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I Capture the Castle: A girl and her family struggle to make ends meet in an old English castle.
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«  The Cat and the Fiddle  »

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

27.10.2021


The Cat and the Fiddle

Almost two years ago, I was trying to settle the source of a strange quote attributed to a "Sir Henry Reed," regarding the nursery rhyme, "Hey Diddle Diddle." The quote, which appeared in two journal articles about Mother Goose, is as follows: 'I prefer to think that it commemorates the athletic lunacy to which the strange conspiracy of the cat and the fiddle incited the cow.'

Nursery rhyme

I finally tracked down the original source of this quotation in vol. 117 of the series Children's Literature Review (Tom Burns, ed. Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2006. p. 60), which reprints a 1955 review by Clifton Fadiman of The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, edited by Iona and Peter Opie (1952).

Going to the Opie's text, I discover that the Children's Literature Review misprints the attribution as "Sir Henry Reed." The 1952 and 1997 editions of the Oxford volume (which are identical in this section) have 'The sanest observation on this rhyme seems to have been made by Sir Henry Reid'.

The double error of including the honorific "Sir" and the misspelling "Reid" leaves me to believe this is probably not our Henry. It seems more likely attributable to Sir Herbert Read, or to another Sir, altogether. And, actually, since Read wasn't knighted until 1953 and the Oxford edition was published in 1952, we are probably looking for some witty 19th century gentleman.

This was made possible using Gale's Literature Criticism Online, a database which provides access to ten collections of literary criticism, including Contemporary Literary Criticism, Poetry Criticism, and Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, as well as Children's Literature Review. Access to Gale's databases is provided by many public and university libraries.


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Notation for "The Cat and the Fiddle":
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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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