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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.

Read "Naming of Parts."

Henry Reed Henry Reed
Henry Reed Henry Reed
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.


Elsewhere:

Books

Libraries

Weblogs, etc.


But, of course, the Verona of the poem is a person, and not a place.

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

21.10.2019


Finally, I have a contemporary review of Henry Reed's debut book of poems from 1946, by a critic who should need no introduction: a World War I poet; the editor of John Clare, Wilfred Owen, and Ivor Gurney; the "true cricketer": Edmund Blunden.

Blunden's review comes from the July, 1946 issue of The Bookman. In scouring the Internet Archive library for references to Reed, we unexpectedly find an entry in A Bibliography of Edmund Blunden, by B.J. Kirkpatrick (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), on page 458, for "Poets and Poetry":

Bibliography

In this two-page, whirlwind summation, Blunden reviews no fewer than ten books of verse, devoting a paragraph to each: Thanks Before Going, by John Masefield; Collected Lyrical Poems, by Vivian Locke Ellis; The Sand Castle, by Claude Colleer Abbott; Beowulf, translated by Gavin Bone; The Voyage and Other Poems, by Edwin Muir; Poems, by Jonathan Wilson; This Way to the Tomb, by Ronald Duncan; Peter Grimes and Other Poems, by Montagu Slater; Old Man of the Mountains, by Norman Nicholson; and, of course, A Map of Verona, by Henry Reed.

Title page

Blunden holds Muir, Wilson, and Slater in high enough esteem to quote a few stanzas. As for Reed, Blunden reproduces no lines, but he does have this to say:
A group of poems entitled 'Lessons of the War' strikes me as being the most expressive part of Mr. Henry Reed's book. He also has his poems on subjects of ancient fame, such as 'Philoctetes,' but they do not announce his originality so boldly as the pieces mentioned, which have captured something of the time-spirit and ambiguity of the recent war in a style of wit and deep feeling united.
This is high praise for the original, three-part sequence of Reed's war poems: "Naming of Parts," "Judging Distances," and "Unarmed Combat." Especially high coming from Blunden, a WWI veteran and survivor of the Somme and Ypres. For certain, these are the poems which cemented Reed's reputation and continue to this day to keep him in the Canon. If Blunden could only spare a a few lines for Reed, this paragraph speaks volumes.

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1529. Sackville-West, Vita. "Seething Brain." Observer (London), 5 May 1946, 3.
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.'


Here is the Guardian's Books of the Day column for July 31, 1946, "Recent Verse." Hugo Manning reviews Talking Bronco by Roy Campbell, The Garden by Vita Sackville-West, Peter Grimes and Other Poems by Montagu Slater, Isles of Scilly by Geoffrey Grigson, and finally A Map of Verona, by Henry Reed.

Manning devotes most of his space to Campbell, whose "inspired invective thunders against many things, including Left-wing poets, Jews, Tartuffes, and even the Beveridge Plan." Manning concludes, however, that "Perhaps Mr. Campbell's muse would become even more considerable if he had fewer bees in his bonnet."

Compared to Talking Bronco, The Garden "seems magnificently serene, and well-disposed to humanity," and acts as "a vehicle for [Sackville-West's] pleasant lyricism, and sustained craftmanship."

Manning has less time and fewer niceties for Slater and Grigson, or for Henry Reed:

Book review

The poetry in Henry Reed's A Map of Verona (Jonathan Cape, pp. 59, 3s. 6d.) reveals a slightly deeper poetic vision than either that of Mr. Slater or of Mr. Grigson, but one has the impressions that Mr. Reed has worn thin much of his genuine talent in this direction by too much self-inflicted censorship. Already his verse shows symptoms of fitting into an aesthetic strait-jacket which some literary arbiters may applaud but which may eventually neutralise his power as a poet.

Hugo Manning's career was as eccentric as his reputation. Born in 1913 to Jewish parents, he studied music, but ended up working as a journalist in London and Vienna, and then removed to Buenos Aires in the lead up to the Second World War. He served in North Africa with the British Intelligence Corps, was wounded, and then back in London spent nineteen years on the South American desk for Reuters. His poetry and prose were published privately and by small presses, before his death in 1977. Manning has been described as "a major poet with a minor reputation."

