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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.

Read "Naming of Parts."

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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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Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

25.11.2017


Briggs in Error

In The War of Words (London: Oxford University Press, 1970), volume three of Asa Briggs' giant History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom, there is a footnote regarding criticism of Louis MacNeice's 1942 radio play, Christopher Columbus, published by Faber & Faber in 1944:

4 New Statesman 1 April 1944: 'Columbus and The Rescue make claims of radio serious and impressive.' Punch (17 May 1944) said that 'the play could stand on its poetry alone'. In The Spectator (22 April 1944), however, Henry Reed described the play as 'rather disappointing'. Columbus, he went on, 'convinces one that some of the advantages which the radio writer thinks he enjoys are really handicaps'. See also The Times, 4 Sept. 1963, for a later assessment.
(p. 585)

The problem being, there was no Spectator for April 22, 1944. The Spectator was published on Fridays, and April 22 was a Saturday. A look at the issues for the first half of that year shows no book reviews for Columbus. The 1963 article in The Times turns out out to be MacNeice's obituary.

There was, however, a New Statesman on April 22. We'll have to have a look at that.

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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.'


A Whale of a Blunder

Julian Potter, writing of his father's days as a radio writer and producer, in Stephen Potter at the BBC: 'Features' in War and Peace (Orford, Suffolk: Orford Books, 2004), devotes a short sub-chapter to Henry Reed's 1947 adaptation of Melville's Moby Dick for the Third Programme. The Third was all of four months old when Moby Dick: A Play for Radio from Herman Melville's Novel aired in two parts on the evening of Sunday, January 26th, 1947, and the play helped substantiate the new programme's reputation in providing dramatic productions for discerning listeners.

Stephen Potter (Wikipedia) produced the radio version of Moby Dick, and his correspondence and diaries lend some idea of what an arduous task such an undertaking could be: a year in the making; acquiring a composer and getting the music just so; editing Reed's script; with delays owed to casting and illness—everything down to the wire until just before broadcast.

Julian Potter falls victim to one of the classic blunders, however: he gets Reed's name wrong. Throughout the book he mistakenly confuses Henry Reed with the author Henry Green. This is simply unconscionable, and can only be forgiven if one supposes the senior Potter referring to Reed by Christian name only in his interoffice memos and diary entries.

Here is the section from Potter at the BBC concerning the production of Moby Dick, with Reed's name properly amended (pp. 195-197):

Moby Dick

Stephen's longest single production was Moby Dick, a radio adaptation of Melville's novel by Henry [Reed]. It lasted two-and-a-quarter hours and was of a length that only listeners to the Third were expected to tolerate. [Reed] had written it while working during the war as a cryptographer at Bletchley. Presumably he had a broadcast in mind, but at the time he affected to despise radio. He was converted by The Dark Tower [by Louis MacNeice]. After hearing it, he wrote to MacNeice in January 1946, 'I have always thought your claim for radio's potentialities excessive; I now begin, reluctantly, to think you may be right.' Stephen had read [Reed's] adaptation and promoted it: at a lunch with [Sir George] Barnes on 31 January it was agreed that he should produce it and that it should be earmarked for an early broadcast on the Third. 'Will [Benjamin] Britten do the music?' wrote Stephen in July. As Melville's Billy Budd was later to be the subject of a Britten opera, his treatment of Moby Dick would have been of great interest; but in the event the music was written by Anthony Hopkins.

Hopkins later described his task, saying that as soon as Stephen Potter asked him to do it, he realized that it would require a full orchestra and that since so many players crammed into the studio along with the actors would be disruptive, the music would have to be pre-recorded. He had the knack of reading aloud the text while at the same time playing his music on the piano. This helped to get the length of each stretch right, but in case of overruns, he had for the first time used two gramophones. The music that accompanied the more meditative speeches was such that if the actor overran, the music too could continue, while the music for the next scene could start with the other gramophone whenever the moment came.

For Ahab, Stephen wanted Ralph Richardson, who just at the wrong moment went down with 'flu. Stephen managed to get the already scheduled programme postponed until January. He wrote to [Laurence] Gilliam:
Only by postponing can we get Ralph Richardson for Ahab. He is far and away the best actor for the part: he has the exact right combination of earthiness, ordinariness and inspired fanaticism.... If he acted Ahab, it would make this production (provided I could play my part) one of the most successful and exciting programmes that the Third Programme and indeed the BBC has ever done. Thursday and Friday, 23 and 24 January 1947. Now I start to get going with Moby, in the biggest production I have ever had to do with. Difficulty No. 1 is New Statesman and News Chronicle. I have to go to NC in the morning. In the afternoon we do the music and I like the sound. But I have to prepare tomorrow's gigantic readthrough with large cast, many of which I do not know. First horror — Ralph has 'flu (again!) and threatening laryngitis and must spend tomorrow in bed.

