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
Read "Naming of Parts
The Heat of the Day: In wartime London, a woman finds herself caught between two men.
Cold Comfort Farm: Sensible Flora Poste moves in with her eccentric country relatives.
The Dog Stars: A man, his dog, and an airplane survive an apocalyptic flu.
Posts from January 2006
-time! The nominations for the 78th Academy Awards
are due to be announced this Tuesday, January 30th, at 8:30 am, EST. And thus will begin my interminable, month-long wait for the awards show, and requisite four hours of red carpet pre-game.
While we're on the subject of nominations, there are several awards and honors which Henry Reed merits and deserves for his contributions to poetry and broadcasting:
Icons of England
. A collection of cultural national treasures. Individuals don't qualify, but specific works like The Diary of Samuel Pepys
and Oliver Twist
can be voted on. Surely "Naming of Parts" deserves a nod?
The Radio Hall of Fame
. Includes renowned broadcasting greats like Douglas Adams
and "The Goon Show
." Reed should be nominated for his legacy of work with the BBC's Third Programme: Moby Dick
, and the award-winning Italian dramas; his intelligent talks on literature and music; and the famously-funny Hilda Tablet plays.
. This December will mark the 20th anniversary of Henry Reed's death. Reaching this milestone, Reed will at last qualify for one of English Heritage's
famed memorial tablets. If they can find a place to hang it....
1508. Birmingham Post, Obituary for Henry Reed. 10 December 1986.
Reed's obituary in the Birmingham Post.
And the winner is... David Jones
, ladies and gentlemen!
It was two years ago this month that I first wrote the code which enabled me to display the Reed bibliography on the web. The code is a heinous mish-mosh of ifelse loops, created to display records in some semblance of order by author, title and date. As it has grown, the database has become less and less useful, at least to those unschooled in the esoteric skill of Ctrl>F or Edit>Find in This Page.
Tonight, I am celebrating the input of the 1,000th record into the bibliography. Entries from the bibliography, you may have observed, are framed in gray boxes between posts in this blog. If you watch closely, you'll be able to see them roll over from nine hundred ninety-nine to one thousand, just like watching an odometer. I'm celebrating this achievement with a lovely red wine from the vineyards of Spain, and after two glasses I am absolutely in no shape for data entry.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that, while this is the 1,000th entry, it is not
the 1,000th record. I have deleted about fifty-odd duplications or books which eventually turned out to not actually mention Reed. So it's really the 947th record.)
This evening, I went to a lecture on ancient libraries, given by Professor George W. Houston
. The lecture room was standing-room only: apparently, the Roman Civilizations professor was offering extra credit for attending. So, squashed between row upon row of sophomores, I sat and listened about Herculaneum's Villa of the Papyri, Oxyrhynchus' town dump, and the library in the Temple of Trajan.
Professor Houston's presentation was billed as "A User's Guide" to libraries in the Roman world. He has been attempting to discover how private and public libraries functioned in regard to their users in the ancient world, through scant evidence left in fragments of papyrus scrolls and codices. On the handout provided, Houston provided a translation of an inscription found in the Agora of Athens, pertaining to the Library of Pantainos
No book shall be taken out, for we have sworn an oath. Open from the first hour to the sixth.
Those, the Professor stressed, are the only official library regulations surviving from the ancient world.
After the lecture, I actually popped over to the library, since they had emailed me earlier that the book I had requested from offsite storage was ready and waiting. The book was Epoch and Artist: Selected Writings by David Jones
(Grisewood, ed., 1959). It seems all the books I need are in offsite storage, these days. I opened it with no expectation of finding anything related to Reed, and after glancing at the title page and copyright, turned to the index. There it was: an entry for "Reed, Henry, 278-79." The indicated pages turned out to be a reprint of a letter to the editor Jones wrote to The Listener
in 1953, in response to Reed's essay, "If and Perhaps and But."
"If and Perhaps and But" is a review of T.S. Eliot's critical prose in which Reed argues that, sometime between the early 1920s and 1950s, "something happened whereby it is now possible for the poet to implement a 'formal artistic discipline derived from the outside
'" (Jones quoting Reed). Mr. Jones goes on for three paragraphs requesting an elaboration because, apparently, he cannot for the life of him figure out what "something" Reed is talking about.
Neither can I, for that matter, as I have yet to track down a copy of that particular Listener
. Regardless, David Jones has the distinction of being the 1,000th record entered into the bibliography. And the 1,001st, too, since thoroughness dictates that I must cite the original letter as well as the reprint! Thank you, Mr. Jones!
