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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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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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«  Millgate Mention  »

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

15.12.2017


Millgate Mention

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 (p. 55-62):

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 access—for good or ill—to 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.

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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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