About:

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


Contact:


Reeding:

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.


Elsewhere:

Books

Libraries

Weblogs, etc.


Posts from December 2005

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

25.9.2021


Sitting of the Fishes


Fish

With the university on Winter Break, students are always looking for some kind-hearted soul to care for their pet fish. Problem is, most people who would normally volunteer for such a job usually also go away for the holidays. Solution? Library fishsitting service!

«  Library Fish  0  »


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.


Google Newsletter

The article accompanying this month's (inaugural) Google Newsletter for Librarians answers the burning question, "How does Google decide what result goes at the top of the list?"

You can sign up to receive Google Librarian News.

«  Google  0  »


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.


Jackets and Covers

I've been considering cataloging my little Reed collection, using an online host like LibraryThing. The service allows you to post your collection online, tag your books, and browse other users' libraries with the same books. At present, however, LibraryThing pulls cover images from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Many of my Reed books are old and predate the ISBN system, so I expect my virtual bookshelf would look a little bare. Image uploading is a planned improvement ON!

The jackets from some of Reed's books are on the pictures page, but I'm still in the process of scanning the rest of my collection.

The Novel Since 1939

Other book covers I've scanned recently include: Eugenie Grandet, Pere Goriot, Three Plays by Ugo Betti, Hilda Tablet and Others, and The Streets of Pompeii.

Update: Tim Spalding of LibraryThing commented to say users can now submit cover images. Thanks, Tim!



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.


The Curious Incident of the Goat in the Night-Time

In the year 1737, upon receiving word of the impending production of a particularly unfavorably satire of the rule of King George II, British Parliament passed the Theatrical Licensing Act, requiring that
no person shall for hire, gain or reward, act perform, represent, or cause to be acted, performed or represented any new interlude, tragedy, comedy, opera, play, farce, or other entertainment of the stage, or any part of parts therein; or any new act, scene or other part added to any old interlude, tragedy, comedy, opera, play, farce or other entertainment of the stage, or any new prologue or epilogue, unless a true copy thereof be sent to the Lord Chamberlain of the King's household for the time being, fourteen days at least before the acting....
The Act (full-text) called for the Lord Chamberlain and his Examiners of Plays to review and, where necessary, censor potential scripts before they reached the stage, with the intent of protecting the corruptible public. At the time, plays were already restricted to performances in theatres which had been granted royal patents. The Patent Act was repealed in 1843, but the Licensing Act remained intact until 1968.

Reed had adapted Ugo Betti's play, Crime on Goat Island, for the BBC's Third Programme in 1956. His translation had already appeared on the stage in 1955, at New York's Fulton Theatre. In 1957, however, a production was planned for the Oxford Playhouse, which ran into a "spot of bother" with the Lord Chamberlain's Office.

A very helpful gentleman at the British Library, Arnold Hunt, emailed me that the Manuscript Collections contain the original typescript submitted for examination (with the famous blue pencil marks of the censors), as well as additional correspondence detailing the debate over Reed's version of Betti's play. Mr. Hunt writes:
“On 3 November 1957, the Assistant Examiner, St. Vincent Troubridge [a descendant of Lord Nelson], reported that he was not prepared to recommend the play for licence. 'The story of this play, condensed into a couple of sentences, is that to the widow of a Professor living on a remote goat-farm with her daughter and sister-in-law, there appears an attractive young man, claiming to have been friendly with the Professor in a war-time captivity. He proceeds to have sexual intercourse with all these three closely related women in turn, the widow on the first night of his arrival. A few weeks later they murder him down a well. This to my mind is a great deal too farmyard to be permissible in common decency on the public stage.'”
The examiner's synopsis is fair, even if he was taking his responsibilities a bit too seriously (read more about how censorship shaped modern British theatre). The script was eventually deemed "'sordid and revolting,' but not injurious to morals," and the play was granted a license to be performed, hinging on the removal of one passage, which Troubridge described as 'sodomy in reverse, about goats trying to make physical love to their goatherds.' Angelo, the scroundrel of the play, tells a story of how goats in his country sometimes fall in love with their goatherds:
And eventually the shepherd begins to understand, and after a little while they... make love, there in the meadows, pressing close together, closer than a man and woman even. (Act I, scene iv.)
To the credit of his station, the Lord Chamberlain himself, the Right Honourable Lawrence Roger Lumley, 11th Earl of Scarborough, commented "I don't feel very strongly about the ordinary sex part, but I do draw the line at the goats."