1507. Daily Telegraph, Obituary for Henry Reed. 10 December 1986.
Reed's obituary in the Telegraph.
piling, vbl. n.2
[f. PILE v.2
2. attrib. and Comb., as piling furnace, swivel.
1853 Kane Grinnell Exp. xxii. (1856) 176 The piling action of storms. 1861 Fairbairn Iron 121 The pieces [of scrap iron]..being piled or faggotted into convenient sized masses..are placed in a reheating or piling furnace. 1904 Westm. Gaz. 9 Dec. 7/2 A cut-off..—with a piling swivel subsequently asked for—is fitted to all naval rifles.
1506. MacGregor-Hastie, Roy. "The Poet in His Workshop: No 4—The Great Unclassified." Arena 48 (March 1958): 10-13 [12-13].
MacGregor-Hastie shows great respect for Reed in this series on the state of poetry (but little regard for the poets of the 'Thirties).
I am anxiously awaiting the start of Part 1 of Masterpiece Theatre's Bleak House
, which premieres tonight at 9:00 PM EST on PBS. I'm not a huge fan, having read A Tale of Two Cities
in high school and summarily dismissed Dickens as having used too many words to describe too many characters. Indeed, the "Who's Who" page for the series
has no fewer than 42 profiles.
, however, has the advantage of featuring spontaneous human combustion
, and this version has the added draw of Gillian Anderson
in the role of Lady Dedlock ("Scully!"
While I watch the case of Jarndyce v Jarndyce
unfold, I will be happily stuffing sheets of paper into meticulously labelled manila envelopes.
As I reported
back in October, I have been seeking a means to upgrade and simplify filing of items from the bibliography. The bulk of my collection are photocopies and printouts: hundreds and hundreds of critical articles from books and journals, newspaper columns from microfilm, .pdf documents. I also have copies of poems, criticism, and book reviews written by Reed himself. My file boxes are full-to-brimming, and reams of unfiled (and uncatalogued) material have been piling up into treacherous, teetering mounds on my desk. Since my desk is a particularly valuable piece of real estate currently located in the kitchen, this is both unsightly and inefficient.
Excited by the discovery of the Noguchi filing system, I decided to invest in an open shelf filing system. To this end, I have:
- Ordered storage cubes, which can be stacked into a bookcase. Should arrive in two weeks.
- Purchased several boxes of C4 (9x12") manila envelopes, and a stock of new, fine-tipped black markers and pens.
- Begun filing items into envelopes, working my way down from the tops of the most obtrusive piles, like an archeologist.
Already, I'm anticipating problems. I decided that the Noguchi-style of cropping the tops off envelopes was going to be too time-consuming and wasteful, and I looked for clasp-free envelopes without success. The metal clasp on each envelope increases the overall thickness, and I can see them reducing the linear storage capacity of a shelf by inches. The envelope flap also has a gummed edge which could possibly damage the document: I'm folding these inside, behind the paper. I also fear I will have to resort to some sort of color-coding system, despite the unholy hatred I feel for those little sticky, multicolored, placemarking tabs. (It's a library clerk thing.) I'll shut up, now. It's starting.
Ow! She's a Bleak House
She's mighty, mighty, just lettin' it all hang out
Ow! She's a Bleak House
I like Dickens stacked, that's a fact, ain't holdin' nothin' back
Ow! She's a Bleak House
Well-built together, everybody knows, this is how the story goes....
1505. Orwell, George. "Young Writers." Review of New Writing and Daylight (Summer 1943), edited by John Lehmann. Spectator (30 July 1943): 110.
Orwell says of "The End of an Impulse," Reed's criticism of the Auden-Spender school of poetry, 'Henry Reed's essay contains some valuable remarks on the dangers of group literature.'
Photograph of Henry Reed, Radio Times
no. 1876 (23 October 1959): 6.
1504. Ludwig, Jennifer. "Lessons of the War: Henry Reed." In vol. 2, Literature of War: Experiences, edited by Thomas Riggs. Detroit, MI: St. James Press, 2012. 359-361.
A relatively lengthy assessment of Reed's influences, position, and the impact resulting from his famous sequence of poems, Lessons of the War.
Aphorism: Everyone at Library of Congress is working on something more interesting than you. Everywhere I went the elevators, the halls, Photoduplication Services
people were talking about their research, and each topic was infinitely more exciting and erudite than my little project.
