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



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


George Orwell at the BBC

Deep in the Written Archives of the BBC is a collection of letters and memos relating to George Orwell's time as a Talks Producer with the Eastern Service, writing and broadcasting wartime news and propaganda to India from 1941 to 1943. The archive continues to follow Orwell's activities even after his resignation, in the correspondence of Rayner Heppenstall: poet, writer, and producer of features and drama at the BBC from 1945 until 1967. A selection of these documents have been dutifully reproduced for the digital collection, George Orwell at the BBC.

In a letter dated July 8, 1946, Heppenstall belatedly congratulates Orwell on Animal Farm being selected for a future "Book of the Month Club" edition in the United States. Heppenstall received the announcement, apparently, via Henry Reed, who "was in the publisher's office when the news came in":


Click the image to see Heppenstall's original letter at the BBC Archive, or here for the plain text version.

Reed's friendship with Rayner Heppenstall is well documented. In his 1969 memoir, Portrait of the Artist as a Professional Man, Heppenstall brags about introducing Reed (and a host of other BBC writers and staff) to the Stag's Head Pub, across the street from the Features and Drama offices on London's New Cavendish Street. Heppenstall produced Reed's second radio play for the Third Programme, Pytheas: A Dramatic Speculation, in 1947.

What I am having difficulty figuring out is: which publisher's office was Reed visiting in 1946, when he heard the book club news? Animal Farm was originally published in 1945 by Martin Secker & Warburg, London, but the American edition of Orwell's "fairy tale" was released the following year by Harcourt Brace, New York. Much of Heppenstall's output of the 1940s, however, was also published by Secker & Warburg. Frank V. Morley, whom Heppenstall mentions, was a director at Faber and Faber. Henry Reed did publish a book with Secker, an English translation of Buzatti's Larger than Life, but not until 1962. Confusing. And I've only had coffee for dinner; too much coffee.

It seems most likely, given the time frame, that Reed was simply visiting the publisher of his own first book of poetry, Jonathan Cape, who had only recently released A Map of Verona: Poems in May, 1946. Is that how you read it?

«  Orwell BBC Letters  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.

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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