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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."

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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.


Elsewhere:

Books

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Weblogs, etc.


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

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

14.8.2018


What a treat to be able to add another country to the list of places Henry Reed visited! The Daily Colonist of Victoria, British Columbia reports that Reed gave a noontime poetry reading at the University of Victoria on Thursday, March 26, 1964. Reed may have gone at the invitation of Robin Skelton.

Reed was a Visiting Professor of English at the University of Washington, Seattle at the time, a guest position opened up by the untimely death of Theodore Roethke. So he just popped over to Canada for a reading:

Daily Colonist newspaper

U.K. Poet Henry Reed Reads
Own Parodies at University
British poet Henry Reed, known for his parody of T. S. Eliot, Chard Witlow [sic], visited the University of Victoria yesterday.

He began his noon-hour reading with a series of poems called Lessons of the War.

Parodies on army instruction, these poems, the best of which is Naming of Parts, contrast the mechanical unreality of army life with images of spring and nature.

They were written shortly after Mr. Reed was discharged from the army, which he said he didn't like.

A Map of Verona, from which the title of Mr. Reed's book is taken, is a recollection lot the physical setting and emotions associated with this Italian city and Naples.

ARTHURIAN LEGEND

Mr. Reed also read a set of poems about four characters in the Arthurian legend, and Tristan and Isolde.

A visiting professor at the University of Washington, Mr. Reed has written several plays for the BBC.
"Several" plays for the BBC. By my count, Reed wrote or translated 36 radio plays before 1964.



1515. May, Derwent. "Reed's Map." Sunday Telegraph (London), 14 December 1986, 20.
Derwent May, former editor at the Listener, reminisces about Henry Reed, shortly after his death in 1986.


Henry Reed was, for a short time in the 1930s and 40s, the consummate Hardy scholar. Reed wrote his master's thesis at the University of Birmingham on "The Early Life and Works of Thomas Hardy, 1840-1878." He visited Florence Emily Hardy in 1936 as part of his research, and sat in Hardy's study at Max Gate transcribing letters.

Reed's ambition was to write the life of Thomas Hardy. He was thwarted by his own perfectionism, and — according to this 1962 review from the Sunday Telegraph of the republication in one volume of Florence Hardy's Life of Thomas Hardy, 1840-1928 — by Thomas Hardy, himself. The official biography which was published in 1928 and 1930 was nothing less than Hardy's own autobiography.

Reed's scholarly adventures eventually provided the fodder for his sequence of Hilda Tablet radio plays featuring the late "poet's novelist," Richard Shewin, as a stand-in for Hardy.

Reed's frustration with trying to write his own life of Hardy is scarcely disguised in his book review, but it can also be heard the most perfect parody of Hardy's poetry, "Stoutheart on the Southern Railway," written by Reed sometime in the 1950s:
What are you doing, oh high-souled lad,
   Writing a book about me?
And peering so closely at good and bad,
   That one thing you do not see:
A shadow which falls on your writing-pad;
It is not of a sort to make men glad.
   It were better should such unbe.
When Reed finally abandoned his Hardy project he donated his notes to professor Michael Millgate, whose first book on Hardy, Thomas Hardy: His Career as a Novelist, was published in 1972, with a full-blown Thomas Hardy: A Biography following in 1982.


Book cover


Hardy's Secret
Self-Portrait

By HENRY REED

The Life of Thomas Hardy BY FLORENCE EMILY HARDY. Macmillan, 30s.

Many artists have led two lives, and out of consideration for their biographers they have usually contrived to lead them both at the same time. Thomas Hardy also had two lives, but they were inconveniently placed end to end.

There is a great division in his life round about 1897 when he ceased to be a novelist and returned to poetry. Biography of him will always be, from the point of view of shape, bedevilled by this fact.

There is plenty of incident, movement and emotional adventure in the first 57 years of his life. In the last 30 years that remained to him—from his own point of view his most valuable creative years—biographically dramatic landmarks are few indeed.

Official Life

The present volume suffers unavoidably from this tailing away of interest. It is the "official" life, originally published in two parts, the first in 1928 within a few months of Hardy's death, the second in 1930.

The work is still attributed on its title page to the second Mrs. Hardy, and we are left to wonder how its publishers have never got wind of the real facts of its composition, which were divulged as long ago as 1954 in Richard L. Purdy's monumental bibliographical study. The Life of Thomas Hardy is, in fact, save for its last four chapters, Hardy's own autobiography, and should be announced as such.