In the elevator, there was a gentleman who casually mentioned his dissertation was on race relations in an exotic country during some dimly-remembered century. At the photoduplication desk, it was a lady who was ordering full-size copies of pages of the London Times
, to be shipped to a friend in New England. And in the Adams reading room, an affable fellow across the table was impatiently awaiting a journal containing an article concerning cellular automata
(Wolfram's A New Kind of Science
was recommended as a starting point).
Myself? I had travelled several hours by car and by train to make copies of old t.v. guides.
Well, okay. Not actual T.V. Guides
. I was looking for issues of the BBC's Radio Times
which immediately preceded broadcasts of Henry Reed's radio plays. I had seen few, scattered mentions of articles written by or about Reed, notably in Roger Savage's unrivalled chapter in British Radio Drama
(Drakakis, ed., 1981); The Diversity Website's "Henry Reed radio drama"
page; and poking around the inventories of dealers in rare back issues
of U.K. magazines.
The Library of Congress is a venerable institution. Venerable and inveterate. Waved through metal detectors by uniformed security (please place your cellphone on the X-ray machine's conveyor, not in the plastic bin with your keys), you must shed your coat and bag at the cloakroom, and proceed to the reading rooms without the benefit of the protective layers to which you are accustomed, a naked scholar. You fill out your slips requesting your obscure volumes, and the desk attendant roughly crams them (along with everyone else's) into a small brass cylinder about the size of can of tomato paste. The cylinder disappears into a pneumatic tube and is whoooshed
away into the bowels of a national library that occupies three city blocks. Now you have about an hour to study and memorize the intricately carved and muraled ceilings (you notice a predominant theme on owls), near the end of which you will suddenly realize that you failed to fill out a slip for the single volume on which your day's research will hinge. Then you will hear a distant rumble, a shudder or deep vibration like the building is directly under the landing path of an international airport and an ancient dumbwaiter bearing the immovable weight of your books rises, rises behind the counter, and in a moment, the attendant bears them lovingly to your desk. He makes two trips. Some of the resulting .pdfs:
"Captain Ahab and the Great White Whale."
"The Prisoner in the Palazzo."
"Did Shakespeare Go To Italy?"
(The Great Desire I Had
"Homage to Dame Hilda — Or Swann's Way."
I learned a few things: 1) Reader Identification cards expire every two years. 2) At the cloakrooms, you can request a clear, see-through, plastic bag to tote around your notes and pencils and photocopies without being a security risk. They won't let you in the reading rooms with an accordian file or manila envelope. 3) If you are unsure about the library's run of holdings for a certain periodical, put in requests for your earliest and most recent cites first. See what comes back. 4) The Folger Shakespeare Library
is right next door to the Adams building. You can put in your book requests and while away the hour's wait worshipping before a First Folio
. 5) Smoking is not allowed anywhere within 50 feet of federal buildings. An ashtray is located approximately 51 feet from the entrance to federal buildings. 6) There is nothing more mysterious and heartbreaking than having your original request slip returned with an X in the dreaded "Not on Shelf" box. Not on shelf? Why? Was it something I
did? Something I said? Where is it? It could be many places, but it was decidedly not on the shelf where it resides when it is. On the shelf. And 7) The Washington Monument
is huge. It's 554 feet tall. Standing just outside the main entrance to the Madison building, in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, the obelisk looms on the horizon, seemingly just a short stroll away. It's not. It's a mile and a half, with a backpack full of books and index cards and $20.00 worth of photocopies, warm as newly baked bread.
(Read Part I
1503. King, Francis. Yesterday Came Suddenly: An Autobiography. London: Constable, 1993. 79-80.
Mentions Henry Reed and Angus Wilson making fun of the Bletchley Park Writers' Circle.
Translator and composer David W. Solomons
brings to my attention a parody of "Naming of Parts" by E.O. Parrott: "Mending of Fuses
." David has set the poem to music.
Tonight we shall have the mending of fuses.
Yesterday we had cleaning of wastepipes
And tomorrow morning we shall have horrors
we dare not imagine
But tonight we have mending of fuses.
Parrott is the editor of several humorous collections, including Imitations of Immortality: A Book of Literary Parodies
, The Penguin Book of Limericks
, and The Dogsbody Papers: Or 1066 and All This
David W. Solomons' latest CD is a collaboration with Lorin Nelson called Wildlife in the Nursery
1502. Reed, Henry. Poetry Reading. The Poet Speaks. British Council recording, no. 1636. 12 March 1970. Co-sponsored by the British Council and the Woodberry Poetry Room in the Lamont Library of Harvard University. TAPE ARCHIVE PR6035.E32 A6 1970x, Woodberry Poetry Room, Houghton Library, Harvard University.