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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.'


One of my favorite pieces on Henry Reed is this 1971 retrospective from the Guardian, "The Reeve's Tale," by the music critic Christopher Ford. It was a promotional piece written for the publication of Reed's two collections of radio plays, The Streets of Pompeii and Other Plays for Radio, and Hilda Tablet and Others: Four Pieces for Radio (London: British Broadcasting Corporation). From this article we also get not one (Manchester edition), but two photographs of Reed, (London edition, shown here) taken by Peter Johns (previously).

Henry Reed

In the article's closing paragraph, Reed says, "I saw the Penguin Dictionary of Modern Quotations in a shop. I remember thinking 'I've got 150 sleeping tablets at home, and if I'm not in that I'll take some of them with a large Pepsi-Cola'."

Ford reports that Reed's quotes take up "more than three columns, the entries mostly coming from the Tablet plays."

Book cover

It's difficult to express what an achievement this amount of textblock is, appearing in this small Penguin paperback: Reed gets more than a page and a half of space devoted to his poems and plays. He actually appears on the same page with the poet and critic he is famously often confused with, Herbert Read. Read gets only one quote (and surprise! It's not "To a Conscript of 1940"):

Page 188

Looking to Reed's peers, we find that even W.H. Auden receives only two columns; T.S. Eliot gets two and a half; Louis MacNeice gets one column: half a page. Stephen Spender, barely half a column. Stevie Smith gets five quotes. C. Day Lewis? Four. George Orwell gets three, three and a half columns? A little more. W. Somerset Maugham gets three columns. I mean, Evelyn Waugh rates three columns. This is what I'm saying.

I think the superabundance of Henry Reed in this curious volume is owed to two things: firstly, the entire Hilda Tablet sequence was replayed on the new BBC Radio 3 between December, 1968 and January 1970. ("Altogether, they totalled seven. The number is sometimes given as nine; but people exaggerate.") These repeats were in tribute to the incomparable radio actress Mary O'Farrell, who had died on February 10, 1968. Reed hosted (and Douglas Cleverdon produced) a program of recollections and recordings for O'Farrell in January, 1969. Dame Hilda died with O'Farrell, and a planned eighth installment for the radio was abandoned.

Secondly, this largess must be credited (or blamed) on the editors, J.M. Cohen and his son, M.J. Cohen. I suspect the elder Cohen knew Reed's work not just from the radio, but from earlier anthologies for Penguin: The Penguin Book of Comic and Curious Verse (1952), More Comic and Curious Verse (1956), and Yet More Comic and Curious Verse (1959).

I'll use the Cohens' book to expand my rather meager "Henry Reed quotes" page.

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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.'


For the centennial of his birth on April 15, here is a book review of Emyr Humphreys' first novel, The Little Kingdom (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1946). Written by Henry Reed, it appeared in The Listener's "New Novels" column for January 6, 1947. Reed expresses a familiarity with Humphreys' poetry, stating that the author certainly "knows how to write, and you feel as you read him that he knows that apprehension and diction must, in prose and verse alike, be clasped as earnestly as two hands in prayer."

It appears the two corresponded for a while, in 1947-1949 (Emyr Humphreys Papers, National Library of Wales), and Reed discussed Humphreys' next book, The Voice of a Stranger, for a B.B.C. radio talk in 1949.

Reed also reviews here an English translation of C.F. Ramuz' The Triumph of Death, and The Becker Wives, stories by Mary Lavin.

Book Cover

New Novels

The Little Kingdom. By Emyr Humphreys. Eyre and Spottiswoode. 9s.
The Triumph of Death. By C. F. Ramuz. Routledge. 8s. 6d.
The Becker Wives. By Mary Lavin. Michael Joseph. 9s. 6d.

WHAT is the most positive quality we have to recognise in a new novelist in order to feel that his work contains promise as well as immediate success or in spite of immediate failure? It is, I suspect, his style: whether it is already individual or assured, or whether it merely indicates a preoccupation with the act of writing.

