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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.

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Henry Reed, ca. 1960


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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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«  Insults and Eliot and Lear  »

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

23.9.2017


Insults and Eliot and Lear

In 1953, Reed wrote a critique of Eliot's prose as it relates to his verse, called "If and Perhaps and But" (Listener, 18 June 1953, 1017-18). I hadn't realized until today that the title is actually a quote from a self-deprecating poem of Eliot's: "Lines for Cuscuscaraway and Mirza Murad Ali Beg" (part V. of "Five-Finger Lessons," originally published in Criterion 12, no. 47 (January 1933): 220-222).
How unpleasant to meet Mr. Eliot!
With his features of clerical cut,
And his brow so grim
And his mouth so prim
And his conversation, so nicely
Restricted to What Precisely
And If and Perhaps and But.
How unpleasant to meet Mr. Eliot!
With a bobtail cur
In a coat of fur
And a porpentine cat
And a wopsical hat:
How unpleasant to meet Mr. Eliot!
Apparently, "Cuscuscaraway" and "Mirza Murad Ali Beg" were the names of Eliot's dog and cat (and Mirza Murad Ali Beg was really the author of Lalun the Beragun, a 19th-century work of historical fiction set in India). This is actually Eliot parodying Edward Lear's "How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear" (Nonsense Songs, 1871), the text of which can be read in this Slate.com article by Robert Pinsky, a "little anthology of poems that deliver insults."

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Notation for "Insults and Eliot and Lear":
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What is Henry Reed's first name?

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.'



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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