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John Betjeman

From Academic Kids

Sir John Betjeman (28 August 190619 May 1984) was a British poet and writer on architecture. He was born in Highgate, London, to a furniture-maker of Dutch ancestry and was educated at Marlborough College before going to Oxford.

He left Magdalen College, Oxford, without a degree when he neglected his work and failed his divinity exams. In his verse autobiography, Summoned by Bells (1960), Betjeman tells the story of his boyhood and early adult life up to his employment as a teacher at a preparatory school.

Later, Betjeman worked as a journalist before joining the civil service. It has recently been revealed that his wartime duties entailed providing secret intelligence reports.

Betjeman never took himself too seriously. His poems are often humorous, and in later life he became a popular broadcaster and television personality, exploiting his bumbling and fogeyish image. He became Poet Laureate in 1972, succeeding Cecil Day Lewis, and one of his first duties was to produce a poem in honour of the wedding of Princess Anne.

John Betjeman died at Trebetherick, Cornwall, in his 78th year.

From A Few Late Chrysanthemums:

Oh little body, do not die. The soul looks out through wide blue eyes so questioningly into mine, that my tormented soul replies: "Oh little body, do not die. You hold the soul that talks to me, although our conversation be as wordless as the windy sky.

Television programmes

His television programmes include:

  • John Betjeman In The West Country (made for the defunct ITV company TWW in 1962, this series was long thought lost, but was rediscovered in the 1990s and shown on Channel 4 under the titles The Lost Betjemans and Betjeman Revisited)
  • John Betjeman Goes By Train (a co-production between BBC East Anglia and British Transport Films, made in 1962)
  • Something About Diss (made for BBC East Anglia in 1964)
  • Two episodes of the Bird's Eye View series — An Englishman's Home and Beside The Seaside (both made for the BBC in 1969)
  • Betjeman In Australia (a co-production between the BBC and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, made in 1971)
  • Thank God It's Sunday (made for the BBC in 1972)
  • Metroland (possibly his most famous television work, made for the BBC in 1973)
  • A Passion For Churches (made for the BBC in 1974)
  • Summoned By Bells (a television version of his verse autobiography, made for the BBC in 1976)
  • Vicar Of This Parish (a documentary about Francis Kilvert and his love of Herefordshire and the Welsh Marches, made for the BBC in 1976)
  • Queen's Realm (a compilation programme made for the Silver Jubilee in 1977, although most of it was compiled from 1968/69 Bird's Eye View footage)
  • His final series was the retrospective Time With Betjeman (1983), which included extracts from much of his television work, conversations between Betjeman, his producer Jonathan Stedall, and many friends and colleagues, and included a memorable final interview filmed outside the poet's home in Cornwall.

Bibliography

  • Mount Zion: or: In Touch with the Infinite (1931)
  • Continual Dew: A Little Book of Bourgeois Verse (1937)
  • Old Lights for New Chancels (1940)
  • New Bats in Old Belfries (1945)
  • A Few Late Chrysanthemums (1954)
  • Collected Poems (1958)
  • Summoned by Bells (1960)

External Links

  • John Betjeman Official Site [1] (http://www.johnbetjeman.com/)
  • The Betjeman Society [2] (http://www.johnbetjeman.com/betjsoc.htm)


Preceded by:
Cecil Day-Lewis
British Poet Laureate
1972–1984
Succeeded by:
Ted Hughes

Template:End boxnl:John Betjeman

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