Born on 28th of August 1906
Died on 19th of May 1984
Quotes from John Betjeman
'Bournemouth is one of the few '... More
‘Poet and hack’ was Betjeman’s own summation of his career. Betjeman became a much-loved figure of post-WWII Britain: his concerns for the built environment, his love of the comfortable mundanities of British life, and his carefully cultivated fogeyish appearance, fitted him well to eventual television presenting roles.
Born in Camden, only child of the prosperous owner of a furniture factory (able to move to Highgate when John was a toddler), he went to Dragons School in Oxford, and Marlborough College, where he squeaked a place at Magdalen College Oxford. There he did almost no work, but cultivated a wide social circle and visited churches to study them. Unsurprisingly he failed his degree, a scab picked at for life.
Betjeman worked briefly as a teacher, then film critic, and significantly as assistant editor of The Architectural Review. He also worked on the Shell Guides to British counties, a labour of love.
His poetry, carefully crafted and readily understandable (for which some despise it) often deals humorously with the suburban, the ordinary, but finds the eternal in that milieu. His Collected Poems (1958) sold more than 100,000 first edition copies, another reason for contemporary poets to dislike him, and Summoned by Bells, his verse autobiography, was similarly successful.
St Pancras Station’s facade, chosen for demolition, was saved partly by his efforts. He was Knighted in 1969, and appointed Poet Laureate in 1972, but from 1974 his life was blighted by Parkinson’s. Betjeman died in 1984 in Trebetherick in Cornwall, where his childhood holidays had been spent in properties owned by his father.
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