Butter backwards, I'm sure, Sir Herbert.
REEVE. Well, only the parts of it that are played backwards, of course.

— and monomania, lack of self-knowledge, hypocrisy, the crossed purpose, and the tensions between public and private morality are comic springs which do not date.

How far the considerable bawdiness of the cycle dates is hard to say. Reed's Freudian-farcical view of a society which affected pretty strict notions of propriety (particularly on Reithian radio) leads to much outrageous fun being had with cracking of taboos and hintings at the unmentionable. So it is with Stephen Shewin's castration-complex, for example ('he knew as well as I did that I had a you-know-what'), and with Miss Tablet's lesbianism ('for ee mus' unnerstand, sir, as Miss Ilda were hall-ways a bit of a tom-boy'). On a larger scale, the whole intrigue of one of the pieces (A Hedge, Backwards) is built round the première of Shewin's Rattiganesque play about A Certain Subject, the climactic line of which — 'The law may be against us, but ordinary people aren't' — becomes splendidly bizarre when most of the play has been rewritten to conform with heterosexual norms. The Primal Scene, As It Were... even has a double entendre for a title (as do at least three of Reed's five 'Lessons of the War'). To Herbert Reeve and most of the passengers on Aeschylus Aphanisis' yacht the Jokasta, the 'primal scene' is the Mediterranean cradle of their


civilisation; but to the amateur Kleinian psychoanalyst Janet Shewin who eventually marries Herbert, it is Freud's term for an infant's traumatic perception of its parents' sexual intercourse, the parents in Herbert's case being represented by Richard Shewin and Hilda Tablet (though which as father and which as mother Janet is not absolutely sure).

This is the Winking Reed indeed, but the wink throughout the Shewin cycle is quite a genial one. The plays are farcical and satiric, but the satire is not harsh or cynical or dismissive. Take the redoubtable 'composeress' herself. Miss Tablet is certainly something of a monster of egotism and imposition; in Donald Swann's variably successful 'realisations' of it, her music comes over as parodying everything from Tchaikovsky to Webern; and a clef she seems to be a blend of Dame Ethel Smyth (the mannish dress, boisterous feminism, gentrified parents, and fondness for soldiers), Elizabeth Lutyens (the bohemian life-style and the pioneering of English serialism), and Benjamin Britten (the lovelife and fondness for single-sex operas). 31 But she is evidently a genuine creator (and so a sacred monster); her parodic music is simply the equivalent of Richard Shewin's novels; Reed's script describes her significantly as having a warm and jolly voice; and we have no reason to assume that Reed disapproved of her 'models', if such they be. Indeed, his admiration for Britten's work is on record, he collaborated with Lutyens over Canterbury Cathedral, he must have known his friend Edward Sackville-West's lively and admiring memoir of Smyth, and in an essay on Edith Sitwell's poetic development he writes understandingly about the plight of the woman artist. 32 Again, one does not have to look long at Reed's recorded activities in the 1950s (when the Shewin cycle was being written) to see how close to his own is the world of Herbert Reeve. Reeve is engaged on the biography of a great novelist and so is Reed. Reeve interviews all the contacts he can find and reports on them — a self-centred lot, by and large — over the air; Reed presents an anthology of recorded memories for the BBC called Thomas Hardy: A Radio Portrait by His Friends, observing that it is 'characteristic of a great deal of utterance on Hardy' that 'people prefer... to talk at length about themselves'. Reeve tangles with an energetic 'composeress' in search of a libretto and meets her former librettist Harold Reith (note the initials); Reed collaborates with Elizabeth Lutyens on music for radio drama and writes two texts for Arthur Bliss to set, one of


them an operatic scena. Reeve is involved in the West End rehearsals of a play by a hero of his; Reed has three of his Betti translations staged there in one season. Reeve is in Athens when Evelyn Baxter picks up a Greek boy, as is Reed when Joe Ackerley picks up another. 33 Reeve is attached to a girl who is at first a devotee of Scrutiny and then cleaves to Melanie Klein's brand of Freudianism, with its patois of 'splitting off', 'good objects', 'the depressive position'; Reed writes in the B.B.C. Quarterly in 1949 that he would like the Third Programme to include at one end of its range 'the standards and tastes of a journal as the admirable Scrutiny' and announces in The Listener in 1961 that 'I am a Kleinian myself; I have been, for some years'. (He tells us that he has put Mrs Klein's Narrative of a Child Analysis 'on the same shelf as Finnegans Wake and War and Peace, with which it seems to me to have more than mere size and difficulty in common.) 34