A war plays hell with prose. There is always the influx of new technical terms and clichés, there is always the politicians' jargon; these are small in themselves, perhaps, but if they pervade our speech, as they are likely to do when our ideas are confused, they will shortly afterwards pervade our writing also. The most depressing thing that confronts a novel reviewer at the moment is the general beastliness—I have pondered this word before using it—of the various ways in which most novels are written. The mediocre novelists of thirty and forty years ago at least believed that they should try to write well. They believed, if not that a good writer must always appear en grande tenue, that the disorder in his dress must be a sweet one. They believed it mattered how a book was written. Of Mr. Emyr Humphreys, a new novelist not unknown as a poet, one can use many nice and conventional expressions: he is worth watching, he is a novelist of whom we shall hear more, he has something to say and he knows how to say it. I think this last thing is the most interesting thing about him. He knows how to write, and you feel as you read him that he knows that apprehension and diction must, in prose and verse alike, be clasped as earnestly as two hands in prayer. I think that the strength of a young writer's religious, political and psychological perceptions are usually less important than his sense of style. Here is a passage from The Little Kingdom: it is, as may be guessed, a mere 'bridge-passage' in the action; but it is clearly the work of a very able writer:
The little bell over the door giggled as the minister went in, and echoed the giggle as he closed the door carefully behind him. He screwed up his eyes. After the soft twilight outside, the harsh naked electric light in the barber's shop was painful to him. He said 'Good evening, everybody', but all he could make out at first was the white blur of the barber bending over someone indistinct in the chair. Otherwise the shop was empty; this was the last customer for the night. The barber was too tired to talk to the man, who slumped helpless in the chair. He nodded.

'Evening, minister'.

The man in the chair stirred with curiosity, but the barber held him firm, the fingers of his left hand spread over his ruffled hair like a vice.

'Go through'.

The barber pointed to the swing door with his gleaming razor, which flashed as it caught the light.

'You'll be coming up later, Dan?'

The smiling, perfect male, advertising hair cream, swung back and fore, smile out, smile in.
The last sentence will at once indicate that the 'middle' Joyce has contributed something to the formation of Mr. Humphreys' style. There are few better models for a serious young writer, and an ability to learn something from the first half of Ulysses will probably imply a kindred sensitiveness to the coalescence of sight, sound and thought in the human consciousness. The feelings which attend on being alive do not escape Mr. Humphreys, any more than they escaped Joyce.

The action of The Little Kingdom concerns the last months in the life of a dominating and imperious young Welsh nationalist who, to further his ambitions, murders a wealthy uncle, and later sets fire to an English-built aerodrome. He is shot and killed by a night watchman. I take it that one of the main ideas behind the book is the common running aside of an idealistic political movement, first into 'irresponsible' acts, and then into Fuehrerprinzip. This is a respectable theme, though not a very distinctive or profound one; but it has the advantage common to all well-tried themes that it shifts the reader's interest to the writer's talents as a particular interpreter and executant. One is curious to see how he will use his gifts. And to have emphasised Mr. Humphreys' ability to write is not to diminish his other powers. There is a touching reality about his characters—almost all of whom are muddled and pathetic. I believe that the hero-villain Owen, who is neither muddled nor pathetic, is slightly under-emphasised; though the author's avoidance of an opposite effect is doubtless intentional; Owen's first appearance is admirable. The major scenes of the book are ably got through; though for some reason it is the semi-marginal scenes that one remembers best—the opening chapter describing a morning tour made by Owen's uncle Richard, or the waiting scene on the night of the fire. It is a most remarkable intuition that makes the author delay our first and only glimpse of Richard's beloved daughter, Nest, till the moment after her death: a most curious and effective piece of understatement, for Nest is the figure on whom the subsequent action turns.

Mr. Humphreys holds our attention by the way he gets from one point of his story to the next, by certain felicitous interior echoes, by his movements from one contributory stream of activity to another. I think that a greater tragedy is needed for a writer to be able successfully to use a village lunatic—a Mayor of Casterbridge, for example—but Mr. Humphreys obviously conceives of an art serious enough to include such a dangerous piece of machinery.