It is, by any standards, a ramshackle work, and its information is in may places demonstrably inaccurate even where there seems no point in disguise. But the book is packed with a miscellany of information not available elsewhere, and readers who care for Hardy will find it everywhere endearing, engaging, and full of his characteristic humour:

"There are two sorts of church people; those who go and those who don't go: there is only one sort of chapel-people; those who go."

There is, above all, the sense of being "with" Hardy himself: every page is invested with his own idiosyncrasies of vision and style.

Dorset Childhood

The early chapters are particularly impressive. He recreates his childhood and youth in Dorset and his days in London with fair objectivity. There is much room for correction of fact, but in mood and atmosphere his own account will scarcely be bettered.

Part of its charm comes, I think, from Hardy's genuine and characteristic modesty of manner. He was well on into his seventies when he embarked on the work, yet he never indulges in the reminiscent pride we so often have to wince at in writers' memoirs.

And there is no trace of that excessive self-esteem which sometimes indicates an unconscious sense of failure and is so painful in (to come no nearer to home) a writer like Bernard Shaw.

All the same, there is much that is defensive in these pages, and this provides strange matter for study. A good deal of care seems to have been taken to make things opaque when Hardy wished them to be.

Blank mendacity he rarely has recourse to: on the whole he probably tells fewer lies than most people. But he is at pains to mislead us about things that had affronted him in the circumstances of his own life or worried him in his relations with the highly class-conscious society of his time.

It is in his art that find the rectification of these evasions and deceptions. His art might often be bad art, its badness the more conspicuous for lying cheek by jowl with his incomparable best. But it was faithful to his own experience, and the recurrent themes of his fiction were the basic themes of his own life.

The contrast of humble birth and lofty aspiration, the struggle for education and learning, the uncertainty of passion, the dissatisfaction with marriage as solution to the problem of sex, the commonness of external adversity and of simple bad luck—all these went into his novels and his poems.

There is little or nothing of them, however, in the official life; and we are at times as conscious of this little-or-nothing as we would be if there were whole blank pages in the book.

Meant as Protest

However, the thing was not meant as confession: nor was it undertaken with any marked relish; quite the contrary. It came into being largely as a protest against recurrent public mis-statements about Hardy's own experiences. It was not meant to be a source for future biographies: it was meant to be an obstacle in their way.

So far it has proved highly successful in this aim. The biographical studies of Hardy published since his death compete lamentably with each other in the inaccuracy of their employment both of the "official" material given here and of the other pieces of significant information that seeped out in more recent years.

In the circumstances this republication—in a very convenient form—of Hardy's own account of himself is, for all its defects, a timely and refreshing recall to order.

«  Reviews Hardy Biography  0  »


1514. Radio Times, "The Strawberry Ice," 18 January 1973, 43.
Billing for Natalia Ginzburg's "The Strawberry Ice," broadcast on Radio 4 at 3:00 pm, January 24, 1973.


From the Radio Times for February 27, 1969, a blurb from Henry Reed's long-time producer, Douglas Cleverdon, regarding the rebroadcast of Reed's Hilda Tablet cycle after the death of actress Mary O'Farrell:

Radio Times

The Private Life of Hilda Tablet

The broadcast repeat of A Very Great Man Indeed on Christmas Eve, followed by last month's radio tribute to Mary O'Farrell, aroused once again the unbridled enthusiasm of the Hilda Tablet fans. They will be gratified to learn that, after The Private Life this week, the remaining five programmes of the saga will be repeated at quarterly intervals.

Henry Reed has recalled how an unexpected letter from Mary O'Farrell prompted him, for his own amusement, into an elongation of the scene of Herbert Reeve's first confrontation with the composeress in A Very Great Man Indeed.

The force of Hilda's personality compelled him to devote an entire programme to her decision that Reeve should abandon his work on the life of Richard Shewin and concentrate all his energies on a biography of herself, for which (she thought) twelve volumes would suffice—it was enough for Gibbon, it was enough for Proust. In this Reeve would have the cardinal advantage of her own continual advice and co-operation.
Douglas Cleverdon

«  Radio Plays Hilda Tablet  0  »


1513. Hodge, Alan. "Thunder on the Right." Tribune (London), 14 June 1946, 15.
Hodge finds 'dry charm as well as quiet wit' in "Judging Distances," but overall feels Reed is 'diffuse and not sufficiently accomplished.'


Here's a clip of Professor Willard Spiegelman of Southern Methodist University, talking on Henry Reed's "Naming of Parts" part of The Great Courses lectures, How to Read and Understand Poetry (1999):


Spiegelman uses "Naming of Parts" as an example of "irony as dialectic", and brilliantly even spends a minute to explain Reed's switch of "duellis" (battles) for "puellis" (girls) in the poem's epigraph from Horace.



1512. Reed, Henry. "The Case for Maigret." Reviews of Maigret Hesitates and The Man on the Bench in the Barn, by Georges Simenon. Sunday Times (London), 2 August 1970: 22.
Reed reviews two translations of George Simenon's fiction.


From a 1995 episode of BBC One's "TV Heroes" hosted by none other than Danny Baker, here's a biography of Deryck Guyler (1914–1999):


Guyler starred in many of Henry Reed's radio plays for the BBC Third Programme in the 1950s, famously voicing General Gland ('Did you press the tit?') in the Hilda Tablet plays.

Guyler's greatest credit may have been in Reed's radio production of Jules Laforgue's Hamlet: or, The Consequences of Filial Pity (1954), in which he played "A footman, a halberdier, a wedding guest, the first grave digger, an attendant lord, Yorick's skull, a theatrical director, an equerry, the King of Denmark, and a tree."

«  Radio Plays Videos  0  »


1511. William Phillips, and Philip Rahv, eds. New Partisan Reader: 1945-1953 London: Andre Deutsch, 1953. 164-171.
Collects Reed's poem, "The Door and the Window," published in the Partisan Review in 1947.


Two videos have appeared, with former poet laureate Robert Pinksy using Henry Reed's famous parody of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets as a teaching tool, in Boston University's Art of Poetry Video Repository.

In the first, Pinsky delivers an excellent reading of "Chard Whitlow" (written by Henry Reed in 1941 and subtitled "Mr. Eliot's Sunday Evening Postscript," after this poem), and then compares it with a selection from Eliot's "East Coker":


Followed up with this conversation with some first-time Reed (and Eliot) readers:


Pinsky's point being that effective parody is more than just kidding around: it can help the reader appreciate or even understand the source material better. "Chard Whitlow" is possibly the best example of this, because it can be backed up with Eliot's own statement (also read by Mr. Pinksy):

Most parodies of one's own work strike one as very poor. In fact, one is apt to think one could parody oneself much better. (As a matter of fact, some critics have said that I have done so.) But there is one which deserves the success it has had, Henry Reed's "Chard Whitlow."

Eliot's quote first appeared as a blurb for Reed's tribute in Dwight Macdonald's anthology, Parodies: An Anthology from Chaucer to Beerbohm—and After (New York: Random House, 1960).

There's much, much more to be found on the Art of Poetry's YouTube page.



1510. Birmingham Post, "The Merchant of Venice," 5 March 1937.
Photograph of Henry Reed with members of the Birmingham University Dramatic Society's (BUDS) production of The Merchant of Venice. Shylock played by Ian Alexander.


Some new finds in the British Library Archives & Manuscripts catalogue:

Alvarez Papers. Vol. cxxiv. Add MS 88605: 1951-1989, "Henry Reed; n.d. Poems only (3)."

Cockerell Papers. Vol. CXXIII. Add MS 52745: 1888-1961, "Henry Reed, broadcaster: Letter to S[ydney]. C. Cockerell: 1955" (this one we had in the bibliography already, thankfully!).

Correspondence of Reinhardt and Potter. Add MS 88987/2/104: 1953-1954, "Henry Read [sic] (to him)" (regarding Potter's 1964 Sense of Humour anthology).

Dramatic Verse. Add MS 88984/6/34: 1963, "Contains correspondence and papers relating to a Festival session of specially commissioned dramatic verse. Includes correspondence with Ted Hughes, Christopher Logue, Henry Reed, Vernon Scannell, and Michael Baldwin."

Lutyens Collection. Vol. cclxxxv. Add MS 64719: 1949-1963, "'Canterbury' (Henry Reed); n.d. (ff. 32-54). 320 x 250mm."

Lutyens Collection. Vol. cccv. Add MS 64739: 1953-1964, "'Westminster Abbey' (Henry Reed); [1953]. (ff. 7-36). 370 x 255mm."

Reed, Henry. Add MS 88908/8/6/5: 1948, "Reed to Tambimuttu (manuscript, Cyprus, 21 April, 1948), declining, without 'the books that might help me' and unable to 'squeeze an appropriate verse or two out of my head'" (Part of T.S. Eliot: A Symposium: Correspondence and Original Materials).

This last is another heartbreaking no-show; a result of Reed's seemingly endless writer's block.



1509. Reed, Henry, "'Tatty': The Year's New Word," Birmingham Post, 13 October 1937.
Discusses the history and usage of the word 'tatty'.



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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