The blackest view which one can reasonably take of these plays is not that they are malicious caricatures of a world alien to their author, but that they are sharp self-mockery. Reed's own account of Rimbaud's Saison en Enfer would be relevant:

It is a painful and complex work... Here are the deep grief and desolation of someone who has come to the simultaneous end of several quests whose quarries have proved to be illusory and despicable. The eye that regards these distresses is capable of the malignest self-satire, is indeed incapable of ignoring the elements of the farcical, the contemptible and the grotesque in them. 35

But even this is surely too black for the Shewin cycle. A closer analogy to Reed-as-Reeve can be found in the touching passage in The Great Desire I Had (full of forward glances to Othello) where the comedienne Isabella Andreini describes to Shakespeare her husband's creation of his famous Braggart Captain:

Guglielmo, it is very easy, I know, for English travellers to think that our comedy is artificial and exaggerated, that my husband's Captain Spavento, for example, is only a ridiculous artificiality, because it makes you all laugh so much. But do you think it is founded on nothing?... Everybody laughs when Francesco rants about the base Phrygian Turks and the anthropophagi... But Francesco knows about those things. He fought against the Turks as a child, as a soldier in the Tuscan galleys; he was taken into slavery by them and sold to whoever asked for him... He would talk about those things for hours on end, seriously and truthfully, long before the idea of making fun of them on the stage occurred to him. You see only what he has made of them, something to laugh at. I laugh

too, but I also see buried beneath it, beneath all the rant and fantasy, the young man who made me fall in love with him as he told me of them.

Captain Spavento is an Othello viewed ironically, Othello a Spavento seen with compassion. In the same way the Thinking Reed at his most intense and the Winking Reed at his most roguish are members one of the other. This is so not just because the straight-faced plays are often funny and the funny ones often concerned with serious issues, but also and more importantly because the two genres have so much common substance, in minute particulars and broad themes. One could instance a tiny turn of phrase: the way both Maddalena Pelzet and Hilda Tablet in The Monument and The Private Life use 'I like you for saying that' to manipulate their menfolk. Or a name: the apparent descent of the Very Great Man Indeed in the Shewin cycle from the Thomas Shewin of The Great Desire I Had ('Thomas Shewin' being a near-anagram of 'what's-his-name'). 36 Or a recurring idea: the idea of castration, for example, so dear to the Aristophanic-Freudian mind. Stephen Shewin's fear of stepping off a moving staircase; the dear dotty old Pantalone Pasquati's refusal of the fatal knife which would have preserved his golden voice; the Duchess of Mulset's acknowledgement that although 'we've all dreamed of reviving the castrati... it's needed Hilda to take the first practical steps towards making them a reality': jokey as these are, they connect psychologically with the virtual unmanning of Leopardi by his tyrannical mother and the prospect of life-long thraldom to Hilda Tablet (with attendant dreams of being eaten by her) from which Herbert Reeve narrowly escapes as the lady lights on the Lysistrata as the subject of her next operatic triumph — As we have already seen, Hilda Tablet and Adelaide Leopardi are members of a tribe of domineering women who are no respecters of whether a play is a thinking or a winking piece. Equally unconcerned with genre are those other groups of characters which recur from Pytheas on: the voyagers to foreign parts, the clans who bring happiness to an outsider by adopting him, the pairs of antithetical men. To these could be added the bevies of spontaneous, lovable children who crop up in various plays: Bruno, Alberto, Leo, and Simone in Return to Naples, Nancy's brood in the Shewin cycle, and the precocious young Leopardis who bring such gaiety to the beginning of The Unblest (a gaiety which hardly returns in the rest of the diptych until the very end


of The Monument, when it is the more intense for being regained on the tormented poet's deathbed).

Though Leopardi torments are presented powerfully enough, the two plays about him were first billed in Radio Times as 'Studies of the Italian poet'; and this is a pointer to another characteristic of much of Reed's drama regardless of genre, its unabashed literacy and air of deep learning. Like Reed the critic in The Novel since 1939, Reed the dramatist is an intellectual talking to intellectuals. He is also an Eliot aficionado who once wondered 'whether very many people feel that their education began as my own did, with the notes to The Waste Land'. 37 So it should be no surprise that most of his plays are either adaptations of great literature or allude extensively to it in various ways or present Portraits of the Artist as a Young Man or mount quests for the truth about the life of the artist in maturity. Further, several plays either show scholars in operation or seem themselves to be highly scholarly; and if the scholars — young Leopardi deforming himself in his father's library, Herbert Reeve, MacFarlane and MacBride in The Streets of Pompeii — all tend to be self-punishing or frustrated or pedantic, then equally Reed's own scholarship is not quite as dazzling as it appears. (He makes no bones about this in the Foreword to the Pompeii collection, where he records his gratitude for 'the learning of others, which I have stolen, adapted, malformed, sometimes inverted, and almost invariably fantasised over'; and there is certainly not much solid information about, say, the Gelosi troupe in the The Great Desire which cannot be found in Kathleen Lea's Italian Popular Comedy of 1934, or about Duke Vincenzo which does not appear in 'II Duca nel Laborinto', the third part of Maria Bellonci's Segreti dei Gonzaga of 1947.) With the dramatist's literacy goes his imaginative involvement in the performing arts, and this generates a remarkable number of performances-within-the-performance in Reed's radio work, thinking and winking: the premiére of Richard Shewin's opus posthumous in A Hedge, Backwards, Monteverdi's Arianna in Vincenzo, the hustings in A By-Election, Miss Tablet's Shewin Sonata in A Very Great Man Indeed and her all-female opera in Emily Butter, the sermon in Moby Dick, the poetry recital and Act V of Othello in The Monument, glees and cookery-talks in Pytheas (to say nothing of a cantata of Bacchantes), commedia dell'arte at Mantua and readings from The Taming of the Shrew at Venice in The Great Desire, and so on. It is a sign of the high


culture of most of Reed's characters that they are never happier than when talking about such things, which as often as not means talking during them.

For much of the time, then, the two Reeds take the same material ('love... art... scholarship... the classical heritage', as Herbert Reeve puts its in The Primal Scene) and treat it in complementary ways. 'It has been well said', Reed the reviewer once wrote in The Listener, 'that it would need a Henry James to do justice to the friends and correspondents of Rilke. There are, however, moments when one thoughtfully puts it to oneself that Mr James Thurber might serve equally well.' 38 Reed the dramatist is both Thurber and James, both Sancho and Quixote, both Ctesiphon and Pytheas. For instance James-Quixote-Pytheas evokes Venice in The Great Desire I Had:

The gondolas slide on the fluttering water, a million glances of light sustaining them. A million flames of coolness dance from the sea to her bright palaces. She awaits complacently, the Adriatic whore, her centuries of lovers; they will die in her arms and their flowery hearses will float down the Great Canal.

Thurber-Sancho-Ctesiphon responds in The Primal Scene:

Even now as we contemplated the blue waters of the incomparable lagoon flowing from the church of Santa Maria defla Salute along the esplan... the front... the... that part of the sea-girt city that... faces the sea — the water of the blue lagoon lapping and... flowing as far as Santa... San... the church at the other end. There was something about her that would have inspired even the most sluggish pen.

The contrasts between the plays, between scenes within single plays and even occasionally between different levels of the same scene (as in the Othello episode in The Monument), rise from the double vision of Reed the sensitive, observant intellectual, intensity and compassion balancing scepticism and irony. It is not for nothing that his most famous poem, 'Naming of Parts', should be lyrical, satiric, meditative, and risqué all at the same time or that it should involve two voices which contrast with each other yet are very tightly knit together. It may also not be for nothing that, when Reed published a piece on 'The Making of The Dynasts' in 1943 (the year after the first appearance of 'Naming of Parts'), it should include a careful account of the Chorus of Hardy's epic-drama: those Phantom Intelligences whose 'comment and debate, is itself a drama, with its own climax, which weaves its way about


the historical action'. 39 Two of the chief Intelligences are the Spirit of the Pities and the Spirit Ironic, and it is these Spirits who pull Reed the dramatist one way or the other.