It is curious that the Swiss novelist C. F. Ramuz should be so little known in this country; he is obviously a very remarkable and original writer, and one is inclined to believe the extensive claims made for him by M. Denis de Rougemont in his admirable introduction to The Triumph of Death. This is a translation, by Allan Ross MacDougall and Alex Comfort, of a book called Présence de la Mort, a better and more accurate title which it is strange to find rejected. It is a fable about the end of life on earth: disaster comes as the earth steadily and rapidly approaches the sun. The scene is set mainly on a lakeside in the Vaud country of Switzerland. It is perhaps with some misgiving that one embarks on reading such a story. It is written fancifully, and at first promises to be little more than im over-long prose-poem. I remembered, and expected to prefer, H. G. Wells's story 'The Star'. But Ramuz' book surprises and excites by its peculiar mounting intensity; one succumbs, and consents to the author's apparently arbitrary ordering of his material. Many of his scenes have great beauty; and he keeps one agog to know the end, which turns out to be both tender and wonderful. His scenes of anarchy, demoralisation and criminality are very moving, and they are never indulged in for the private delight of their author. There are many moments when the book shows signs of having offered to its translators some of the difficulties that works like Rimbaud's Les Illuminations offer; but on the whole the book comes over vividly and well. It is doubtless a point of preciosity in the original that present and past tenses are pointlessly mingled; but English seems particularly odd when such a mannerism is grafted on to it. It is to be hoped that Mr. Macdougall and Mr. Comfort will soon address themselves to the task of translating the sequel, Joie dans le Ciel. These books, incidentally, are not allegories about our recent disasters; the date of Présence de la Mort is 1925.

Miss Mary Lavin is a most prolific and varied writer. She is, so far, at her best in comedy. Her serious writing is often commonplace, and it is noticeable that when the first story in her new book, after an excellent beginning, takes a turn into. the pathological, it is a turn for the worse. But there are few writers now writing in English capable of more sustained comic scenes—scenes where the comedy depends not on conversation so much as on large-scale conception of a theme. The high spot in Miss Lavin's prodigiously long novel, The House in Clewe Street, was the brilliant scene where two funeral corteges attempted to race each other to the cemetery; there is a similar vis comica pervading two stories in the new book: 'Magenta' and 'The Joy-ride', both about surreptitious outings made by servants. Intermittently throughout the book there is to be found Miss Lavin's particular talent for startlingly transfixing a scene: the moment in 'The Becker Wives' where Flora makes the stolidly respectable family involuntarily pose for an imaginary photograph, for example, or the vision of the upstart kitchen-vestal Magenta crossing the park in her borrowed finery. It is with regret that one adds that Miss Lavin's grammar is so bad that from time to time one gazes at it in surprise.

HENRY REED



1526. Blunden, Edmund. "Poets and Poetry." Bookman, n.s., 1, no. 4 (July 1946): 14-15.
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.'


Here we find a letter from Evelyn Waugh to the novelist Nancy Mitford, written in 1946, regarding a review in the New Statesman and Nation by Henry Reed, of Mitford's novel, The Pursuit of Love.

Waugh is "irritated" by Reed's review, and by newspapers and journals and news, in general. Waugh doesn't know who Reed is, and even seems to think the byline on the review is a pseudonym (this despite Reed having reviewed Brideshead Revisited just the year previous). Waugh does somehow infer Reed's homosexuality on the basis of his review, but mistakes him for a lesbian.

This from the The Letters of Evelyn Waugh, edited by Mark Amory (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1980), pp. 222-223:
Piers Court.
To NANCY MITFORD
4 February 1946

Dearest Nancy,

Since sending you a post-card today I purchased the New Statesman. I thought 'Reeds'1 review of your book egregiously silly both in praise & blame. I love all the Mitford childhood, as you know, but to single out the buffoon father while totally ignoring the unique children's underground movement is brutish. He calls your one false character 'a brilliant sketch'2. You know better than I how wrong he is about Fabrice. The review irritated me greatly. I wonder who it is who writes it. Plainly a homosexual; perhaps a Lesbian?