Henry Reed reads a selection of his poems for the British Council series, The Poet Speaks.
My most recent adventure begins with, of all things, an online newsletter. Each Thursday, the Librarians' Internet Index
, a librarian-selected and -organized catalog of the Web, publishes a list of websites new to their index: "New This Week
." In last week's news
, there is an entry for a 1999 exhibition by the University of Delaware's Special Collections: The Frank W. Tober Collection on Literary Forgery
Tober was a chemist by profession, but his interests extended to the study of history, stamp and coin collecting, and a special fascination with the process, results, and detection of literary forgery.
The collection at the University of Delaware Library includes items relating to some of the greatest forgeries of the literary world, including the Ossian poet hoax
, the fake Rowley poems
, pamphlets forged by Wise and Buxton
, and the bogus "Butterfly" books
, among others.
A title in the section on "General Material on Forgery
" caught my attention: The Scholar Adventurers
, by Richard D. Altick
(New York: Macmillan, 1950). The book is described as an examination of 'literature's most famous research puzzles,' which immediately piqued my curiousity. I tapped the title into our university's catalog and viola!
I had a copy.
The catalog also revealed that the book is the first part of a trilogy which also contains Selective Bibliography for the Study of English and American Literature
, and The Art of Literary Research
I've read the first couple of chapters of the Adventurers
, and I can easily say it is the most entertaining book about the pursuit of rare books and personal letters, forgers, and librarying I have read since Perez-Reverte's The Club Dumas
, filled with thrilling anecdotes of discovery which take place in musty attics and library file drawers. But it was a few snippets from The Art of Literary Research
which inspired my scholarly adventure. Before I even checked it out from the library, I turned to the chapter titled "Making Notes," and found all my labors instantly affirmed and validated:
For every book and article you consult, make out a bibliographical (three-by-five) slip. If your project is a fairly modest one, to be finished in one or two months' time, before your memory starts to fail, this point is not so important; in such a case, modify the rule to read 'for every book and article in which you find information.' But if you are working on a dissertation or book, it is extremely useful to keep a record of every source you examine, whether or not you take anything from it. A few months later, running across a reference to a certain article that sounds as if it might be valuable, you may forget whether or not you looked at it. Quick recourse to your file of bibliographical slips may save you, at the very least, the labor of hunting it down again in the library and, often, the trouble of re-reading it (p. 195-96).
In essence, that is exactly how I decided to proceed, more than a year ago, with my own project. Here, at last, is a research barometer by which I can measure the progress of the bibliography, and acquire new tricks of the trade. For example, Altick suggests using 3x5 slips of high-quality bond paper instead of index cards, since they take up less room. And he recommends typing each entry, instead of writing them by hand, for clarity. Oh, to live in a world where we each still have a manual Underwood typewriter on our desk. At least I have one benefit which Altick did not: an SQL database.
This long, holiday weekend, Altick's authority and enthusiasm inspired me to undertake an adventure that I had originally planned for over the Winter Break, but which, out of laziness and fear, I had ultimately eschewed in favor of cable television and take-away dinners. On Friday, I took the opportunity to revisit
Library of Congress, and re-baptize myself in the purifying white light of a photocopier.
(To be continued
1501. Reed, Henry. Interview with Peter Orr. The Poet Speaks. British Council recording, no. 1638. 11 June 1970. Co-sponsored by the British Council and the Woodberry Poetry Room in the Lamont Library of Harvard University. TAPE ARCHIVE PR6035.E32 Z5 1970x, Woodberry Poetry Room, Houghton Library, Harvard University.
Henry Reed speaks with Peter Orr of the British Council, as part of the series The Poet Speaks.
(1914-1986). Born: Birmingham, England, 22 February 1914; died: London, 8
Education: MA, University of Birmingham, 1936. Served: RAOC
, 1941-42; Foreign Office, Bletchley Park, 1942-1945.
Freelance writer: BBC Features Department, 1945-1980.
A Map of Verona: Poems
The Novel Since 1939
Moby Dick: A Play for Radio from Herman Melville's Novel
Lessons of the War
Hilda Tablet and Others: Four Pieces for Radio
The Streets of Pompeii and Other Plays for Radio
The Auction Sale
Posts of note: