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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 23 February 2008  »

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

11.12.2017


The Media Archive for Central England, MACE, is the regional film and video archive for the East and West Midlands, based at the University of Leicester. A quick browse of their collection turns up an interesting documentary from 1983, "As I Was Walking Down Bristol Street." Directed by Richie Stewart for Central Television and presented by Professor David Lodge, this short film includes an interview with Henry Reed's friend from the University of Birmingham, Walter Allen:
Description: We see b/w stills of Birmingham Snow Hill railway station and then David Lodge standing on the platform of the now derelict station (Snow Hill to Paddington was the main route to London prior to the electrification of the New Street to Euston route in 1966). We also see b/w archive of the interior of Snow Hill station (ATV news). Throughout the programme there are several stills showing Birmingham circa 1930s and Birmingham University. Lodge is a writer and lecturer at Birmingham University presents the film which examines the Birmingham literary scene of the 1930s. A group of writers, many with connections to the university, worked away from the literary world of London. The so called Birmingham Group are discussed and illustrated with b/w stills: Walter Allen (1911 - 1995); John Hampson (1901 - 1955); Leslie Halward (1905 - 1976), Walter Brierley (1900 - 1967); and Peter Chamberlain (? - ?). Also referred to is the poet W. H. Auden (1907 - 1973); the poet and lecturer Louis MacNeice (1907 - 1963) as well as the lecturers E. R. Dodd and Philip Sergeant Florence. We see the exterior of Birmingham Central Library which is the former site of the Faculty of Arts of Birmingham University. Lodge interviews Walter Allen who reminisces about the Birmingham literary scene of the 1930s and R. D. Smith (Reggie Smith - a former BBC radio producer who died in 1985) who was a contemporary of the Birmingham Group. We see Angelsey Street and Wills Street in the Lozells area of Birmingham where both Allen and Smith were born. A reader (Michael Cadman) recites poetry written by MacNeice; a section of a Halward novel; and a poem written by Auden beginning with the lines "As I walked out one evening walking down Bristol Street" which supplies this film with a title. We also see the exterior and interior of Highfields, a house at Selly Park owned by Philip Sergeant Florence where MacNeice lodged.
It's difficult to tell from the wording in the film's description, but it looks like not only does Lodge interview Walter Allen, but also R.D. "Reggie" Smith. Is that how you read it? I'm hardly shocked by the lack of mention of Reed, but I'd be surprised if his name doesn't come up somewhere in the film as being a contemporary of Allen's and Smith's, on the fringes of the Birmingham Group. It would be just like Reed to end up on the cutting room floor, though.

MACE provides video clips of many of the films in its collections (but unfortunately, not for "Bristol Street.") For instance, here are the Willson family's home movies, taken in Handsworth, Birmingham, between 1939 and 1941.


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Notation for "As I Was Walking Down Bristol Street":
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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.'


I have surely spent too much time in the library today. But it has been time well spent. In preparation for traveling to the libraries at Duke University next month, I have been attempting to make a list of everything I need to complete my collection of Reed's writings, mostly book reviews and poems published in The Listener and New Statesman in the '30s and '40s. I've started with last year's Most Wanted poster, crossing off anything I've since managed to obtain. Progress has been slow, apparently.

Sitting here in the icy-cold undergraduate library, however, I noticed there were at least two items on my list within cat-swinging distance. One was a 1948 book review of The New British Poets, which only mentions Reed lumped along with Patrick Evans, G.S. Fraser, Wrey Gardiner, Sean Jennett, Vernon Watkins, and Laurie Lee. (Also, I may be the only person in town who actually bothers to pay for their microfilm photocopies, judging by the poor, flustered students working the Circulation Desk.)

The second, however, was a review of Elizabeth Bowen's A Time in Rome (1960), critiqued by the consummate Italophile himself, Henry Reed.

From Gardens of Rome

The photograph above is from Gardens of Rome, by Gabriel Faure (1960). Here's a more recent shot (Flickr) from (almost) the same perspective. The "Pinacoteca" is the Vatican art museum.

The review appears in The Listener from January 12, 1961, and is entitled "Rome: 'Time's Central City'" (.pdf). Reed seems to have thoroughly enjoyed it. He may have been slightly biased owing to his friendship with Bowen, but when it came to Italy, I don't believe Reed would have pulled any punches. When have you ever seen such dexterity with a semi-colon?

[A Time in Rome] is the exact antithesis of most travel books. It is magnificently unillustrated, for one thing; for another, its author is explicitly anxious not to be of help to any other visitor. It is essentially a book to be read away from Rome, not in it. It has further negative virtues; there is nothing about the unremitting winsomeness of the natives; there are none of those maudlin conversation-pieces with which even the sincerest are wont to bedizen their reminiscences; and none of the authoritative inclusiveness of the dug-in expatriate ('Gino smiled, as no one outside Florence knows how to smile: and all Florentines of course have perfect teeth'). Miss Bowen sees selectively, and with adequate passion; she is not an indiscriminate watcher; she is not a camera (nor, in point of fact, was Mr. Isherwood). If she tells you anything about Rome, she gives you a recognizable part of herself with it...[.]

'Gradually,' Reed says later, 'one begins to see that this book, like all Miss Bowen's work, is about a form of love.' At no point does he take to task any of Bowen's ideas or findings about Rome. Indeed, her Rome, he says, 'is perfectly created, and separate now from the city itself.'

«  Reviews Bowen  »

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Notation for "Elizabeth Bowen in Rome":
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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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