The presence of a divided, argumentative chorus in a work he so much admired and eventually adapted for broadcasting may have influenced Reed in developing a personal solution to the problem of preventing the narrative parts of his own radio drama from becoming awkward or obtrusive. His solution is to ensure that the narration 'is itself a drama', or at the least is wholly dramatic. The preacher and the sailor in Moby Dick, the brother and sister in Pytheas, the formidable Sibyl and more urbane Traveller in Pompeii, the two enthusiastic connoisseurs gently arguing their way round Canterbury Cathedral: these duos take away the blandness and buttonholing of conventional narration, as do the grave antics of the BBC personnel in Emily Butter, Not a Drum Was Heard, and Musique Discrète. Even in those plays with a single narrator, there is a saving dramatic tension. The aureate narrations of The Great Desire are counterpointed with the more informal soliloquies of Guglielmo Shakespeare; the Narrator of Return to Naples is the older self of 'H', the central figure, and addresses him, not us, throughout; and the pompous interlocutor of A By-Election in the Nineties is clearly a part of the satiric parade, as of course is the Herbert Reeve who introduces four of the Shewin plays.

The most virtuosic choric narration, however, is in Vincenzo, where Eleonora, Ippolita, Agnese, and Adriana — a wife and three mistresses of the Duke — take turns in framing those different parts of his history which particularly concern them. The pure technique here, even apart from the insight into aspects of human love, is impressive. As a whole, Reed's radio work is not especially innovative at a technical level. He seems largely content with the classical BBC mode of the 1940s: instrumental mood-music, 'placing' sound effects, the cross-fade, aural perspective by way of distance from the microphone, vivid vocal characterisation (most memorably perhaps in the Lizard of The Streets of Pompeii), and free exploration of space and time balanced by careful structuring of the total programme. Reed uses the mode with restraint (after a preliminary jamboree in Noises) and also with resource; for instance, holding back


from his sightless audience until the last and most poignant moment the revelation that young Leopardi has become a hunchback, and holding back indefinitely the crucial details of the screen at Miss Tablet's parish church of Mull Extrinseca:

RECTOR. And that's the new altar screen she gave us; the subject's a bit unusual for a church, as you can see, rather unusual. Artistic, of course, but rather unusual.
REEVE. My word, yes, it is, rather.
RECTOR. Rather unusual for a church. And if you step outside again for a minute you can see the two new finials she gave us for the porch...

But there is little in Reed's work to extend the medium (with a few fine local exceptions like the reprising multivoice montage at the end of The Monument and the deliciously silly solo montage in Vincenzo: Adriana the Neapolitan diva in the foreground streaming her consciousness of simultaneous affairs with the Duke and his son while in the background she sings an exalté duet with herself). Little, that is to say, apart from the use of choric narration. This must be Reed's most individual contribution to the technique of radio; and the fact that it is at its most complex in the later scenes of Vincenzo where the Joycean-radiophonic Adriana also has her moments of glory makes these scenes in some ways the richest of his oeuvre.

If one asks finally what is the most individual contribution of the oeuvre to the mythology of radio, a simple answer is less easy to find. The creation of a twentieth-century grande dame in the Wishfort-Malaprop-Bracknell line? The contriving in Pompeii of a dramatic poem of Hardy-like substance and strength ('The Convergence of the Twain' and 'In Time of "The Breaking of Nations"' married, so to speak, and honeymooning in the Bay of Naples)? Perhaps. But perhaps also the memorable celebration of Giving Up the Quest. The quest-motif itself is hardly unique to Reed, but his specialisation in Quests Thwarted, Quests Diverted, and Quests Abandoned is individual. His first large-scale pieces, Moby Dick and Pytheas, rehearse the theme. Pytheas is sent by the Massilians on a quest for trade, but it is really the song of the wind which draws him, and when he gets to Britain he realises that his is a different quest: 'All my life I have wanted a ship. All my life I have wanted to explore deep into an unknown world: that which now opens, perhaps illimitably, before me. It is not trade I am after; it is not gold or slaves. I want to go on to the end.' This good diverting of the quest is something Starbuck in Moby Dick dearly wishes for his captain, but Ahab cannot master his obsession with the white whale:


