10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Oh, I say, what a superb biography,
This review is from: John Betjeman: The Biography (Paperback)John Betjeman: national treasure, cuddly figure of fun, telly star, champion of suburbia and Victorian architecture, best selling poet.
Yes, he was all these things and, as Bevis Hillier's superb biography demonstrates, more.
Whilst all these positive aspects of Betjeman's personality are illuminated, he is not afraid to explore the man's darker side - his fondness for scatological humour, his practical joking, his belittling of his son, tantamount to bullying. Betjeman did not have a happy relationship with his father, so this may be some kind of revenge for what he himself had to suffer.
Betjeman was a performer in life as well as on the screen. He was always putting on an act, larking around, camping it up. One of his contemporaries remarked that this play acting could be seen as a manifestation of a lack of self-confidence - Betjeman was always sensitive to adverse criticism about his poetry. It is interesting that the television producer Jonathan Stedall opines that the films he made with Betjeman towards the end of the poet's life revealed the true essence of the man as he was no longer putting on an act.
Betjeman's work for television is of a high quality, but unfortunately, of a small quantity, which is a pity as he was a natural performer adept at delivering impromptu commentary.
Betjeman drifted through a number of jobs in the early part of his life, most of which he came to despise and he never stuck at any of them for more than a few years.
His warmth and generousity were demonstrated by the success of his Australian and USA tours where his personality and charm won many friends and admirers.
Hillier organises his material well and makes cross references to other chapters as the need arises. I finished the book feeling that I knew Sir John Betjeman really well.
This edition is a distillation of Bevis Hillier's three volume biography.