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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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Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

23.9.2017


Hidden Treasures of the HRC

I came across a curious reference this evening, to a "Collection, 1924-1983," with a laundry list of associated names: J.R. Ackerley, Brigid Brophy, Edward Carpenter, Rena Clayphan, G. Lowes Dickinson, George Duthuit, Roy Broadbent Fuller, Sir John Gielgud, Henry Festing Jones, James Kirkup, Francis Henry King, Rosamond Lehmann, Desmond MacCarthy, James MacGibbon, Sean O'Faolain, Sir Herbert Edward Read, Henry Reed, and Vita Sackville-West. But no location, no source, and only a partial title. Obviously the record was uploaded from a library catalog, somewhere. But where?

I had a feeling the people on the list had something (or someone) in common, but I couldn't puzzle it out. I searched the Location Register. I searched for library and .edu holdings. And then I suddenly remembered my WarGames, where Lightman (Matthew Broderick) is counseled to "go straight through Falken's Maze," the first game on his list. Ackerley. Joe Ackerley is the first name in the list. Protovision, I have you now.

I don't know why I didn't think of it straight off: an easy search of WorldCat turns the collection up, at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin:

Harry Ransom Center

Following the holdings library on WorldCat whisks you into the University of Texas Libraries' catalog record for "Ackerley, J.R., Collection 1924-1983". And there, among the cardboard boxes filled with manila folders and acid-free envelopes, are four letters from Henry Reed to Ackerley, dated from 1937 to 1942. During those years, Ackerley was editing the BBC's magazine, The Listener, where Reed published his first poems. But wait, there's more!

Led by the tantalizingly linked author field "Reed, Henry, 1914-1986" in the collection's catalog record, we discover that the Ransom Center's book collection has quite a few editions of Reed's, including signed copies of A Map of Verona originally presented to Ackerley and Edith Sitwell, as well as Evelyn Waugh's personal copy (with bookplate). I can't begin to tell you how marvelous it is that the Texas Libraries thoughtfully provides a "Bookmark Link" feature: static URLs for all their records.

Bookplate

"Cultural Record Keepers," Libraries & the Cultural Record 42, no. 3 (2007)

The Ransom Center's Ackerley collection isn't detailed in their online finding aids, but at the end of the maze I also turned up a copy of a letter to Reed in the correspondence files for Alfred A. Knopf.



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.'


All Good Things Go to Texas

In this week's New Yorker, "Final Destination" (printable article), an in-depth look at the collections and archives at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin, and the unstoppable tide of authors' papers and manuscripts which end up there:

There is not much that other institutions can do when Texas is interested. After Osborne, Stoppard, Penelope Lively, and others sold their papers to Texas, the mass departure aroused alarm in Britain—a 2005 headline in the London Times proclaimed, 'writers unite to fight flight of literary papers to u.s.' To counter the Ransom Center, Britainís national-heritage fund changed a rule prohibiting public money from being spent on material less than twenty years old; the exclusion was reduced to ten years. The change barely diminished the flow of work across the ocean, however. Staley [the Center's current director] does not have much sympathy for the aggrieved. Last year, at a conference at the British Library, Staley was asked about an essay in which the British poet laureate Andrew Motion argued that national treasures belonged in the nations that created them. He retorted, 'Like the Elgin Marbles?'

I know of at least four Reed-related items in the Ransom Center's archives: A 1944 letter from novelist Sid Chaplin to John Lehmann, calling Reed's "The End of an Impulse" in New Writing and Daylight 'the most sensible piece about modern poetry I have seen in a long time'; a 1945 typescript of one of Reed's BBC talks in the Elizabeth Bowen collection; a letter from Reed to Dame Edith Sitwell; and Sitwell's reply to Reed.



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.


Sitwellisms

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.



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.



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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