I looked at other pages of the paper & was astounded that you take it in. I read Eddie [Sackville-West] describing the use of the word 'brothel' on the wireless as 'a refreshing experience which spoke eloquently of the intelligence, sanity and good feeling of ordinary people'. I read 'Nothing can stop big Powers bullying their small neighbours if they wish to do so'. Last time I had the paper in the house it was boiling to attack Germany & Italy for no other reason. I read the wild beast saying that Mr Sutherland's painting 'rivals butterflies wings in delicacy.'3

The only thing that made any sense in the paper was a grovelling apology to a soldier they had insulted, but that had been dictated, presumably, by some intelligent solicitor.

How can you read it? It explains all that modern trash that encumbers your shop.
Evelyn

1 Henry Reed (1914- ). Poet and BBC producer.
2 Talbot, the middle-class communist in The Pursuit of Love.
3 Raymond Mortimer was reviewing The Approach to Painting by Thomas Bodkin.

Here is the irritating review, from the New Statesman for February 2, 1946. Reed invokes several lessons from Joyce, including the best description of synecdoche ever written: "When a part so ptee does duty for the holos we soon grow to use of an allforabit."

Book cover

NEW NOVELS

The Pursuit of Love. By Nancy Mitford, Hamish Hamilton. 8s. 6d.
Of Many Men. By James Aldridge. Michael Joseph. 8s. 6d.
The Crater's Edge. By Stephen Bagnall. Hamish Hamilton. 6s.

Everybody will remember that encouraging moment on page 108 of Finnigans Wake when, into the sleeping mind of H. C. Earwicker, as he toils over the difficulties of Anna's elusive letter, there flow these calming words: "Now, patience; and remember patience is the great thing, and above all things else we must avoid anything like being or becoming out of patience. A good plan used by worried business folk ... is to think of all the sinking fund of patience possessed in their conjoint names by both brothers Bruce ..." They are words I have often used to prop, in these bad days, my mind, as in my turn I have toiled through the pages of recent fiction. Patience is needed with all of the books listed above, even with Miss Mitford's The Pursuit of Love, which is rewardingly funny in many places. This is the least, and indeed the most, one can say of it. It begins extremely well with a picture of the children of an aristocratic family called Ratlett. Its early pages introduce, in Uncle Matthew and Captain Warbeck, two of the best comic figures in any modern novel, I cannot recall a funnier picture of the violent foreigner-hating patriarch than Uncle Matthew; his early morning foibles are beautifully recorded:
He raged around the house, clanking cups of tea, shouting at his dogs, roaring at the housemaids, cracking the stock whips which he had brought back from Canada on the lawn with a noise greater than gun-fire, and all to the accompaniment of Galli Curci on his gramophone, an abnormally loud one with an enormous horn, through which would be shrieked "Una voce poco fa"—"The Mad-Song" from Lucia—"Lo, here the gen-tel lar-ha-hark"—and so on; played at top speed, thus rendering them even higher and more screeching than they ought to be.

... the spell was broken when he went all the way to Liverpool to hear. Galli Curci in person. The disillusionment caused by her appearance was so great that the records remained ever after silent, and were replaced by the deepest bass voices that money could buy.
But, alas, though Uncle Matthew dodges in and out of the whole book, the later pages are given over to the affairs of one of his daughters; Linda. It is to her that title refers. The less successful episodes in her pursuit—her marriages with the banker Kroesig, and with Talbot, the middle-class Communist (a brilliant sketch)—are convincing enough; but at a moment of despair she is picked up by a French duke and installed as his mistress, and thenceforward the novel has the sentimental staginess of the late W. J. Locke. It has a certain characteristic contemporary wistfulness in its English admiration for the high-handed way in which upper-class French Catholics are presumed to fornicate, and one is interested to learn that the French are surprised if a woman does not express honte after a night with a lover. But it has also a dreadfully soft centre, and one is not surprised that Fabrice should eventually discover that what he feels for his enslaved mistress is the real right thing. They have both become unbelievable by the time Miss Mitford finally polishes them off; and in the later pages the irruptions of Uncle Matthew preparing to hold his house against the German invasion are a great relief:
"I reckon," Uncle Matthew would say proudly, "that we shall be able to stop them for two hours—possibly three—before we are all killed. Not bad for such a little place."
Of Many Men and The Crater's Edge each exemplify an extreme of mannerism which we may expect in war-fiction for many years to come. Of Many Men is the extremely hard-boiled type of war-novel, The Crater's Edge the extremely soft-boiled type. This is nowhere better illustrated than in the prose style of the two writers; in offering for the reader's judgment a little example of each, I am reminded of yet another of Joyce's persuasive remarks: "When a part so ptee does duty for the holos we soon grow to use of an allforabit." Here, for instance, is a characteristic passage from Mr. Aldridge:
Wolfe entered Damascus with the French. The day after they arrived the Germans invaded Russia. Wolfe got the first Nairn bus that went to Baghdad and then he flew over the dead mountains to Teheran.

The Russians in Teheran said they were sorry that Wolfe had been in Finland, very sorry; but if he waited maybe he would get a visa. He waited a long time and the Red Army was still retreating to the Dnieper when he left Teheran. He could not get a visa.

The Germans were also in the Western Desert now. They had pushed the British back in to Egypt and had encircled and isolated the Australians at Tobruk. Wolfe went into Tobruk on one of the relief boats.
And here we have Mr. Bagnall:
If a girl loves someone at the age of sixteen for whom she has protested the madness of her love as a child of eight, even then he cannot be sure of her constancy, because, since nothing came of that protestation, nothing has flowered, and therefore nothing has had an opportunity to either flourish or die. Rather it has been in a state of perennial bud. So at first he made a noble decision of renunciation. Or perhaps it was not so much a decision he made as an attitude that he struck. Because he knew all the time he would not remain faithful to it. Yet he held it long enough to crystallise, or perhaps embalm, it in a sonnet of great-hearted finality and generous resolve.
Generous himself at this point, Mr. Bagnall spares us the sonnet; but he spares us little else. His theme is one of those old, well-tried ones, which were never any good even when new: the theme of the dying man reliving the past. Not even vivid interludes can remove the distrust one has for a story whose end is also its beginning; and Mr. Bagnall's story has no vivid interludes. It is merely a series of lush reminiscences about the hero's four loves: his love for a ballet dancer (platonic), for a schooldays' friend ("without lust"), for a girl called Celia (with), and youthful Elizabeth (the real right thing once more) With its juicy, self-admiring prose, its purple passages, its recklessly misrelated participles and its lengthy commonplaces about the major problems of life, it is not an easy book to read.

The point of Mr. Aldridge's book lies quotation which prefaces it: "War is the shape of many men, those in the sun and those the shade; many hands clear the shade, but in truth they have only succeeded when the last shadow is gone." The book begins with its hero, emerging from the Civil War in Spain; during the next few years, in an unspecified capacity, he tours the second world war in Finland, Norway, Syria, Africa, Malaya, the Pacific, Italy and Germany; the facility with which he gets about will be seen in the passage I have quoted. After VE Day he announces his intention of returning to Spain, and the point of the book is made clear. Presumably if Mr. Aldridge had waited a month or two longer, we could have accompanied his hero to the bombing of Hiroshima (doubtless inside the actual aircraft) and to the meetings of Hirohito and MacArthur. The pity is that even when we have had the overwhelming course to accept Mr. Aldridge's style as a means of communication, he appears to have nothing to communicate beyond his central statement; the scenes we visit as we fly from one battle-front to another are stupefyingly machine-made. And though none will doubt the the truth of his epigraph, and few will doubt its application to Spain, it is a pretty bald gag to write a book about.
Henry Reed



1525. "Reed, Henry," Publishers Weekly, 152, no. 15 (11 October 1947), 1945.
On the publication of the American edition of Reed's A Map of Verona: 'Some of these poems by a young English writer are concerned with the war but most of them deal with figures from the legendary past or from literature.'


In 1966, when she was Visiting Professor of English at the University of Washington, Seattle, Elizabeth Bishop wrote to Howard Moss at The New Yorker to let him know she had thrown his hat into the ring to replace her. A respected poet and critic, Moss was The New Yorker's poetry editor for almost forty years, from 1950 until his death in 1987.

This is a great letter in that Bishop gives all the details of the professorship that both she and Henry Reed held: salary and responsibilities (previously a Visiting Professor, Reed had returned to UW as Lecturer in English). The letter appears in Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence, edited by Joelle Biele (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011).

