John Betjeman by Bevis Hillier
The Biography

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Synopsis

This volume deals with Betjeman's zenith years. Now he wins fame not just for his poems but as a tastemaker opening eyes to the Victorian ages, as a battling conservationist and as a television personality, one of the Old Masters of a new medium. The book opens with the Betjemans' stormy married life (their German maid thought John's first name was Shutup). There are chapters on Betjeman as film critic for the Evening Standard ('Do you mind if I say you like English Perpendicular?', he asked Myrna Loy) and as editor of the Shell Guides with John Piper, whose wife Myfanwy - Goldilegs to Betjeman - became one of his enduring muses. When war came he was posted to neutral Ireland as a diplomat - some thought, a spy. An IRA officer was sent to shoot him; luckily Betjeman was on leave at the time. Betjeman's loves and longings are described, as well as the beginning of his close and enduring friendship with Lady Elizabeth Cavendish. The inspirations of favourite poems are discovered.His love of Metroland, or remote churches, dim peers and obscure clergyman poets, his antipathy to business bishops and to Pevsner, the Herr Professor Doktor, together with an enormous range of his friends, including Nancy Mitford, Osbert Lancaster and James Lees-Milne. Here too are his hitherto unpublished diary entries about W.H. Auden, his skirmishes with Evelyn Waugh over religion and his anguish when his wife became a Roman Catholic. The narrative is crowned by the huge success of his Collected Poems in 1958, a really thrilling moment of triumph.
 

About Bevis Hillier

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BEVIS HILLIER is an author, journalist and critic, a former editor of The Connoisseur magazine and of The Times Saturday Review. His three-volume biography of John Betjeman remains the standard work. His several other books include the first on Art Deco (1968) — the book that effectively gave the inter-war style its name. He regularly reviews for The Spectator.
 
Published November 7, 2002 by John Murray Publishers Ltd. 480 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Married to horse-loving Penelope, he maintained a lengthy relationship, discretely described by Hillier (Young Betjeman, 2004, etc.), with a lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret.

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The Guardian

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John Betjeman: Letters - Volume 1: 1926-1951;

Aug 06 2006 | Read Full Review of John Betjeman: The Biography

The Guardian

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John Betjeman: New Fame, New Love by Bevis Hillier 480pp, John Murray, £25 The second volume of Bevis Hillier's trilogy on one of the greatest 20th-century English poets picks up after Betjeman's long courtship and clandestine marriage to Penelope Chetwode, whose family would have preferred her t...

Nov 02 2002 | Read Full Review of John Betjeman: The Biography

The Guardian

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John Betjeman: New Fame, New Love by Bevis Hillier John Murray £25, pp480 In the 1960s and 1970s, John Betjeman was indisputably important.

Nov 10 2002 | Read Full Review of John Betjeman: The Biography

The Guardian

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John Betjeman: Vol III, The Bonus of Laughter by Bevis Hillier 496pp, John Murray, £25 The 28 years Bevis Hillier has spent writing his three volumes about John Betjeman is a biographical feat matched by few and exceeded by fewer: I can think only of Hillier's former tutor at Oxford, Martin Gil...

Jan 01 2005 | Read Full Review of John Betjeman: The Biography

London Review of Books

The terms Hillier chooses to describe Betjeman’s relationships are nice little phrases like ‘smitten’, or ‘fell in love with’, which is all very fine and noble – admirable even – except perhaps in the case of Betjeman’s relationship with Elizabeth Cavendish, a woman with whom he shared much of hi...

Feb 20 2003 | Read Full Review of John Betjeman: The Biography

London Evening Standard

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Nov 11 2002 | Read Full Review of John Betjeman: The Biography

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