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
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.
Cold Comfort Farm: Sensible Flora Poste moves in with her eccentric country relatives.
Posts from June 2008
Field trip, Saturday, June 28th, 2008:
Distance: 253.7 mi. (round trip)
Drive time: 4.25 hr.
Avg. speed: 57.5 mph
Gas: 8.5 gal. (@ $4.01/gal.=$36.09)
Avg. mpg: 29.85
Dr. Pepper: 20.0 fl. oz.
H2O: 1.0 litre
Chewing gum: 6 pcs.
Library time: 3.0 hr.
Avg. cph: 1.52
Photocopies: 169 (@ $0.08/pg.=$13.52)
1511. William Phillips, and Philip Rahv, eds. New Partisan Reader: 1945-1953 London: Andre Deutsch, 1953. 164-171.
Collects Reed's poem, "The Door and the Window," published in the Partisan Review in 1947.
Here's a taste of an article by Michael Millgate, famed Hardy biographer and Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto (Millgate, previously
). The article is titled "Sources," and it deals with the responsibility of biographers to obtain evidence for their subjects which is 'as direct, as specific, and as authentic as possible,' and the problems they face attempting to do so. The article is from the June/September 2006 issue of English Studies in Canada
Most literary biographers... are by the nature of things less likely to encounter their subjects in the flesh than to find themselves dealing with families, friends, executors, lawyers, agents, servants, and so forth, and such relationships can present difficulties of their own. My former colleague Richard Purdy, Thomas Hardy's distinguished and (let me assure you) always dignified bibliographer, kept a secret on-the-spot record of his important conversations with Hardy's widow in the years immediately following Hardy's death but was deeply embarrassed, so he once told me, by the need to excuse himself for the frequent washroom visits that gave him his only opportunities to jot down whatever had just been said. The English poet and playwright Henry Reed spent several years working on an eventually abandoned biography of Hardy and later drew upon that experience in an aciduously amusing radio play called A Very Great Man Indeed, dedicated to the proposition that the friends of the deceased, though ostensibly helpful, may prove in practice to possess not just defective or selective memories but their own personal agendas, ranging all the way from simple self-promotion to active revenge.
Researchers early in the field often have accessfor good or illto just such a roster of first-hand and even intimate witnesses, what might be called the usual suspects. As time passes, however, deaths occur, and as new researchers enter the field they typically resort to rounding up a series of second-tier players much less closely connected to the subject. Thomas Hardy's reputation, for one, has suffered a good deal from the publication of belated interviews with townsfolk whose memories yield up little more than ancient gossip and with former servants still incapable, forty and fifty years later, of forgiving a great man's small tips.
That one-sentence summary of A Very Great Man Indeed
is great: interviewees with 'their own personal agendas, ranging all the way from simple-self-promotion to active revenge.'
Thomas Hardy was fond of collecting newspaper stories, and according to Millgate he kept cuttings of some of his own interviews, but he wrote "Faked" or "Mostly faked" on many of them.
1510. Birmingham Post, "The Merchant of Venice," 5 March 1937.
Photograph of Henry Reed with members of the Birmingham University Dramatic Society's (BUDS) production of The Merchant of Venice. Shylock played by Ian Alexander.
Okay, let's see: if I get up early Saturday, I can get my laundry done by about eleven a.m., get home and put my clothes away, and then point the car west toward the nearest library with a subscription to the PN Review
PN Review 180
(vol. 34, no. 4 [Mar/Apr 2008]: p. 36-41) apparently contains Henry Reed's translations of Eugenio Montale's
"Mottetti," twenty poems (motets) originally published in Italy, in Montale's Le occasioni
, 1939). This is wonderful news! Here's the description from EBSCOHost's database:
The article provides information on Henry Reed's translations of poetry by Eugenio Montale. It was previously noted that Reed's completed but unpublished translations of Montale are lively even though Montale himself was an abundant source of pessimism. The manuscripts of Reed's translations of Montale's poems are housed in the Special Collections of the Main Library of the University of Birmingham in England, where Reed completed his undergraduate and postgraduate studies. The sequence of poems known as Mottetti, translated by Reed, is presented.
The last time Reed's translations of the Mottetti
came to my attention was in 2006, when I found a mention by Harry Thomas
in his collection of Montale translations (London: Penguin, 2002; New York: Handsel, 2005). And now they're in print!
The subsequent issue of PN Review
(May/Jun 2008) contains two letters to the editor in response to Reed's translations. If they turn out to have significant new information, I'll have to buy copies of both issues! Individual copies are available for purchase from Carcanet Press
1509. Reed, Henry, "'Tatty': The Year's New Word," Birmingham Post, 13 October 1937.
Discusses the history and usage of the word 'tatty'.
Please, keep in mind that this is a work in progress, extremely rough. I've been toying around with it since last fall, when I was trying to find the original location of Bowen's Court (#15, below). Allow me to present The Life and Times of Henry Reed
: A Google Map (Î²eta). Click this image to go the map page, and then you can follow the labeled locations, zoom in and out, and switch between road map and satellite views. And of course, remember, "Maps are of time, not place."
I used one of the Google Maps API Demos
to kludge the map into The Poetry of Henry Reed pages. It should be relatively browser-friendly, though I've really only test-driven it in Firefox. If you have problems, try looking at my original Henry Reed map
I've already received one comment which allowed me to amend my timeline of Reed's life, and I'm updating the map on almost a daily basis.
1508. Birmingham Post, Obituary for Henry Reed. 10 December 1986.
Reed's obituary in the Birmingham Post.
Dr. William Turner Levy, who died this past January, was an author, professor, and an ordained Episcopal priest (LA Times obituary
), who called among his friends First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the director Frank Capra, and T.S. Eliot. Levy chronicled his friendship with the poet in Affectionately, T.S. Eliot, The Story of a Friendship: 1947-1965
T.S. Eliot, Pencil and Chalk Drawing
by his sister-in-law Theresa G. Eliot, 1955.
A strange convergence took place on Sunday, April 27, 1958, when Eliot was returning from appearing at an exhibition of his first editions and personal papers at the University of Texas at Austin. He and his second wife, Valerie Fletcher, stopped in New York to pay Levy a visit. Eliot arrived wearing a ten-gallon hat, having been made an honorary sheriff (I'm not making this up). After attending church with Levy's parents, the group retired to Levy's study for a martini brunch. Levy proudly showed off some books and papers he had purchased:
I next showed Tom another new acquisition, two pages in Dylan Thomas's handwriting, from a notebook which he had used during his poetry readings. The pages contained the poem "Chard Witlow
] by Henry Reed, a facetious take-off on Tom's "Burnt Norton
." Tom gave it a close scrutiny, and remarked, "You know, I've been chairman of the British group that has been raising funds for Dylan Thomas's family. Caitlin, his wife, asked me toa very sad business." Thomas's death in New York had left his family almost penniless.
Tom removed his fountain pen from inside his breast pocket and wrote on the bottom of the second of the two pages. When he finished, he handed it to my parents, who read it and passed it to Valerie. When it reached my hands, Tom said, "You know, William, this is the only piece of paper in existence that has both Dylan's writing on it and mine."
I read what he had written: "Not bad. But I think I could write a better parody myself. T.S. Eliot, 27.iv.58."
Somewhere, out there in the world, in a drawer or filed away in some box, is a page from Dylan Thomas' notebooks, with a wry, handwritten note by T.S. Eliot. Not to mention the possibility of photographs of T.S. Eliot in a cowboy hat.
1507. Daily Telegraph, Obituary for Henry Reed. 10 December 1986.
Reed's obituary in the Telegraph.
This snippet from My Sister and Myself: The Diaries of J.R. Ackerley
(edited by Francis King, 1982) made me laugh:
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).
Henry Reed was an inveterate Italophile, who probably spent more time thinking about being in Italy than he actually spent there, visiting. Take for example his 1942 poem, "A Map of Verona
," in which he pores over a map of the city, yearning to return. Reed had studied Latin in grammar school , winning the Temperley Latin prize and a scholarship to the University of Birmingham. His Latin must have led him directly to the Italian poet, Leopardi
, whose life he would later dramatize in two radio plays: The Unblest
(1949), and The Monument
(1950). By the outbreak of World War II, Reed's Italian was fluent enough to earn him a post as a translator at Bletchley Park
Exactly how many times Reed visited Italy during his lifetime seems to need a bit more research. The two sources we have for this are Stallworthy's Introduction to the Collected Poems
, and James S. Begg's thesis, "The Poetic Character of Henry Reed."
Stallworthy implies that Reed's father (Henry, Sr.) financed his son's first excursion to Naples in 1936, after Reed graduated as the University of Birmingham's youngest MA, and entered the workforce: 'Like many other writers of the Thirties, he tried teachingat his old schooland, again like most of them, hated it and left to make his way as a freelance writer and critic. He began the research for a full-scale life of Thomas Hardy, and his father financed a first trip to Italy.' Beggs, however, states that Reed's first trip was in 1934, after his BA, and that the 1936 visit was his second, returning again in 1939.
Regardless of how many times Reed actually visited Italy, there is the question of how he got there. How, exactly, did an Englishman on holiday in the mid-1930s travel to Italy? It seems unlikely that he would have taken advantage of the new world of passenger air travel, though it is possible. Much more likely, however, is that he traveled by rail or boat, or both.
Professor Adele Haft has suggested in her article "Henry Reed's Poetic Map of Verona: (Di)versifying the Teachings of Geography IV" (Cartographic Perspectives
40 (Fall 2001): 32-50) that Reed's much-studied map of Verona
(.jpg) was most likely from a popular guidebook at the time; possibly the 1928 or 1932 editions of Baedeker's Italy: From the Alps to Naples
, or the Blue Guide Northern Italy: From the Alps to Rome
(1924). Let's consider Baedeker's suggestions
(.pdf) for travel:
C. Routes from England to Italy.
The following are the chief routes from London to Milan
(through-carriages from the Continental port, unless otherwise stated). Fares are subject to frequent alterations. Travellers are strongly recommended to insure their luggage (at any of the tourist agencies or on application at the railway booking-office).
(1) Viâ Calais, Laon, and Berne, 794 M., by the Anglo-Swiss-Lötschberg-Italian Express daily in 23 hrs. Fares 7l.
; return-ticket (valid 45 days) 13l.
(2) Viâ Calais, Laon, Bâle, Lucerne, and the St. Gothard Tunnel, 842½ M., by the Anglo-Swiss-Gothard-Italian Express daily in 22¾ hrs. Fares as above.
(3) Viâ Calais, Paris, and Lausanne, 806½ M., by the Simplon-Orient Express (train de luxe, supplementary fare payable) daily in 25 hrs. (7l.
) and the Direct Orient Express in 27 hrs. (fares as above).
(4) Viâ Bologne, Paris, the Mont Cenis Tunnel, and Turin (change), 874 M., by the Rome Express (train de luxe) daily in 27 hrs. (supplementary fare payable). Ordinary fares 7l.
; return-ticket (valid 45 days) 13l.
(5) Viâ Ostend, Brussels, Strasbourg, Bâle, and Lucerne, 845½ M., daily in 28¾ hrs. Fares 6l.
(6) Viâ Dunkirk, Lille, Strasbourg, Bâle (change), and Lucerne, 848 M., daily in 31 hrs. Fares 6l.
; return-ticket (valid 45 days) 10l.
The journey from London to Italy may be accomplished by the aeroplanes of the French Air Union as far as Marseilles (viâ Paris and Lyons; daily, except Sun., in 11 hrs., including motor-car journeys; fare 12l.
). There is also a service from Paris to Bâle, Zürich, and Lausanne. Comp. p. xvii.
Regular sailings are made by the liners of the under-mentioned companies. The fares average 17-25 l.
and the voyage lasts about 8 days. Special tourist fares are offered during the summer, particulars of which may be had on application to the companies (London addresses given below) or to any travel agency (C.I.T., p. xvi; Thos. Cook & Son, Berkeley St., Piccadilly, etc.; American Express Co., 6 Haymarket, S.W. 1; etc.).
(5 Fenchurch Avenue, E.C. 3) from London to Naples. Nederland Royal Mail Line
(60 Haymarket, S.W. 1) from Southampton to Genoa. Ellerman's City and Hall Lines
(104-106 Leadenhall St., E.C. 3) from Liverpool to Naples. Nippon Yusen Kaisha
(25 Cockspur St., S.W. 1) from London to Naples. German Africa Service
(Greener House, Haymarket, S.W. 1) from Southampton to Genoa.
Looking to Reed's radio plays for some clue, we find a mention of trains to Rome and Naples in the opening of Return to Naples
Narrator: But that was not yet in Naples, you remember; that was in Rome. That morning, as the train moved South into the early sunlight of the campagna, you had drifted into conversation with an elderly doctor. He invited you to breakfast when you got to Rome. You went. You met his wife. You ate. You drank. And you were told you might stay in their apartment instead of going to a hotel. You accepted. Then you were left to doze off the effects of the journey in the misty heat of the shuttered salone. You slept. You woke. And you saw Alberto for the first time: fat, white-clad, tiptoeing gingerly across the room on his eternal blisters . . . Later that day, he wrote a letter which you were directed to give to his mother in Naples. It began, Carissima Mamma . . .
Alberto: 'Dearest Mamma, This young man, who will present my letter to you, is a very great friend of mine, whom I met this afternoon at the house of Doctor Cappocci . . .'
Narrator: That afternoon you had walked together to the Porta Pia, his small fat hand had created a pool of sweat in the crook of your arm . . .
Alberto: '. . . His name is Enrico. He is English, and is staying with Doctor Cappocci, and next week he is going to Capri. On the way, he will call on you in Naples. Please receive him into our home with the greatest kindness. Your most affectionate Alberto.'
Narrator: That letter, which was never delivered, you kept for many years, together with Alberto's other gifts: the sprig of unpolished coral, the slab of marble pavement from Tarquinia, and the life of Admiral Gravina, which sixteen years later you have yet to read . . .
There was no need to deliver the letter of introduction, for in the end Alberto's father and brother came up to Rome to fetch you, and you all travelled to Naples together.
(faint continental train noises in background)
So, putting two and two together, as it wereif we rely on Reed's autobiographical inspiration for his playwe can place him on the Milan-Naples train through Italy, via Switzerland and France, headed south to Rome, on his way to Naples and the island of Capri. And Reed specifically mentions that his titular "return" to Naples took place two years later, following the Italian conquest of Abyssinia (Ethiopia), so the 1934 and 1936 dates would seem correct. The play places Reed's third visit in 1939, a year before Italy declared war on France and Great Britain. All in all, the "H." in the play visits his adopted Neapolitan family a total of five times, over the course of two decades.
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.'
Here's a terrific list-poem by Anthony Thwaite
, cataloging entries in (I believe) the 1970 biographical reference work, Contemporary Poets of the English Language
(WorldCat), edited by Rosalie Murphy and James Vinson. It's cleverly wrought and understandably long, but with a worthwhile payoff (and includes Reed!):
ON CONSULTING 'CONTEMPORARY POETS
OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE'
Dannie Abse, Douglas Dunn,
Andrew Waterman, Thom Gunn,
Peter Redgrove, Gavin Ewart,
Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, Stewart
Conn, Pete Brown, Elizabeth
Jennings, Jim Burns, George MacBeth
Vernon Scannell, Edwin Brock,
Philip Hobsbaum, Fleur Adcock,
Brian Patten, Patricia Beer,
Colin Falck, David Rokeah,
Peter Dale and David Gill,
David Holbrook, Geoffrey Hill,
David Gascoyne and John Hewitt,
William Empson and Frank Prewett,
Norman Hidden, David Wright,
Philip Larkin, Ivan White,
Stephen Spender, Tom McGrath,
dom silvester houédard,
A. Alvarez, Herbert Lomas,
D.M., R.S., Donald Thomas,
Causley, Cunningham, Wes Magee,
Silkin, Simmons, Laurie Lee,
Peter Jay, Laurence Lerner,
David Day, W. Price Turner,
Peter Porter, Seamus Deane,
Hugo Williams, Seamus Heane-
y, Jonathan Green, Nina Steane,
C. Busby Smith and F. Pratt Green,
Fullers both and Joneses all,
Donald Davie, Donald Hall,
Muldoon, Middleton, Murphy, Miller,
Tomlinson, Tonks, Turnbull, Tiller,
Barker, Brownjohn, Blackburn, Bell,
Kirkup, Kavanagh, Kendrick, Kell,
McGough, Maclean, MacSweeney, Schmidt,
Hughes (of Crow) and (of Millstone Grit),
Sir John Waller Bt. and Major Rook,
Ginsberg, Corso, Stanley Cook,
Peter Scupham, Johm Heath-Stubbs,
Fenton, Feinstein, both the Grubbs,
Holloway G., Holloway J.,
Anselm Hollo and Peter Way,
Logue, O'Connor, Kein Crossley-
Holland, Hollander, Keith Bosley,
Matthew Mead and Erica Jong,
Henry Reed and Patience Strong,
Kunitz, Kizer, Kops, Mark Strand,
Creeley, Merwin, Dickey and
The other Dickeys, Eberhart,
Bunting, Wantling, Pilling, Mart-
in Booth, a Dorn and then a Knight,
A Comfort following on a Blight,
Skelton (not the Rector of Diss
The Poet's Calling Robin, this),
Alistair Elliot, Alastair Reid,
Michael Longley, Michael Fried,
Ian Hamilton (twicethe Scot
With 'Finlay' at the end, and the other not),
Adrians Henri, Mitchell, Stokes,
Lucie-Smith and Philip Oakes,
Father Levi of the Soc-
iety of Jesus, Alan Ross,
Betjeman, Nicholson, Grigson, Walker,
Pitter, Amis, Hilary Corke, a
Decad of Smiths, a Potts and a Black,
Roberts Conquest, Mezey, Graves and Pack,
Hugh MacDiarmid (C.M. Grieve's
His real name, of course), James Reeves,
Hamburger, Stallworthy, Dickinson, Prynne,
Jeremy Hooker, Bartholomew Quinn,
Durrell, Gershon, Harwood, Mahon,
Edmond Wright, Nathaniel Tarn,
Sergeant, Snodgrass, C.K. Stead,
William Shakespeare (no, he's dead),
Cole and Mole and Lowell and Bly,
Robert Nye and Atukwei Okai,
Christopher Fry and George Mackay
Brown, Wayne Brown, John Wain, K. Raine,
Jenny Joseph, Jeni Couzyn,
D.J. Enright, J.C. Hall,
C.H. Sisson and all and all. . .
What is it, you may ask, that Thwaite's
Up to in this epic? Yeats'
Remark in the Cheshire Cheese one night
With poets so thick they blocked the light:
'No one can tell who has talent, if any.
Only one thing is certain. We are too many'.
Anthony Thwaite, A Portion for Foxes (1977)
The quoted remark is from chapter 15 of Yeats' Four Years
(Project Gutenberg text). Here's a few poems
by the "Patience Strong
" (Wikipedia) whom Reed is paired with.
In the late 'Seventies, when I was nine years old, my family took a spring vacation to England, staying with friends in London. My parents gave me a small notebook to write about my travels, which I have just pried of the niche where I squirrel away such things:
Today I went on 3 double decker buses. We went to the London Experience in a movie house. I liked it alot. Then we took a bus to someplace and visited Dr. Samuel Johnson's house. I thought in was very interesting. Then we ate at a resterrant that been open for 312 years. Its called the Cheshire Cheese. Johnson, Boswell and Pepys had lunch there. I had roast beef there. After that we went to the Tower of London.
Apparently Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey couldn't hold a candle to my riding a single red Routemaster bus.
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.
Quietly, and almost unnoticed, Microsoft's Live Search Books project has passed away
, after digitizing a quarter of a million books. Competition with Google Book Search, however, is not cited as a reason for its demise:
Based on our experience, we foresee that the best way for a search engine to make book content available will be by crawling content repositories created by book publishers and libraries. With our investments, the technology to create these repositories is now available at lower costs for those with the commercial interest or public mandate to digitize book content. We will continue to track the evolution of the industry and evaluate future opportunities.
So basically, Microsoft is committed to continue to give money to libraries and publishers to digitize their own books themselves and place the content on the web, and then Microsoft will just index those pages for them, thank you very much.
It certainly would have saved them some face if they had just left the content up, or transfered the 750,000 public domain books to another digital archive.
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.
Here's a short clip from the History Channel's Mail Call
, hosted by by everyone's favorite gunny, R. Lee Ermey, as he explains the purpose and proper use of that most useless of rifle parts, the stacking swivel
The British equivalent of the stacking swivel is, of course, the piling swivel, immortalized in Reed's "Naming of Parts."
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.
(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: