Documenting the quest to track down everything written by (and written about) the poet, translator, critic, and radio dramatist, Henry Reed.

An obsessive, armchair attempt to assemble a comprehensive bibliography, not just for the work of a poet, but for his entire life.

Read "Naming of Parts."

Henry Reed Henry Reed
Henry Reed Henry Reed
Henry Reed, ca. 1960



I Capture the Castle: A girl and her family struggle to make ends meet in an old English castle.
Dusty Answer: Young, privileged, earnest Judith falls in love with the family next door.
The Heat of the Day: In wartime London, a woman finds herself caught between two men.




Weblogs, etc.

Posts from January 2007

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog


Celebrating Auden's 100th

Like T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden is a poet who can be claimed by both Britain and the United States (though Auden traveled in the opposite direction). Wystan Hugh Auden was born in York, England in 1907, but emigrated to America in 1939, and became a U.S. citizen in 1946. Auden is at least tangentially connected with Reed, as the Audens lived in Birmingham while he was at university.

The current issue of Bookforum has a delightful profile on what it takes to be the literary executor of someone like Auden (via Light Reading):

Eventually, Auden asked Mendelson to take his place as the editor of the collection [of essays] and sealed the deal with a $150 check for photocopying expenses. Mendelson was so happy that, as he tells it, he jumped up and down. As their collaboration progressed, the poet was also pleased. According to Mendelson, who took the liberty of vetoing an essay that he thought wasn't very good, Auden was grateful for the critical judgment—plus, "he was delighted to have somebody actually pay attention to proofreading." When the project neared conclusion, Auden asked Mendelson in the postscript to one of his letters to be his literary executor. Mendelson agreed. In the end, the photocopying only cost $110, so he sent the poet $40 back.

To honor the centenary year of Auden's birth, a number of events have been scheduled to celebrate the poet's life and work, including readings and tributes, a BBC4 television special, and martinis served at his birthplace, on his birthday, February 21.

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1535. Reed, Henry. "Talks to India," Men and Books. Time & Tide 25, no. 3 (15 January 1944): 54-55.
Reed's review of Talking to India, edited by George Orwell (London: Allen & Unwin, 1943).

Fan Vid

Pinckney Benedict, author and professor of English at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, has created what can only be described as a fan video for "Naming of Parts":

You can read Professor Benedict's "naming of parts" and other writing exercises over on his blog.

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1534. Reed, Henry. "Radio Drama," Men and Books. Time & Tide 25, no. 17 (22 April 1944): 350-358 (354).
Reed's review of Louis MacNeice's Christopher Columbus: A Radio Play (London: Faber, 1944).


Dame Helen Louise Gardner (1908-1986) was a professor, critic, and editor, but above all, she was a scholar. Her work on Shakespeare, Milton, Donne, Eliot, and religious verse is still greatly respected, and earned her honorary doctorates from London, Harvard, Yale, and Cambridge Universities, among others. She took an M.A. at St. Hilda's College, Oxford in 1935, and returned to the school in 1941, teaching at Oxford until 1975. She was made a DBE in 1967.

Helen Gardner began her career as an assistant lecturer at the University of Birmingham in 1930. She took a position at the University of London in 1931, but returned to Birmingham as a lecturer in English from 1934-41. In her book, In Defense of the Imagination (Harvard University Press, 1982), Gardner recalls receiving a packet in the mail in the spring of 1940, in the midst of the "phoney war." Inside was the Easter Number of the New English Weekly, which contained a new poem by T.S. Eliot. 'I found myself reading a poem that offered no easy comfort, but only the true comfort of hearing a voice speaking out of the darkness without cynicism and without despair.' The poem would inspire her to recommend Eliot as wartime reading during a series of public lectures that summer. The poem was "East Coker," the second of his Four Quartets, and it had been sent to Gardner by none other than Henry Reed, who had been a graduate student at the University of Birmingham from 1934-36.

I came across a small homage to Reed today, in an article Gardner wrote called "The Recent Poetry of T.S. Eliot" (New Writing and Daylight, Summer 1942). A note to her discussion of "The Dry Salvages" expresses her gratitude:

Mr. Henry Reed, to whom I am indebted for much sympathetic and illuminating criticism, and without whose encouragement this article would not have been written, has pointed out to me a passage in Herman Melville's 'Redburn,' from which some of the sea imagery of 'The Dry Salvages' may derive. The voice of Mr. Eliot's seabell is certainly very like the sound of the Liverpool bell-buoy which Redburn heard as he sailed into the Mersey.

Here is the relevant section from Melville's sea-faring novel Redburn: His First Voyage (1849), concerning the bell-buoy:
After running till about midnight, we "hove-to" near the mouth of the Mersey; and next morning, before day-break, took the first of the flood; and with a fair wind, stood into the river; which, at its mouth, is quite an arm of the sea. Presently, in the misty twilight, we passed immense buoys, and caught sight of distant objects on shore, vague and shadowy shapes, like Ossian's ghosts.

As I stood leaning over the side, and trying to summon up some image of Liverpool, to see how the reality would answer to my conceit; and while the fog, and mist, and gray dawn were investing every thing with a mysterious interest, I was startled by the doleful, dismal sound of a great bell, whose slow intermitting tolling seemed in unison with the solemn roll of the billows. I thought I had never heard so boding a sound; a sound that seemed to speak of judgment and the resurrection, like belfry-mouthed Paul of Tarsus.

It was not in the direction of the shore; but seemed to come out of the vaults of the sea, and out of the mist and fog.

Who was dead, and what could it be?

I soon learned from my shipmates, that this was the famous Bett-Buoy, which is precisely what its name implies; and tolls fast or slow, according to the agitation of the waves. In a calm, it is dumb; in a moderate breeze, it tolls gently; but in a gale, it is an alarum like the tocsin, warning all mariners to flee. But it seemed fuller of dirges for the past, than of monitions for the future; and no one can give ear to it, without thinking of the sailors who sleep far beneath it at the bottom of the deep.
Melville's "Bett" is a variant of "beat," a rhythm or measure. Compare this with Eliot's sea-bell in "The Dry Salvages" (1941):
                                        The sea howl
And the sea yelp, are different voices
Often together heard: the whine in the rigging,
The menace and caress of wave that breaks on water,
The distant rote in the granite teeth,
And the wailing warning from the approaching headland
Are all sea voices, and the heaving groaner
Rounded homewards, and the seagull:
The tolling bell
Measures time not our time, rung by the unhurried
Ground swell, a time
Older than the time of chronometers, older
Than time counted by anxious worried women
Lying awake, calculating the future,
Trying to unweave, unwind, unravel
And piece together the past and the future,
Between midnight and dawn, when the past is all deception,
The future futureless, before the morning watch
When time stops and time is never ending;
And the ground swell, that is and was from the beginning,
The bell.
Reed's suggestion makes for a strong argument, and Gardner says in her article that "The Dry Salvages" 'marries most absolutely metaphor and idea. The sea imagery runs through it with a freedom and a power hardly equalled in Mr. Eliot's other poetry.'

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1533. Friend-Periera, F.J. "Four Poets," Some Recent Books, New Review 23, no. 128 (June 1946), 482-484 [482].
A short review calls A Map of Verona more pretentious than C.C. Abbott's The Sand Castle; influenced by Eliot, Auden, MacNeice, and Day Lewis.

Agamem Not

Hey, Oak Knoll Books? You know why no one's bought this copy of Reed's Lessons of the War?

Because the picture you've posted is clearly of The Agamemnon of Aeschylus. Just sayin'.

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1532. Vallette, Jacques. "Grand-Bretagne," Mercure de France, no. 1001 (1 January 1947): 157-158.
A contemporary French language review of Reed's A Map of Verona.


Thanks to dumbfoundry, my new favorite completely fake person (just edging out Lillian Mountweazel) is, officially, MacSpaunday: a monster made of equal parts MacNeice, Spender, Auden, and C. Day-Lewis.


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1531. Henderson, Philip. "English Poetry Since 1946." British Book News 117 (May 1950), 295.
Reed's A Map of Verona is mentioned in a survey of the previous five years of English poetry.

Remember, Remember, to Read Stephen Spender

Over at her eponymous weblog, poet and writer Carol Peters has posted a lengthy excerpt from Stephen Spender's Poetry Since 1939 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1946). This short booklet is one of a series of British Council pamphlets on the Arts in Britain, published just after World War II, covering such subjects as ballet, films, music, painting, drama, and prose. Henry Reed wrote the volume for The Novel Since 1939, which discusses contemporary works by Woolf, Greene, Joyce, Isherwood, Graves, Orwell, Cary, Huxley, and Waugh.

