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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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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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«  Stale Cakes, Small Sherries  »

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

23.9.2017


Stale Cakes, Small Sherries

Michael Millgate is a Hardy scholar. He may be the preeminent Hardy scholar, having written or edited innumerable biographies and collections. In several of these, he acknowledges assistance and contributions made by Henry Reed.

In 1936, Reed graduated from the University of Birmingham, having written his MA thesis on Thomas Hardy's early novels. Afterward, his plan was always to write a "Life of" Hardy. He called upon Hardy's widow, Florence, at their house in Dorset, Max Gate, and was given some access, at least, to letters and papers there.

Reed's goal was to create a biography based on recollections of those who had known Hardy, and to root out all the possible sources for his work. But this grand undertaking never came to fruition. Earning a living by reviewing books must have been difficult, and then there was the intervention of the Second World War. Finding success scripting radio plays for the BBC, Reed finally abandoned the biography sometime in the mid-1950s. The most he had to show for his labors was a 1955 Third Programme broadcast, "The Poetry of Thomas Hardy: A Study."

Millgate has contributed a chapter to Thomas Hardy: Text and Contexts (Mallett, 2002) called "The Hunter-Gatherers: Some Early Hardy Scholars and Collectors," which illuminates Reed's efforts and contributions to the field of Hardyana, and his correspondence with other scholars. This includes a reference to a letter from Howard Bliss to Richard L. Purdy, written in 1949, in which Bliss refers to Reed as Hardy's "Literary Biographer" (p. 199n).

That letter is in the Richard L. Purdy Collection of Thomas Hardy, at Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, which contains every kind of Reed goodies: corrected galleys, typescripts, and proofs. The Beinecke looks like a gorgeous building with almost futuristic facilites: wouldn't it be a hoot to ride the train up to Connecticut for a looksee? Simple as a twelve-hour train ride.

Millgate concludes his piece with some sage advice, based on personal experience no doubt, for any scholar or collector making inquiries toward or visiting some private literary collection:
‘Anyone contemplating such a visit, however, should certainly write well in advance and try to remember to send a prompt thank-you letter afterwards. Upon arrival, it's well to wipe your shoes on all available doormats, express admiration and/or gratitude for your host's weak coffee, stale cakes, small sherries, and aggressive pets, and suppress any early expression of your personal views on religion, politics, and social issues generally. It's also important to try and open precious volumes without breaking their spines, to avoid leaving sweaty finger-marks on the manuscripts of Hardy poems or Keats letters, to reserve one's more intrusive requests until some degree of personal rapport has been established, and to think twice or indeed several times before seeking to ingratiate oneself with elegant connoissers or the owners of stately homes by gifts of cheap wine.’
Wouldn't it be marvelous if one day, some brash, young scholar knocked on your door, dragged in their muddy feet, offered you a bottle of last year's Merlot and smeared their ink-stained fingers all over your precious database?


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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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