(Coincidentally, the composer Donald Swann, who wrote the music for Reed's Hilda Tablet plays, mentions his regret at never having anything of his banned by Lord Scarborough, whom he called a "charming chap.")

Crime on Goat Island opened in Oxford on December 2nd, 1957. The following day, the Times' special correspondent reported weakness in Betti's plot and doubt in Reed's script: "The jealousy between the three women, the division in the household: these are real enough. But as Betti and his translator Mr. Henry Reed handle them they subtract from the interest of the characters instead of adding to it." No mention is made, however, of lovesick goats (The Arts, 3 December 1957, 3).

A history of censorship and its effects on British theatre was published last year: The Lord Chamberlain Regrets: British Stage Censorship and Readers' Reports from 1824 to 1968 (Amazon.com US).

«  Betti Plays Translations  0  »


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.'


Gray Flannel Jarrell

"War Poetry and the Aesthetics of Anonymity": Robert Archambeau blogs reaction to Kevin Prufer's excellent poem, "Army Tales," and the traditions of Wilfred Owen, David Jones, W.H. Auden, and Randall Jarrell. (Via ever-lovin' dumbfoundry.)

«  Poetry  0  »


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.'


In Defense of Sergeants Major

An interesting article came to my attention this week: "'Naming of Parts,' 'Judging Distances,' Literary Snobbery and Careless Reading in the Analysis of Henry Reed's 'Lessons of the War'," by Joseph Petite, Ph.D., published in The Journal of Evolutionary Psychology 26, nos. 1-2 (March 2005). Essentially, Petite argues that past critics of "Naming of Parts" and the other "Lessons of the War" poems have relied too heavily on the supposition that there are two, separate voices, or tones, in the poems.

Traditional interpretations point to polar changes in Reed's tone, language, and diction, and argue that these opposites can be explained in one of two ways: either there are two voices in the poems, and we are hearing both the instructor and the recruit; or there is only one point of view — that of the recruit's — and we are listening through him, and are privvy to his inner thoughts.

Petite posits that this is so much literary trickery, and that too much reliance has been made on Freudian interpretations. Essentially, he believes the possibility has been ignored that there is just one speaker in the poems: the instructor.
‘Critics do not credit Reed with a more profound insight—the instructors are victims of war, grappling with how to be human in inhuman circumstances. Psychologically, language is their last line of self-defense, a way to survive the dehumanizing acts war requires. There is no need to "explain" the presence of such language. War-weary, instructors long for beauty, finding it in nature undisturbed by war and expressing themselves in a second register.’
Petite is particularly suspicious of O'Toole's stylistic analysis, Condon's "Freudian tour," and the conclusions in Beggs' dissertation.

It's a provocative thesis, but I find it hard to agree with a lot of what Petite puts forth, although I do concur that lengthy discussions of stylistics are tiresome, and often include more magical thinking and sleight-of-hand than proofs. But the idea that 'Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,' and there are no sexual connotations in "Naming of Parts" is patently ridiculous, and attempts to remove all the fun and playfulness from the poem. It's like arguing that all the women on Monty Python's Flying Circus were actually women.

By minding the evidence in biographies of Reed, it's obvious that the "Lessons of the War" are mocking in tone, and more or less autobiographic. Not the least of which is Scannell's assertion that Reed entertained his fellows in basic training by imitating their instructors. Most revealing, however, is the fact that when Reed adapted "Naming of Parts" (.mp3 file) for BBC radio, he split the poem into two speaking parts, and took the part of the recruit, himself.

A longer excerpt of "Literary Snobbery" can be found on the Questia website, and the entire article is available from Amazon.com as a digital download for $5.95.



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.'


Hi-Fi Theatre

I have eight citations to articles written by or about Reed from the Radio Times, dating from the 1950s. Since the Radio Times is more or less the British TV Guide, I suspect there are a lot more references, but these are the only ones other folks have cited. (And one or two of them are suspect!)

So I wasted twenty or thirty minutes today, browsing online bookshops that deal in collectible magazines and periodicals. Even if they all don't turn out to contain anything of interest, it still wouldn't be entirely cheap to buy the issues outright. I'd rather have groceries.

My other option is to take a field trip to the Library of Congress in D.C., which is always productive, but a bit of an adventure for a hermit like myself. It would only cost me 20¢ per photocopy, and I would be able to peruse in relative leisure.

Photocopies are so sterile, though. Nothing like the feel of an old magazine: the brittle, yellow pages smelling warmly of neglected attics and dank basements.

The small treasure I found today was on the WordAloud website. WordAloud is a repository for information on radio broadcasts. They have airdates, synopsis, and credits for all sorts of BBC radio drama, including some of Henry Reed's. Hardy's "Battle of Trafalgar"? Never heard of it. Some adaptation of The Trumpet Major? "The Sergeant's Song"?

The prize among all these scraps and clues, was a clipping from a 1979 Radio Times, listing the credits for Reed's (stereophonic!) re-working of his 1947 radio adapation of Moby Dick:

Radio Times clipping for Reed's 1979 remake of Moby Dick

Update: The London Times reveals that "The Battle of Trafalgar" was adapted for radio by Reed from Thomas Hardy's The Dynasts, which was orginally broadcast in its entirely as six ninety-minute episodes in June of 1951 (Savage, in British Radio Drama). Unfortunately, the Times was on strike at the time of the Moby Dick broadcast.

«  Radio Plays MobyDick  0  »


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.'


In Their Own Voices

Ages ago, when I was working at a public library circulation desk, someone checked out a set of audio tapes of James Joyce's Ulysses. Having worked at the library for some time, I hardly took notice of what people were checking out: after a while, the books become just product that barely registers, like so many blocks of wood.

These cassette recordings caught my attention, however, because I happened to notice the narrator: it was none other than Joyce, himself. Never had it occurred to me that such a thing could exist, despite the fact that the phonograph had been around since 1877, and Joyce lived until 1941. A recording of the author reading Ulysses seemed impossibly anachronistic.

Which is why this BBC article caught my eye: Andrew Motion, the UK Poet Laureate, has founded the Poetry Archive, an effort to present recordings of poets reading their own work, in order to "help make poetry accessible, relevant and enjoyable to a wide audience."

Available among the recordings are such historic poets as Kipling, Sassoon (reading "The Dug-Out"!), Tennyson ("The Charge of the Light Brigade," no less), and Yeats ("The Lake Isle of Innisfree"). The mere existence of all these tracks caused me no end of cosmic dissonance.

Although Reed himself is absent from the archive, many of his contemporaries are represented, including Louis MacNeice and Vernon Scannell.

The recordings are presented as embedded RealAudio, but according to one of the developers, there's still hope of better access to the files (plus, a picture from the launch party).

«  Poetry Audio  0  »


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)


Search:



LibraryThing


Recent tags:


Posts of note:



Archives:

Current
May 2021
February 2021
January 2021
October 2020
March 2020
January 2020
November 2019
October 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
December 2018
May 2018
April 2018
January 2018
February 2017
January 2017
October 2016
September 2016
February 2016
December 2015
August 2015
July 2015
May 2015
March 2015
December 2014
June 2014
April 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
January 2013
December 2012
October 2012
September 2012
July 2012
June 2012
April 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
July 2010
June 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
December 2004
October 2004
March 2004
January 2004
December 2003


Marginalia: