Herbert Read : biography
Sir Herbert Edward Read, DSO, MC (1893–1968) was an English anarchist, poet, and critic of literature and art. He was one of the earliest English writers to take notice of existentialism, and was strongly influenced by proto-existentialist thinker Max Stirner.
Read's first volume of poetry was Songs of Chaos, self-published in 1915. His second collection, published in 1919, was called Naked Warriors, and drew on his experiences fighting in the trenches of the First World War. His work, which shows the influence of Imagism and of the Metaphysical poets, was mainly in free verse. His Collected Poems,Read,Herbert Collected Poems,Faber& Faber London 1966 appeared in 1946. As a critic of literature, Read mainly concerned himself with the English Romantic poets (e.g., The True Voice of Feeling: Studies in English Romantic Poetry, 1953) but was also a close observer of imagism.Hughes, Glen, Imagism and the Imagists: A Study in Modern Poetry, Stanford University Press, 1931 (reprinted by Biblo and Tannen, New York 1972 ISBN 0-8196-0282-5) He published a novel, The Green Child. He contributed to the Criterion (1922–1939) and he was for many years a regular art critic for the Listener.
While W. B. Yeats chose many poets of the Great War generation for The Oxford Book of Modern Verse (1936), Read arguably stood out among his peers by virtue of the 17-page excerpt (nearly half of the entire work) of his The End of a War (Faber & Faber, 1933).
Read was also interested in the art of writing. He cared deeply about style and structure and summarized his views in English Prose Style (1928),Read, Herbert, English Prose Style, G Bell & Son London, Holt, New York, 1928 a primer on, and a philosophy of, good writing. The book is considered one of the best on the foundations of the English language, and how those foundations can be and have been used to write English with elegance and distinction.
- Arp (The World of Art Library) (1968)
- Art and Alienation (1967)
- My Anarchism (1966)
- Unit One (1966), editor
- To Hell With Culture (1963)
- Eric Gill (1963)
- The Contrary Experience: autobiographies (1963)
- Introduction to Hubris: A Study of Pride by Pierre Stephen Robert Payne (1960)
- The Tenth Muse (1957)
- Icon and Idea (1955)
- Education Through Art (1954)
- Revolution & Reason (1953)
- The Art of Sculpture (1951)
- Education for Peace (1950)
- Existentialism, Marxism and Anarchism, Chains of Freedom (1949)
- Art and Society (1945)
- Education Through Art (1943)
- The Paradox of Anarchism (1941)
- Philosophy of Anarchism (1940)
- Anarchy & Order; Poetry & Anarchism (1938)
- Collected Essays in Literary Criticism (1938)
- The Grass Roots of Art (1937)
- The Green Child (1935)
- Art and Industry (1934)
- Art Now (1933)
- Wordsworth (1932)
- The Meaning of Art (1931)
- English Prose Style (1931)
- Naked Warriors (1919)
- The True Voice of Feeling
- A Concise History of Modern Painting (1959)
Death and legacy
Following his death in 1968, Read was arguably neglected due to the increasing predominance in academia of theories of art, including Marxism, which discounted his ideas. Yet his work continued to have influence. It was through Read's writings on anarchism that Murray Bookchin was inspired in the mid-1960s to explore the connections between anarchism and ecology. In 1971, a collection of his writings on anarchism and politics was republished, Anarchy and Order, with an introduction by Howard Zinn.Boston: Beacon Press, 1971; originally published by Faber and Faber in 1954. In the 1990s there was a revival of interest in him following a major exhibition in 1993 at Leeds City Art Gallery and the publication of a collection of his anarchist writings, A One-Man Manifesto and other writings for Freedom Press, edited by David Goodway. Since then more of his work has been republished and there was a Herbert Read Conference, at Tate Britain in June 2004. The library at the Cyprus College of Art is named after him, as is the art gallery at the University for the Creative Arts at Canterbury. Until the 1990s the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London staged an annual Herbert Read Lecture, which included well known speakers such as Salman Rushdie.
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