STARBUCK. Oh, my Captain, my Captain! Noble soul and grand old heart! Why should anyone give chase to that hated fish? Away with me! Let us fly these deadly waters, this instant let me alter course!...
AHAB. What is it, what nameless inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening hidden lord and master, and cruel remorseless emperor commands me, that against all natural lovings and longings, recklessly makes me ready to do what in my own, proper, natural heart I durst not so much as dare?

In later plays this idea of doing great things in a dubious quest is set in the framework of the art world, where it is blended with the idea of the Writing Block: the not-being-really-able-to-get-started of the would-be great novelist 'H' in Return to Naples; the 'there they all are, gargling away: I can't, as it were, get 'em down' of a Hilda Tablet deprived for once of inspiration in the middle of a Lysistrata duet at the very end of Musique Discrète. Shakespeare has such a block in The Great Desire I Had. He comes questingly to Italy to escape from theatrical hackwork: 'I hope that at last I can make some headway with an epic poem on the Siege of Troy... a poem of dazzling richness with Hector and Achilles so close to the reader that he could all but smell their flesh.' But the mastering obsession that says to him 'I am the Siege of Troy: you have still not written me' only produces creative impotence; and it takes a chance meeting with the potent Vincenzo Gonzaga to make him realise that he should Give It Up.

Vincenzo, a less earnest but more successful Starbuck, cures Shakespeare's self-wounding idealisation of the Great Poem. In the Richard Shewin sequence, the novelist's psychoanalytic niece Janet is Herbert Reeve's good angel in a similar way. Herbert is prepared to spend a rather shrivelled lifetime pursuing Shewiniana through the jungles of literary bohemia, but the quest is thwarted by Hilda Tablet's imposition of a biography of herself, with 'epic scope', in twelve volumes. ('But not more than twelve, Bertie, I beg you. For the love of God, no more than that. It was good enough for Gibbon, it was enough for Proust. Let it be enough for you, Bertie.') Soon Herbert is having bad dreams about Miss Tablet and revenge-fantasies about Richard Shewin while getting nowhere with writing the life of either. Janet diagnoses Compulsive Postponement caused by Schizophrenic Idealisation and starts to work on Herbert when farce intervenes and Miss Tablet takes her Life out of his hands, putting it into those of the scholar-soldier Arthur Gland. But Janet's analysis is, in its


own terms, admirably shrewd, and Reed the Kleinian is certainly not lampooning her. (It is heartening to find that, in Not A Drum Was Heard, Herbert can give a firm No to General Gland when he asks for help with ghosting his splendidly fatuous war memoirs.)

That Janet is talking Reed's own language comes over in his critical work: most interestingly perhaps in a review of Jean-Francois Revel's As for Italy in 1960, since there Reed's view of that country is as antithetic to his other accounts of its lovability as the tone of his second Veronese poem, 'The Town Itself', is to that of 'A Map of Verona':

The germs of a capacity for schizophrenic idealisation are probably to be found in all but the very sanest people. Nothing illustrates this tendency better than the attitude that many English, French and German tourists preserve towards the pleasant land of Italy... M. Revel tells us that he too has had his narcissistic feelings for Italy. But, my word, he does not have them now! The idealised object has become an internal persecutor... I have known and loved Italy — whatever one means by that name — for many years. I think I do still. But to anyone who actually contemplates going there for the first time, all I can say, and that with caution, is that the place may well prove worth a visit; though after reading M. Revel's book, and agreeing with a good deal of it, I must be pardoned if I am momentarily at a loss to suggest quite why. 40