After many more distractions, I really get going on preparing the script (87 pages) at eleven pm and have broken the back of it at 6 o'clock in the morning. This late night made me in what I felt to be tense and therefore bad form for the read-through at Langham [Broadcasting House].
The Friday read-through, scheduled for 10.30 am to 5 pm, took place without Richardson, although he was well enough to take part in the actual production. Because of its length, it was pre-recorded in four parts over four days of the following week and broadcast in two parts on the Friday. The cast also included Bernard Miles as Starbuck. In line with the Third's new policy, a recorded repeat was broadcast on 18 February; and in September, there was a new production of the whole thing. Substitutes had to be found for Bernard Miles and two other actors, but Richardson was again Ahab:
Saturday and Sunday, 6 and 7 September. Two days full rehearsal of Moby so as to leave Monday, transmission day, clear. I have been dreading this; but in fact I have enjoyed it. Ralph is in superb form. He shows us a correction of a misprint: the sentence which spoke of 'our defective police force' should of course have read 'our detective police farce'. The gorgeous thing about these rehearsals is that Ralph, the monarch, treats me as if I was Prime Minister, and sends my stock up with all the other actors in consequence.
The programme was repeated a number of times thereafter. [Reed], as has been noted, became a prolific and admired contributor to radio. Nearly all his subsequent programmes were produced by Douglas Cleverdon.

Oddly enough, I was unable to find a listing for the new production of Moby Dick in the Times' BBC broadcasting schedule for the week of September 8, 1947, but there is a copy of a script with that date among Douglas Cleverdon's papers at the University of Indiana's Lilly Library. (This may be a good time to point out that the BBC taking their Programme Catalogue offline is a serious impediment to research.)

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1512. Reed, Henry. "The Case for Maigret." Reviews of Maigret Hesitates and The Man on the Bench in the Barn, by Georges Simenon. Sunday Times (London), 2 August 1970: 22.
Reed reviews two translations of George Simenon's fiction.


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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1511. William Phillips, and Philip Rahv, eds. New Partisan Reader: 1945-1953 London: Andre Deutsch, 1953. 164-171.
Collects Reed's poem, "The Door and the Window," published in the Partisan Review in 1947.


Mystery Solved

Well, the mystery is solved, and the fault is mine. It's all right here, in black and white.

See, here's the story: I couldn't figure out where Reed had written the line 'To fight without hope is to fight without grace.' The quote opens the chapter "Where Are the War Poets?" in Shires' British Poetry of the Second World War.

I did find, however, a similar line in the poem, "To a Conscript of 1940": 'To fight without hope is to fight with grace.'

Going back to my original photocopy this evening, I realized I had copied the quote incorrectly, inserting the second without. By doing so, I fell victim to one of the classic blunders.

I mistook Herbert Read for Henry Reed. God help me.

The correct quote is 'To fight without hope is to fight with grace.' Shires misattributed it to Reed; I failed to copy it correctly; and now I have sorely embarrassed myself by not recognizing the compounding error, despite having the source material in front of me! For shame!

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1510. Birmingham Post, "The Merchant of Venice," 5 March 1937.
Photograph of Henry Reed with members of the Birmingham University Dramatic Society's (BUDS) production of The Merchant of Venice. Shylock played by Ian Alexander.


Agamem Not

Hey, Oak Knoll Books? You know why no one's bought this copy of Reed's Lessons of the War?

Because the picture you've posted is clearly of The Agamemnon of Aeschylus. Just sayin'.

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1509. Reed, Henry, "'Tatty': The Year's New Word," Birmingham Post, 13 October 1937.
Discusses the history and usage of the word 'tatty'.


Moshi Moshi

Something which I had disregarded ages ago has raised its head, again. A year or two back, I had come across an entry for what looks like a dissertation or monograph called Literature Reflecting the Spirit of an Age: A Study of M. Arnold, T.S. Eliot and H. Reed. I can't even remember where, or how, I had turned it up.

I quickly disregarded it as a lead, however, when I peeked at the record in OCLC: Jidai seishin no naka no bungaku. It clearly lists the subjects as Matthew Arnold, Thomas Stearns Eliot, Herbert Edward Read.

But this week, I was perusing the old, print volumes of the Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ABELL, if you're lucky enough to be a subscriber), and there it was again. In the volume for 1994, in the index under "Reed, Henry":
Yoshimura, Akio. Jidai seishin no naka no bungaku M. Arnold, T.S. Eliot, H. Reed wo megutte. (Literature reflecting the spirit of an age: a study of M. Arnold, T.S. Eliot and H. Reed.)
The book is, obviously, in Japanese, and my Babelfishing of "H. リードをめぐって" has only left me with "centering on lead/read," which is less than illuminating. Here's the publisher's webpage, and the "translation." Do you think that's "led, red," or "leed, reed?"

One of the only library copies of the book I can see is at Waseda University, Tokyo (and, I assume, this is where the OCLC record comes from). Rikkyo University's OPAC even lists the title with the subject "Arnold, Thomas." The book does, however, still appear to be available through Amazon.co.jp, but that doesn't help break the chain of what may be a cascade failure of translation. Hello, Tokyo?

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1508. Birmingham Post, Obituary for Henry Reed. 10 December 1986.
Reed's obituary in the Birmingham Post.


Errata

One thing which irks me to no end is a sort of misinformed deja vu I experience when I find myself staring at a page I must have looked at months or years before, and realize I had discovered ages ago that it was a dead end or misquote or incorrect citation. I probably tore up my colored index card in disgust, only to be tricked again at a later date. So rather than dedicating another drawer of the card catalog solely to "Erratum," I thought I would edit this space each time I find someone mistaken or something misleading.

Alexander, Harriet S., comp. American and British Poetry: A Guide to the Criticism. Athens, Ohio : Swallow Press, 1984. 320.

Mistakenly places "Naming of Parts" under the entry for Herbert Read.

Beggs, James S. The Poetic Character of Henry Reed. Hull, England: University of Hull Press, 1999. 144. "Privately, Thomas had chastised Henry Treece's 'ridiculous overpraise of Reed' and labelled most of Reed's poetry 'dull' (Letters 223)."

Dylan Thomas (and Henry Treece) is actually referring to Herbert Read.

Cleverdon, Douglas. Obituary for Henry Reed. Independent (London). December 11, 1986. "'Vincenzo', in 1950, presented the life Vincenzo Gonzaga in a dramatised form...."

Reed's radio play, Vincenzo, was first broadcast in 1955.

Gunter, Liz and Jim Linebarger. "Tone and Voice in Henry Reed's 'Judging Distance'." Notes on Contemporary Literature 8, no. 2 (March 1988): 9.

An unfortunate typographic error leaves the "s" off the end of "Judging Distances."

Hamilton, Ian. "Henry Reed." In Against Oblivion: Some Lives of the Twentieth-Century Poets. London: Viking, 2002. 216.

Hamilton, of all people, refers to the "Lessons of the War" sequence as "Lessons of War."

Kermode, Frank. "Part and Pasture." London Review of Books, 5 December 1991, 17. "[T]he epigraph to 'Lessons of the War' vixi puellis nuper idoneus/et militavi non sine gloria substitutes puellis, 'girls', for Horace's duellis, 'wars'."

Horace spoke of 'puellis' (girls), and Reed substituted 'duellis' (battles), not the other way around. Here's Ode III:26 in English, and Latin.

"Catherine Carver, who sorted out the heaps of drafts, clippings and corrections left by the poet...."

Correct spelling is "Catharine" Carver.

Marcus, Laura, and Peter Nicholls, eds. The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century English Literature. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 479. "For those who tuned in, radio now disseminated avant-gardism much more widely than fringe theatres, premiering Henry Reed's influential translations of Brecht."

Either the editors meant Betti instead of Brecht, or they have the wrong translator.

O'Toole, Michael. "Henry Reed and What Follows the 'Naming of Parts'." In Functions of Style, edited by Davis Birch and Michael O'Toole. London: Pinter Publishers, 1988. 13.

The entirety of "Naming of Parts" is presented in this chapter, but the author leaves out the all-important "the" from "Lessons of the War."

Patey, Douglas Lane. The Life of Evelyn Waugh: A Critical Biography. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998. 290, 399n.

Patey quotes Reed's 1950 review of Waugh's Helena, but incorrectly cites the article as "30 Sept. 1950, 515." The review was actually published November 9th.

Peacock, Scot, ed. "Henry Reed 1914-1986." In vol. 78, Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series. Detroit: Gale Group, 1999. 410. "Reed began writing while a student at Birmingham University, where his circle of friends included writers W. H. Auden, Walter Allen, and Louis MacNeice."

Auden was seven years Reed's senior, and went to Christ Church, Oxford, not the University of Birmingham. Auden's father was Professor of Public Health at the the University, and it's entirely possible that Reed may have met Auden when he visited. But to call them 'friends' is probably an exaggeration.

Tolley, A.T. The Poetry of the Forties. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1985. 48, 209.

Tolley refers to "Lessons of the War" as "Lessons of War," no less than twice.

Wakeman, John, ed. "Reed, Henry." In World Authors, 1950-1970. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1975. 1199. "[Reed] has published a number of prose translations, notably of Flaubert."

It's likely the author of this article is confusing Reed's translations of Balzac's novels, as I can find no evidence he ever published any translations of Flaubert.

Wolosky, Shira. The Art of Poetry: How to Read a Poem. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. 8-10, 18-19, 172..

Repeatedly refers to "Naming of Parts" as "Today We Have Naming of Parts."

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1507. Daily Telegraph, Obituary for Henry Reed. 10 December 1986.
Reed's obituary in the Telegraph.



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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