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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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«  Funny Pages  »

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

22.10.2021


Funny Pages

At first, I thought this was going to be a discovery of epic proportions, like a photograph of some exotic species, long thought extinct, or the finding a previously unknown, unexpected comet. Of course, it turned out that I was simply taken in—made the butt of a fifty-year-old joke. What first appeared to be an entirely unheard-of, obscure book written by Henry Reed, turns out to be merely a spoof advertisement for a non-existent, unwritten book: Have with Thee to Corporation Street!, complete with manufactured blurbs from critical reviews:

Publishers Anonymous

The ad appears in a two-page spread of the December 25, 1954 issue of The New Statesman and Nation, part of section called "Christmas Diversions." This elaborate hoax by the editors is entitled "Publishers Anonymous," and it's laid out to appear exactly like publisher's advertisements for new books by frequent contributors, being released specially for the Christmas holiday. It only takes the reader a moment to realize they're being had, but that's all that would have been required to grab their attention and get them to read the entire feature. Follow the linked image to my Flickr set to see the whole thing, with close-ups, and explanatory notes for some of the more obscure inside jokes (I'm lucky if I understand half of them):

New Statesman

There's a running gag where all of Elizabeth Bowen's reviews for The Tatler proclaim the books are "Absolutely delightful!" (Bowen preferred not to give negative reviews, and only reviewed work that she enjoyed), except for a book on critical reviewing, which Bowen finds "Instructive!"

The invented publishing houses include: Bourne & Griffin, Fathom House, Hussif Publications, Ivy and Fitzroy, Parlour Press, and Wildenstein & Pargiter, with this jape about Cyril Connolly, editor of the journal Horizon:

New Statesman

Then there's this delightful send-up of W. Somerset Maugham, who studied medicine before becoming a novelist, from "Frerechild Books":

New Statesman

The caricature was drawn by Victor "Vicky" Weisz, seen here at the British Cartoon Archive. Here's the entirety of the New Statesman's "Publishers Anonymous," scanned into a .pdf.

Even though it turned out to be all in jest, and I practically made a fool of myself, finding these pages is still significant. Reed was thought well enough of to be incorporated into the joke, which is certainly flattering. His inclusion places Reed among his friends and contemporaries, like John Betjeman, Elizabeth Bowen, Edward Sackville-West, and Angus Wilson. Reed's radio plays were apparently considered so popular they were replayed with almost ridiculous frequency. The comparison with Gogarty means that Reed was renowned as a wit of nearly Olympian proportions. And most importantly, the title of Reed's book secures him as a member of a group of writers and artists who frequently met at a pub off Corporation Street, Birmingham, in the 1930s: the Birmingham Group.


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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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