Giving Up the Quest if it is a misguided one is not an idea restricted to the plays. It is to be found in Reed's work outside them; perhaps in his life too. His earliest important critical essay appeared in 1943 with the significant title, 'The End of an Impulse'. Its burden is that Thirties Poetry as a genre is writing itself out and would be well advised to shut up shop altogether. Is it not better to choose silence than go on writing for writing's sake? Reed quotes Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, pointing out that the young poet in question

is now hardly known save as the recipient of these replies. It is small wonder indeed that Herr Kappus is almost unknown as a poet, for he appears to have taken Rilke's advice almost literally, advice which includes this: 'Withdraw into yourself; seek out the necessity that makes you write, and see if its roots push down into the furthest reaches of your heart; and say honestly if you would die if you were forbidden to write. This above all: ask yourself in the deadest hour of your night: must I write?' This is a question so exacting that few poets will ever have the courage to ask it of themselves, and fewer still to answer it. 41

There are signs that Reed himself has asked it more than once, as


poet, dramatist, biographer, and that Give It Up has been the answer. The fluent and quite prolific lyric and dramatic poet of the forties and early fifties largely abdicated from serious verse for fifteen years. The copious and successful radio dramatist of the fifties wrote Musique Discrète — its final trill unresolved — in 1959 and has yet to write its successor. The critic and scholar who idealised Hardy (if one may use that verb) is rumoured to have been working on a Hardy Life for many years but seems not to have finished it.

Of course, as Herbert Reeve tells us, 'one is always venturing upon dangerous ground in drawing parallels between an author's fiction and what we know of his life'. It may be irrelevant to do so; it is certainly a little impertinent in the case of a living author who has never presumed to parade the actualities of his private life before the public. But there is a sense in which the personal dimension is relevant, the sense that most worthwhile drama is likely to spring from the deepest concerns of the dramatist. It was Reed himself who, in 'What the Wireless Can Do for Literature', suggested that

radio-writers would do well to allow themselves a little more subjectivity: the results might be a bit more healthy and a bit more grown-up all round... It is the parts of an artist's self most familiar to himself as puzzles and obsessions and regular preoccupations that really produce anything worth offering to a serious listener or reader. These things are, above all, more likely to give an audience something to bite on. 42

If we can bite on the myth of Giving Up, this is perhaps because its dramatist could include in his Personal Anthology for the BBC in 1970 the poem by W. B. Yeats 'To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing' —

Bred to a harder thing
Than Triumph, turn away...
Be secret and exult,
Because of all things known
That is most difficult

— and could call it his favourite of all Yeats's poems. Reed's radio drama certainly does not come to nothing, and if it is content to leave the medium technically much as it found it and is concerned predominantly with matters of creativity rather than being itself monumentally creative, it is preserved nonetheless by qualities we would be poorer without. Radio has yet to produce its James


Joyce; but when Reed says of E. M. Forster that 'the perfect clarity of his style, his urbanity and passion, his sensitiveness and comic power, have enabled him to survive the presence of Joyce', 43 he cites the qualities which will allow his own work too to survive.


Appendix 1: List of Plays

Chapter 6. Henry Reed

Noises On
Herman Melville, Moby Dick (adaptation)
Pytheas: A Dramatic Speculation
The Unblest: A Study of the Italian Poet Giacomo Leopardi as a Child and in Early Manhood
The Monument: A Study of the Last Years of the Italian Poet Giacomo Leopardi
Return to Naples
Canterbury Cathedral: An Exploration in Sound
A By-Election in the Nineties
Thomas Hardy, The Dynasts (adapted in six parts)
Henry de Montherlant, Malatesta (translated and adapted)
The Streets of Pompeii
The Great Desire I Had: Shakespeare and Italy
A Very Great Man Indeed
Luigi Pirandello, All for the Best (translated and adapted)
The Private Life of Hilda Tablet: A Parenthesis for Radio


