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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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«  Posts from 21 November 2006  »

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

16.12.2017


This week's mystery quote comes from a 1953 article by Ronald Bottrall, "The Teaching of English Poetry to Students whose Native Language is not English" (ELT Journal 8, no. 2 [Winter 1953-1954]: 39-44):

What, in fact, this kind of thing leads to is a Variorum edition of the poets; we have one of Hopkins already. The foreign student is particularly liable to be misled by this piling of Pelion on Ossa—at the worst he reads Gardner (W. H.) on Hopkins or Gardner (H.) on Eliot, and never gets near the poetry at all. To adopt a phrase of Henry Reed's, he is always reading the top layers of a palimpsest (emphasis mine).

Unfortunately, I don't have easy access to the full text of the journal, but by doing some backwards-and-forwards searching I was able to withdraw this sizable chunk of the surrounding text. Not that the context makes it any easier to deduce the source of this particular paraphrase of Reed. I had to look up a whole bunch of stuff:
  • Variorium: A variorium edition contains criticism and notes by various scholars (or is a collection of the various versions of a text).
  • Piling Pelion on Ossa: To "pile Pelion on Ossa" is an attempt to perform a tremendous but ultimately fruitless task, based on the Greek legend of the giants Otus and Ephialtes.
  • Gardner (W. H.) on Hopkins, and Gardner (H.) on Eliot (or possibly, on Eliot).
  • Palimpsest: a palimpsest is a manuscript which has been re-used to inscribe new text over the old.
To my credit, I at least already knew what a palimpsest was, probably from the re-discovery of Archimedes treatises in a medieval manuscript.

The 'palimpsest' line's provenance currently escapes me. Reed may have compared reading a particular author to only seeing 'the top lines of a palimpsest' in The Novel Since 1939 (British Council, 1946), or it may be a line he used in one his "Italian" radio plays, Return to Naples (1950), or The Great Desire I Had (1952). I guess the article is late enough for A Very Great Man Indeed (1953) to be fresh in the author's memory, but I don't recall the line being from there, either.

«  Quotations  »

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Notation for "Layers of a Palimpsest":
Allowed: <a> <em> <strong>
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.'


An unconfirmed sighting appears in the archives of a Midwestern university: a letter from a 'Henry Reed' to Father Peter Milward, S.J., in the Small Manuscript Collection of the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota: 'Reed, Henry, one ALS to Fr. Peter Milward, 1975.'

I was quick to dismiss this as coincidence, until discovering that Father Milward is a renowned Shakespeare scholar. From "Fifty Years of Milward," in the Spring, 2002 Shakespeare Newsletter:

Milward, originally from England, has spent a half century teaching at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan. He is the founder or co-founder of numerous societies and organizations in Japan, most notably the Renaissance Institute, founded in 1971 to promote the scholarly vision of continuity between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, in the spirit of C. S. Lewis. He is the author of over 300 books, which range from scholarship to poetry to educational guides for Japanese students.

Milward's ["Fifty Years of Shakespeare, 1952-2002"] lecture at Boston College marked the establishment of the Peter Milward Special Collection (links mine) at Burns Library, which now has a more or less complete collection of Milward's Shakespeareana, and a generous selection of his other works. Boston College's scholarly journal, Religion and the Arts, is planning a sizable volume of essays on Shakespeare and the Reformation. Milward was therefore invited as a major figure in establishing Shakespeare's Reformation contexts, especially through his landmark book, Shakespeare's Religious Background, which argued for both Catholic and Anglican contexts.

Milward, it turns out, was one of the first to argue that Shakespeare was a practicing Catholic. He has also written extensively on Gerard Manly Hopkins (he is the honorary president of the Tokyo branch of the Hopkins Society of Japan), and T.S. Eliot.

While still unlikely, it seems entirely plausible that Reed may have written Father Milward to congratulate him on some publication on Shakespeare, or to argue some minuscule point of Eliot scholarship.


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Notation for "Milward and Upward":
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What is Henry Reed's first name?

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.



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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