John Betjeman

Sir John Betjeman

1906 (London) – 1984 (Trebetherick, England)

Betjeman’s poetry divides people — his friend Larkin said that the quickest way to start a punch-up between British literary critics was to ask what they thought of his work. At school he was taught by Eliot, who while unmoved by the 10-year old’s poetry, became a long-term friend. MacNiece was a teenage school-mate, later belittled by him as an Oxford aesthete. Lewis, Betjeman’s university tutor, excited a lifelong hatred; Auden however taught him things about poetry that no-one else had. He took the arch-modernist Moholy-Nagy to a party, and was friends with the austere, politicised Thomas.