Jules Laforgue, Hamlet, or The Consequences of Filial Piety (translated and adapted)
Virginio Puecher, The Battle of the Masks (translated and adapted)
Ugo Betti, The Queen and the Rebels (translated and adapted)
Emily Butter: An Occasion Recalled
Ugo Betti, The Burnt Flower-Bed (translated and adapted)
Vincenzo: A Tragicomedy
Ugo Betti, Holiday Land (translated and adapted)
A Hedge, Backwards: A Discovery for Radio
Ugo Betti, Crime on Goat Island (translated and adapted)
Samy Fayad, Don Juan in Love (translated and adapted)
Jaques Audiberti, Alarica (translated and adapted)
Ugo Betti, Irene (translated and adapted)
Ugo Betti, Corruption in the Palace of Justice (translated and adapted)
The Primal Scene, As It Were: Nine Studies in Disloyalty
Not a Drum Was Heard: The War Memoirs of General Gland
Silvio Giovaninetti, One Flesh (translated and adapted)
Henry de Montherlant, The Land Where the King Is a Child (translated and adapted)
Musique Discrète: A Request Programme of Music by Dame Hilda Tablet
Ugo Betti, The House on the Water (translated and adapted)
Dino Buzzati, A Hospital Case
Dino Buzzati, The American Prize (translated and adapted)
Dino Buzzati, Larger Than Life (translated and adapted as Zone 36)
Natalia Ginzburg, The Advertisement (translated and adapted)
Romain Weingarten, Summer (translated and adapted)
Luigi Pirandello, The Two Mrs Morlis (translated and adapted)
Natalia Ginzburg, The Strawberry Ice (translated and adapted)
Luigi Pirandello, Room for Argument (translated and adapted)
Natalia Ginzburg, The Wig (translated and adapted)
Guiseppe Giacosa, Like the Leaves (translated and adapted)
Natalia Ginzburg, Duologue (translated and adapted)
Giuseppe Giacosa, The Soul Has Its Rights (translated and adapted)
Giuseppe Giacosa, Sorrows of Love (translated and adapted)



Chapter 6. The radio plays of Henry Reed

1 Not Without Glory: Poets of the Second World War (London, 1976), p. 134.
2 Hilda Tablet and Others: Four Pieces for Radio (London, 1971), p. 41.
3 As reported by Kenneth Allott in his Penguin Book of Contemporary Verse (Harmondsworth, 1950), pp. 236-7.


4 Helen Gardner, The Composition of 'Four Quartets' (London, 1978), p. 21.
5 Text as in A Map of Verona (London, 1946), p. 28. The original text — New Statesman Week-End Competition No. 585, set by G. W. Stonier on 19 April 1941, with results on May 10 — has 'your skins' for 'yourselves'. Of 'Little Gidding' itself, Reed was to write in a later New Statesman (15 June 1946, p. 435), 'It is wholly in accordance with what Mr MacNeice has called Eliot's "monumental wit", that a fire-watching episode should have its place in a poem about the fires of Hell, Purgatory and Pentecost.'
6 The Novel since 1939 (London, 1946), p. 7; New Statesman, 2 February 1946, P. 89; 'Imitation' ('Far from the branch it blows...'), The Listener, 15 June 1950, p. 1016; B.B.C. Quarterly, 3 (1948-9), 218.
7 The Waugh, Bellow, Hartley, and Peake reviews can be found in, respectively, New Statesman, 23 June 1945, p. 408; The Listener, 16 January 1947, p. 124; New Statesman, 13 January 1945, p. 28, and 4 May 1946, p. 323.
8 The Streets of Pompeii and Other Plays for Radio (London, 1971), p. 8.
9 The Listener, 9 March 1950, pp. 438-9.
10 Martin Armstrong in The Listener, 28 November 1946, p. 767.
11 B.B.C. Quarterly, 3 (1948-9), 217-19.
12 Hilda Tablet and Others, p. 7.
13 B.B.C. Quarterly, 3 (1948-9), 219.
14 MacNeice, Persons from Porlock and Other Plays for Radio (London, 1969), p. 7.
15 The Listener, 28 October 1971, p. 577, illustrating a review of the Pompeii and Tablet collections by John Carey.
16 The text of these collections is on the whole excellent, though there is an inconsistency on p. 127 of Pompeii, where three lines of stage direction (long decrescendo... at first entrance) make no sense as things stand, surviving as they do from a version in which there was more spoken material at this point.
17 As I Remember (London, 1970), p. 191.
18 Hardiana reviewed in The Listener: 9 October 1952, pp. 599-600 (Our Exploits at West Poley); 2 December 1954, p. 975 (R. L. Purdy's Bibliographical Study); 1 December 1955, p. 955 (Hardy's Notebooks); 26 October 1961, p. 678 (Emma Hardy's Recollections).
19 Reed's feature programme The Making of a Poem: Henry Reed on 'Gerontion' by T. S. Eliot (broadcast 27 September 1946); see also his 'James Joyce: the Triple Exile', The Listener, 9 March 1950, pp. 437-9, and 'Towards The Cocktail Party', The Listener, 10 May 1951, pp. 763-4, and 17 May 1951, pp. 803-4.
20 Three Plays by Ugo Betti, p. 6.
21 14 March 1952, p. 11.
22 The Listener, 10 May 1951, p. 763.
23 Second talk, The Listener, 17 May 1951, p. 804. In a talk on Eliot's critical prose, Reed makes a similar point by lineating part of Eliot's


