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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.

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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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«  Posts from 13 December 2011  »

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

17.12.2017


Ages ago, back in 2007, I had a post about the critic and Eliot scholar, Dame Helen Gardner. Henry Reed had been a student of Gardner's at the University of Birmingham in the 1930s, and had introduced her to Eliot's poetry when he sent her a copy of "East Coker" in 1940. Gardner had credited Henry Reed in an article she wrote for the Summer, 1942 New Writing & Daylight on "The Recent Poetry of T.S. Eliot," saying that Reed had pointed out to her that some of the sea imagery in Eliot's "The Dry Salvages" may have come from the works of Herman Melville, and that 'the voice of Mr. Eliot's seabell is certainly like the sound of the Liverpool bell-buoy which Redburn heard as he sailed in to the Mersey.'

This last is, of course, entirely incorrect.

How do we know it's not true? Because Eliot tells us so. In her book, The Composition of Four Quartets (Oxford University Press, 1978), Gardner states:

After the publication of Little Gidding I wrote to Eliot, wishing to let him know how much these poems had meant to me, and told him that Mr. Lehmann had passed on his remarks. He replied saying my article had given him 'great pleasure' and went on
Only two very small points occur to me. The first is that I have no such connection as you suggest with the house at Burnt Norton. It would not be worth while mentioning this except that it seemed to me to make a difference to the feeling that it should be merely a deserted house and garden wandered into without knowing anything whatsoever about the history of the house or who had lived in it. ... The other point is that I have never read or even heard of the book by Herman Melville.24 American critics and professors have been so excited about Melville in the last ten years or so that they naturally take for granted that everybody has read all of his books, but I imagine that bell buoys sound very much the same the world over.
24 I had suggested, with acknowledgement to Henry Reed, that a passage from Redburn lay behind the close of Part I of The Dry Salvages, Eliot mistakenly assumed Henry Reed was an American Professor of that name.
[p. 37]

Silly Helen, foolhardy Henry. What did Eliot expatriate for, if not to avoid reading American literature? "Little Gidding" was published in December 1942, so Eliot's reply to Gardner must be circa 1943. The implied professor is Henry Reed (1808-54), Wordsworth's American editor.

Still, there is a tiny bit of redemption from Gardner's footnotes in The Composition of Four Quartets. Just a few pages further, attempting to attribute the sources for "Burnt Norton," she relays the following from Eliot:

In a letter to John Hayward, 5 August 1941, quoted in the heading to this chapter, Eliot mentioned three other sources: his own poem 'New Hampshire'; Kipling's story 'They', which he only recognized as having contributed to his poem when, five years later, he was re-reading Kipling for his anthology A Choice of Kipling's Verse; and a 'quotation from E.B. Browning'. Many years ago I suggested that 'the image of laughing hidden children may have been caught from Rudyard Kipling's story "They", since the children in that story are both "what might have been and what has been", appearing to those who have lost their children in the house of a blind woman who has never borne a child'.28

28 The Art of T.S. Eliot (1949), 160. The suggestion was made to me by Henry Reed.
[p. 39]

So we shall comfort ourselves with one Reed footnote to Eliot scholarship, instead of two.

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What is Henry Reed's first name?

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.'



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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