Henry Williamson and Reginald Pound

 

 

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Reginald Pound

 
   

The biographical details below are taken direcly from The Times' obituary, published on 28 May 1991, and to which due acknowledgement is made.

 

Reginald Pound (11 November 1894–20 May 1991) was a journalist and writer who made his name in the different but related fields of journalism and biography. He began contributing to newspapers and magazines in the middle of the First World War while still in uniform – he was in the trenches in February 1915 with the 5th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment and later was commissioned in the King's Shropshire Light Infantry and after demobilisation freelanced successfully for some years.

 

In the mid-1920s Beverley Baxter, then editor of the Daily Express, invited Pound to become the first literary editor of the paper and in that role he transformed the leader page into a platform from which the foremost public figures addressed readers on topics of the day. It was a revolutionary editorial move which was followed by every other large-circulation newspaper, including the Daily Mail, where Pound was features editor in the 1930s. His work in Fleet Street brought him a wide aquaintance and some long-lasting friendships [this, perhaps, is how he first met HW].

 

At the beginning of the Second World War he joined the Ministry for Information, then went to the BBC in the overseas news section at Evesham, where he was a member of the Radio Newsreel team. In 1942 he was appointed editor of The Strand Magazine where one of his many successes was to persuade Winston Churchill to allow him to reproduce in full colour some of Churchill's paintings. It was his last editorial post. [It may be recalled that HW contributed his essay 'When I was Demobilised' to the September 1945 issue of the magazine.] The Strand, with a decreasing circulation and rising costs, folded in March 1950, its final editor being Macdonald Hastings.

 

The first of Pound's biographies, Arnold Bennett, was published in 1952, earning him the W. H. Heinemann Foundation Award (the heading portrait is taken from this book's dust wrapper). He had met Bennett several times (as had HW) and admired his no-nonsense approach to the craft of letters. His first published work, Illustrated History, had appeared in 1928, based on a series he had contributed to the Daily Express; Their Moods and Mine, a gallery of pen portraits of the famous and not so famous he had met during his time in Fleet Street [including HW, see below], had been published in 1937; Turn Left for England (a title he later regretted as it referred to a direction on the map at the start of a round-England trip and was not a political injunction) had been published in 1939; Pound Notes in 1940 [see below] and A Maypole in the Strand in 1948.

 

His second biography, Northcliffe (1959), the official life of Lord Northcliffe, was probably his chef d'oeuvre. Pound did all the writing and his collaborator, Northcliffe's nephew Sir Geoffrey Harmsworth, provided the archival material and invaluable liaison with members of the Harmsworth family. While researching and writing this biography Pound was for six years the teleivision critic of The Listener and was writing regularly for the Daily Mail.

 

Selfridge, a life of the department store magnate, appeared in 1960; The Englishman, a biography of Sir Alfred Munnings the artist, in 1962 [see below]; Evans of the Broke, a life of the legendary destroyer captain Admiral Lord Mountevans, in 1963; Gillies: Surgeon Extraordinary, 1962, and in the same year a First World War study called The Lost Generation.

 

More books were to follow: Scott of the Antarctic and The Strand Magazine (both 1966); Harley Street (1967); Sir Henry Wood (1969); Queen Victoria (1970); Albert, a biography of the Prince Consort (1973) and finally, in 1976, A. P. Herbert, a life of one he had known and whose friendship he had valued since the early 1920s.

 

Despite a certain shyness, which never entirely left him, Pound had a great capacity for friendship. He was a member of the Savage Club [as was HW] from 1924 until his death and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1953.

 

He married in 1916 Cicely Margaret Dawes (who died in 1985) and they had seven children.

 

 

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As previously stated in the The Children of Shallowford main page, some of the tales that appear there were first published in the little magazine Family, founded and edited by Reginald Poundhe canvassed his wide circle of friends and acquaintances for contributions to this ill-fated and short-lived venture.

 

I noted in my HW biography, Henry Williamson: Tarka and the Last Romantic (1995), that although they were friends and a small file of letters exists from Reggie (as he was universally known), there is only one mention of him within HW’s personal archive – in 1942, when HW went down to London after a bout of illness and mentions, in passing, seeing Reggie at the Savage Club. He is not, as far as can be ascertained, a character in A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight; although a fellow 'Savage', Macdonald Hastings, appears in Lucifer before Sunrise, where he is portrayed memorably and hilariously as the journalist Bannock MacWhippett, who visits the farm with a photographer to cover a game shoot for an article.

 

However RP (his letters tend to be signed thus) mentions HW several times in his anecdotal autobiographical books, Their Moods and Mine (Chapman & Hall, 1937) and Pound Notes (Chapman & Hall, 1940). While these have no relevance to the immediate subject here, they shed an interesting insight on HW during the period of the late 1920s to 1940, and give a clear indication of HW’s intensity of character. The books are very well worth reading in full for their portrayal of contemporary literary and social society (second hand copies are relatively easy to come by).

 

HW is appears too in his biography of Sir Alfred Munnings, The Englishman (Heinemann, 1962), where Pound relates the following anecdote:

 

In the first days of September 1939 [Munnings] was enjoying a spell of landscape painting on the north Norfolk coast, staying at the Ship Inn, Brancaster. One of his subjects was Morston Church, 'a place of repose – a place to dream in'. On his third morning out a sheaf-piled harvest waggon passed slowly along by the churchyard wall. A boy on top of the load called out to him: 'The war's started!'

 

Munnings wrote afterwards that he went on painting, his emotion of the moment perhaps beyong recollection. Later in the day he chose another subject, the Old Hall at Stiffkey. Its land was being farmed by Henry Williamson, then living through the experiences set out in his Story of a Norfolk Farm. Munnings had used up his supply of canvases and was looking round for something to paint on. His exploratory eye noticed a trousers-press in the granary. It contained arectangle of millboard. He took it and started work again. Shortly afterwards a boy of thirteen, on of Williamson's sons, came and stood silently behind him, watching. Henry Williamson noted the ensuing dialogue.

 

A.J. (roaring over his shoulder:) 'What the hell are you doing here? Go away, boy!'

 

Boy: 'That's my father's trouser-press! He wants it!'

 

A.J.: 'Go away, I tell you! Get out of it! I want to paint this before the light changes!'

 

Boy (resolutely): 'When Dad comes he'll want to know why I let anyone in the granary, you know. You took that, didn't you?'

 

A.J. (continuing to paint): 'Look at that light – wonderful! Can't you see how beautiful it is? What the hell's all this about trousers? Go AWAY!'

 

The boy was Windles – Bill – and the episode entered family legend. Munnings is portrayed as Riversmill in the Chronicle, and the occasion is lightly fictionalised thus by HW on the very last page of The Phoenix Generation. Lucy is speaking to Phillip:

 

'Oh, I forgot – my memory nowadays is like a sieve – Mr. Riversmill the painter came over this morning, and was painting the church across the river when Billy came down from scuffling the stubbles on the Bustard, and saw that he had taken one of the millboards out of your trouser press, and had painted the view on it. Mr. Riversmill turned round and shouted at him to go away. Billy said, "You've got my father's trouser-press board, he wants that." "Who cares?" said Riversmill. "This painting is more important than your father's damned trousers." Billy told him you wouldn't be able to get the picture of the church off, because paint hardened on cloth. "It's my picture, you damned boy," shouted Riversmill. "And it's my father's trouser-press" said Billy. He was quite upset. Anyway, I told him it didn't matter, we could easily get some more board.'

 

'Good for Billy.'

 

 

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It is Pound's two memoirs, Their Moods and Mine (Chapman Hall, 1937) and Pound Notes (Chapman Hall, 1940), that are of particular interest, both books containing several references to HW, giving us an unusual ‘other’ viewpoint. Unfortunately Pound does not date any of his entries (although apparently the originals are dated), which is a little trying from the research point of view, but the HW reader should be able to fix an approximate date to them all.

 

In Their Moods and Mine Pound relates several contacts. First a letter from HW written from Skirr Cottage (although not literally: HW tended to use the address for some time after he had moved virtually next door to Vale House!).

 

 

p. 38:

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p. 59:

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p. 74:

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p. 98:

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p. 179:

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p. 217:

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pp. 249-252: extracts from –

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Further extracts from Pound Notes (Chapman and Hall, 1940):

 

 

p. 51-2:

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pp. 126-7:

 

         Peremptory knock on the door of my room introduced

    Henry Williamson, wearing an old mac and

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And from Running Commentary (Rockliffe, 1946)

 

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p. 62:

 

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