James Reeves (writer)

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James Reeves
picture of James Reeves.
BornJohn Morris Reeves
1 July 1909
Wealdstone, London Borough of Harrow, England
Died1 May 1978(1978-05-01) (aged 68)
Lewes, Sussex,[1] England
LanguageBritish English
Alma materJesus College, Cambridge
Period1 July 1909 - 1 may 1978
GenrePoetry, plays, children's literature, anthologies
RelativesMother : Ethel Blench Father : Albert Reeves

John Morris Reeves (1 July 1909 – 1 May 1978) was a British writer principally known for his poetry, plays and contributions to children's literature and the literature of collected traditional songs. His published books include poetry, stories and anthologies for both adults and children. He was also well known as a literary critic and a broadcaster.[2]


Born in Wealdstone in the London Borough of Harrow, James Reeves attended Stowe School, where he won a scholarship to Jesus College, Cambridge.[1] From 1932 to 1952 he taught English in a number of schools and teachers' training colleges, subsequently becoming a freelance author and editor.

His first collection of poems, The Natural Need, was published in 1936 by the Seizin Press, run by Robert Graves and Laura Riding, whose work Reeves's early poetry sometimes resembles. Numerous further volumes by Reeves include The Imprisoned Sea (1949), The Talking Skull (1958),The Statue, and Poems and Paraphrases (1972). Collected Poems of 1974 is the fullest edition of his verses. His best work characteristically combines intensity of mood with an understated manner to distinctive and sometimes haunting lyrical effect. The rural descriptiveness of his less distinguished poetry is elsewhere the vehicle for an ironic pastoralism voicing his disaffection with urban modernity. His popular books of poetry for children were collected as The Wandering Moon and Other Poems (1973). As an editor, Reeves was prolific, producing many anthologies of prose and poetry, as well as selections from the work of John Donne, Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Clare, and others, including “Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson” (1959). In this latter book reprinted several times, he chose to deliberately add conventional punctuation to the poems, doing away with her characteristic dashes. He thus joined her contemporary literary critic, Higginson, in not completely realising her unique style.


  • "The Merry-Go-Round" A Collection of Rhymes and Poems for Children (Heineman 1955)
  "Prefabulous Animiles" (Heineman 1957) with Edward Ardizzone
  "Pigeons and Princesses" (Heineman 1956)
  "Exploits of Don Quixote" (Blackie 1959)
  "Sayings of Dr. Johnson" (John Baker 1968)
  • The Everlasting Circle: English traditional verse (Heinemann, 1960) folk songs collected by Cecil Sharp
  • Georgian Verse (1962), editor
  • The Questioning Tiger (1964), poems
  • Selected Poems (Allison & Busby, 1967)
  • The Christmas Book (1968), with Raymond Briggs
  • The Cold Flame (1967), children's novel based on a Grimm fairy tale
  • Understanding Poetry (1967)
  • Commitment to Poetry (1969)
  • Inside Poetry, with Martin Seymour-Smith (1970)
  • Maildun the Voyager (1
  • Poems and Paraphrases (1972)
  • Complete Poems for Children, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone (Faber, 1973)
  • A Vein of Mockery: Twentieth-century Verse (1973)
  • The Forbidden Forest (William Heinemann, 1973)
  • Collected Poems 1929–1974 (1974)
  • More Prefabulous Animiles (1975), poems, with illustrations by Edward Ardizzone
  • The Reputation and Writings of Alexander Pope (1976)
  • The Closed Door (The Gruffyground Press, 1977), poems
  • Arcadian Ballads (Whittington Press, 1978), poems
  • The Sea
  • Explores
  • Underground
  • The Wife And The Ghost
  • Sky, Sea, Shore


  1. ^ a b Peter Hollingdale, "Reeves, John Morris [pseud. James Reeves", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  2. ^ "James Reeves (Estate)" at Laura Cecil, Literary agent for children's books.

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