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."

Henry Reed Henry Reed
Henry Reed Henry Reed
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.




Weblogs, etc.

Posts from February 2006

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog


Uncracked Enigma

61 years after Henry Reed was released from military service as a translator at Bletchley Park, the codebreaking continues.

The M4 Project is attempting to break undeciphered Enigma messages from World War II, using open-source, distributed computing. Like the SETI@home project, M4 uses software installed on participants' computers to cycle through seemingly infinite (2x10145) plaintext translations of the enciphered message. Using a "hill-climbing" algorithm to continually narrow the number of possible correct solutions, they have already succeeded in breaking their first message:
Radio signal 1851/19/252: F T 1132/19 contents: Forced to submerge during attack. Depth charges. Last enemy position 0830h AJ 9863, (course]) 220 degrees, (speed) 8 knots. (I am) following (the enemy). (Barometer) falls 14 mb, (wind) nor-nor-east, (force) 4, visibility 10 (nautical miles).
The three unbroken messages were originally presented as a challenge by Ralph Erskin, in a 1995 letter to the editor of the journal Cryptologia. The signals were intercepts from the North Atlantic in 1942, and are presumed to have been enciphered using Germany's M4 (4 rotor) Naval Enigma.

You can join the fight to defeat the Axis powers by downloading the M4 Project's Enigma Suite.

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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.

1,000,000 Articles

I hadn't played with Google Scholar for awhile, and it seems to me, since the last time I poked around, there are a whole lot more JSTOR articles that turn up now. Maybe it's just English journals which were added: stuff like The Review of English Studies, and American Literature.

A quick check brings up 936,000 articles with "jstor.org" in the link URL, but there are 1,050,000 with just "jstor." (Is my syntax screwy?)

Am I wrong, or is this a (relatively) recent development? When did all that juicy JSTOR goodness get added, and where was I when it was announced?

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1529. Sackville-West, Vita. "Seething Brain." Observer (London), 5 May 1946, 3.
Sackville-West speaks admirably of Reed's poetry, and was personally 'taken with the poem called "Lives," which seemed to express so admirably Mr. Reed's sense of the elusiveness as well as the continuity of life.'

Audio Follow-Up

As an early-morning follow-up to yesterday evening's post, I should point out the British Library's Archival Sound Recordings Project, which, as a pilot program, has set a goal of digitizing 4,000 hours of audio recordings, and making them freely available to educational communities in the U.K.

The project is funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), which interviewed both the Head of the Sound Archive, and the Archival Recordings Project Manager back in 2005.

Sample audio from the Sound Recordings Project includes the poet Simon Armitage reading "Entrance," Tolstoy's Waltz in F, and the call of the Tawny Owl (all links to Real Audio files).

The full list of audio samples is on the project's "Listen" page.

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1528. Manning, Hugo. "Recent Verse." Books of the Day, Guardian (Manchester), 31 July 1946, 3.
Manning feels that 'Mr. Reed has worn thin much of his genuine talent in this direction by too much self-inflicted censorship.'

Gleanings from the Sound Archive

The British Library Sound Archive lists 47 titles under the author heading "Reed, Henry, 1914-1986." I suspect there are a few more skulking about, which were cataloged with different headings. Somewhere around the apartment I have a printout, intending one day to go over it record by record, and sort out their holdings.

A curious visitor emailed me this week (thanks, Nancy!), and happened to bring to my attention an entry in the Sound Archive catalog for a 1970 recording of "The Complete Lessons of the War." I'd never heard of such a version. There it is, however:
Item notes: A sequence of poems by Henry Reed. The fifth poem, Returning of Issue, has been largely rewritten since the programme was first broadcast in 1966. This new version has been re-recorded.

Recording notes: BBC recording broadcast Radio 3 December 28th 1970.
A quick search of the broadcast schedule in the London Times confirms a rebroadcast on that Thursday, at 10:00 p.m.

That's not even the most amazing thing. While I was poking around in the chaos of the Sound Archive (three entries for each item, Work, Product, and Recording?), I saw a title I didn't recognize: "On the Terrace." The item notes describe the recording as being from the BBC program "Poetry Now" on November 2, 1970, introduced by producer R.D. Smith.

There is no poem entitled "On the Terrace" in the Collected Poems and, while there are undoubtedly many unpublished poems in Reed's personal papers, the collection description at the University of Birmingham does not mention this particular poem. Was it a piece Reed was trying out, but, ever the perfectionist, eventually abandoned? Is it one of his many translations? Did he change the title?

1970 was late in Reed's poetic life, but a time in which he seemed to rise from his long silence, publishing several poems in The Listener, and at last releasing the complete Lessons of the War in print.

