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.

Read "Naming of Parts."

Henry Reed Henry Reed
Henry Reed Henry Reed
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.




Weblogs, etc.

All posts for "EdithSitwell"

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog


Sitwell Responds

Clarification continues to be supplied in tiny increments. I had a record for what I presumed was a letter from Edith Sitwell to Reed, written perhaps after his critique of her poetry in 1944's Penguin New Writing (v. 21). Her "Answer to Henry Reed" resides with the Dame Edith Sitwell Collection in the Harry Ransom Research Center at the University of Texas (previously).

This Catalogue of Sales (Google Book Search) for Sotheby & Co., from February - June, 1962, tells a different story:
252 SITWELL (EDITH) The Autograph Manuscript of her "Answer to Henry Reed," 13 pp., folio, signed below title, unbound. This interesting essay is a reply to a broadcast talk by Henry Reed in October 1946, in the Third programme series "The Poet and his Critic," devoted to Edith Sitwell's poetry. INCLUDED IN THE LOT are a typescript of Henry Reed's talk... (p. 54).
So Sitwell's "Answer" is not so much a reply to Henry Reed, as it is her response.

The poet D.S. Savage describes what the BBC's "The Poet and His Critic" program was attempting, while painting a dismal portrait of its failure. From "Letter from England," in the Spring, 1948 Hudson Review (p. 90):

[The Third Programme's] musical record has been good, and its dramatic record not so bad, but on the literary side it has been deplorable. It has ventured into literary criticism. In a series entitled "The Poet and his Critic", a number of poets, some of them good ones, lent themselves to a painful exhibition in which the critic gave an appraisal of his pet poet on one day, the poet replied with a reading of his poems on the next, and there followed a coy little game of bat and ball on the third occasion between the two. But not all the poets were good ones, and the B.B.C. functionary in charge had scoured the alleys for the weirdest collection of so-called critics it would be possible to find within a hundred yards of Fleet Street.

This seems to indicate that Reed hosted at least two Saturday evening programs on Edith Sitwell, if he wasn't involved in all three: the first on October 26th, the second on November 2nd, and the last, November 9th, 1946 (with Sitwell, herself?).

«  EdithSitwell  0  »

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.


Henry Reed wrote several critiques of Edith Sitwell's verse during his career, including a lengthy article for the Penguin New Writing in 1944 ("The Poetry of Edith Sitwell," no. 21: 109-122), and a 1946 review of her collection The Song of the Cold for the New Statesman and Nation ("Pity and Terror," v. 31, no. 779 (26 January): 69).

So I wasn't too terribly surprised to discover the record for a letter Reed had written to Dame Edith in the Manuscript Collection of the Harry Ransom Research Center, at the University of Texas, Austin. And not just a single letter, but a copy of Sitwell's response, and what appears to be a typescript of a 1946 BBC radio program. All three manuscipts are in the Dame Edith Sitwell Collection, 1904-1964. None are dated, and the only references are to box and folder numbers.

Reed's letter appears under the "Index of Correspondents" as Reed, Henry, 1914- --99.2 (Box 99, Folder 2). The section heading states, 'Index entries with no notation (except box and folder numbers) indicate the person listed sent correspondence to Edith Sitwell.' Sitwell's response to Reed appears under the section "Index of Works" as Answer to Henry Reed--1.1. Without some indication of the date, however, it's impossible to divine what the two poets may have corresponded about, although Sitwell did write to John Lehmann in 1944, expressing concern about Reed's article in New Writing (Edith Sitwell: Selected Letters, 1919-1964. Edited by John Lehmann and Derek Parker. New York: Vanguard Press, 1970. 121).

I felt sure that two letters was more than one could hope for, but in doing a for "reed," I found yet another entry, under "Third Party Works": Reed, Henry, 1914- . Broadcast of The Poet and his Critics--110.4. This sent me into a tizzy of searching: the bibliography, the BBC Programme catalogue, WordAloud.com. No joy!

Finally, after trying several possible keyword combinations for London Times radio schedules, I discovered Sitwell (or Texas) had gotten the title slightly wrong: it's "The Poet and His Critic," singular. The serial, a "survey of contemporary verse," ran on the BBC's Third Programme for a brief time from late 1946 to early 1947. Poets included such estimable subjects as C. Day Lewis, W.J. Turner, Dylan Thomas, and Stephen Spender, with critics like L.A.G. Strong, Gerald Bullett, T.W. Earp, and Roy Fuller.

A good, old fashioned Google search put me dead on the money: in the Cleverdon Manuscript Collection at Indiana University's Lilly Library are scripts from Cleverdon's time as a producer at the BBC. Box 18 contains another script for the program in the Sitwell collection, but this one is labeled The Poet and His Critic--The Poet: Edith Sitwell, The Critic: Henry Reed. Nov. 9, 1946.

1529. Sackville-West, Vita. "Seething Brain." Observer (London), 5 May 1946, 3.
Sackville-West speaks admirably of Reed's poetry, and was personally 'taken with the poem called "Lives," which seemed to express so admirably Mr. Reed's sense of the elusiveness as well as the continuity of life.'

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)



Recent tags:

Posts of note: