Sir John Betjeman by Howard Coster, 1953.
National Portrait Gallery. Licenced under CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0

John Betjeman


John Betjeman (1906–84), poet, journalist, authority on architecture (he was for many years on the staff of the Architectural Review); radio and TV broadcaster. He had been taught by TSE at Highgate School in 1916; was C. S. Lewis’s first pupil at Magdalen College, Oxford – which he left without taking a degree. Author of volumes of verse including Mount Zion (1931), Ghastly Good Taste (1933), Continual Dew (1937), Old Lights for New Chancels (1940), A Few Late Chysanthemums (1954), Poems in the Porch (1954), Collected Poems (1958), and the autobiographical sequence Summoned by Bells (1960). Awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1960; knighted in 1969; appointed Poet Laureate in 1972.

Mary Trevelyan, ‘The Pope of Russell Square’, Boxing Day 1954: ‘[TSE] is maliciously amused at [Betjeman’s] choice of Books of the Year for the Sunday Times – absurdly highbrow. “One must keep the flag flying! … But I was horrified that so many distinguished people included Betjeman’s ‘Late Chrysanthemums’ in their lists – it just goes to prove that people dislike poetry.”’