essay on Kipling and setting it beside a passage from 'The Dry Salvages' (The Listener, 18 June 1953, p. 1017).
24 The source for this and all later quotations from unpublished scripts is the BBC sound and script archive at Broadcasting House, London. Where scripts are published, quotations are always from the published versions.
25 The Listener, 27 February 1958, P. 380.
26 New Statesman, 31 August 1946, p. 155. C. Day Lewis's sequence of poems An Italian Visit (1953) is dedicated to Reed.
27 A complete translation of 'La Ginestra' by Reed was broadcast in a Leopardi anthology, An Essential Voice, on 12 January 1975. His translation of the 'Chorus of the Dead' had been published in The Listener, 28 April 1949, p. 710. Near the end of The Monument Reed's Leopardi invokes the 'hidden ugly Power that orders our common ill': cf. the historical Leopardi's poem to Himself', which Reed translated in The Listener, 1 June 1950, p. 957.
28 Why is a point made of Duke Vincenzo — 'so mysterious, so unpredictable' — returning unrecognised (by Shakespeare anyway) from Vienna? Because it could have led to Shakespeare's calling his own unpredictable incognito Duke of Vienna in Measure for Measure 'Vincentio'. (The play is full of such curious learning, which makes it the odder — especially in one so knowledgeable about Pirandello — that Reed makes no play of the fact that at least half the Gelosi troupe would have worn masks while performing.)
29 New Statesman, 4 May 1946, p. 324.
30 Reed was enough of an admirer of the ITMA characters to bestow a Hardy allusion on their creator Ted Kavanagh: 'the president of these immortals' (New Statesman, 22 November 1947, p. 409).
31 Why is the villainess of the all-female Emily Butter called Clara Taggart? Because (give or take 'a rat') she shares a name with Claggart, the villain of the all-male Billy Budd. (Not that Britten's is the only fairly recent opera laid under impress in Butter. Tippett's Midsummer Marriage probably inspired the modern dress, Stravinsky's Rake's Progress the secco harpsichord, and Berg's Lulu the sequence on film.)
32 Britten: New Statesman, 1 November 1947, p. 349, and The Listener, 27 January 1977, p. 116; Smyth: New Statesman, 20 May 1944, pp. 335-6, repr. in C. St John, Ethel Smyth: A Biography (London, 1959), pp. 250-5; Sitwell: Penguin New Writing, 21 (Harmondsworth, 1944), pp. 109-22, esp. p. 113.
33 The Letters of J. R. Ackerley, ed. N. Braybrooke (London, 1975), p. 165.
34 B.B.C. Quarterly, 3 (1948-9), 222; The Listener, 9 March 1961, pp. 445-6.
35 The Listener, 20 April 1950, P. 703 (reviewing Norman Cameron's translation).
36 Reed in Radio Times, 24 October 1952, p. 7.
37 New Statesman, 15 June 1946, p. 434.
38 The Listener, 8 December 1949, p. 1014.


39 Penguin New Writing, 18 (Harmondsworth, 1943), p. 138.
40 The Listener, 14 January 1960, p. 93.
41 New Writing and Daylight, Summer 1943, p. 199.
42 B.B.C. Quarterly, 3 (1948-9), 219-20.
43 The Novel since 1939, p. 12.




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