The letter is dated February 22, 1966: it was Reed's fifty-second birthday. 'I think he is a beautiful poet, don't you?' Bishop writes.

Book cover

4135 Brooklyn Avenue NE
Seattle, Washington
February 22, 1966

Dear Howard:

Happy George Washington's birthday—& I presume this state was named for him . . .

This is just to ask you a question. I've been asked here to recommend poets for this job, and I wondered if by any chance you would consider it sometime. I have already given your name to Robert Heilman, the head of the English Dept. (& very nice, too), so he may even have written you by now for all I know, because he seemed to take to the idea. I had heard a rumour (I think from May Swenson) that you were leaving The New Yorker—or perhaps if not you could have a leave of absence.—You may not like the idea at all, but when they asked me about "poets" I thought of you. The Poet can come for one, two (like me), or three "quarters" and the pay is $7,000 a quarter—Which seems very good by my humble standards! That is $7,000 each ten weeks, more or less. There are only 2 small classes—15 to 20—and they meet for 50 minutes, supposedly 4 times a week but I have cut the writing class to 3 times a week. This part of the world, and the breezy western manner, and teaching, rather staggered me at first— but now I am beginning to enjoy most of it except the classes —but then you did teach before, didn't you? [handwritten: "They are very nice to one, too—"]

Well—I am not urging this on you! I just thought I'd explain how it came about, in case you do hear from Mr. Heilman or a Mr. James Hall . . . Also—one is a full professor for the term, because Roethke was. One does feel a bit like his ghost, of course. This year Henry Reed is here—he had this job, too, two years ago—and he brightens things for me a great deal. I wish you would get him to send you something for The New Yorker—I am sure he has some poems somewhere, and I think he is a beautiful poet, don't you? c/o the Eng. Dept. here would reach him.

If you can think of anyone else who might like it—Anthony Hecht?—you might let me know—The biggest drawback is that one has no time for one's own work, or I don't—perhaps someone more experienced at "teaching" would. (I feel a complete fraud as far as teaching goes.) May has a job for next year or I might suggest her. Who else?

I hope you are well and cheerful—and I hope to see you in New York sometime before I retreat to the other side of the Equator again—

   With love,
      Elizabeth

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1524. Reed, Henry. Letters to Graham Greene, 1947-1948. Graham Greene Papers, 1807-1999. Boston College, John J. Burns Library, Archives and Manuscripts Department, MS.1995.003. Chestnut Hill, MA.
Letters from Reed to Graham Greene, including one from December, 1947 Reed included in an inscribed copy of A Map of Verona (1947).


From the Collection of Thomas Hardy Papers, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto:
Max Gate, Dorchester, 6 May 1936
Hardy, Florence Emily (2nd wife) A.L.S. (with envelope) to Henry Reed, poet, dramatist, and would-be Hardy biographer concerning Hardy's poem 'Looking Back' and Reed's prospective visit.1

Max Gate, Dorchester, 9 Aug. 1936
Hardy, Florence Emily (2nd wife) A.L.S. (with envelope) to Henry Reed expressing her pleasure at seeing him and helping his research.

Max Gate, Dorchester, 25 Dec. [1936]
Hardy, Florence Emily (2nd wife) A.L.S. (with envelope) to Henry Reed discouraging him with regards to any projected biography of Hardy and the possible performance of The Dynasts.

Max Gate, Dorchester, 21 Apr. 1937
Hardy, Florence Emily (2nd wife) A.L.S. (with envelope) to Henry Reed concerning her illness and the desirability of his delaying the proposed biography of her husband.

1 "Looking Back" was first published in Richard L. Purdy's Thomas Hardy: A Bibliographic Study (London: Oxford University Press, 1954), p. 149.

«  Hardy Letters Biography  0  »


1523. Reed, Henry. "Simenon's Saga." Review of Pedigree by Georges Simenon, translated by Robert Baldick. Sunday Telegraph (London), 12 August 1962, 7.
Reed calls Pedigree a work for the "very serious Simenon student only," and disagrees with the translator's choice to put the novel into the past tense.



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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