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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

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

4.4.2020


Defying the notion that we have somehow already found everything written by Henry Reed to be found, up pops another book review in the June 3, 1944 issue of Time & Tide. (Reed reviewed Eliot's Four Quartets in December, that year, and I'm beginning to think he may have been something of a regular contributor.)

In this article, Reed critiques new poetry by three of his peers (or soon-to-be peers, since Reed's own volume of poetry, A Map of Verona, would not be published until 1946): John Heath-Stubbs, Julian Symons, and Terence Tiller.

Time and Tide

POETRY

The Inward Animal: Terence Tiller. Hogarth. 3s. 6d.

Beauty and the Beast: John Heath-Stubbs. Routledge. 5s.

The Second Man: Julian Symons. Routledge. 5s.

in one of his poems Mr Symons says of himself:
"My poems are paper games, kicking a football,
Negative, disgraceful."
This, though rather severe, is true. The word, "disgraceful" suggests something more vividly objectionable than anything Mr Symons has yet achieved, but "negative" and "paper games" are fair enough descriptions. "Paper games" is particularly apt; for here we have a characteristic contemporary volume of poems which very quietly, indeed almost unobtrusively, shuffles round and round those great concepts which Mr Auden has, by constant repetition of their names, so curiously reduced in seriousness: life, death, evil, corruption, sin, error, love, time and what not. The disposition of these little objects according to personal or fashionable taste is indeed a paper game, and a game available to anyone who cares to play it. Here is an example:
Our tears drop, the wet pearls are
Transformed into a voice

Crying: "O pity human
Nature condemned, to error,
And all those good who dare not
Descend like furious birds."
Weak as a baby walking
Conscience now moves and tells them
All inappropriate action
Leads on to wrong and death.
Mr Heath-Stubbs and Mr Tiller are to be taken much more seriously. Mr Heath-Stubbs is at his best when he avoids traditional stanza-forms, which make him sometimes seem insincere and artificial, as in the various "songs" in his new volume; and even in the sequence of sonnets called The Heart's Forest, which deal with an important personal experience, the sonnet form is often used too lightly and casually. Nevertheless this sequence has some unusual and successful things in it: among them a sonnet beginning "Three walked through the meadows", and another on the theme of Echo and Narcissus. It is in Mr Heath-Stubbs's longer poems, usually written in a loose blank-verse, that one finds his best work: poems such as "Leporello", "Moscatos in the Galleys" and "Edward the Confessor", and a "Heroic Epistle" supposedly written from Congreve to Anne Bracegirdle. He is particularly good at identifying himself with a figure of the past, as Browning did; indeed he continues the Browning-Ezra Pound tradition. Here, presumably, is Liszt speaking:
'And the flutes ice-blue, and the harps
Like melting frost, and the trumpet marching, marching
Like fire above them, like fire through the frozen pine-trees
And the dancers came, swirling, swirling past me—
Plume and swansdown waving, while plume over the gold hair
Arms held gallantly, and silk talking—and an eye caught
In the candle-shadow, and the curve of a mouth
Going home to my heart (the folly of it!) going home to my heart!:
Mr Tiller has forced on to his new volume of poems an order which appears to be rather false. The body of the book is a collection of lyrics, mainly meditations on emotions woken by a prolonged sojourn in Egypt. These he has written with all the customary fastidiousness, independence and conscientiousness. He is a poet who neither goes in for, nor comes out with, memorable lines or phrases. It is the atmosphere in his poems that one remembers—in a brilliantly composed poem such as Egyptian Dancer, for example, or in the poems called Desert:
Still where the viper swims in sand, the pearly
Scorpion stiffens, and the fast-mouthed surly
Lizards are—here, looking towards the waste,
We know more bare an importance than dust
Or the dry ant-clean specters that are born
Of it, venom of the scale and horn.
He has flanked his collection of lyrics with two long poems, Eclogue for a Dying House, and The Birth of Christ. The former of these is intended to present the death of the old pre-war personality of the poet, the latter to present "slow mutual absorption ending in the birth of Something at once myself and a new self and Egypt". These poems, the most ambitious in the book, are the least successful—perhaps because they recall other poets very strongly, and Mr Tiller is good only when he is original. The Eclogue is a weary and powerless poem; its title and mode inevitably recall Mr MacNeice, but the poem is without Mr MacNeice's accomplished patina. The Birth of Christ employs a symbol too great for what Mr Tiller describes in his comment on the poem; and Rilke has been too unscrupulously impressed into helping in the writing of it.
henry reed

«  Reviews Periodicals TimeAndTide  0    


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.


On Wednesday, February 12th, Mark Eccleston, archivist at the University of Birmingham's Cadbury Research Library, will again deliver a talk on everyone's favorite Birmingham-born poet, translator and radio dramatist: "The Hidden Life of Henry Reed." Part of a celebration of LGBT History Month, 2020.

Henry Reed Talk

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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.'


In the early months of 1958, the BBC Third Programme repeated the entirety of Henry Reed's sequence of Hilda Tablet plays—beginning with a 1953 recording of A Very Great Man Indeed—in anticipation of Reed's latest (and advertised as the last, but ultimately the penultimate) entry, The Primal Scene, As It Were.

Reed wrote a short re-introduction for the Radio Times on February 7, 1958, to give thanks and credit to the actors and musicians who brought the characters to life in his most famous and most listened-to of radio plays. He has special mention for Hugh Burden, Mary O'Farrell, the music of Donald Swann, Carleton Hobbs, and Deryck Guyler.

The Primal Scene takes place in the Mediterranean, and if I remember correctly, is the result of BBC paying for Reed's holiday to Athens and Greece, in order to research an historical play set in ancient Mycenae.

The Primal Scene
Without the Actors . . .

Beginning on Thursday with 'A Very Great Man Indeed,' the Third Programme is to revive all the Henry Reed satires. The author contributes this preface

I HAVE been told that there was once a Derby winner who was heard, in a moment of morbid self-questioning, to observe: 'Without the horse, I doubt if I could have done it.' I am not given to this kind of introspection myself and among the actors who appear in the Herbert Reeve scripts, there is none that resembles, in any respect, a horse. But I am bound to confess that the tormented jockey's remark always comes to my mind whenever people say that they have enjoyed these programmes, since, apart from the first script, A Very Great Man Indeed, they all derive directly from the performances of the actors.

I think all of us concerned with that early piece enjoyed doing it. But for some time after, I was myself so much haunted by the realistic and touching intensity with which Hugh Burden and Mary O'Farrell had enacted the scene at Hilda's piano that I found myself wistfully craving to know exactly what happened afterwards. This, and nothing else, led to The Private Life of Hilda Tablet. (The word 'composeress' has been objected to in connection with Hilda; but it seems an innocent enough counterpart to the word 'paintress.')

Hilda's music had been potently realised by Donald Swann. It was Mr. Swann's devotion to Hilda, his voluminous invention on her behalf, and a certain gleam that always appeared in his eyes whenever she was mentioned, that led to the programme about her opera, Emily Butter. It was by this time felt that more might profitably be said by Carleton Hobbs on the subject of Stephen Shewin. It was said in A Hedge, Backwards, which was billed as the last of the series, We had not however counted on Deryck Guyler's General Gland, who seemed to call for profounder acquaintance. This has led to a new programme The Primal Scene, as it Were . . . , which will be broadcast next month. I think I may safely promise that this will be the end of Herbert Reeve, The title is a quotation from the piece itself, and refers to the Mediterranean.

«  Radio Plays RadioTimes  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.'


A lovely little article on the current radio offerings for May, 1955, from the Literary Guide's "On the Air" column, by Philip Dalton. Discovered quite unexpectedly, using the extra morning hour afforded me by the ending of Daylight Saving Time (Summer Time, to *you* people). Among other nice things, Dalton laments that Reed's plays are consigned to the Third Programme, and not repeated on the Home Service.

Includes Henry Reed's official BBC headshot, taken circa 1950, when he was 35 years old (badly scarred in this microfilm scan):

Literary Guide

On the Air
Covering the month's broadcasting and noting programmes to come, this radio commentary will in future be a regular feature

by PHILIP DALTON

Vastly Entertaining
Most of our poets or any reputation have written for the radio, even if few have made their' reputations on it. Louis MacNeice is better known to a wide audience than be might have been, but it is Henry Reed who has become almost completely identified with the microphone. It is almost ten years since he wrote ' Noises ' and since then he has produced about seventy talks and thirty commissioned features. He has been prolific, diverse and, to my mind, almost always vastly entertaining, and he is certainly entitled to what we might call his ' benefit '—a series of revivals of some of his most popular pieces which has been running throughout April. Among these re-broadcasts were ' Return to Naples ' (April 5), ' A By-Election in the Nineties ' (April 11), ' The Streets of Pompeii ' (April 21), and we shall hear 'Moby Dick ' again on April 29. All these are Third programme offerings, although for Reed's sake I would like to have seen some of them broadcast on the Home Service: they could baffle no one.
The Literary Guide has an interesting history, starting out in 1885 as Watt's Literary Guide (sort of propaganda for free-thinkers and the science-minded), and changing to the Humanist in 1956. Still published by the Rationalist Association as the New Humanist.



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.'



Straight Outta Erdington

(TeeMonkeys.)

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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.'


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.



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.'


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."

«  Criticism Guardian  0  »


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).



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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