The section Ms. Peters quotes, "Conditions in Which Poets Have Worked," doesn't mention Reed, but does name several of his peers, and everyone he would eventually be compared to:

Then we come to the many poets in the Forces. Some of the most talented of these were killed, notably Sidney Keyes and Alun Lewis. In quantity, the poets in the Forces produced far more work than anyone else, and, apart from the writing of distinguished poets such as Vernon Watkins, F. T. Prince, Roy Fuller, Henry Treece, Alan Rook, Keidrych Rhys, Francis Scarfe, this poetry is the most difficult to judge at the present time while we are so close to it.

Reed's bit comes along a little later, in the chapter "Poets Who Have Become Known Since 1939": 'When Henry Reed's volume is published he will take his place with F.T. Prince, Vernon Watkins, and Terence Tiller as one of the really significant younger poets.'

I'm also reminded of Fussell's Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (Amazon.com), which has an excellent chapter on "Reading in Wartime." (Unfortunately, Google Book Search delivers a disappointing "Image Not Available.")

1530. Radio Times. Billing for "The Book of My Childhood." 19 January 1951, 32.
Scheduled on BBC Midland from 8:15-8:30, an autobiographical(?) programme from Henry Reed.

I Never Promised You a Weingarten

BBC Radio schedule

Times (London), "Radio 3," Sound, 3 October 1969, 19. "8.00, Summer: a play in six days and six nights." Play by Romain Weingarten, translated from the French and adapted for radio by Henry Reed.

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1529. Sackville-West, Vita. "Seething Brain." Observer (London), 5 May 1946, 3.
Vita Sackville-West speaks admirably of Reed's poetry, and was personally 'taken with the poem called "Lives," which seemed to express so admirably Mr. Reed's sense of the elusiveness as well as the continuity of life.'

Chronologic Logic

Several books mention Reed's translations of Ugo Betti dramas as being produced for the London stage in 1955. Stallworthy, for instance, says in the Dictionary of National Biography: "Several of his translations found their way into the theatre, and in the autumn of 1955 there were London premières of no fewer than three." Quite an accomplishment. Reed adapted quite a few of Betti's plays for radio, however. So many in fact, that I am frequently confused as to the order they were produced.

Betti's play La Regina e gli Insorti was written in 1949. Commissioned by the BBC's Third Programme, Reed translated and adapted the play for radio, and The Queen and the Rebels was broadcast on October 17, 1954. The radio versions of all three plays were produced by Donald MacWhinnie.

Next came Betti's L'Ainola Bruciata, written 1951-52. Translated as The Burnt Flower-Bed, the play was broadcast on the Third Programme on January 3, 1955.

The third play, Summertime, began as Il Paese delle Vacanze (1937). It was broadcast as Holiday Land on the Third Programme on June 6, 1955.

The Burnt Flower-Bed was premièred live at the Arts Theatre, London, on September 9 of that year.

Subsequently, The Queen and the Rebels opened at the Haymarket Theatre, London, on October 26.

Finally, a version of Holiday Land was revised as Summertime, opening at the Apollo Theatre, London, on November 9, 1955.

Oddly enough, Reed's autobiographical entry for Who's Who mentions the publication of these translations as Three Plays (1956), but neglects any of the London stage productions. It does, however, make note of Betti's Crime on Goat Island being 'staged NY 1960', but the only notable production of Goats in New York (starring Laurence Harvey, Uta Hagen, and Ruth Ford) was also in 1955, not 1960.

And as a footnote, Reed's biographical entries in Contemporary Authors and Contemporary Poets both list a play titled Summertime as being produced for radio in 1969. This is actually a play called Summer, written by the French playwright Romain Weingarten, and translated by Reed. Summer was broadcast on Radio 3 on October 3, 1969.

A typescript for Summer resides in the Richard L. Purdy Collection of Thomas Hardy, in the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts department of Yale University (#809).

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1528. Manning, Hugo. "Recent Verse." Books of the Day, Guardian (Manchester), 31 July 1946, 3.
Manning feels that 'Mr. Reed has worn thin much of his genuine talent in this direction by too much self-inflicted censorship.'

Stand Corrected

A post I made a while back about a (lost) poem Reed wrote parodying the Northwest School of poetry receives a correction from a distinguished visitor.

