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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.

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Henry Reed, ca. 1960


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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.


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«  Posts from 18 July 2010  »

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

20.6.2021


The HathiTrust (from the Hindi word for "elephant") is an enormous online repository, a partnership committed to archiving and sharing the collections of nearly 30 university libraries' content, digitized for Google Book Search and the Internet Archive. The collaboration currently includes the University of California system, the University of Chicago, Columbia University, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Michigan State, the University of Minnesota, the New York Public Library, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, the University of Virginia, and Wisconsin. Thus far they have scanned an amazing total of 6,268,067 volumes: 3,677,339 book titles, and 147,898 serial titles. It's an armchair researcher's dream.

Member libraries have full access to the scanned books, but visitors can still search the catalog and receive page references for the appearance of keywords in the full-text, and even some full view titles (see, for example, John Lehmann's 1960 autobiography, I Am My Brother). I've been poking around, looking for references to Henry Reed. To my surprise, I actually turned up a book with a whole 6-page section devoted to Reed, in Bruce K. Martin's British Poetry Since 1939 (Boston: Twayne, 1985), necessitating a trip to town to track down a copy at VCU's James Branch Cabell Library:

Library

In the chapter "Poetry in Wartime: Douglas, Lewis, and Reed," Martin surveys Reed's only volume of poetry, and finds "it is difficult to discern in the mere twenty-four poems making up A Map of Verona any pervasive ideology," though "even the least interesting of Reed's pieces combines a delicacy of tone and prosodic caution generally absent from the work of his contemporaries in uniform writing more realistically" (p. 41).

Furthermore, he sees Reed's tendency toward extended monologue as a natural prelude to his freelance career writing for the BBC: "Reed's less distinguished poems further suggest his gravitation toward dramatic characterization, a trend wholly realized in his later career as a distinguished writer of dramas and radio plays."

While we may regret that Reed has written few poems since the publication of A Map of Verona, his decision to shift his attention as a writer appears in retrospect a most logical and plausible outcome of developments evident in his poetry. Clearly he was moving toward something like drama, as his poetry increasingly came to resemble spoken words determined by the specifics of personality, time, and place. In this Reed resembles Keith Douglas and Alun Lewis, as well as many other wartime poets, for he ultimately shows a distrust of the large-scale statement, empty rhetoric, and vague romanticism that had infected English poetry during the thirties and early forties. That Reed's own solution to such a dilemma was unique makes him no less a representative figure.
(p. 45-46)

One minor point: Martin describes the instructor's exhortation in "Unarmed Combat" that "The readiness is all" as an "unwitting allusion to Lear" (p. 43), referring to Edgar's pronouncement: "Men must endure / Their going hence, even as their coming hither; / Ripeness is all: come on" (Act V, scene ii). Looking to Hamlet, however, we find the Prince of Denmark telling Horatio, directly:
Not a whit, we defy augury: there's a special
providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now,
'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be
now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the
readiness is all: since no man has aught of what he
leaves, what is't to leave betimes?


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What is Henry Reed's first name?

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.



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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