Prose & Poetry - Sir Herbert Read

Sir Herbert Read photograph Sir Herbert Edward Read (1893-1968), the poet and critic, was born in Yorkshire in 1893.

His college studies, at Leeds University, were interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War, in which he served with the Yorkshire Regiment in France and Belgium.  During his service he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and Military Cross in the same year, 1918.

Read wrote two volumes of poetry based upon his war experiences: Songs of Chaos (1915) and Naked Warriors, published in 1919, along with two volumes of autobiography: In Retreat (1925) and Ambush (1930).  He became an outspoken pacifist during the Second World War.

He continued to publish poetry for the remainder of his life, his final volume, Collected Poems, being published in 1966.

Following the war he completed his university studies, and then worked in the Treasury as an assistant principal, and became assistant keeper in the ceramics and stained glass department at the Victoria and Albert Museum from 1922-31.

It was in the role of art critic that he aided the development of Henry Moore's career, with whom he developed a close friendship.  He moved to Edinburgh University in 1931 where he was appointed Watson Gordon Professor of Fine Arts, where he remained until 1933.  He was also a lecturer in art at the University of Liverpool during 1935-36, Leon Fellow at University of London (1940-42), and Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (1953-54).

His works on art include The Meaning of Art (1931), Art Now (1933), The Innocent Eye (1933), Art and Industry (1934), Art and Society (1936) and Education Through Art (1943).  As a literary critic he championed the 19th-century English Romantic authors, for example in The True Voice of Feeling: Studies in English Romantic Poetry (1953).

Upon his return to London in 1933 he became editor of The Burlington Magazine, Britain's foremost scholarly art journal, until 1939.

Knighted in 1953 by Churchill for services to literature, Sir Herbert Read, who married twice, died on 12 June 1968.

3 British Officers were executed by courts martial during the war, as opposed to 316 Private soldiers and 24 Non-Commissioned Officers.  The vast majority were for desertions.

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Prose & Poetry