Documenting the quest to track down everything written by (and written about) the poet, translator, critic, and radio dramatist, Henry Reed.

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Henry Reed, ca. 1960



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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Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog


A Poet's Christmas

The Publishers' Circular & Booksellers' Record was a fortnightly journal for the British publishing trade, featuring lists of new books, reviews, serial fiction, and statistics, but also including schedules for upcoming literary programs on the BBC. The issue for December 22, 1945, has this listing for the Home Service on Sunday, December 23:

10.38 pm: Time for Verse — 'The Poet's Christmas,' selections of poems for Christmas, including new poems specially written by Siegfried Sassoon, Henry Reed, George Barker.

(I can't seem to get the relevant snippet to appear.) A quick glance at the radio schedule in the Times for that weekend confirms a "Poetry reading" that evening. "Time for Verse" was a popular and long-running feature produced by Patric Dickinson.

This broadcast would seem to be a revisit to a program from the year before. On Christmas Eve, 1944, Reed read his poem "The Return" as part "A Poet's Christmas," which featured

verse especially written by Cecil Day Lewis, Louis MacNeice, Edith Sitwell, V. Sackville West, Laurie Lee, John Heath-Stubbs, Frances Cornford, Ann Ridler, Henry Reed, and [music composed by Benjamin] Britten (Chorale and The Shepherd's Carol—both by W.H. Auden), Lennox Berkeley (Francis Cornford's There was neither grass nor corn), and Michael Tippet (Edith Sitwell's The Weeping Babe)

The 1945 program sounds like a less celebrated affair, but I'm intrigued by the suggestion of poems commissioned from the likes of Sassoon and Barker. Would anyone care to suggest which poems they might have chosen for Christmas, 1945? Sassoon wrote both "Litany of the Lost" and "Sanctuary" in November of that year.

If I had to venture a guess, I would think Reed would have simply fallen back on his poem from the previous year, "The Return" (previously mentioned) He did compose a sonnet, however, with a winter theme: "The Forest." It appears in A Map of Verona so it must have been written prior to May, 1946, though it appears again, oddly, in the Listener on October 17, 1946.

Most unfortunately, I don't have easy access to the Listener from 1945 or 1946. I'll try the New Statesman.

Add Notation:


Notation for "A Poet's Christmas":
Allowed: <a> <em> <strong>
What is Henry Reed's first name?

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.

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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