1527. Rosenthal, M.L. "Experience and Poetry." Herald Tribune Weekly Book Review (New York), 17 October 1948, 28.
Rosenthal says Reed shares with Laurie Lee 'that unhappy vice of young intellectuals—a certain blandness of which the ever-simple irony is a symptom.'


One of my private pleasures is reading other people's notes and marginalia in used and second-hand books (and, in some cases, library books), especially in books I'm familiar with: seeing which passages they chose to highlight, which words they underlined, questions they wrote to themselves to answer later.

Which is why Melville's Marginalia Online is so fascinating. A scholar is using digital technology to bring Melville's erased notations (.pdf) from his personal copy of Thomas Beale's 1839 The Natural History of the Sperm Whale back to light. From the February 17th Chronicle of Higher Education:

Imagine, at the end of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, that Captain Ahab and the crew of the Pequod kill the white whale instead of the other way around. That Ishmael is not alone in his escape. Steven Olsen-Smith, an associate professor of English at Boise State University, has reconstructed textual evidence that strongly suggests that Melville, whose 1851 novel stands as one of the great achievements of American literature and an enduring study of doomed monomania, entertained just such a scenario.

I was slightly disappointed to discover that the presentation is delivered as a mocked-up, generic image of Beale's book, with the notes themselves as digital recreations, a sort of marginal CGI.

It does make me wonder what Reed might have done with this new information, considering he chose to have Ishmael perish with the rest of the ship's crew for his 1947 BBC radio adaptation.

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1526. Blunden, Edmund. "Poets and Poetry." Bookman, n.s., 1, no. 4 (July 1946): 14-15.
Blunden says Reed's Lessons of the War poems 'have captured something of the time-spirit and ambiguity of the recent war in a style of wit and deep feeling united.'

Hey Diddle Diddle

Hey, diddle, diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.
A mysterious quote turned up in an article from the Irish Times, reporting on a 'light-hearted "examination" of nursery rhymes' from an RTE radio program (Browne, Harry. "Plenty of Questions But Too Few Answers," 22 February 2002, 55.)

The article quotes a "Sir Henry Reed," who summarizes "Hey Diddle Diddle" thusly: 'It commemorates the athletic lunacy to which the strange conspiracy of the cat and the fiddle incited the cow.'

Could this be our Henry? It certainly sounds like him. A search for the quoted phrase brings up a Yale Review of Books article on the futility of deconstructing children's verse. The quotation is dropped during a discussion of a popular book on the history of nursery rhymes, Mother Goose: From Nursery to Literature (Gloria Delamar, 1987). Is this the source of the mysterious "Sir Henry Reed" quote?

If it is, indeed, the Henry Reed, where does the titular "Sir" come from? Do you have this book in your library? Drop me a line at steef at solearabiantree dot net.

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1525. "Reed, Henry," Publishers Weekly, 152, no. 15 (11 October 1947), 1945.
On the publication of the American edition of Reed's A Map of Verona: 'Some of these poems by a young English writer are concerned with the war but most of them deal with figures from the legendary past or from literature.'

Turkish Delight

Henry Reed in TurkishMerhaba! I was startled today, browsing through some old book reviews, to discover that Henry Reed's Collected Poems has been translated into Turkish (Türkçe).

The title is Yıldızlı Şölen, translated by the poet and linguist Coşkun Yerli.

Yerli is a well-renowned translator in Turkey, having taken on the likes of Kobayasi Issa, Matsuo Bashō, Eavan Boland, Roger McGough, Sydney Wade, and James Lovett. He even tackled J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and Nine Stories.

Yerli has also published a collection of his own poetry, Yagmurun Direnisi ("Rain's Resistance"). Here's one of his poems in English, "In a Cloth-Bound Book."

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1524. Reed, Henry. Letters to Graham Greene, 1947-1948. Graham Greene Papers, 1807-1999. Boston College, John J. Burns Library, Archives and Manuscripts Department, MS.1995.003. Chestnut Hill, MA.
Letters from Reed to Graham Greene, including one from December, 1947 Reed included in an inscribed copy of A Map of Verona (1947).


At last, progress. Most of the copies and printouts which had been languishing, unindexed, on the desk and coffee table have been filed in the open-shelf system; they were mostly Third Programme broadcasting schedules from the Times and Radio Times. True Noguchi-style, of course, wouldn't work for a bibliography, as sorting by author, title, and date is necessary to find a specific document. But I'm quite satisfied with the way the system works, and especially with the aesthetics: the orange-yellow of the envelopes against the black shelves.

I dipped into the box containing Reed's essays and poems copied from periodicals, but progressed only as far as titles beginning with "D", before my initial burst of enthusiam wore down. Labeling and stuffing one hundred envelopes at a stretch seems to be about the limit of my endurance.

One of the chapters in Altick's The Scholar Adventurers is "The Destructive Elements": describing the losses of many great works of literature, collections of personal letters, and irreplacable manuscripts to "fire, vermin, damp, and neglect." The passages describing the destruction of Sir Robert Cotton's collection of Anglo-Saxon literature is terrifying, and makes me wish I had purchased some sort of fireproof shelving, lest my paltry collection meet the same fate:

In 1700 the Cottonian Library was deeded to the nation; and after it was decided that Cotton House was too damp and ruinous for the preservation of the manuscripts the collection was transferred to Ashburnham House, which, besides being dryer and more spacious, was thought to be "much more safe from fire." Two years passed; then, early in the morning of of October 23, 1731, the city of Westminster was aroused by the alarm of fire at Ashburnham House. The first men on the scene saw the flames burning brightly inside the room where Cotton's fourteen book presses stood. Among the crowd which gathered were trustees of the collection, who broke into the burning house, ran to the presses, and feverishly threw hundreds of volumes from the windows. Among these rescuers was Richard Bentley, the Cottonian librarian and the greatest classical scholar of his time, who is reported to have raced from the flaming house "in his dressing gown, a flowing wig on his head, and a huge volume under his arm." He had chosen for salvation by his own hands the precious Alexandrian manuscript of the New Testament. Meanwhile other citizens were laboring at the hand pumps brought by the primitive fire brigade.

A few hours later, the portion of Ashburnham House that contained the Cottonian collection lay gutted. Of the 958 manuscript volumes in the library, about a hundred, virtually all irreplacable, were utterly destoyed; and hundreds more which survived were dreadfully charred and water-soaked. Some of these were restored with as much skill as was then possible, but there remained sixty-one bundles of damaged leaves, the sorting and repairing of which was to be delayed until the middle of the next century. Among the volumes which had escaped with minor damage was the unique manuscript of Beowulf, only the edges of which had felt the flames.

You'd think moving a precious library into a building named "Ash-burn-ham" would've given someone ironic pause, but. Here are excellent some accounts of the Ashburnham House fire and the miraculous survival of the Beowulf manuscript.

1523. Reed, Henry. "Simenon's Saga." Review of Pedigree by Georges Simenon, translated by Robert Baldick. Sunday Telegraph (London), 12 August 1962, 7.
Reed calls Pedigree a work for the "very serious Simenon student only," and disagrees with the translator's choice to put the novel into the past tense.

Better Mousetraps

Early last fall, some months after going live with these pages, I was doing a bit of vanity-googling, to try and discern how I was progressing at enticing search engines to index the blog. In the course of those searches, I came across a paper entitled "Semantic Blogging and Bibliography Management" (Cayzer and Shabajee, 2003), which literally made me think about blogging in a whole different light.

The basic idea is that a weblog, with its structured, common elements like links, author and title, categories and tags, is an ideal medium for creating and sharing bibliographic information. (Demonstrator blog, normal and "record card" views).

I was simultaneously struck by two thoughts. One: that I had wasted a lot of time learning PHP and SQL, when all I needed was a LiveJournal account. And B: that in hammering together a backend, and filling up the bibliography, I had essentially created a blog. (Which, while comforting, more or less makes the blog somewhat superfluous.)

Then, along came Google Base which, I admit, I completely didn't get at the time. It was like staring at an atlatl, trying to deduce its purpose without the benefit of having seen some practiced Cro-Magnon chuck a lance at a mammoth. "You want me to put my data where?" Then I found The History Librarian's bibliography of Georgia labor history, and Chris Karr's collection of H.P. Lovecraft copyright research, and I totally got it. You don't use Google Base to create a bibliography. It is a bibliography. All you have to do is add to it.

Most recently in this same ilk (and via Librarian.net), there rises Casey Bisson's prototype library catalog, assembled out of WordPress' blogging platform and some nifty household appliances. (Holy Schnikes!) Jenny Levine has posted a nice summary of how the OPAC works at the ALA TechSource blog.

This sort of terrible vision — the ability to look at the same tools everyone else is using and invent new applications — is awfully humbling. I'm pounding rocks into crude wheels, and all I can think to do with them is squash pesky mice.

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1522. Reed, Henry. "Hardy's Secret Self-Portrait." Review of The Life of Thomas Hardy, by Florence Emily Hardy. Sunday Telegraph (London), 25 March 1962, 6.
Reed says this disguised autobiography is a "ramshackle work," but is still "packed with a miscellany of information not available elsewhere, and readers who care for Hardy will find it everywhere endearing, engaging, and full of his characteristic humour."

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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