Herbert Read

Herbert Read

Herbert Read was born in Kirby Moorside, Yorkshire in 1893. Educated in Halifax and Leeds University he served during the First World War as a captain in the Yorkshire Regiment and was awarded the Military Cross for bravery.

Read published two volumes of poetry on his war experiences: Songs of Chaos (1915) and Naked Warriors (1919). He also wrote two autobiographical accounts of life on the Western Front: In Retreat (1925) and Ambush (1930).

After the war Read was assistant keeper of the Victoria and Albert Museum (1922-31), professor of fine art at Edinburgh University (1931-33) and editor of the Burlington Magazine (1933-39).

Read wrote a large number of books on art and literature including: The Meaning of Art (1931), Form in Modern Poetry (1932), Art and Industry (1936), Art and Society (1936), Education Through Art (1943), The Philosophy of Modern Art (1952) and The True Voice of Feeling (1953).

Sir Herbert Read died in 1968.

Primary Sources

(1) Herbert Read, The Refugees (1914)

Mute figures with bowed heads

They travel along the road:

Old women, incredibly old

and a hand cart of chattels.

They do not weep:

their eyes are too raw for tears.

Past them have hastened

processions of returning gunteams

baggage wagons and swift horsemen.

Now they struggle along

with the rearguard of a broken army.

We shall hold the enemy towards nightfall

and they will move

mutely into the dark behind us,

only the creaking cart disturbing their sorrowful serenity.