John Betjeman's Library
Sir John Betjeman (1906 - 1984), poet and architectural historian, was the son of E. E. Betjeman and was educated at Marlborough College before going up to Magdalen College, Oxford in 1925. He married Penelope Valentine Hester (née Chetwode) in 1933, and the couple had one son and a daughter. He began publishing poetry and pieces on topography and architecture, subjects which continued to occupy him throughout his life, in the Twenties and obtained a job at The Architectural Review in 1930. Betjeman succeeded Cecil Day Lewis as Poet Laureate in 1972, and he was to hold the position until his death. He has been described as a 'national monument', the most popular poet Laureate of the twentieth-century. Certainly his poetry, including a verse autobiography Summoned by Bells (1960), reached a wide audience, and he raised the public profile of architectural history, particularly that of English Parish Churches, through his published writings and his popular television broadcasts on this topic.
Betjeman accompanied his family on holidays in Trebetherick, North Cornwall, as a boy and he retained a life-long affection and association with the region which is reflected in his publications, including Victorian and Edwardian Cornwall from Old Photographs, compiled by John Betjeman and A.L. Rowse (1976) and Betjeman's Cornwall (1984).
An immensely well-known and well-loved public figure, Betjeman was friends with a great many poets and writers of his day, including the novelist Kingsley Amis, the writer and critic Cyril Connolly, the cricket commentator John Arlott, and the Sitwell family, as well as many younger writers, including the man who was to succeed him as Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes. Betjeman's working library includes many books gifted and inscribed to Betjeman by these, and other prominent literary and public figures of the twentieth-century. He was knighted in 1969, awarded a CBE in 1960, and a CLitt in 1968.
More than 4,000 printed books and pamphlets.
The working library of Sir John Betjeman was purchased from the poet's daughter, Candida Lycett Green, in 1997 with the help of Heritage Lottery Fund and a grant from the Esmée Fairburn Charitable Trust, as well as donations from private individuals and the University of Exeter.
Scope and Content
The collection contains more than 4,000 printed books and pamphlets from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. Subjects inclued English poetry, especially of the nineteenth-century; the English parish church; nineteenth and twentieth-century architecture; and English topography. The collection, which also contains many items with fine bindings, is arranged into the following subject categories: poetry, churches, architecture, topography, art, theology, Victorian bindings, biography, early twentieth-century schoolboy novels, and the English public school.
Many of the books have notes and annotations, including draft poems, and there are a number of autograph letters to Betjeman from well-known figures such as Ted Hughes and Kingsley Amis, and old friends such as John Arlott, the cricket commentator, inserted into the books.
Related resources in Special Collections include The Chris Brooks Collection of Victorian Culture, which complements the Betjeman Library through its exceptional strengths in nineteenth-century fiction, poetry, and architecture, and the Hypatia book collection, which is strong in nineteenth-century fiction and biography.
Chiefly eighteenth to twentieth-century, with strong representation of nineteenth-century poetry and nineteenth and twentieth-century architecture.
A few titles were removed from the Betjeman Library by his daughter prior to sale, otherwise the collection is a complete representation of the Poet Laureate's working library at the time of his death in 1984.
System of Arrangement
The collection has been retained in the arrangement of subject categories formed by the agent who dealt with the sale of the books after Betjeman's death.
The collection is closed for reasons of provenance.
Usual EUL Special Collections arrangements apply.
Usual EUL Special Collections arrangements apply.
The collection is being catalogued and entries added to the University Library's online catalogue. Follow this link to perform a local classmark search for 'Betjeman' and to browse the contents of the Betjeman Library on the catalogue. A file of transcripts of the manuscript material is also being prepared and can be consulted on application.
Some items in this collection are fragile and require careful handling.
There are numerous biographical books and articles about John Betjeman, including: John Betjeman, his life and work by Patrick Taylor-Martin (1983); Young Betjeman by Bevis Hillier (1988); Letters, John Betjeman, Vol. 1 1926-1951, Vol. 2 1951-1984, edited and introduced by Candida Lycett Green (1994-95); A Bibliographical Companion to Betjeman, compiled by Peter Gammon with John Heald, foreword by Candida Lycett Green (1997); Stylistic Cold Wars, Betjeman versus Pevsner by Timothy Mowl (2000).
Architecture -- Nineteenth- to Twentieth-Century
Betjeman, John Sir, Poet Laureate, 1905-1984
English poetry -- Nineteenth-Century
Parish Church Architecture and History