[Christopher Fry discusses Christopher Hassall.] Two-page Typescript, with extensive Autograph Emendations by Fry, of a (BBC radio?) 'programme' by Fry about Christopher Hassall, with a separate Typescript poem (by Hassall?) 'Pilgrim's Way'.

Christopher Fry (1907-2005), playwright, a leading exponent of verse drama [Christopher Hassall [Christopher Vernon Hassall] (1912-1963), poet and dramatist, biographer of Rupert Brooke
Publication details: 
No place or date, but some time after Hassall's death in 1963, and probably written from Fry's house, The Toft.
SKU: 22904

3pp, 4to, each page on a separate leaf. In fair condition, lightly aged and worn. Folded once. There is no indication that either item was published, nor even that the poem is connected to the 'programme'. (If unpublished the poem may have found its way into Fry's papers from Hassall's.) The 'programme' - with no title or heading - is two pages long (with slight damage from a small staple to corners of both leaves) and complete, being divided into six numbered sections. Section 1, as first typed, begins: After the first two pieces on the programme, we are taking the poems more or less chronologically, so that we can follow the way that Christopher Hassall went, in the search which every poet must take, for the voice which would say, what he wanted to say.' Fry has cut this in autograph to: 'After the first two pieces on the programme, the poems follow more or less chronologically.' He praises the 'furious innocence of concentration' of Hassall's early poem 'The Arrow', 'like a child staring: and with it, never very far away, the ironic comment of humour.' He describes how Hassall's takes time 'to master his individual voice, but when it came it was unmistakable'. Recurring themes in Hassall's work are his Christian faith and love of music. He quotes 'some lines in a poem remembering his boyhood days at a choir school in Tenbury Wells'. He turns to Hassall's love of the theatre, his career as an actor on leaving Oxford, and writing of 'popular lyrics for Ivor Novello's musicals at Drury Lane'. At this point he adds in autograph: 'And later, the libretti for operas: the first of all was perhaps the Troilus and Cressida for William Walton.' At the end of the first section Fry announces two readings from Hassall, showing his 'great flair for writing pieces for special occasions'. In the second section he discusses Hassall's 1939 Canterbury Festival play 'Christ's Comet', 'which was performed in the Cathedral chapter-house'. Part 3 announces the beginning of 'this second part of the programme', with Fry adding an autograph note about 'a cyle of 7 lyrics': 'They are all about ways of getting about, and with them we are in the atmosphere of the delightful poems for children which were to come later.' The fourth section points out 'a change in manner in some of the poems we are going to read now from the Red Leaf - a change partly brought about perhaps by Hassall's admiration for the poetry of D. H. Lawrence'. The fifth section names humorous and children's poems to be recited. The last section announces the eight sonnets from his posthumous collection 'Bell Harry' which end of the programme, with Fry explaining the Canterbury context, with reference to the 'old Manor House near Canterbury' in which Hassall ended his days. Accompanying the 'programme', on a leaf of thicker paper, is the typescript of an unattributed poem titled 'Pilgrim's Way' ('Pilgrims to the golden shrine | Under Canterbury towers, | Blessed by your wayfaring | Through the early English flowers.'), divided into two eight-line stanzas, each with the refrain: 'Every day a Holy day, | Riding over Pilgrim's Way.' The poem is presumably by Hassall, from the window of whose manor house could be seen the celebrated road to Canterbury. A pencil note at the head of the page states that the three leaves were found in Hassall's collection 'The Red Leaf'.