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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

26.9.2017


Dance of the Seven Veils

Omnibus now presents a new film by Ken Russell: Dance of the Seven Veils. It's been described as a harsh, and at times, violent caricature of the life of the composer Richard Strauss. This is a personal interpretation by Ken Russell, of certain real—and many imaginary—events in the composer's life. Among them are dramatised sequences about the war, and the Nazi persecution of the Jews, which includes scenes of considerable violence, and horror.


I have mentioned previously Reed's final foray into television: in 1969 he delivered a preliminary screen treatment on Strauss, but it was clear that director Ken Russell was not interested in filming a straight-up, chronological biography. Instead, it would be "all dancing and no acting." Unbelievably, Reed still shares credit for the script and scenario:

Film still

(Via Wonders in the Dark.)



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.'


Muses with Milligan

In 1963, The Goon Show's Spike Milligan co-starred with folk guitarist Steve Benbow in a London stage show at the old Lyric Theatre. Aptly titled Spike Milligan Meets Steve Benbow, this pairing led to the development of a BBC2 television program made up of "irreverently assorted coruscations of jazz and poetry," Muses with Milligan, which ran from December 1964 through October 1965.

Muses with Milligan was an "attempt to work poetry into the normal currency of entertainment," featuring musical acts alternating with Milligan meeting the leading English and Irish poets of the day. John Betjeman was a frequent guest; Adrian Mitchell and Robert Graves made appearances. And here, in an issue of Socialist Commentary from 1967, is this sentence: "Henry Reed reciting his Naming of Parts is a treasured memory from the very mixed Muses with Milligan series."

I don't suppose you'd mind dropping me a copy of that show, Auntie Beeb?

Album cover

A collection of Milligan's witty, nonsense poetry from the show (generally described as Edward Lear-ish), was released in 1965 on a Decca LP (pictured).

«  BBC Television  2  »


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.


O Ken Russell, My Ken Russell

One of my favorite, obscure facts about Henry Reed is that he once worked with (or was supposed to work with) Ken Russell, the director.

Ken Russell, of Tommy fame. Ken Russell, director of Altered States. Billion Dollar Brain (with Michael Caine as Harry Palmer), and Bram Stoker's Lair of the White Worm. The Ken Russell.

In his early days, Russell made short films and documentaries for British television. He made several experimental films with the BBC's Omnibus series — films which many consider to be of questionable taste, but which foreshadow some of the truly great movies mentioned above.

This is where Reed comes into the picture. The award-winning playwright took at least one course with the BBC on writing for television (Reed is in the front row, second from the right) in 1952. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, the days of radio drama and comedy were drawing to a close. The Third Programme, for which Reed wrote so many memorable plays, became Radio 3 in 1970.

For some reason, Omnibus decided to pair the Sitwellian Reed with king-of-kitsch Russell for a television project on the composer Richard Strauss: Dance of the Seven Veils (1970). The director's final vision, however, couldn't have sat well with Reed:
“The film depicts Strauss in a variety of grotesquely caricatured situations: attacked by nuns after adopting Nietzsche's philosophy, he fights duels with jealous husbands, literally batters his critics into submission with his music and glorifies the women in his life and fantasies.” —screenonline.org.uk
Apparently, the television audience was upset by the appearance of Hitler (among other things), and the complete film was only broadcast once. Later, when Richard Strauss' family withdrew permission for Russell to use the composer's music, Johann Strauss waltzes were substituted! (Which begs another question: which Johann Strauss?)

Reed, however, still receives script and scenario credits on the film (for that matter, so does Richard Strauss). The draft of Reed's untitled teleplay remains in a notebook, collected among his personal papers. It would be his only venture into the realm of television.



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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