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1527. Rosenthal, M.L. "Experience and Poetry." Herald Tribune Weekly Book Review (New York), 17 October 1948, 28.
Rosenthal says Reed shares with Laurie Lee 'that unhappy vice of young intellectuals—a certain blandness of which the ever-simple irony is a symptom.'

Copyright Bliss

The Copyright Monographs Database at the U.S. Copyright Office is a collection of records of a variety of works, including monographic literary works, works of the performing and visual arts and sound recordings, and renewals of previously registered works of all classes.

A quick search of the "Books, Music, etc." module for last-name, first-name "reed, henry" brings up 20 records, 16 of which are for our Henry. These include his translations of Ugo Betti (The Burnt Flower-Bed, Summertime, The Queen and the Rebels, and Crime on Goat Island); Luigi Pirandello's All for the Best; Dino Buzzati's Larger Than Life; Paride Rombi's Perdu and His Father; and Balzac's Père Goriot.

The database also has records for the copyrights of two poems set to music by Sir Arthur Bliss: "The Enchantress" (1951), and "Aubade for Coronation Morning" (1953). "The Enchantress" is a translation of Theocritus's "Second Idyll," while "Aubade" was one of ten modern madrigals commissioned for a concert on the eve of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (A Garland for the Queen).

For more copyright fun, check out the WATCH project: Writers, Artists and Their Copyright Holders.

1526. Blunden, Edmund. "Poets and Poetry." Bookman, n.s., 1, no. 4 (July 1946): 14-15.
Edmund Blunden says Reed's Lessons of the War poems 'have captured something of the time-spirit and ambiguity of the recent war in a style of wit and deep feeling united.'

Buzzati's Bears

"Once upon a time, in the ancient mountains of Sicily, two hunters captured the bear-cub Tony, son of Leander, King of the Bears."
Book cover

Dino Buzzati was an Italian journalist and painter, who wrote fantastic, experimental stories, plays, and novels of magical realism (Buzzati's Wikipedia entry). While looking for information on the artist, I came across a children's book Buzzati wrote and illustrated in 1945, La famosa invasione degli orsi in Sicilia: The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily (publisher's webpage). Lemony Snicket, author of A Series of Unfortunate Events, has written an introduction for the current edition:

The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily is one of the noblest books I know. At once a philosophical history and tragic inquiry, the tale also contains a magic wand, a haunted castle, and a giant sea serpent, which automatically make any story much more interesting. Little wonder that it is not only my favorite book, but Daniel Handler's as well.

Lemony Snicket is, of course, Daniel Handler's nom de plume. Here's a two-page spread of Buzzati's story and illustrations, or you can take a peek "Inside the Book" at Amazon.com. Buzzati's illustrating style is sleek and modern, and it looks great, reminiscent of both H. A. Rey and the Curious George books, and Keith Haring.

So, why all this interest in Buzzati? In November of 1961, the BBC Third Programme broadcast Henry Reed's translation of Buzzati's play, A Hospital Case, featuring the actors Tom Watson, John Graham, and Mary O'Farrell.

Reed would later translate Buzzati's novel, Il Grande Ritratto, as Larger Than Life (London: Secker & Warburg, 1962, and New York: Walker, 1967). The novel is about the creation of an artificial intelligence, a super-computer endowed with both human senses and personality, a classic of science fiction. Reed adapted his translation for radio in 1965, as the play Zone 36.

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1525. "Reed, Henry," Publishers Weekly, 152, no. 15 (11 October 1947), 1945.
A note on the publication of the American edition of Reed's A Map of Verona.

1st lesson:

Reed, Henry (1914-1986). Born: Birmingham, England, 22 February 1914; died: London, 8 December 1986.

Education: MA, University of Birmingham, 1936. Served: RAOC, 1941-42; Foreign Office, Bletchley Park, 1942-1945. Freelance writer: BBC Features Department, 1945-1980.

Author of: A Map of Verona: Poems (1946)
The Novel Since 1939 (1946)
Moby Dick: A Play for Radio from Herman Melville's Novel (1947)
Lessons of the War (1970)
Hilda Tablet and Others: Four Pieces for Radio (1971)
The Streets of Pompeii and Other Plays for Radio (1971)
Collected Poems (1991, 2007)
The Auction Sale (2006)



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